The endless chain

Don Gause and Jerry Weinberg wrote a book titled Are Your Lights On? How to Figure Out What the Problem REALLY Is . The book contains a chapter called “The Endless Chain” that makes this statement:


The authors continue,

We never get rid of problems. Problems, solutions, and new problems weave an endless chain. The best we can hope for is that the problems we substitute are less troublesome than the ones we “solve.” (p. 53)

So the command and control system we have now was conceived as a solution to previous problems. Before, different teams had different processes with varying results, and we wanted to unify under a single process.


  1. Was multiple processes a problem in its own right, or was it inefficiency or lack of productivity in those processes that made them a problem?
  2. If a unified process was seen as a need in its own right, did this come from our own evaluation, or from an external source (such as the need to show compliance for SAS 70 certification)?
  3. In constraining all teams to use the same process, did we solve the wrong problem? (i.e., did we say the problem was “too much flexibility” when perhaps the problem was “not enough accountability”?)
  4. To what extent is our current less flexible, control-oriented system contributing to the discouragement and flight of our top performers? (I would say, to a great extent.)
  5. If part of the problem the current solution addresses was the work needed to understand each team’s different process, how would we deal with that problem if it were known that this flexibility to have different processes is important to our business?
  6. If our top performers need flexibility in choosing their processes (e.g., by team), how could we give them that flexibility in a way that can withstand the scrutiny of any external sources that we may have felt were obligating us to use a unified approach? How have other companies in the industry using agile methodologies addressed such compliance issues?
  7. If we went to a more flexible system with more team autonomy, but this time with some system of accountability, in what ways would this seem like a step backward, to the “bad old days”? What factors might contribute to this perception?

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