View profile

Inside Out

Inside Out: The Power of Clarity
Inside Out
By Steve Pereira & Andrew Davis • Issue #2 • View online
Thanks so much for joining us!
Inside Out is a collaboration of Steve Pereira and Andrew Davis. Steve is known as “The Value Stream Guy” and runs Visible Value Stream Consulting. Andrew specializes in DevOps for the Salesforce platform and how to find peace and meaning at work.
We’ve been working on a book together since 2020. Through that, we’ve discovered a trove of valuable ideas that clarify some of the most difficult questions that individuals, teams, and organizations face in the fast-moving world of IT. Rather than waiting to finish the book, we wanted to start the flow of sharing and conversation, and start getting your feedback so we can learn as much as possible during this time.
Expect to see this newsletter bi-weekly. We think that will be a manageable cadence for us and for you. In each article, we’ll share snippets from the book and other content that has inspired us.

Why Clarity, Value, Flow?
“The reason 70% of digital transformations fail is an issue of clarity … When you start you need to ignore the technology, actually ignore everything else and get extremely clear on what goals you want to set for yourself and your organization.”
Tony Saldanha, VP of IT and Global Business Services, Procter & Gamble. Author of Why Digital Transformations Fail
Our goals
We set out to provide a step-by-step method to help mid-level managers succeed in managing and improving value streams across their organization. Value stream management is a practice of making visible the activities that go into creating value. It’s a combination of people, process, and technology. We aim to bring insights about the often neglected people and process aspects to you as guidance you can put into practice, right away.
Invisibility is not a software superpower
Software is invisible. You can’t see it as it’s being made, and you can’t see all of the various handoffs and issues along the way. And while everyone recognizes the value of having an application that can help you in your work, value is surprisingly hard to nail down. Value is like Schrödinger’s cat - the value of something is never defined precisely until it’s measured in the course of use, buying, or selling. Value needs to be realized.
Where’s the clarity?
We realized that the primary challenge faced by organizations, teams, and individuals is that of gaining, maintaining, and sharing clarity. Clarity is our ability to perceive and understand things. We may gain clarity and then lose it. We may struggle to share it. Most conflicts and collective failures stem from a lack of shared clarity. That’s borne out in other books like Tony Saldanha’s Why Digital Transformations Fail and Karen Martin’s Clarity.
Seeing, building, and delivering value
Value too is profoundly interesting. What are our explicit values? And what are the actual implicit values that drive people and organizations? Enron is famous for proudly touting its corporate values. Its actual values were quite different from what they shared publicly. We understand the volatility of the stock market and emerging markets like cryptocurrency. But even money itself has value only to the degree that it helps us fulfill other needs such as survival, security, and reputation.
Pursuing and empowering flow
Flow is fascinating. For many technologists, the reason they were drawn to the field is the experience of getting deeply absorbed in solving technical challenges. The enjoyable state of concentration is called psychological flow, and is central to the field of positive psychology. Flow explains the exceptional performance of people in all fields. Yet flow is also the term used to describe efficient team processes and collaboration. Our day jobs center around how to help teams achieve greater flow. Yet our personal passions are in anything that unlocks an experience of personal flow.
 “The secret of change is to focus all your energy not on fighting the old but on building the new.”
  • Socrates
So these three concepts emerged as central to everything we were working on and discussing. So much so that we’ve committed ourselves to long-term investigation of how to help individuals, teams, and organizations optimize for clarity, value, and flow. These themes are also central organizing principles for everything you’ll find in this newsletter. We see them as keys to the future of successful business and technology efforts, and we want to understand how they can guide and empower that success. We’ll go deep on different aspects of these, and let that investigation unfold collectively, with your help.
Getting Clear
One of the ten points made in Hans Rosling’s Factfulness is how we’re strongly inclined towards binary thinking.
“Human beings have a strong dramatic instinct toward binary thinking, a basic urge to divide things into two distinct groups, with nothing but an empty gap in between. We love to dichotomize. Good versus bad. Heroes versus villains. My country versus the rest. Dividing the world into two distinct sides is simple and intuitive, and also dramatic because it implies conflict, and we do it without thinking, all the time.”
While it may seem like binary thinking means that we’re holding two things in our mind. We’re really just holding one thing: it’s either “this” or “not this”. This is how we build concepts. We conceive of things by distinguishing them from everything that’s not that thing. If we conceive of something and think it’s good, we’ll think that its opposite is not good. This causes us to lurch into conflicts with others, where there appear to be two contrasting possibilities. The answer is most often in the middle. Finding a balanced point of view is essential. We need to have the humility to be genuinely open to points of view that contradict our own.
Inside Out: The Power of Clarity
Clarity, value, and flow are at the heart of everything we do as individuals, teams, and organizations. Join @SteveElsewhere and @AndrewDavis_io for an ongoing discussion on how we can build clarity, enable value, and pursue flow in daily life.
What We're Finding Valuable
Andrew just finished Thinking in Systems by Donella Meadows. It’s a primer on systems thinking. Her research group at MIT was responsible for many of the formative mathematical models on ecosystems and the limits to growth. But the movement that grew out of that team at MIT has influenced every industry.
We’re particularly interested in how systems thinking is still far from common. The way we model a problem constrains the solutions we can find. When we use spreadsheets to solve a problem, this predisposes us to fit the problem and solution into a matrix model. But most systems contain feedback loops of various kinds. You can’t properly understand complex systems without iterating through models. The answer is never a single result in a steady-state. Yet that’s still the way most business problems are approached.
In the Flow
Why do we often struggle to accomplish what we set out to do? We’ve been reflecting on how taking on too many tasks is a kind of attachment. We get a great idea and don’t want to let go of it. But the reality is that we have limited time, energy, and resources. Saying “no” to possible projects is hard, but it’s critical to be able to focus. Thanks for saying “yes” to reading this far 🙂.
Inside Out: The Power of Clarity
Why clarity, value, and flow?
As we analyzed the challenge of effective execution, these three topics arose as central themes.
Clarity is our mental model of a situation
Value is what appears desirable in that model
Flow are the actions we pursue to achieve value
Thank you for reading
More to come in a couple weeks. If you enjoyed this please forward it on or share the signup page with your friends and colleagues
Did you enjoy this issue?
Steve Pereira & Andrew Davis

To solve big problems, we need to go back to basics. Our effectiveness depends on gaining clarity, creating value, and finding flow. Society and technology are changing quickly, but at every scale these three considerations are timeless keys to success. We look at maximizing improvement ROI, how the best teams work, and how individuals can find meaning and purpose in their work.

In order to unsubscribe, click here.
If you were forwarded this newsletter and you like it, you can subscribe here.
Powered by Revue