My Big Dream

My oldest child will be a teenager this year. It feels like just a few moments ago that I was breathing in his new baby smell and now he has broad shoulders and is taller than me.

As much as I adore him and my other children, I still willingly leave them for hours every day. The only thing that makes it possible for me to leave is because I feel like the work I am doing is changing the world.

I go to work everyday driven by a desire to create a workplace where people love their work. Where they feel like what they are doing is important and is making the world a better place. Software has changed everyone’s lives, and it’s important to me that the people creating that software love their lives and enjoy their work.

I dream of a world where my children will smile on their way to work, no matter what their calling is. A world where they are not frustrated by processes that make no sense. A world where it is abnormal to dislike your boss–or maybe even for a boss in the traditional sense to exist at all. I hope when they go to work they will be coached and mentored so they are always growing and learning, and they are never yelled at or made to feel small.

As an Agile Coach and a Happy Melly supporter, it’s my privilege to work each day to help teams and companies find the joy in their work. I hope that by the time my kids enter the workforce, they will know never to accept a workplace where they are disrespected, or have processes that don’t make sense. Where they earn a wage that is what their skills are worth in the marketplace. That they know how they are making the world a better place.

Anyway, that is my big dream. What’s yours?

Ed Sheeran and Agile Teams

Watching Ed Sheeran, the famous musician, while in his element is nothing short of magical. He has the ability to record himself as he sings snippets and then to loop that so that he accompanies himself, without a band. The level of complexity and skill is awe-inspiring. You can feel the electric energy. It feels like Ed is one with his guitar–it is an extension of his fingers and the music is he making vibrates through the stadium and fans are dancing and singing. The words he is singing dance around the stage and speak to each person as though they were the only person in the room.

So what helps Ed create this energy? Is it his process? His collaborations? His passion for his craft? What can we learn and bring to our creative teams to generate that same kind of energy?

When I saw him in concert, I recognized the electricity and energy. It’s the same energy I see when I am working with an Agile team when they are solving a difficult problem and working together. It’s not as glamourous and there aren’t screaming girls in the crowd, but great software is definitely world-changing stuff. And it involves many of the same elements as Ed Sheeran with his music for a concert.

Process

I am sure that Ed has a really specific process. There’s no way that he has become a world-class musician without having one. But the process isn’t the point.

The point is crafting something the creator feels called to make and can be proud of, and then deliver that to ecstatic fans.

In Ed’s case, his fans are concert goers, Spotify listeners, album purchasers, etc. In our case it might be a business that needs us to solve a problem, or a user who wants something to be easier.

We, like Ed, can’t be so focused on the process that we lose the magic and electricity and pure joy of creation. We can’t lose the vision we have into our fans and what they need from us.

What Works

I imagine when Ed starts to write a song he thinks about it a little, plans it out, and then he picks up his guitar and starts strumming. That might not be his process, but I am quite certain he doesn’t document the different components of his song in a 100 page process document. He picks up the guitar. He knows that the joy and what he’s bringing his fans is only discovered by what he does with that guitar. It’s not what he PLANS to do with his guitar.

Emergence is when the answers appears as part of the work, and not before. This is emergence at its most beautiful. The song doesn’t truly come until he’s playing that guitar. Just like the answer to the problems we are solving won’t show up until we get started writing the code.

We discover the answer and we create the magic, by DOING, not by thinking about it.

Collaboration

Ed Sheeran and Taylor Swift have a very public collaborative relationship on social media. Taylor posted on Instagram about Ed Sheeran on his 25th birthday, “I lived for the moments he would burst into my dressing room with a new song to play me. It happened so often that it became normal, and I don’t think he ever knew how much it meant to me that he wanted me to hear his songs first. I don’t think he ever knew how inspired I was by his drive and passion to constantly create new art.”

In order to test boundaries, do your best work, and grow, you have to collaborate. Great teams collaborate with each other. They aren’t afraid to have some healthy competition and call each other out. They also aren’t afraid to be have fun with each other.

Adapt

The music scene is constantly changing. Ed manages to stay true to himself while also adapting to the market around him. I don’t know if he has a long-term plan but he is obviously learning and adapting to meet the demands of the market, which is why he’s a Platinum-selling artist. He evolves in such as way that his work fits what his fans need and gives them what they want.

That’s what we need to do when we build software as well. Instead of spending a lot of time on a plan and feeling invested in that plan, we need to be ready to adapt quickly. We learn something new and we change direction.

Passion

You can feel the passion in Ed’s music because it’s built into every line and every note. This resonates with his fans and they can feel it when they listen to his music.

You can also see a similar energy in software that is written by people who are passionate about what they are doing. That requires them to have a bigger purpose for what they are doing and why. That passion doesn’t exist when someone from on high is assigning tasks to individuals–it only happens when people have the autonomy to become a team, and are given a problem to solve.

Energy in creation is something that occurs in popular music just like it does in software. It’s worth investing in and there’s not a way to quantify it other than seeing what the fans buy, which is too late for most projects. As leaders and team members, we have to trust that the magic is worth investing in.