This week I was speaking on “Projektverktygsdagen 2012” to inspire the 250 project. My presentation focused on why enterprise mobility is important to keep an eye on as a project manager in a knowledge company. It was also about what enterprise mobility is and what opportunities it creates. Then I took with some examples of tools for managing knowledge workers in a creative situation by demonstrating a little google docs. Here is my speak if you like to watch it:
Processes and methodologies are great for some kinds of work. If you have a repeatable process that consistently yields a high quality product, you can emulate McDonalds’ approach and hire teens to be chefs. But at McDonalds you will not find the next Gordon Ramsey. People that really want to understand and master their craft will not achieve that in a repeatable industrial process.
Well documented processes are a great foundation for any part of a company when you working with a repeatable process or don’t have a dream team of smart, disciplined and attentive people whose work is more of an exploratory journey. A process helps people to align their collaboration and work at getting better at repeatable tasks. Processes are also good to be run from a checklist so that people don’t forget things, especially when they rarely or never do a specific task.
ITIL is the McDonalds process concept for governance of infrastructure and solutions. ITIL isn’t the process used by creative advertising agency that is looking for best and maximal business value. Software Development is more complex and isn’t a software factory that has a universal solution.
What software development organization need is a reflective improvement framework, with a wide range of tools to choose from. Some tools and practices are designed to help a larger group to collaborate whereas others just focus on quality aspects. There is no universal solutions for complex work, McDonalds approach might work for handling infrastructure and teens in a kitchen but handling complex change in a high tech work where nothing stays long enough to be normal isn’t a solutions.
According to Wikipedia, an expert, more generally, is a person with extensive knowledge or ability based on research, experience, or occupation and in a particular area of study. For me an expert is someone that intuitively knows the right answers and is able to draw conclusions about future events and to predict their outcome. Experts have gained intense experience through prolonged practice and education in a particular field. Let’s analyze how one becomes an expert.
In Japan, there is a concept that describes the stages of learning to gain mastery in a domain. It is called shuhari. Shuhari is roughly translated is to Learn, Detach, and Transcend. Shuhari describes how skill is acquired.
In the “Shu” stage you learn the fundamental techniques – the traditional wisdom.
In the “Ha” stage you start looking into similar areas and techniques, and collect new methodologies and tools.
And in the “Ri” stage (mastery) you mix techniques to do or make the best solution.
To develop personal competence and gain wisdom, you will need to learn many techniques. You will have to leave your comfort zone and take risks to gain new personal experience. At the same time, you need to ensure quality, which means not just getting things done but also getting it right, even if it is more painful. When you combine this with analytical reflection about what works in a situation and what might work better next time, you gain more insight.
Becoming an Expert
Follow and learn
Learn a technique
Collect related techniques
With the concept of Shuhari in mind, you can reflect on the best technology, process or methodology. How many times have people debated about which of these solutions is the best?
.Net, or Java?
iOS, or Android?
Windows, or Linux?
Scrum, or RUP?
People who just learned a tool and are trying to master that tool are often quite loyal; they try to solve everything with that tool. If you have only a hammer, your perception will be limited to everything being a nail. To become an expert, you need some time to leave the comfort zone and use a tool like you have not been used. Therefore expertise begins with curiosity, humility and willingness to learn something new.
Development is mentally difficult because that’s what we need to reconsider ourselves. Many of us have learned through years of socialization and school systems that being right is good. If you are right you are rewarded, and if you are wrong you are punished.
As a result, many people become obsessed with being “right”. But what does this lead to? It convinces us that one way is more “right” than others and that which is different is wrong. To develop, you have to realize that the way things were done before was not necessarily optimal for its outcome, therefore you were wrong. If prestige was involved in the “right” way, it is difficult to re-evaluate the situation and develop. So the feeling of being right can be dangerous because it doesn’t help us develop.