Monday, 31 March 2014

Don't Be A Jerk

In 2006, Joel Spolsky wrote a revealing blog post about how his company FogBugz hired staff. There were a lot of great insights about having strong firing policies to match your hiring policies.

He talked about technical skill and all sorts of stuff but the one thing that stuck with me was one line that reinforced my view of the world and myself: " Even before we started the company, we realized that we should add a third rule: 'Not a jerk.' "

I have worked with thousands of people now as a contractor, consultant and researcher.

Through the years, I have seen people who I would quite willingly call genius. Brilliant beyond what us mere mortals can call smart. Above the intellect of the most intellectual intellectuals. I am not one of them. They are often so aloft when it comes to perception that the rest of us look like ants on the dirt.

The thing is that I have also worked with very smart people. Not someone to be tagged with genius but very smart. Architects. ThoughtWorkers. Just smart people.

Over and over again, I have come to one conclusion when I build teams. I don't want to work with jerks. No matter how smart you are. No matter your skills or your gansta gains, there is nothing that would make me pick a pretty good team player with above average skills over genius who solved everything.

The way I see it, if I have to be stuck on a desert island with you forever building a hut or a raft or cooking the same old fish and bark we have eaten for months then I want to like you.

We are but people. We want to want to be at work if we must. If there are 40 hours of our 112 waking moments then I want to volunteer to be there with others.

Nice people make that possible.

What Joel was saying in his vast wisdom is that you have to choose good people but they have to be good people. I'd forgo your brilliance for someone who can gel with the group. I'd give up that insight for someone who was above good but liked people. And if you don't get that then you shouldn't come work with me.

Mean people are blockers.

Hire good people who get shit done and aren't jerks.

Sunday, 23 March 2014

Forget Being Lean Until You Get Some Rigour

Over and over again, people talk about Lean like it is a giant waterproof, super-fast healing Band-Aid that will fix every delivery team. They say "Toyota this" and "Motorola that" and "you're not lean enough."

The problem I have with this is when the Band-Aid is being applied to a delivery team that has no structure at all. You can't make a cowboy team leaner or even more agile without putting structure in place and then improving it.

I don't mean picking Scrum or Kanban and saying do this and then become leaner. Instead, I mean that teams must become aware of their as-is way of functioning. Identify practices and articulate them. There always are practices in place but people are not always conscious of them. Without consciousness, there is no method. Once you have method, you can use it rigourously.

Become aware of what you do now. Decide on where you want to be. Map a course of action from one to the other and most importantly, give yourself time and give yourself permission to fail and correct.

Telling a team with no self-awareness to become leaner is pointless. First find the point.

Agile - Is it only mostly dead?

One of the fathers of the Agile Manifesto, Dave Thomas (@pragdave) wrote a blog post a couple of weeks ago proclaiming that "Agile Is Dead (Long Live Agility)."

The post has been moving through the software dev community and causing much head nodding. Everyone seems to agree that the word "agile" means very little these days and has been corrupted by the trainers who will make you a Master from a two day training course for thousands of dollars.

At ThoughtWorks, we would mostly snigger at people who called themselves Scrum Masters but not because they were so quickly empowered. It was more because they missed the point of being agile and instead adopted prescriptive processes and accompanying costly tools to achieve what can be done with much less and achieve much more.

The reason that I am happy Prag Dave spoke out and voiced this is because people will hear it now.

Being agile is a way of thinking and acting and not a set of hard and fast rules that make better software. Tools and processes won't save a team. Pragmatism, rigour and constant feedback with change will.

I don't know if the word "agile" is dead. The good thing is that a lot of us agree that we need to be more agile and not do agile.

So go do that already.