Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Seem, Be, Become - Choose a path.

There are many kinds of good, and how we approach them tells a lot about us as people. Take 'Agile' for software developers. 

There are (at least) three different ways to approach this particular kind of good:

One way is to try to adopt the appearance of Agile because "it looks good" or perhaps it would be embarrassing to admit we are not. If we are avoiding the appearance of being non-Agile, then our efforts are likely to fail. Agile development is about engagement, yet maintaining appearance is mostly about compliance (or obligation). "Seeming" without first "becoming" is a kind of misrepresentation, and can strain relationships that would work more smoothly on a basis of trust.

One may want to be recognized as already having the kind of good that Agile represents. This is more legitimate, because most developers have teamed up on tough problems, written unit tests, collaborated with teammates, or worked in short time boxes of a a few days or a few weeks. Most of the XP practices were in existence well before XP became "a thing", let alone before the Agile Manifesto came into being. Being "a little agile-like" isn't harmful, but the "heard it all before" crowd take longer to internalize values and practices. As a result, they frequently lose their position of leadership to more eager, humble, and quick-learning peers.

The third way is the way of humility and hard work. One can become an expert by adopting concepts, developing skills, and building a reputation. It is a fair amount of hard work, and it's going to involve learning as much as you can, as fast as you can, from as many as you can. Along the way you will pick up the appearance and the reputation for the work you are actually doing. You are not distracted by maintaining appearances, not afraid of being exposed, not slipping behind your peers. It's very honest and open-hearted. 

This is not just about Agile development. We are faced with the same three choices for any kind of good that an individual, team, department, or organization is pursuing. When these are the choices, remember that the way of humility is the more rewarding.