Friday, May 8, 2015

The Company: Can we talk about it?

We talk a lot about changing cultures. There's a lot of inspirational, humanistic content in agile conferences and forums and books and blogs. We tell our success tales in front of rooms of people in both corporate gigs and public conferences, and even as some are applauding, we see people crossing arms and lowering their gaze and some even blushing or flushing.

Inspirational stories are great, but not everyone is getting inspired. Some are getting frustrated, depressed, or even offended. The stories don't ring true to everyone, these storytellers seem to see the world through rose-colored glasses.

There is an elephant in this room.

In most software organizations the overt goal is to produce and release valuable code to customers, as early and often as possible. However, if you ignore what you hear and look at what people actually do, the organization is not fully focused on delivering valuable code.

In fact, many of the things they do seem to be focused on preventing the release of code. In The Systems Bible John Gall noted "systems oppose their own best function."

The real primary goal in most organizations?  To preserve and enhance your position within the organization.

I know that it is not very politically wise to talk about this, but can we?  After all, most software organizations can tolerate defects, late releases, and even product failures. But you can get fired for asking the wrong questions or criticizing key policies, or overstepping your authority or even as a result of someone else's play to acquire the influence that you currently enjoy.

Nobody wants to get fired. Most of us can survive it, and might even land a more lucrative job elsewhere (provided we don't get that dreaded negative reference) but it's a given that we want to keep our job and maybe only leave it through promotion.

Not everyone wants promotion, but everyone wants to gather more respect, autonomy, and compensation. To do that, we have to preserve our place in the hierarchy, and improve it if we can.

It's not really a negative thing, but if we try to ignore it then we can't take advantage of it.

I suspect it can become a positive force in our world. For instance, at Industrial Logic we have been creating an organizational directive to call out hazards and risks so that we can resolve them.

To be a good Anzeneer is to call out latent conditions that harbor risks and hazards to our members and customers.  Our place in the world now is to create more safety. The culture is open to questioning habits and policies and choices.

Maybe your covert primary goal can become overt, and actually work in everyone's favor at your company.

Can you talk about it?