Thursday, February 25, 2010

Netflix Culture

Many of you may have seen this already, but if you haven't I think it's an essential read. "Freedom and Responsibility Culture" describes how Netflix resolves the challenges involved in growing rapidly while maintaining a culture that supports rapid innovation and excellent execution. It's a good explanation of why they don't adopt the process-bound, complex-compensation approach that I see at many organisations. Some of what they do is consistent with what we do at Cogent, but some of it is radical even for me (for example, there is no vacation policy!). I wish I had read it earlier.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Cogent Departure, Part 2

In an earlier post I mentioned that I'd pass on more details of my Cogent departure as they became available. I'm at that point now, but before I can tell you that story, I have to tell you this story (a tribute to my 6y.o. son's Captain Underpants fandom, which is another story altogether).

Twenty years ago, come March, I moved to London. It was the height of Thatcherism, and shortly after I arrived I went to a matinee at the theatre. At the end of the performance someone came on stage to say there had been "a bit of bother" and we should avoid Trafalgar Square. As an ignorant new arrival I didn't know how to do that, so I ended up walking through the debris of the Trafalgar Square Riot. Welcome to London, Mr Hayes! London is an amazing place, with deep history and so many things to see, but the next year is tagged in my mind with impressions of tension and antagonism. I've visited since and found London to be far more pleasant than it was in 1990.

Ten years ago I was working at Goldman Sachs in New York. I was leading one of the best development teams I have ever had and we were implementing XP on a full project - a first for me and a first for Goldman. Early the next year I did something very un-Goldman - I resigned. I used my bonus to pay off my last debt (the mortgage on my house in Sydney), Amanda and I travelled around America (20,000 miles in just over 100 days), then we moved to Melbourne and did as little as we needed to to cover the rent. There were about 6 people in Thoughtworks Australia doing "agile", but they were working remotely on the Caterpillar project, and that was it. I spoke to as many groups as possible about XP, and things grew from there. Essentially this was the beginning of the path that lead to Cogent Consulting.

This year I'm going to complete some decade long cycles. The current plan is to return to both London and Goldman Sachs, as EMEA Controllers CTO (EMEA is "Europe, Middle East, Africa", but from a technology perspective that's Europe). Before anyone gets excited, there are lots of CTOs in Goldman Sachs - I think I'll be responsible for technical direction for about 0.5% of the banks IT staff, and I'll be in a matrix with many other architects. Regardless of scope, I think this is a great opportunity for me and will be a great experience for my family. We're tentatively scheduling a move in April, but plans are on hold pending the tabling of financial services legislation in London that may impact GS staffing. I still plan to finish up with Cogent at the end of March and to take some leave if there is time.

On the other hand, my infrequent blogging and twittering will probably become almost non-existent. GS holds things very close to its chest, now more than ever I expect, and is very careful that random technical comments don't get associated with the GS brand (for either better or worse). Since I'm an expert in random comments I'll need to watch my mouth fairly closely. :-)

If you're in London and you'd like to catch up later in the year please let me know - part of this opportunity is the chance to renew (and create) relationships in the northern hemisphere!

PS. Some people have read this and wondered why I would move to a job in management. At GS architects at all levels code 80% of the time, so if anything I'll be doing less management than I do at Cogent and in my current consulting roles. I suspect a lot of it will be up to me. I still expect to have plenty of opportunities to influence behaviour.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Why Post-Agilism isn't

I have a strong dislike for the term "post-agilism" and it will take somewhat more than 140 characters to explain why. Sorry twitter.

Post-agilism is a strawman argument. It postulates that agilism is zealous, doctrinaire and narrow-minded, and then posits that because of these deficiencies we need something that is "post-agilist". Implicit in this is that people who call themselves "agilists" have got it wrong.

This is simply another turn in a vicious circle. The "post-agilists" solution is a restatement of agile principles. Agile didn't start with hype, it didn't start with zealotry. On the contrary, Agile by declaration is adaptive and focussed on getting working software delivered. If you say you're doing agile but you don't believe in these principles then I'm sorry folks, you're just wrong. You probably weren't there at the beginning, and you've been misinformed, quite possibly by people who cherry-picked things out of context. We don't need another revolution, we need help with the swinging pendulum of the current phase.

So for the "post-agilists" out there - change your message. Say "wow, lots of people are doing agile wrong, we need to stop that, let's do agile right". Otherwise in 10 more years we'll have post-post-agilists decrying the shortcomings of how people have interpreted post-agilism (though more likely because of a lack of any structure than from too much).