Monthly links & notes: October 2023

3 articles, a case study, 2 books, and an upcoming event.

Trying something slightly different today: sharing a couple online reads, interesting books, and other recent updates. I might end up doing this monthly.

Online reading

First, this great short article from the great Donald Wheeler:

“Adjustments are necessary because of variation. And the variation in your process outcomes doesn’t come from your controlled process inputs. Rather, it comes from those cause-and-effect relationships that you don’t control. This is why it’s a low-payback strategy to seek to reduce variation by experimenting with the controlled process inputs. To reduce process variation, and thereby reduce the need for adjustments, we must understand which of the uncontrolled causes have dominant effects upon our process.”
Can We Adjust Our Way to Quality?
Many articles and some textbooks describe process behavior charts as a manual technique for keeping a process on target.

Next, Mandy Brown wrote about work being too much and also not enough:

“Once you accept (or re-accept) that there is too much, it becomes easier to turn some things away. You may still feel grief or loss at the things you cannot do. You may feel guilt, especially if an institution or person benefits from you feeling that way. But accepting that you must leave some things undone shifts the problem from one of being not enough to one of being in a position to make choices. And even when those choices are coupled to difficult or prickly constraints, they are still choices.”
Too much and not enough | everything changes
Don’t do the hard work alone.

Here’s a fun one—this case study by Regina de Melo on a lean project I designed and contributed to several years ago:

“By piloting small and fast ideas and using agreed-upon measures of success, ideas are vetted quickly and objectively by reviewing the attainment of the agreed upon outcomes.”

Lots of specifics about outcomes and trade-offs we encountered during this engagement. I enjoy this because the consulting team (that’s me!) recedes into the background and, as far as I’m concerned, that’s as it should be.

“Work Smarter, Not Harder: A Case Study on Lean Design in San Mateo County Human Services Agency” (Regina de Melo - 2018)

And this, on the topic of listening as a capability for movement-building, from Kelly Hayes and Mariame Kaba in the Boston Review:

“Organizers will often repeat the maxim, ‘We have to meet people where they are at.’ It is difficult to meet someone where they’re at when you do not know where they are. Until you have heard someone out, you do not know where they are, so how could you hope to meet them there? Relationships are not built through presumption or through the deployment of tropes or stereotypes. We must understand people as having their own unique experiences, traumas, struggles, ideas, and motivations that will inform how they show up to organizing spaces.”
How Much Discomfort Is the Whole World Worth? - Boston Review
Movement building requires a culture of listening—not mastery of the right language.


I’m still hung up on Naomi Klein’s “Doppelganger”—this will end up being my favorite book of the year unless something truly amazing happens. Read it. It is somewhat unclassifiable (memoir? polemic? weird-as-hell COVID-19 retrospective? etc.?) but whatever it is, it is an astonishment. If you need more information, start with Cory Doctorow’s review.

Beyond that, I am increasingly impatiently waiting for my preorder of “The Flow System Playbook” from Turner and Thurlow to get in.

“The Flow System” is an invaluable book—several of my projects have cribbed heavily from its pages—but I think the playbook format will really adhere to Thurlow’s strengths. More about this one after I dig in.

On the site

Recent changes @

  • I added a links & listens page with selected continuous improvement blogs and podcasts (only the weird/good ones),
  • refreshed a couple recommended books on my reading list, and
  • updated about this site with more information about your privacy and additional ways of reading.

As the algorithm-poisoned social media landscape decoheres, I am left feeling that web sites are great. I wish there were more of them. So I try to keep this one tidy.

An upcoming event

Makesensemess—the “nerdiest party of the year”—is coming up in a few weeks and I would be delighted to see you there. It’s a two-hour, cheap, online celebration of things people do to make sense of an absurd and silent world. Last year’s Makesensemess was phenomenal.

That’s it for now! Have an awesome day.