It’s been more than 10 years since I last worked with him. He’s a lovely guy, full of humility and kindness. It was a pleasant surprise to work with him again. Thankfully, in that 10 years, the way I work bares no resemblance to the way we used to, but to my horror, for him, nothing seems to have changed. In fact I’d say he’s less confident than he used to be. How can this happen?
I talked to his manager about the way I choose to work now; he was impressed but declared it could “never work here”. His programers are not assertive enough to make those decisions themselves, they always waited to be told. So managers, architects and business analysts create functional and technical specifications that his programmers could convert to code. Specifications that reflected the way that they coded back when they were programmers.
So development grinds forward at a painful pace. “Improvement” isn’t a word I’ve ever heard here. “Innovate” is something they pay outsiders to do.
“Collaboration” that’s another word that seems a dirty one here. Despite everyone dutifully turning up to their desks everyday, they rarely speak, too busy reading emails and documents written by the manager across the way. Without a team there is no support, no courage to challenge this oppressive way of work. So instead they get their heads down and get on with it, while their organisation slips into irrelevance. Whilst everyone sees a problem, no one sees it as theirs.
So how can they improve? Perhaps a dose of my old friend’s humility and kindness would be a good first step. To see that it’s not somebody else’s problem but a system that was created in the name of conformity, predictability and control. And to come together and look at that system and let everyone take a lead in changing it in the name of openness, learning, creativity and growth.
Let those people creating the software, create the system of creation too.