“These Five Are the Best We Can Do?”

Is your business succession any better off?

The title of this insight comes from the title of a recent Wall Street Journal commentary by Joseph Epstein, lamenting the current slate of U.S. presidential candidates.  The question for you is:  Is your business succession any better off?

These Are the Best We Can Do? The Perils of Ignoring Succession - Mike Russell

For your key roles/positions, do you have outstanding succession candidates?

Too many businesses leave the business of filling key positions until the positions become open.  That is too late.  Unfortunately, succession is often perennially in the business “to do” list but rarely acted on, much less consistently.

The time to prepare and position candidates is in advance of the opening. For the most important roles, preparations should be ongoing and involve several layers of future candidates.

Succession is also not just a matter of casting a vote or picking someone for a business role.  For businesses and presidential politics alike, the candidates reflect the overall system of candidacy … who is a candidate is in large part determined by the total “system.”  How well does your system work?


  • What do your succession candidates “say” about your business?
  • Do you have a strong and consistent flow of excellent candidates for key roles?  If not, is this creating significant risks?
  • What aspects of your “candidate system” need changing?
  • What can you do to start changes in your area of responsibility right now?


By Mike Russell

Are Business Bottlenecks Limiting Your Success?

And - do you have a bottleneck or a cork?

In previous insights we’ve looked at input to an article on (software) applications bottlenecks.  However, the bottlenecks may not be software-related at all.  Now we’ll cover the article inputs that have implications for two broader types of bottlenecks:  product and business.  Or maybe you don’t have a bottleneck, but are “corked” … completely blocked.

Are Business Bottlenecks Limiting Your Success? - Mike Russell

Businesses have a wonderful opportunity to learn from startups.  Startup application development is usually a life or death matter.  Larger businesses should look at that mindset in place of the “same old, same old” rhythm of incremental development and mediocrity.

Because most current day startups (not the dot com boom ones) are relatively lean, startup methods start lean.  Leanness generates additional capacity and speed by not wasting time and effort on non-value adding activity. 

Also, a startup’s application is their product and is their business.  Therefore, startup approaches tend to take a more holistic view of success and tend to be more successful than “projects” as a result.  Silos in a startup are usually non-existent … there are different skill sets but everyone is in the same boat and rowing in the same direction.

Focusing only on application development speed is like focusing only on the race car engine RPMs and not the track and finish line.

Using a tachometer only, without speed, fuel, and other gauges, not to mention being able to see where going and progress made, is useless for driving and also for application development.

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Software development bottlenecks, take 2

I earlier provided a link to an article on (software) application development bottlenecks.  I was quoted twice in the article along with other sources like Gartner and Forrester Research.

How to Deal with Software Development Bottlenecks - Mike Russell

Although I was quoted twice, I provided more information than made it into the article.  In this insight, I’ll provide some of the other perspectives.

To recap, here are the two segments that were published:

Application development speed and capacity are usually NOT the issue.  The issue is that the business users’ requests are not prioritized and valued such that priorities are established and existing capacity is dedicated to higher value work, yielding better use and ROI of scarce development time.  Every business has finite resources.  If benefits/value are not established, there is no way the business can rationally make decisions about how to use scarce resources, especially application development.  Without valuation and associated prioritization, priorities are usually established by politics and the infamous “who yells the loudest” methods.  Also, there are no curbs on “business demands” because no one knows what is reasonable.

The craft of business analysis has degenerated into requirements writing and management in many companies.  GIGO (Garbage In, Garbage Out) still applies to application development.  If businesses don’t make an effort to truly understand who the customers are and what they need, then products are often based solely on internal thinking (and therefore often assumptions instead of facts) about what customers need.  In this case, applications development can speed up 1,000 times and still be a waste since all the effort will be invested in delivering the wrong thing.  The initial thinking should be treated as an assumption and tested by market feedback.

Here are some of the additional, unpublished perspectives along with some explanation of the “why” I made the statements:

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