Today’s middle of the day Keynote is being provided by Thomas Bradford. You have to love a guy that describes himself as “a Certified Software Organization Failure Expert, and has personally witnessed the implosion of dozens of organizations. He is dedicated to creating a world where those organizations don’t drag good people down with them.”
Thom worked for PayPal, and was looking for a new opportunity. He was contacted by a friend who was describing a company that needed a lot of help. He declined originally, but ultimately, he gave in and decided “OK, I’ll see what I can do to help!” He grilled the company asking what they would be willing to do. They had zero tests, and needed someone willing to come in and help them resolve that. Through some continued conversation (and perhaps a few insults here and there) he said OK, and took the job.
The company’s product was a Java monolith. It was a mess, and it had methods that were five hundred lines long. Ultimately, they decided to move away from the monolithic app and convert it to micro-services. He also suggested they walk away from the app they are developing, moving off of Java and coding a replacement in NodeJS.
If someone told you you could be twice as productive at work, what would you say? Would that excite you, or would it actually terrify you? It’s not like you are going to get more money, have to work less, or get any real benefit out of it (well, there is equity, if you are lucky). Truth is, most of us who work in tech aren’t doing bad, realistically speaking. We tend to be paid pretty well, but we have also inherited a lot of dysfunction because of this need for speed. Agile itself doesn’t really fix that. Not by itself. People have to decide to do better because they want to make their lives better and the lives of their customers better. Sometimes that means doing something totally insane, like burning down your original infrastructure and starting over.
Sometimes it is essential that we break free of our comfort zone. When enough people create comfort zones, they create entrenched processes that are often inviolable. They are safe, but they are non-productive, regardless of what the charts and reports say.
The key to the success is being willing to start over, to stop doing things that are useless, and put the value of people over process. If the organization cares about the process over people, you are not in a good place. Sadly, that’s probably 80% of companies, but someone has to be brave enough to say “enough”.