What Patterns Count – Where Are 10x or 10% Gains Coming From?

 In Software 4.0

What patterns count is a great question and the answer entirely depends on the context.

Visual patterns provide safety in nature; consider the zebra on the African plains or the chameleon that can change color to support their soundings; both use patterns to cloak there presence to predators. It is a survival trait.

What is the survival approach your business adopts?


A chameleon adapting to their environment to avoid detection.

A quick look at the software engineers we realize they are using patterns to help with building maintainable software; technical patterns and things such as developing unit tests are examples coined as professional best practices. Every functional specialty develops best practices for their domain; it is what we do as professionals.

Patterns provide generalized shortcuts to real issues. Best practices are better sameness not innovation. Is a mater of fact best practices actually impede innovation because someone else in the company or professional community has already solved the problem facing the engineering talent in this example.


Better sameness provides us ten percent lift. Innovation provides us multiples of benefit. Better sameness is riding the S-Curve while innovation is jumping the S-Curve. Survival depends on doing S-Curve jumping activities.

Just look at the company age of the S&P or Dow today compared to 20 years ago, average age of those companies has decreased. Many incumbents have been displaced by more nimble innovative companies. The rate of change is accelerating ever day. Those organizations who do not figure out how to innovate will perish.


S-Curve illustrating Technology A is better sameness and Technology B is innovation

In the S-Curve illustration, Technology A is eventuality going to become an end-of-life technology. Innovation is imperative and will provide the ability to jump to the Technology B S-Curve.

If we have an improvement versus innovation conversation to understand what provides the multiple gains you will be surprised where the conversation ends up. Dan Pink describes how the greatest impact will be realized by three things; purpose, autonomy and mastery.

  • Purpose is driven by the leadership team’s strategic vision that causes organizational alignment. That vision needs to be inspiring and a magnet to draw everyone in because it is so exciting to deliver that vision, it is a “change the world” driven purpose.
  • Autonomy is knowledge workers ability to be self-directed. The mechanics related to obtaining autonomy is having the managers get out of the way; stop solving the teams problems and directing their work.
  • Mastery is the result of a purpose driven organization with servant leaders allowing autonomy; those knowledge workers will acquire mastery because work becomes fun; the challenges of work problems becomes the work not the politics at work.


Many of the Agile frameworks are mistaken for where the magic resides. The magic is realized by embracing a framework with servant leadership, any framework will do. The simple thing that causes misunderstanding is related to the fact that Agile frameworks embrace servant leadership values such as transparency, trust, courage, tolerance to failure to name a few.

Therefore organizations who embrace the mechanics of an Agile framework and cannot understand why there is marginal benefit when the organization continues to have directive managers and measures that punish failure. Those organizations are surprised by the results; they are missing the keys to success, non-directive managers are required.

Accelerate Or Drag Your Organization provides a broader discussion on value based measurement.

Focus On What Is Important describes organizational governance as it relates to people.

How To Build A Great Organization provides some insights into high performance companies.

– Tim Bertheau (@TimBertheau)

Image Credits: 

  1. Picture of chameleon, Carsten Dreier, Pro Mitgiled, Wunstorf, January 2007,http://www.fotocommunity.de/photo/auge-in-auge-mit-dem-chamaeleon-carsten-dreier/18999771.
  2. S-Curve, Stuart Jeffery, Nomura Securities, 25 January 2013.
  3. BPBricklayer from Pixabay
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