Archives for the ‘Simplicity’ Category

The Importance of Christmas

I like Christmas. A lot. I’ve come to appreciate Christmas like I do weddings. I feel the same way towards Agile. All three operate on a manifesto of sorts that people can choose to either respect and adhere to or flout and play-pretend.

Everyone just wants to have a good time. And why not? In my experience, practicing Agile is a bit like driving. When you tell people you use Agile to deliver projects, you’re signalling intent, one of collaboration instead of conflict. After signalling comes fulfilment, made real through behaviour and action.

It’s like driving to the shops and indicating you want to turn left and then actually turning left. Unfortunately, many of the Agile drivers I meet signal left and then turn right. These are the same people who wonder why their passenger-team doesn’t believe or trust them to drive safely. Unskilled drivers are a menace to themselves and everyone else on the road.

Agile, like Christmas, creates a culture of shared reality. By having a common and worthwhile goal, one that produces genuine value for instance, people will figure out difficult (impossible) problems like they’ve always done: through co-ordination, cooperation and convergence.

Agile is the ultimate endurance test because it demands openness, stamina, consistency and constancy. What would your project be like if everyone tried their best to get along with one another, do the right thing and do things right? It would be like Christmas. Everyday. For Everyman. How civilised.

Make 2008 matter. Instead of letting others make mincemeat out of you. Thanks for reading. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

The Emperor’s New Clothes

Question: What do Tom Peters and Steven Levitt have in common?
Answer: They make a living out of having and using a rare and precious thing that has made them kings. Their magic is no secret: it’s common sense.

Tom Peters Says

Tom Peters is a classic great speaker. He’s charming, inspirational and a brilliant performer. It was interesting to hear him speak about excellence in the enterprise 25 years on from when ‘In Search of Excellence’ was first published. According to the title of his talk, he’s ‘Still in Search of Excellence’ – an observation that’s at once disconcerting as well as hopeful. Disconcerting because, from experience, we haven’t solved the problem yet (in spite of the number of man years spent in this pursuit); hopeful because it gives us something to do. Problems are good. It’s often the solutions that make things go from bad to worse. I’m constantly reminded that ‘the road to hell is paved with good intentions.’

Tom began by assuring the audience that we were all leaders – weren’t we? He then went on to say: ‘We all know we’re phonies and because we’re afraid to expose our weaknesses we don’t ask the interesting questions. It’s our job as leaders to ask interesting questions.’

Tom described the essence of enterprise as:

  • Cause – worthy of commitment
  • Space – for encouragement and initiative
  • Decency – respect and humane
  • Service
  • Excellence
  • Servant Leadership

He then hollered a typical management mantra to the crowd like some punk rock star: ‘Park your brain at the door dude and row the slave ship!’ then lowering his voice, he continued: ‘But we have computers to row the slave ship.’

According to Tom, our only chance to succeed in globalisation is to leverage the creative and intellectual skills of our teams. Starbucks is a good example of a human function being replaced by a machine. Since coffee making is done by a machine, what Starbucks buys is individuality in their staff. When asked why Starbucks staff are constantly smiling, one manager said as a matter-of-fact: ‘We hire people who smile.’

Tom, like Levitt, fully acknowledges that he has nothing profound to say. Instead, what he does has been described as ‘blinding flashes of the obvious’. So here’s the latest newsflash: ‘Put your people before your customers,’ says Tom Peters. What will you do?

Knowing Me, Knowing You

‘Let us understand what our own selfish genes are up to, because we may then at least have a chance to upset their designs, something that no other species has ever aspired to.’

– The Selfish Gene, Richard Dawkins

Dawkins’s examination of the biology of selfishness and altruism has led him to assert that “we are born selfish”. The manifestations and consequences of his assertion in terms of people and software development are what I have coined (the art of) Selfish Programming.

Together we can thwart it and may be even turn it into ‘environmentally-friendly’ energy. Welcome.