Anti-Pattern: Black Diamond

Black Diamond is one of the most common anti-patterns in Agile adoption. Black Diamond takes place when due to poor communication across the organizational layers, the management believes that certain practices were successfully adopted and continue to deliver value, while the teams had long abandoned them and are back to old ways of working.

Etymology. The name comes from a specific quality improvement initiative in a large organization. Glossy posters were hung up on every wall, claiming “achievements” and listing people due to whose “heroic effort” those benefits became achievable. Every soul in that office (except the top management) knew that was not the case. The middle management was caught between two fires and had to do habitual lip service to the top organizational leaders. At the same time, not to entirely lose teams’ credibility, they at least were no longer pretending that any positive change happened.

Black Diamonds commonly occur in disjointed organizations (see Semiconductor Organization anti-pattern). The dynamic is pretty simple and well known.

  1. A new practice(s) is introduced
  2. Everybody is excited about it
  3. The practice hits first significant roadblock (which is totally normal)
  4. It requires substantial change of some organizational parameters
  5. It is not beneficial for anybody to raise the issue, instead it is a lot more convenient to advance careers by bringing only good news up top
  6. Meanwhile people are still blocked
  7. After a while they abandon the practice

Generally speaking, this problem is unsolvable in any way that does not contain full exposure to Gemba.

 

 

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