The Crucible - Melting the status quo with targeted strategic ignorance

Executives have several tools that can re-forge an organization from the top.  They can reorganize changing the boundaries created by Conway's law.  New executives can push out embedded interests and bring people in from the outside. They can brutally question everything through targeted ignorance. 

A main tactic is to hire senior people with no knowledge of internal complexities or implementations. They come in questioning everyone and everything with an assumption that the hard stuff exists because of complacency or because people are locked it was always done that way. New people propose or demand refutation of approaches in past lives or other industries or with previous engagements.  The legacy organization's natural reaction is that the new ideas won't work and defend the status quo.  New people apply additional heat declaring that the status quo won't stand often replacing people who stand in the way. This applies indirect heat to the rest of the organization.


Existing organizations become mired in the complexity of their existing business and personnel processes. They have overlapping rules and systems that implement government regulations, business rules, and technical or process debt as systems and processes evolve over time. Eventually, it becomes difficult to discriminate between necessary, accidental, and evolutionary complexity.

Regulated industries may have additional rules or constraints that the new people are ignorant of. Separating regulatory, privacy and legal constraints from legacy requirements and evolutionary processes can be difficult. Existing organizations front-load those constraints when making changes. New people and the imperative for change back end load those constraints to heat a company to force change.  New people are hired with industry experience or they may be deliberately hired from other industries or from smaller less mature companies.  

Deliberate Ignorance

Start from the assumption that existing knowledge is tainted or hidebound. We use deliberate ignorance to simplify by starting with fewer rules and constraints. Every added constraint, regulation to requirement is brutally challenged. Executives start with a blank slate and force people to justify adding complexity. Every issue is a "it isn't that complicated" discussion. People use this technique in different ways depending on how much heat needs to be applied. One of the problems with deliberate ignorance is people can't tell if the ignorant one is challenging everything to shake out requirements or if the ignorant one thinks all the existing people and processes are just stupid, Delivery is everything here. 

Driven Deliberate Ignorance - We should start here...

One approach is to demand that existing processes be stripped of components and pieces until they stop working and then add that last piece back again. New processes are built in the simplest manner possible ignoring the existing processes or systems. "This is just a ...." is a common refrain when new people explain how the existing pieces are too complex. One might say this approach is a version of "I want you to do this..." suppressing any comments about complexity or reasons for the existing processes.

Interrogative Driven Ignorance - Why do we need that...

Another approach is to question everything forcing people to defend why some process or delay exists.  This often happens as part of an analysis cycle or in ideation or iteration reviews. This approach probably surfaces deeper requirements but gives existing power structures the chance to push back early.


I once worked on a project where we were tactically deliberately ignorant.  We wanted a market mover advantage and we thought the existing management was too "stuck".  We captured what our system needed and not what the company needed as a whole. We picked up a couple smart people who gave us the minimum implementation rules for various operations and we built around that. The program ignored any of the complaints from other channels and changed the way the company operated in that space. It wasn't completely an MVP because the team had experience and layered in some of the Non-Functional Requirements needed to monitor the processes and leave space to implement the minimum legal and regulatory requirements.


Desperate Ignorance

This strategy is where there just isn't time to know the right way to implement a system or process.  It is a deliberately not looking where you are going while running with scissors kind of approach.  Desperate ignorance says that pretty much everything will be ignored.  Don't ask legal because they might give you some rules kind of problems. It is different than the previously discussed Deliberate Ignorance which uses a lack of knowledge as a path to simplification

Blind Ignorance

You don't ask questions.  You don't want anyone asking questions.  The MVP is built by people without regulatory, privacy, financial, or other constraints. They operate in a vacuum ignoring any outside sources.

Revision History

Created 2023/11


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