In August, 2014 (this year) I faced this challenge when speaking at the Latin American Software Engineering Symposium (LASES) in Barranquilla, Columbia. The night before the talk Dr. Carlos Zapata and I came up with an idea that not only worked, but also generated more questions than I ever imagined.

The title of my talk was: Essence: A Practitioner and Team Performance Perspective.

Take a look at this video to see how we pulled this off.  Below the link to the video find a sampling of the questions I received and how you can locate them quickly in the video.

Following is a sampling of the questions I received during the talk:

  1. Why are there only 7 alphas in the Essence kernel?
  2. How long will the SEMAT community work on Essence?
  3. Why don’t we see practices represented on the kernel?
  4. What is the vision for how companies will represent their practices using Essence?
  5. Will there be more disciplines added to Essence?
  6. How is the kernel changed, and what changes are coming?
  7. What criteria was used in selecting Essence checklists?
  8. What is your vision for the future of Essence?
  9. How would you sell Essence to companies?
  10. Where are we headed with practices on top of the Essence kernel?
  11. What is the definition of practice from the point of view of the Essence kernel?
  12. How will practices be captured in the Essence framework?

If you don’t have time to watch the entire video, jump to the end of the video where you will find, along with the 12 questions above, 30 more key questions/concrete examples listed and a reference to where you can find them quickly in the video (minutes and seconds into the video).

There has recently been a lot of discussion related to quantifying the value of using SEMAT’s Essence Framework.  I just posted a blog on this subject at:

I’d love to hear what you think…

I have just posted a blog about a different way to think about the SEMAT vision and the Essence Framework.   

 I would love to hear what you think.  


I have just posted my second blog of a planned series on topics in my new book.  This blog is titled: “Practice Slices and Patterns: A Better Way to Deploy Process Improvements”.   

Practice slices and patterns is a way to engage your practitioners in their own practice improvement which is a major goal of SEMAT and the Essence Framework.

You can also view a Youtube  video about practice slices and patterns at:

I am very interested in hearing feedback and stimulating discussion on the idea of practice slices and patterns.   

For those who may be interested, the new book I referred to in my blog on July 3 that includes discussions on the Essence framework is now available.  You can learn more about the book at (paperback book or kindle store) or at

The book’s title is: 15 Fundamentals for Higher Performance in Software Development

You can also get some background information on how the Essence part of the book evolved at  in my blog dated July 17 and titled: Turning a Weakness into a Major Strength In My New Book “15 Fundamentals…”  

With the recent news release of the OMG Board of Directors adoption of the new Essence standard, and with the recent call for action for worldwide SEMAT adoption more people are now asking where can they learn more about how Essence can help.

Speaking as one who has been involved since the initial kickoff meeting in Zurich in 2010, one of the great things I have observed about the SEMAT initiative is how so many people coming from different backgrounds and different perspectives have been able to work together sharing ideas and learning from each other.

I believe it is our differing backgrounds and perspectives that have helped to make the Essence standard a sound kernel that will aid in the development of a solid theory going forward.

I also believe that to keep the momentum going we need more people writing about real experiences using Essence, or, if they haven’t used Essence, writing about real experiences where they can demonstrate how this new standard can help to solve the real problems that software practitioners face every day on the job.

This is an area I have been pursuing myself working on a book along these lines over the past few years. Many of the SEMAT volunteers have helped me along the way as reviewers of this work.  The book is now complete and will be available soon.

If you are interested in learning more about the book, or would like to be notified when the book is published visit the following URL ( You can even download a free Sample PDF of the book now that includes Scott Ambler’s foreword.  I would love to hear your feedback.

This past April I was asked to speak to a group of Computer Science students at Binghamton University, State University of New York, a school rich in a tradition of great software and systems engineering thinkers. In 1971, when I was working on my Masters degree at the same school, Jerry Weinberg (who was a professor of computer systems at the same school at the same time) published his book, “An Introduction to General Systems Thinking.” The book was reprinted twenty five years later on its silver anniversary and what intrigued me about this book when it first came out, and still intrigues me today is how it focuses on how humans think and solve real problems.

Fast forward to this past April, 2014. I find myself speaking to Binghamton University Computer Science students eager to understand the challenges they will soon face when they move into the world of industry and software development. Like I did in Medellin, Columbia last November, I decided to start by explaining a problem that the software engineering community faces today. I wanted to prepare them (and hopefully not scare them) for the real challenges they would soon face.

After the first 28 minutes of my talk, I then went on to explain how the new OMG standard, Essence, could help the software engineering community solve the problem I had been talking about.

Some of the topics that I address in this talk include:

Part I: The Problem We Face: Setting the Stage for Essence (28 minutes)

The Theory of Performance Improvement
Where We Go Wrong in Implementing the Theory
Insights into Two Types of Real Pain Points that Hurt Organizations
A Final Key Observation About Where We Go Wrong (before getting into Essence)

Part II: Essence: Helping to Solve the Problem (42 minutes)

What is Essence: “A Thinking Framework”
Key Elements inside Essence
Examples of how Essence Checklists Are Different
Representing Practices in Essence, and Why You Would Want to Do This
Explaining Common Practitioner Frustrations and How Essence Can Help
An Example of a Team Using Essence Activity Spaces to Self-Assess
Essence Competencies
An Example Scenario Courtesy of the Essence User Guide Volunteers
What if the Team Can’t Meet a Checklist Item?

At the conclusion of the presentation I came back to a few key points I made in Part I about two types of pain points that keep organizations from achieving and sustaining high performance and I reinforced a key related point about Essence.

This also brings me back to Jerry Weinberg. A great deal has changed in the last 40 years, but some things never change. In the end it is still about humans, how they think and how they solve real problems they face each day on the job.

My final point that I make in Part II of my talk to the students is about how Essence relates to critical thinking. Some of the challenges software developers face in today’s world are certainly different from those that Jerry was thinking about when he wrote his book in 1971, but the need for critical thinking in a world that is moving faster and faster has never been greater.

You can find both parts of my talk at Binghamton University on YouTube. Just google, “Paul E McMahon YouTube” and you should find the two videos;
“Part I: The Problem We Face: Setting the Stage for Essence” (28 minutes)
“Part II: Essence: Helping to Solve the Problem” (42 minutes)

Let’s keep this important conversation going. Love it or hate it, we want to hear what you think. Please provide your feedback through my blog ( , the SEMAT blog ( , or the Linkedin SEMAT group.

Looking forward to hearing your thoughts.


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