My topic this week is the fall of a company I (still) have a great deal of affection for, one that I continue to support. To me this company “was” the internet and their rise and past prominence represented what was best of Silicon Valley. More troubling is their subsequent lack of direction and downfall represents what can be thought of as the worst of Silicon Valley. I am not the first (and will not be the last) to weigh in on the tragedy that goes by the name of Yahoo!
As I think back on my coaching work in agile, the blogs I have written, the many discussions I have had and the presentations I have made, I think that all of these boil down into one very simple thing – my work is all about helping people understand the true nature of the software development business process and, thereby helping them to make better decisions.
My advice to leaders is to pay attention to the VW scandal and heed its warning. You will most certainly reap what you sow, karma will catch up with you and cultivating fear will always end badly.
When we look at those things that we say have changed the world, what, in fact, has changed? Is the world really radically different or is it our perception that has changed? I think if we give it any thought at all we would easily conclude that the world really doesn’t change much, but when new things, whether products or ideas, come our way and these allow us (or force us) to see the world differently, then the world itself has changed.
This applies to my work of transforming companies from waterfall to agile approach. While I may be 100% correct and it may make me feel good to be right, by presenting my viewpoint as THE way, I will not meet my objective. If I choose to be successful then I must take a different approach. I need to get to know the people involved, understand their concerns, not threaten their ideas, but allow their defenses to be lowered by listening to their ideas and then, and only then, if my ideas are truly right will I have the chance to convince them of or, better yet, guide them to the truth.
In the case of annual reviews we have such a wealth of evidence they do not work it is amazing so few companies have actually done away with them.
So, if there are any “leaders” out there looking to make significant changes in your organization, like an agile transformation, please pay attention. If you want change, you must first remove fear. In its place, install some slack. Give back some time. Allow people to learn. Allow people to reflect. Allow people to change. Allow people to fail gracefully. You want to lead? Give them a reason to follow, something that aligns with their own intrinsic motivation. Stop using motivational junk food. Stop using fear.