Sunday, November 4, 2018

Take care about your impact!

CIVILIZATION & SOFTWARE – There are some common things between human history and software development: the fundamental things in evolution are the people, their collaboration and how they are creating, managing and distributing knowledge.  

“REACT BEFORE DISASTER” – several days ago I have discussed with a younger friend about what we need to improve a country or city status-quo, dealing with an ineffective evolution. Things are stopped improving, groups of interested have now a well-oiled political machine and propaganda that allow them to act discretionary and people seems to be anesthetized. It was interesting that this candid viewpoint seems to be very similar to what really works in human organizations in history, but also in software.  

Until the people do not reach a desperate situation, morality remains just for coffee discussions. More, when people start doing something, they do not agree with each other ... they are hampered in detail and forget the purpose.

Maybe politics is not for us, and that’s it…

Maybe we can ... probably with more patience. The politics is also part of life you do not have to join a political party to do your civic duty ... just that there's the problem that how to communicate well enough to convince people that needs to be involved. Instead of being stuck in some blind principles we can do something against what it is worse.  

There are some macro level things that could be done: if healthy economic interests are growing, something will change.

Let think to the micro level, where we are now: I should ask myself what I can do for my own little community. That is also indispensable.  

“BEFORE DISASTER” IN SOFTWARE  - In software development instead of malefic groups of interests we have specific problems more similar for us with some “natural disasters”. Technical debt is accumulating and will deeply affect our products and business. We are unable to deal with the complexity of software variants. We are unable to produce, manage and effectively transmit the knowledge. The status quo is similar to the one from above dialog:

  • Professional ethics is just a discussion at coffee break until a disaster will strike us
  • We think that we can do nothing because some forces beyond our powers are influencing our context
  • We are stuck in some “local” ideas and principles without collaborating to optimize the whole
  • The “global goods” as the product design healthy are the responsibility of no one

What is really happening: we do not react when the problems are small, we let these problems to accumulate, we do not speak loudly about them. It is not our responsibility, it is a “Deux ex Machina” job. We are expecting for formal responsibilities delegation instead of acting according to implicit professional responsibilities (~political vs. civic)  

WHAT GIVE US A CIVILIZATION – “Flexibly cooperate in large numbers” it is the argument of Yuval Noah Harari [Biblio- Harari 1]. What I did not find in Harari book Sapiens [Biblio- Harari 2] it is what always work better regarding this cooperation. It is not the religion, or the empire.  The best advances in civilization were made by “entrepreneurial societies”, where there was (some) liberty, especially liberty of action, and people could directly participate in political decisions. Here are some examples:
  • Minoan civilization – beginning of the European civilizatio
  • Classical Greek – people are entrepreneurs in science, arts, commerce but also in the military. If the Mycenaeans have only palaces and big defense walls, in Classical Greek, the first most important construction in a city-state will be the Agora. 
  • Roman Republic (the Empire just inherited anything that the Republic has built)
  • Medieval Renascence in all domains
In human history and even earlier, we can find and observe various ways of human organizations and their specific result. History starts with the first large communities, where people could start “Flexibly cooperate in large numbers”. Anyway, in modern society with a lot of small, medium and large communities, we can find us again isolated as individuals and even as teams.  

LEVEL OF INVOLVEMENT – to have a society that evolves and improve, we need the active involvement of its members. We have modern states where this level is low and ancient states where this level was high.  Consequently, there are modern states with no evolution and there were ancient states with outstanding evolution. Modernity by itself it is not a guarantee for evolution, but our behavior. 
We will go back to the software to see how it is possible to be responsible not only for good ideas but also to have an impact on the community and society.

KENT BECK:  FROM IDEA TO IMPACT (ON COMMUNITY) - There is a kind of specificity for great contributions in software development. These contributions are not some lab researches first published in scientific papers and latter applied in production. This kind of contributions are made for production and it is re-evaluated again and again. More: bright ideas and implementations are not enough. You need to do some hard work to distribute them in a good form.  Kent Beck [Biblio- Idea to Impact]:  

“Here are the stages:
1.      Adopt personally
2.      Find the totem
3.      Repetitively broadcast”

Kent Beck “Idea to impact” it is the road from micro to macro level, nurturing and validating a good idea, then trying to distribute and making an impact.

“When I have convinced myself by personal experience that an idea has the potential for impact, I start talking about it.”
“These conversations help me find the spirit of the idea. I know the mechanics and maybe the theory of the idea, but I don't know the intellectual and emotional hooks that will interest and motivate other people to try what, if I'm doing it right, sounds pretty crazy.”
“Along the way I pay attention to what other people are saying about the idea. When I hear someone repeat the idea to someone else without referring to me, then I know I have won.”

“TEAL IS THE NEW BLACK” – Scott Ambler propose (inside Disciplined Agile) the same parallel with the civilization progress [Biblio – Teal Orgs]. He uses the model of the author of Reinventing organizations, Frederick Laloux, where the most advanced forms of organization are [Biblio – Teal Orgs]:  

Teal: Self-organizing/Adaptive
  • Cellular. living organism
  • Awareness, fulfillment
  • Evolutionary purpose

Green Post Modern/Information
  • Consensus/Participative style
  • Value based motivational culture

You can see here that evolution it is strictly related with (direct) Participation and Awareness.

For effective, efficient (Agile) teams, Ambler recommends a Teal-like organization or at least a Green one. He specified, that most likely “Your Organization is Probably a Rainbow” and your strategy should be adapted to the context [Biblio – Teal Orgs].


What we do in each second will have an impact. Longer period with no improvements it is also a kind of (negative) impact in evolution. As Yuval Noah Harari said [Biblio- Harari 1] humans have done also horrible things while they have collaborated in large numbers.  For a positive impact we need not only to collaborate, but also we need to be aware and “civically”/”ethically” involved both at work and as citizens.

Some find references from history as in “Reinventing Organization” [Biblio – Teal Orgs].  According to others, even the newest organizational types are not so new, and are proved or not by the history. “If we don’t learn from our successes as species, in the course of reinventing organizations we will spend a lot of time reinventing the wheel.” [Biblio- Jessica Prentice].

We have references and guidance in the software industry. Kent Beck has told as a story about how to go “From Idea to Impact”. Robert C. Martin writes about “responsibility of the programmer”. Discipline Agile (Scott Ambler and Mark Lines) offer guidance about how developers and other stakeholders could be actively involved and collaborate at team, enterprise and community level.

Last, but not least, we have “the next Jedi”, young people with the same good intuition and common sense as their predecessors.

Take care about your impact!   


[Biblio- Idea to Impact] - Idea to Impact, Kent Beck· Wednesday, July 8, 2015
[Biblio- Harari 1] - Why humans run the world - Yuval Noah Harari
[Biblio- Harari 2] - Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind Hardcover
  • February 10, 2015, by Yuval Noah Harari
[Biblio – Teal Orgs] - Teal is the New Black, Scott Ambler
[Biblio – Jessica Prentice] - The Most Dangerous Notion in “Reinventing Organizations” by Jessica Prentice