(2018-08-16) GeePawHill on Tech Debt And Culture

GeePawHill on Technical Debt and Culture: it seems to me that a very great deal of “agile” advice has an implicit prefix, “assuming your team is close to healthy,” you should... the assumption of reasonable health just – to put it as gently as i can manage – doesn’t seem like the sort of assumption we should be making. (Agile Software Development)

i’m reminded of nations with gigantic international debt. the thing they need to do, change how their economy works, is the one thing they can’t do because of the desperate need to service their outrageous debt.

what can i do to convince our creditors to accept the grim reality?

how can i convince these decision-makers (Management) of this? “you can keep spending more and more money for less and less value, or you can drastically change your expectations and your approach, so we can maybe fix this. that’s an awful choice, and i don’t envy you. but you have to choose. so what’s it going to be?”

on Culture...

i believe we are consistently failing in the geek trade. by failing, i mean that we who do the work do not broadly satisfy those for whom we do it.

bob martin’s back-of-the-envelope estimate: the number of professional geeks has had a doubling rate of a little under five years for over 3 decades

half of the pro geeks in the world have less than 5 years of experience

every trade has acculturation, where new hands learn the ropes by their exposure to old hands

we are simply overwhelmed with new talent. we have no way to bring them along

by “grow”, i mean “acculturate”. what i am saying is “enable them to become more like who/how they wish they were within the context of highly technical and highly creative work.”

growing a geek and keeping a geek are the same exact thing.

if all i get from you is money, and all i get from anyone is money, i will go time and again to the highest bidder. if i have “enough” money – which really just means broadly in keeping with others i see as peers – then i act based on another factor. for geeks, highly technical and highly creative and highly vested in being both, that most powerful factor is their sense of growth. (Mission? Career?)

what changes do i make in my org, assuming that i have restructured the economy to give me space to do so, to increase the org’s ability to grow and keep geeks? in no particular order, then, here are a bunch of ideas about this.

    1. catch up to the last 50 years of research in motivation. and accept that the humans who work for you are humans before they’re employees, and employees before they’re geeks. (or maybe humans before they’re geeks, and geeks before they’re employees? consider that an edit.) Rationale: a staggering number of people still think carrot and stick is how you achieve maximum performance. we have considerable evidence that this doesn’t work when that performance requires simultaneous creativity and technique. bear in mind, from my RAMPS ideas or those of the HBR, or Daniel Pink’s summary, or Flow: autonomy and mastery are keys to this population.
    1. start seeing variety-of-practice in your organization as a positive not a negative, and avoid premature standardization (Best Practices). Rationale: the trade is still changing at a pace no other technology has ever changed, and it’s been doing it for fifty years. we need varied practice because fixed practice can not possibly keep up.
    • to pick one at random: what does variety-of-practice have to do with geek growth and retention? when we prematurely standardize it has two effects aside from just locking us in to obsolete ideas. That prevents us from growing & keeping geeks by reducing both their ability to innovate and their will to do so.

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