My experience at ThoughtWorks (so far)

I came across a post written by a former ThoughtWorker and was intrigued by what I read. I've long known that two people can enter a small party and have two completely different experiences based on where they focus their attentions. The larger the party, the more likely the experiences will differ. More significant, however, is how the people themselves differ.

Damana talks of the ThoughtWorks I've come to love; A team of intelligent, talented, motivated individuals working together in an environment that encourages diversity, provides rich individual attention, encourages community involvement, and pushes each of us to continue to grow.

Damana also talks of another ThoughtWorks; A team of ego-driven elitists who lack compassion and fundamental social skills. Intellectual bullies who prefer manipulation over trust and who value the client far less then they do the elegant perfection of software.

I believe both ThoughtWorks exist. I know there are ego-driven elitists. I know there are bullies who prefer manipulation over trust. And I know there are those who value the elegant perfection of software over the needs of the client. I've met all of them at ThoughtWorks. I've worked with each of them.  But from my vantage-point, these people are in the minority. They certainly do not make up 75% of the people I've worked with; not even 10%.

In terms of changing the world, I know of no other software company who has "Social Responsibility" as a key part of their corporate values and employs an active "Director of Social Engagement". This individual's role is to get TW more involved in world events; to find ways to leverage our skills and strengths to make the world a better place. ThoughtWorkers volunteered their time to work on software that helps distribute aid in third-world countries. ThoughtWorks hosts events such as Pangea Day and is actively involved in other significant events around the world.

ThoughtWorks is, hands down, the best place I've ever worked. We are a diverse crowd. We come from all over the world with wildly different backgrounds and experiences. One should anticipate some tension amidst diversity, but ThoughtWorks is conscientious in their hiring practices and is intolerant of intolerance.

Damana and I spent time at the same party. We had significantly different experiences. And we are both right. For neither of us can articulate the "truth". Each of us can only share our perception; our interpretation.

There is one more thing Damana and I surely agree on:
"If you ever get to work at a company like ThoughtWorks then don't accept another job[...] it will change your life, your career and your soul."

Business Value is not the only reason to adopt Agile

Agile Rob posted a column a few days ago entitled, "If You Don’t Focus on Business Value, Don’t Adopt Agile." He tweeted it out and after reading it, I replied that I did not entirely agree. Rob asked that I post a comment on his blog. The following is an extended/modified version of that reply.

I read two articles today, "Adopting Agile Isn't The Point", by Mike Cottmeyer and "If You Don’t Focus on Business Value, Don’t Adopt Agile.", by Robert Dempsey. Rob's posting is an expression of agreement with Mike's.

Mike's basic point is that we can lose the sight of our actual goal when we phrase our efforts in terms of task rather than objective. "When we allowed ourselves to define our work in terms of our activities, we risked losing focus on the desired outcome of the project."

He then applies this to Agile adoptions. The goal is not to have a Scrum master or to do TDD. "Those things are the stuff we do to get the desired business outcome."

You can analogously extend this to other areas of your life. I am a runner. I've set a 5k goal time for myself. In order to get there, I've laid out a plan that includes certain tasks on certain days. My goal is not to run 30+ miles per week. My goal is not to do 8 weeks of hill training. My goal is to run the 5k faster than a certain pace. If I need to adjust the tasks, so be it. If I focus on the tasks, I lose sight of the goal. I may very well finish 8 weeks of hill training and find myself injured.

I agree with Mike.

Rob takes this fundamental premise and extends it to say, "If you don't focus on business value, don't adopt agile."

This I do not entirely agree with.

This, to me, is similar to, "If you don't focus on cardio-vascular health, don't take up running." While cardio-vascular health is a significant and worthy objective, it is not the only reason to run. Fortunately, it is a common and beneficial side effect.

I might adopt agile to improve code quality, to deliver in smaller increments, or to improve communication. These are also valuable and worthy objectives. They are likely to add value to the business as a common and beneficial side effect. Just as a goal of a certain time in the 5k can result in improved cardio-vascular health.

The point is that we know our true goals and objectives. That we know why we are performing certain tasks. And that we not confuse the tasks with the desired outcome. This is not the same as saying there is only one true desired outcome.

Adopting agile isn't the point. Business value doesn't have to be either.