November 5, 2007

...Learn TDD with Codemanship

SPI - The Teams Make It Happen. Not The Consultants.

Peer pressure has a lot to answer for, but a lot that we should be grateful for.

If you're a parent of a child who goes to a school where most kids think that studying hard and staying out of trouble is for whimps, you might not be too surprised when they end up with no prospects later in life.

Whereas, if your child studies at a school where most kids expect to go on to university, odds on your child will be joining them and will finish up with an interesting career and decent prospects in adult life.

In the first situation, being bright and capable of learning often isn't enough to overcome the social pressure to stay ignorant. In the second situation, even a total thickie is likely to end up with some qualifications. I mean, most of the royal family have degrees, so how hard can it be?!

We like to fit in, and so we tend to try to live up to - or down to - the expectations that the people around us have for themselves. So if you're working in an organisation where everybody around you delivers crappy code late and over budget, we shouldn't be too surprised if you feel no compunction to deliver anything better.

On the other hand, if the majority of the other development teams are delivering code with very few reported bugs, and doing it in a timely and economical fashion, then you'd feel a bit of a spanner turning in a buggy pile of doo-doo 100% behind schedule and 400% over budget. Like the guy at your school who only passed one exam - in Woodwork - and ended up working at Burger King while all his chums went off to Oxford and Cambridge.

In larger organisations, the long, slow process of change often starts with making teams and individuals aware of where they really stand in the grand scheme of things. It's also important that managers understand what their starting position is: are they a bad school that drags bright pupils down to their level? Or are they a good school that encourages less able pupils to up their game?

This is why teachers in private schools (actually, here in the UK we call them "public schools", but you know what I mean) make a point of tipping the scales in their favour. By making sure they accept enough bright, motivated, well-behaved and eager students they ensure that - no matter what the standard of teaching - their exam results will tend to be better than a school that takes problem children. And in this day and age, some inner city schools seem to have nothing but problem children.

As a consultant, I'm afraid I must acknowledge that the best results I've seen during my career in terms of improved quality, economy and innovation have come out of those client organisations where the good outweighed the bad and higher expectations drove the improvement efforts forward.

And so these days I choose my clients a little more carefully. They have to have it in them already to step up to the plate and - off their own backs - do what's required to raise standards. It's the teams that make SPI happen. Not the consultants. And don't let anyone tell you otherwise.
Posted 17 hours, 49 minutes ago on November 5, 2007