Having spent the majority of my time in Rotorua visiting and evaluating all the local playgrounds, I’ve had some time to do some reading. This is a great thing as I’ve managed to get through Drive – which admittedly is a short read but I’m glad that I have as it provides some ideas that resonate with me.
The concepts behind agility are often brought back to business drivers. What are the business reasons for the things we do? We can’t deliver fast enough. We can’t deploy often enough. Our quality is low. Okay – what can we do to deliver every week with a known high quality? Right, let’s start doing those things. Often these are brought back to business and money. If you can’t monetize the reason for a software development practice then does it not have value? Thankfully a lot of the agile development practices sell themselves when finding the right questions to ask or goals to shoot for.
The softer side of agility – breaking down silos, treating people humanely, motivating them to become the best that they can become – often plays second fiddle to these hard business drivers. Scrum and the community around scrum do a good job at making the softer side more relevant. Scrum is a great blueprint for controlling the chaos around creating software. Focusing on the core values of commitment, focus, openness, respect and courage allows for a more collaborative and respectful environment that can be far more successful at empowering people and hence being highly productive – the thing that the business really wants. But this is often frowned upon. Just take a look at Richard Bailey’s talk at the Cape Town Scrum Gathering on the Hippies have taken over my team to play games to see how a CEO could view this. My gut says this attitude isn’t the exception for most top level people in most organizations – no matter the size or the amount that they believe that they are agile.
Daniel Pink’s Motivation 3.0 introduces something else. He fires from the hip with actual research – something that is all too often lacking in the software development work. He shows how the traditional ways of compensation aren’t valid – something that a lot of us do know instinctively. For instance offering a carrot of a bonus for completing work on time isn’t necessarily going to work – particularly when looking at the longer view. It is all very enjoyable. But kicking into his premise around Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose is far more engaging (unless you hadn’t seen the TED videos already 🙂 )
Drive introduces an additional blueprint to work with when leading and motivating people to do the best that they can. This nicely augments everything Scrum is trying to achieve. The concepts of autonomy (being able to do the job your way), mastery (striving to be a master at your work) and purpose (actually caring about what you’re trying to achieve) resonate well with Scrum. When looked at on the team level – autonomy (self organizing teams), mastery (through continuous improvement) and purpose (focused Sprint/release deliverables) are clear in Scrum. The psychology of how you engage the team to determine the way forward are empowering and seem to be central to these ideas. They work. We know they work as we get better teams by doing them.
But is there something missing for the individual? Is there something that should be added into the mix to make even more productive and motivated teams by engaging with individuals as well as the team as a whole? And what about Mastery? Scrum focuses on the team getting better, but doesn’t tell you how. It is recommended to use XP practices, but not required. And individual developers, testers or any team members should be able to focus on mastery as individuals. Scrum doesn’t really address any of these things – which isn’t a flaw with Scrum – it just isn’t Scrum’s focus. I’m wondering how to harness these things better to lead, mentor and coach better. That should be interesting.
You can be agile without being humane. I imagine you can be waterfall while being humane. Companies have been successfully making money for their shareholders for all of time just as much when they are focused on the human side as when they aren’t. But there is the argument that working for an organization that has a purpose that employees can get behind and making that the core goal of the organization – while having a secondary goal of profit in order to survive – seems to be very appealing. Making shareholder profit secondary to the overall purpose is very appealing. Working for an organization whose goal is to make itself an awesome place to work is very appealing. Working for an organization whose goal is to change the world, cure cancel or something else noble is far more motivating than to make some shareholder, that isn’t you, more money.
Autonomy, Mastery, Purpose – I’ve had some of each of these during my career, but I’m not sure I’ve had all three simultaneously. Something to work towards!
Now off to read Clean Code. Or maybe The Prisoner of Zenda.