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Reflections after ThoughtWorks Agile and Integration Seminar

Filed Under (Social) by Olle on 09-10-2009

First of all, if you get a chance to hear Martin Fowler speak, Go!
You don’t even need to agree with the thought he has(even though you should), just go and hear how a talk shall be executed!

So what in the talk did stick to me the most, I have four pages of notes, but probably one of the most important one is:

The best ideas come in the meeting between cultures

As most of you know, ThoughtWorks has office in places like the USA, Europe and India. According to Martin Fowler this mixture of cultures gives ThoughtWorks a competitive advantage, the tricky part is having the cultures collaborate.

Fowlers specific experiences of Indian companies,  and specifically Indian leadership style,  is that it is a “command bridge” leadership style, leaving employees as resources to get the decisions done. The here trick is to set the employees free, and let the cultures meet as often as possible.

I could not agree more. My experience is that it can be really hard to convince Indian developers that their initiatives are valued! This is probably mostly due to that developers who have worked in the Indian work environment their whole life, where do-as-you-are-told is the way to get a raise or even some appreciation, tend to disbelieve statements like “you are free to take your own initiative”, “please, raise your voice if you disagree”, “your suggestions are valuable” etc. But I guess it’s as it always is, it’s not the words, it’s the actions that talk. We just need to make sure that the great examples are celebrated and really praised!

The second trick is global as I see it. You need to find the right people.
According to the chairman and founder of ThoughtWorks Mr Roy Singham, who I had the privilege talk briefly to during a coffee break, ThoughtWorks consists of 90% really skilled communicators and 10% technical wizards(according to Roy good to have for the really hard tech stuff, but not for collaboration or customer contact). Roys feeling was that most of the innovation found in ThoughtWorks are driven by the 90% communicators. The best ideas comes out meeting between cultures, where a different way of thinking often elevates the original idea far beyond the original level.

But what if you hire the wrong people, not wiling to work in an environment with high uncertainty? You will most certainly get what Fowler calls the “revolving door”.
The values in the company will show, sometimes really hardly, that an individual will not fit into this organization. ThoughtWorks and Projectplace seems to look on change and uncertainty in somewhat the same way. We don’t know how to handle certan things, but that’s ok, just as long as we talk about it, try to fix it if needed, and agree on that it’s ok not knowing everything. This can be really hard for individuals how seek order and “someone-must-have-an-answer-to-this” to accept this, some can change but some can not. And the best in some cases will be to parter!