Sabine’s Principle of Cumulative Quality Advantage

Many organizations won’t survive the next decade. Of those that survive, even they are likely to be extinct before century’s end — especially the largest of contemporary organizations.

I was thinking today of a few essential adaptations that enterprises must make immediately in order to stave off their own almost-inevitable death.

With Regard to Business Strategy

  • Measure value delivered and make decisions empirically based on those data.
  • Strive toward a single profit-and-loss statement. Understand which value streams contribute to profit, yes, but minimize fine-grained inspection of cost.
  • Direct-to-consumer, small-batch delivery is winning. It will continue to win.

With Regard to People

  • Heed Conway’s Law. Understand that patterns of communication between workers directly effect the design and structure of their results. Organize staff flexibly and in a way which resembles future states or ‘desired next-states’ so those people produce the future or desired next-architectures. This implies that functional business units and structures based on shared services must be disassembled; instead, organize people around products and then finance the work as long-term initiatives instead of finite projects.
  • Distribute all decision-making to people closest to the market and assess their effectiveness by their results; ensure they interact directly with end users and measure (primarily) trailing indicators of value delivered. Influence decision-making with guiding principles, not policies.
  • The words ‘manager’ and ‘management’ are derogatory terms and not to be used anymore.
  • Teams are the performance unit, not individuals. Get over it.

With Regard to Technology

  • Technical excellence must be known by all to be the enabler of agility.
  • Technical excellence cannot be purchased — it is an aspect of organizational culture.

For example, in the realm of software delivery, extremely high levels of quality are found in organizations with the shortest median times-to-market and the most code deployments per minute. The topic of Continuous Delivery is so important currently because reports show a direct correlation between (a) the frequency of deployment and (b) quality.

That is, as teams learn to deploy more frequently, their time-to-market (lead time), recovery rates, and success rates all change for the better — dramatically!

I have a theory which is exemplified in the following graph.

Sabine’s Principle of Cumulative Quality Advantage Explained

As the intervals between deployments decrease (blue/descending line)

…quality increases (gold/ascending line)

…and the amount & cost of technical debt decreases (red area)

…and competitive advantage accumulates (green area).

Note: The cusp between red and green area represents the turning point an organization makes from responding to defects to preventing them.


This is a repost from David’s original article at tumblr.davesabine.com.

This post is inspired in part by these awesome texts:


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