Systems Thinking – Time Box Productivity – The Development Team

In the last post we talked about how the tennis doubles team, the leaders of the time box system, create productivity. In this video we’re going to talk about how the development team is naturally predisposed to be increasingly productive

With the management burden handled by the leadership team, the members of the execution team are freed up to focus on the work itself. A key part of their work is “dialogue.” It’s a process called grooming and the term as well as the activity is borrowed from a software development system called Scrum.

During regularly scheduled periodic “dialogues“ all members of the execution team focus on four attributes of the execution of the requests. One is the work itself. They refine the work, breaking it into smaller and smaller chunks. Eventually the work is a size that can be executed within a single time box. They also focus on an estimation of the effort required. This allows the team do a collective estimation of the work required and is used to match the available capacity of the time box to the work.

Also during this dialogue they talk about quality disciplines and what quality disciplines need to be brought to whatever work they’ll be executing. E.g. whether any work will need a design review or a drawing review, etc. There is general discussion about what quality disciplines to bring to the work.

Finally they discuss possibilities for cross training or mentoring. They discuss whether any work would provide the opportunity to allow a member of the team to be mentored or cross trained during the execution of the work.

In this “dialogue”, the grooming exercise, first you have the goal of the project itself; a shared vision held by the team, but the dialogue provides a shared vision of the execution path to complete the work. The dialogue also leads to an analysis of what work should be done, how much discipline should be brought to it, etc. During this dialogue everyone’s worldview and perception of the work is brought to the surface. In Peter Senge’s contention everybody’s “mental model” is brought to the surface. The team aligns on how to execute the work as they go through the analysis and dialogue. The alignment of the team to the work is, again in Senge’s context, team learning. The ability to take work not assign it to the person that would normally do that work, but instead turn them into a spontaneous mentor and have someone else execute the work, is a chance for the team members to increase their personal mastery in a particular discipline.

So we have Shared Vision, Mental Models, Team Learning, and Personal Mastery — four of the five disciplines of Senge’s “learning organization.” The only missing discipline of a learning organization is Systems Thinking. Of course Systems Thinking is the dynamic of the operation which all of this series is meant to focus on. So, you have the fifth and final discipline of the learning organization also involved in the organization of time box learning.

The learning organization of this product development team is critical because learning is sighted by the other Peter, Peter Drucker, as one of the 6-Keys for creating high productivity amongst knowledge workers. And it is the focus of EAC to use Systems Thinking and the learning organization context to reform the operation of the American approach to product development.


Contact us to learn more about how Systems Thinking and the application of our Product Development Operating System can help your organization become more efficient, productive, innovative, and competitive.

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