Cadence

The average adult heartbeat is approximately 72 beats per minute. Assuming a full 24-hour day we can calculate a little over 103,000 beats per day. Sure there are variations in the rhythm due to hopefully anomalous circumstances like stress, but overall ... 103k beats per day for life ... and with every heartbeat, approximately 2.4 oz of blood are pumped. That's a lot of blood. We know that with a regular rhythm comes the possibility of healthful, productive life; and with an irregular rhythm comes the possibility of temporary or permanent bodily damage, i.e. loss; and the worst case of no rhythm existing brings about eventual, but certain death. We know the pulsating beat of our heart and associated flow of blood throughout our body is good when are able to take it for granted. Predictable, repeatable, healthy ... assumed.

Likened to the naturally beating heartbeat, i.e. pulse, there is the metronome ... a constructed tool for no greater calling and purpose than to simulate a predictable, repeatable pattern within the music helping teach a music student the importance of constancy. Music, being composed of a collection of notes, is ordinarily aggregated into one measure at a time according to time signatures such as 2/2, 2/4, 3/3, 3/4, 4/4 and so on. This framework helps us understand how many beats per measure are expected to occur. For example, Ludwig Van Beethoven's Bagatelles Opus 33 for the piano is written in 6/8 time requiring of us 6 beats per measure - regardless the number of notes necessary to accomplish this feat. And one level higher than the time signature is the tempo - telling us how many beats per minute are expected for any particular musical piece. If the time signature is 4/4 (4 beats per measure) and the tempo is declared at 112 beats per minute ... by math alone do we conclude that 28 measures of music per minute must be played. And if the mood of the music varies throughout the piece, whether playing allegro (fast) or adagissimo (very slowly), we know the music will move faster or slower than the 112 beats per minute, but will always use 112 as the base tempo. So we have the number of beats per measure and number of beats per minute, and we have expected variation built on a consistent base. First a cadence. Second a variation upon the cadence; but always the cadence.

Why don't we hear anyone discussing these things at concerts? Answer: because it is assumed, i.e. unspoken. The only times we hear any talk of tempo or time signature is while someone is learning the music, and when someone is playing it poorly or otherwise inconsistently. Without a tempo there is no flow. Without flow, there is no positive experience.

And what about drum corps? Soldiers. Marching bands. Colour Guard. We tend to notice when one or more people in the formation are out of step when walking down the street en parade. Why is that?

Heartbeats. Metronomes. Time signatures. Tempo. Predictable. Repeatable. Patterns ... signs of health and success. Inversely? Pain. Toil. Unpredictability. Non-repeatability. Anti-patterns. Stress. Fatigue. Attrition. Failure.

Living organisms have patterns. Music and art have patterns. Measurement is a pattern. Math is composed of patterns; patterns are math. Organizations? Should have patterns, i.e. pulse.

Not the simple ones like "there should exist one manager for every N headcount" or "we must achieve 5% market growth each year for the next 5 years"; but more importantly ... things like:

  1. Tasks should be no larger than 16h each
  2. Stories should be no bigger than one sprint
  3. Sprints should be no larger two weeks in length
  4. Working, tested, self-contained software delivered every sprint
  5. Software integration builds executed every hour
  6. Unit test suite called for execution hourly post-integration build
  7. Results posted publicly every hour

Sound like patterns? Repeatable? Predictable?

What about:

  1. For every two-week sprint, it begins with a 2 hour sprint planning meeting
  2. For every two-week sprint, it ends with a 2 hour demo review and lessons learned meeting
  3. For every two-week sprint, we'll only pull from the backlog those things we can fully eat
  4. For every two-week sprint, the backlog will be prioritized prior to the planning meeting

Sounds like a collection of patterns.

If someone tells you they have a healthy organization, but you can't seem to find a delivery pattern, build pattern, planning pattern, prioritization pattern, test pattern, estimation and/or sizing pattern, or any kind of pattern that is predictable and repeatable, they may not know what a healthy organization looks like. To judge the health of a company by revenue, market share, cash flow, debt ratios, or customer acquisition rates evaluates the wrong components. Enron proved to us that money is the wrong dashboard needle to be watching without additionally understanding the internal pulse of the company (or lack therein).

Spend one day and sit down with customer service representatives, developers, testers, project managers, database and system administrators, etc. all of them junior people in the company.

Ask them one item: "Name for me everything in this company that has a cadence."

You may learn about the cadences or lack therein of the company under scrutiny far faster than you can count the time signature changes in the average Kansas and YES albums of yore.

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