The next person on the Who is series, is Bob Marshall, better known as @flowchainsensei. (Wikipedia has never heard of our bob)

I think that Bob is the only person I personally invited that I think I have not met in person. I don’t need to. Bob is so vocal on his twitterfeed, I know who he is and thinks. Thanks to Bob I know the RightShifting movement. He is also one of the few agile people who has an evil counterpart on twitter. (I guess that is a side effect of his clear, to the point statements.) Out of respect for Bob I don’t link to the account.


What is something people usually don’t know about you but has influenced you in who you are?

Most folks in London know  I ride a motorcycle, but that may not be apparent to folks farther afield. Further than that though, I also consider myself a biker, which is more of a lifestyle choice and mindset than simple a choice of transportation mode.

If you would not have been in IT, what would have become of you?

Actually, I don’t consider myself “in IT”. Both because I don’t believe software development should have ever been co-located/conflated with IT, and because most of what I do relates to people.
As to an alternate life-path,  most likely I would have become an industrial model-maker. I did have a thriving commercial model-making business whilst (still) at school, plus a job offer back then from the UK’s leading industrial model-making company. I have yet to begin my second career – although I have long had it picked-out – being an intention to start a new “religion”. :Q (And no, Rightshifting is not a religion, as fas as I’m concerned, at least).

What is your biggest challenge and why is it a good thing for you?

My biggest challenge – for thirty years and more, until recently – was to understand just why software development was (and remains) so universally poor. Now I feel I have uncovered the answer to that mystery.

So my biggest challenge presently is to find a means to share that insight in ways that folks can use, practically, for the advantage of everyone working in software development, and, given the near-ubiquity of software today – for society at large, too. This recent new challenge has been a good thing because it has driven me to long and deep study of human motivation, individual and group psychology, neuroscience, and such like.

What drives you ?
People, people and people. Tech and gadgets are neat toys, or intellectual puzzles, but seeing people realise even a part of their innate potential is what gets me out of bed every morning (literally and metaphorically).

What is your biggest achievement?

My biggest achievement is not really for me to claim. Others may be better placed to proffer an answer. But if pressed, I might reply that my biggest achievement is what other folks who have worked with me say about my contribution to their lives.

What is the last book you have read?

Tricky, given I have about fifteen started-but-not-yet-finished books in my iPad and another ten or so in my “legacy” (dead tree) pile.
The one that most immediately springs to mind is Margaret Wheatley‘s excellent “Leadership and the New Science“.

What question do you think I should also ask and what is the answer?

How about “why do so many business improvement projects (ie agile adoptions) fail?” And the answer is “because folks fail to recognize the true nature of the challenges involved, and thus use inappropriate approaches”.

Who do you think I should ask next?

There are so many fine folks in e.g. the agile, lean and twitter communities, I’m sure I’d offend many by omission. But despite such risk,  I’d suggest maybe Benjamin Mitchell, Grant Rule, or David Joyce.

12 Responses to “Who is Bob Marshall (@flowchainsensei) ?”

  1. Paul Boos says:

    Thanks for the post Yves! I certainly find Bob’s stack of unfinished books a bit surprising! Somehow I would have thought he would have voraciously read a book from start to finish within a week and rapidly ripped through them.

    I’m also surprised he considers himself a biker… I wonder how popular that is in Britain? It’s of course hugely popular in the States, but I didn’t think it was much outside of the US and perhaps Canada.

    I’m actually not surprised he didn’t think he was in IT. While I recognize he is interested in software development, I would have subscribed it almost identical to his interest in improving our world (via bettering our business) as he described. That just seems to come out in his Twitterfeed.

    Cheers and congrats Bob!

  2. yhanoulle says:

    Thanks Paul,
    I’m not so surprised about a stack of unfinished books. Actually if I look at al the answers I already received for this series, (including the scheduled not published ones) this is recurring a lot. 10 years ago I read a wonderful book “How to read a book”. The thing I use most from that book is that if you feel that reading a certain book does not work at a certain ctively reading it.time, stop reading it. You don’t have to finished a book just because you started it. I did exactly that this holiday. I started reading Flow. I loved the book, but it took me hours just to read a few pages. Finally I stopped it and started another book. I read that next book in just a couple of hours. The right book at the right time.
    How to read a book said that when a book is not for you, stop reading it. I use that advice today also on books that are for me. Just not at this particular moment. I do limit the number of books on my reading list.
    (I’m reading 5 book at this moment. Flow is not counted as one of these 5 because I’m not actively reading it.)

  3. One thing I like about Bob is that he is soooooo active online. He gives honest comments on blog posts and tweets interesting thoughts.
    From the times he commented on my blog posts, I was always amazed by his sharp view on things.
    I would love to meet him in person

  4. Hi Yves, thanks for posting Bob’s ‘Who is…’ and for the idea for this series, which is great.

    Knowing Bob as I do I’m not surprised at his responses.

    I think the ‘ever-extending book list’ issue is one many of us are now familiar with. The interwebbysphere has made so much information available, and it is so inter-connected (which is good) that reading anything on-line is like reading a dictionary or encyclopedia. As you read one thing, an interesting link catches your attention, so you follow that, only to find another such curious connection, followed by another, and then yet more. Technology helps us learn about about the breadth and inter-connectedness of stuff, but at the expense (it seems) that we often do not pursue the original intent to dig deep.

    At least, that’s yet another ‘Rule’s Instant Theory’.

    Best regards,

  5. Surprised by the appropriateness of Bob’s LinkedIn endorsements including one for careful and considerate teaching of motorcycle maintenance. I appreciate the opportunity to read a little more about Bob from a different perspective.

  6. yhanoulle says:

    Hi Bob,

    The biker aspect I did not know, but it does not surprise me.
    Especially the part it is a lifestyle.
    I love the picture.

    You are not the only one saying you don’t consider yourself in IT. I think that could be a debate for long evenings at conferences. I like your biggest challenge.