The downside of original thinking

Alan Kay's reflections on the history of Smalltalk (referred to in an earlier post about design) has this to say about the process of innovation:
New ideas go through stages of acceptance, both from within and without. From within, the sequence moves from "barely seeing" a pattern several times, then noting it but not perceiving its "cosmic" significance, then using it operationally in several areas, then comes a "grand rotation" in which the pattern becomes the center of a new way of thinking, and finally, it turns into the same kind of inflexible religion that it originally broke away from.

Perhaps seing this cycle is the reason why some people accuse XP evangelists of peddling an inflexible religion or purist cult? (Deeply ironic given that most XP coaches offer the advice to start with what has worked for other people - e.g. as described in the Pink or Purple XP books - and then to customise the process to make it work for you.)
Reflection: have you seen other people turn innovative ideas into an inflexible religion? have you done it yourself? what kind of feedback does it take to break out of rigid patterns of thought or behaviour?

Look to your own behaviour

Q: What’s the most important piece of management-related advice anyone has ever given you?
GW: If you blame your employees, you're a bad manager. You hired them, accepted them, supervised them, and directed their training. You’re responsible. If you don't like what's happening, look to your own behavior. But, if there's credit to be given, it's theirs.

The selfish path to agility

I read yet another article about the need to align IT skills and business needs: The IT workers of tomorrow will be those with the broader skills, the appreciation of business and processes, of project and programme management. Like it or not, many technical skills are being commoditised - what is the difference between an IT expert trained in, say, Java, who is based in India, and one based in the UK? The skills are identical. The cost differential is well-known. IT is no longer a silo, safe in the knowledge that nobody else understands what it does and therefore is irreplaceable.
Yup, I agree with that.
Then the article goes on and concludes: The IT professionals of tomorrow will be those that learn the business skills that ensure they maintain their influence.
Erm, no. I think that the IT organisations (and IT professionals) of tomorrow will be those that make the transition to agile. The inclusivity, collaboration and communication required of agile teams not only reduces the "business - IT gap": it also increases productivity (as Mary Poppendieck describes here). In the short to medium term I'd say that the potential to affect the bottom line (e.g. through better targeting of business value) is going to be the most important factor in the widespread takeup of agile. It's certainly thought-provoking to imagine that an appeal to individuals' self-interest ("go agile or bust"?!) could further the spread of co-operative team working...

Agile is not a product

I love this post from Ken Schwaber on the scrumdevelopment Yahoo group (thanks for passsing it on, Laura!): I believe that Agile is part of a social revolution to help people learn together to collaboratively figure out how to work and live in an increasingly complex world. Agile is an attitude, not a product. Agile is spirituality, not a religion. We don't have to sell it as a product. We don't have to evangelize it. We simply (and with difficulty) have to live it. People will observe us and envy our joy at work, and quake in fear and be defeated by our productivity. For the old way of doing things doesn't cut it anymore. The Agile way is the appropriate response to our complex times.
Postscript: perhaps Agile is a passion? Ron Jeffries wrote: I've had people love me and had people hate me, and while I prefer the love by a wide margin, I kind of prefer either to indifference. Because I'm not about making indifference, I'm about making a difference. That's what I think this movement is about: making a difference. That's what I want it to be about: making a difference. Count me in!

More on play: the players

While I was googling for background information on Pat Kane's book "The Play Ethic" I came across this insight into the nature of great team players:
How much is there to learn from this disquisition on the relationship between individual play and team play:
You have this game with 22 players, all of them individuals, and yet they form two teams. Everything in this field of sport is contradictory. The 11 of you must operate as a hermetic group, while each player is constantly being judged on his individual performance. Eleven ways of thinking, 11 opinions, 11 personalities - how can they ever agree? And yet on the field a common goal must be set. Another complication is added: the problems that arise when things are not going well, appear in reverse when all is going smoothly. If there is a hitch, the guys, by being organised and not solely relying on their own insight, will give all it takes to get things back on track. If the game is progressing optimally, then these players will all want to stand out again anyway.
Cruyff's own solution? "I always went against the grain of all the accepted opinions. I dared to say to myself: 'Today is not important.' So I do not really have to go around that guy now and shoot the ball in the goal myself. If the organisation is sound, we will succeed - maybe not today, but tomorrow."
(sourced from Brain Waves).

TVASIG, an XP Game, and the Play Ethic

I drove to Oxford last night to go to a meeting of the Thames Valley Agile SIG and take part in an XP Game. Quite a few people came along, though there seemed to be more developers present and less managers than I remember from the last couple of TVASIG meetings. (Which is a shame: as Olivier Lafontan said, the XP Game shows how the act of measuring value and calibrating velocity starts by addressing real business concerns and then leads naturally on to the other developer-centric XP practices.) All in all, the evening was both fun and eductional, which is appropriate given that we were "playing a game".
By coincidence, as I was driving and listening to the radio I heard a discussion about a book called "The Play Ethic". I was really struck by the subversively life affirming nature of some of the ideas, for example: The play ethic is about having the confidence to be spontaneous, creative and empathetic across every area of you life - in relationships, in the community, in your cultural life, as well as paid employment. It's about placing yourself, your passions and enthusiasms at the centre of your world. By clearing space for activities that are pleasurable, voluntary and imaginative - that is, for play - you'll have better memory, sharper reasoning and more optimism about the future. As Brian Sutton-Smith, the dean of Play Studies at the University of Pennsylvania, says, 'The opposite of play isn't work. It's depression. To play is to act out and be wilful, exultant and committed, as if one is assured of one's prospects.' So to call yourself a 'player', rather than a 'worker', is to immediately widen your conception of who you are and what you might be capable of doing. It is to dedicate yourself to realising your full human potential; to be active, not passive.
The timing of that message is apt: I recently gave notice that I am leaving my current position, in part because I want to spend more time as a "player" and less as a "worker". (Don't get the wrong idea: Thoughtworks is not a bad organisation to work for, and I have never come across such an amazing concentration of high quality people as I have whilst working there). But after two years I have become uncomfortable in a rapidly-growing consultancy focussed on the delivery of difficult software projects for large organisations. It's somehow both a strength and a weakness of my personality type that I want something with more of an emotional connection to my life and my values: INFJs value their integrity a great deal. They are generally "doers" as well as great dreamers. They have high expectations of themselves and need to live their lives in accordance with what they feel is right. They do this through total trust of their intuition. They believe in constant growth and don't often take time to revel in their accomplishments. INFJs are proud of their authenticity, respectful of their benevolence, confident of their empathy. They also are constantly in a state of self-renewal.
Now certainly feels like the right time for self-renewal...