History of FLEX from Quotes and Insights

This page describes the result of a personal 30+ year journey by Al Shalloway in the Agile space. It is told in three ways. The first section is a series of quotes by people of great insight. These quotes in some ways tell the entire story – so definitely worth a quick read. The second is a compendium of insights I have had over the last 30+ years. Some of these point to a page that describes how those insights came to be. This lets the reader chose between getting just the insights or the full story.

Quotes behind FLEX

General learning

It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble, it’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so. Mark Twain

There are three kinds of men. The ones that learn by readin’. The few who learn by observation. The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence for themselves. Will Rogers

The task is, not so much to see what no one has seen yet; but to think what nobody has thought yet, about what everybody sees. Arthur Schopenhauer

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. George Santayana

All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident. Arthur Schopenhauer

I am enthusiastic over humanity’s extraordinary and sometimes very timely ingenuity. If you are in a shipwreck and all the boats are gone, a piano top buoyant enough to keep you afloat that comes along makes a fortuitous life preserver. But this is not to say that the best way to design a life preserver is in the form of a piano top. I think that we are clinging to a great many piano tops in accepting yesterday’s fortuitous contrivings as constituting the only means for solving a given problem. Our brains deal exclusively with special-case experiences. Only our minds are able to discover the generalized principles operating without exception in each and every special-experience case which if detected and mastered will give knowledgeable advantage in all instances. Because our spontaneous initiative has been frustrated, too often inadvertently, in earliest childhood we do not tend, customarily, to dare to think competently regarding our potentials. We find it socially easier to go on with our narrow, shortsighted specialization’s and leave it to others primarily to the politicians to find some way of resolving our common dilemmas. Buckminster Fuller

Systems Thinking and the role of management

People are already doing their best, the problems are with the system. Edwards Deming

A system is a network of interdependent components that work together to try to accomplish the aim of the system. A system must have an aim. Without the aim, there is no system. Edwards Deming

A system must be managed. It will not manage itself. Left to themselves, components become selfish, competitive, independent profit centers, and thus destroy the system. Edwards Deming

The secret is cooperation between components toward the aim of the organization. Edwards Deming

Only management can change the System. Edwards Deming

If you can’t describe what you are doing as a [workflow], you don’t know what you are doing. Edwards Deming

You can’t motivate people, you can only stop motivating them. Provide them a good environment within which to work and they will shine. Al Shalloway paraphrasing, Deming, Pink, Marquette, others.

Work on small things

Often reducing batch size is all it takes to bring a system back into control” – Eli Goldratt, creator of Theory of Constraints

This report, by its very length, defends itself against the risk of being read. – Winston Churchill.


In theory, theory and practice are the same. But in practice they are different.

Insanity: Doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.

If you only quantify one thing quantify Cost of Delay – Don Reinertsen

Lessons learned: Summary


  • We all have our own paradigms – that is the set of beliefs and assumptions we live within. It is important to un-obscure our own paradigms and to question them.
  • Systems-thinking is very useful. Its main lessons are that a company is not a set of independent components but rather a complex interrelated system. Changing one aspect of it affects others. And a focus on local optimization rarely results in the global optimization desired. You can’t affect one aspect of the system without affecting others. Also, people are affected by the system they work in and most errors are due to the system than the people. Therefore managers must attend to improving the system.