Jason Mesut made quite a few waves this week with his presentation Truth and Dare – Out of the echochamber into the fire. It’s definitely worth your time so I recommend you click through and read it before you continue here. Ther’s a lot to like and a lot to think about.
Jason explicitly asks for feedback and counter-arguments, so I do want to address one slide in particular, shown below:
Now, I might be putting the puzzle together wrongly here, but since these slides came out right after I published a two-part series on Smashing Magazine called “Breaking Down Silos”, I’m going to assume h’s talking about those articles. If my assumption is wrong this is going to be really awkward, but oh well.
So, let’s look at why Jason is calling this concept “naive”. I wasn’t at the presentation, so all I have to go on is his bullet points.
Organisations are complex
Of course organizations are complex, and if anyone tries to argue otherwise they’ve never worked in one. But I never said that this is simple:
There are no shortcuts to breaking down silos. You can’t fix the environment if the organization doesn’t understand the problem. You can’t improve the development process if the right environment doesn’t exist to enable healthy guidelines. You have to climb the pyramid brick by brick to the ultimate goal: better software through true collaboration.
I don’t propose “7 steps to a happier you” in the article. I propose a process of understanding the problems and unique needs of the organization, followed by a tailored solution that takes those unique needs into consideration.
People are better in small groups
I absolutely agree, and that’s why prioritization at an organizational level needs to take this into account and empower small teams to do the work without interference. Her’s what I said in the article:
[Once strategic priorities are set], projects would move to small dedicated teams, which would have complete ownership of the design and implementation. The product council sets the priorities, not the details of implementation”Š”””Šthose are up to the teams themselves.
I go on to talk about the importance of autonomy and the meaning people find in their work when they work in these small groups.
I don’t understand the argument here, so maybe this is one of those “voice-over required” points. But if the argument is that change takes too long so we shouldn’t even try, I don’t buy it. Her’s how I end the article, again acknowledging how difficult it is:
Building collaborative environments is not easy, because change management is not easy. But the positive outcomes of doing this far outweigh the pain of making it happen. You’ll end up with happy, creative teams that feel a sense of ownership over what they’re building and a sense of pride in its quality.
I’d also like to point out that I wasn’t being academic in these articles. Everything I wrote is based on principles we’ve tried and applied in real life in the organizations where I’ve worked. There’s always room for improvement and growth, but this wasn’t a theoretical exercise.
I know this doesn’t matter that much in the bigger scheme of things, and I admit that the only reason I’m even writing about it is a slight irritation with the word “naive”. But if Jason is indeed referring to my article (again, this is going to be really awkward if he’s not) I at least wanted to clarify my viewpoint.
So there that is.