Beware the Cookbook Approach! We hear this, but what does it mean?
Usually, it means the mistake of thinking something complicated can be reduced down to a simple set of steps, like a recipe in a cookbook. I've heard people say that the Scaled Agile Framework is guilty of the cookbook approach, as well as ITIL and other "best practice" guidance. Just follow the steps and success is guaranteed! (Of course, someone has to try to apply the guidance in this way; most bodies of knowledge have some caution against overly simplified approaches.)
The impatient always want a simple, recipe-only cookbook. They don't want to be bothered with principles, let alone history. The trouble is that many of life's interesting and valuable things are complex and no cookbook recipe is guaranteed to deliver success. Knowing principles is what enables creativity. If all you have are recipes, what happens when you don't have the right ingredients?
However, not all cookbooks are created equal. The accompanying image shows two cookbooks with vastly different approaches. The Betty Crocker's Cookbook is primarily a set of recipes. There is almost no discussion of why they work, the background of the food, the various classes of ingredients, the different cooking techniques employed, and so forth. You're left to mechanically follow the recipes (which is sometimes all you need).
The Joy of Cooking, in contrast, is grounded in fundamentals. Before a single recipe is given, it provides context on the food, its history, the various preparation techniques, quality criteria, even nutrition and just a little chemistry where appropriate. As the book focuses on principle and technique, you come away less limited to the precise recipes provided - the book also gives you the tools to adapt them.
As digital transformation accelerates, we need more, not less, attention to the principles and factors that gave rise to it and continue to drive it. That is what I have attempted to do in Managing Digital: Concepts and Techniques. It's intended to orient the student, or the mid-career professional, to the new digital economy. Rather than prescriptive guidance, it brings forward why things work the way they do. Why does Scrum work? What were its creators thinking when they invented it? Why is scaling hard? What influences led to the Scaled Agile Framework? Where does this idea of "governance" come from, and why won't it go away?
I'm especially proud of the book's evolutionary approach. Traditional approaches leave the student asking "but when and why did Operations become a solution to a problem? (Or Product Management, or Project Management, or what have you...). Education starts with respecting the student's journey, and I have found that dropping them cold into enterprise-scale discussions doesn't work. I am interested in talking with anyone thinking along similar lines.
Whether you're learning haute cuisine or high technology, understanding the principles is important. In learning digital, we can illustrate these principles effectively by thinking about how organizations grow.
Thanks again for reading!
photo credit https://www.flickr.com/photos/lifes-little-lists/11609838953