Water Cooler Culture

A while ago, I got to visit a software company experiencing post-startup phase. The moment in which the business is no longer small enough for everybody to know each other, yet it’s still too small to have the usual inclinations towards corporate mindset. This time is very special, as it defines and clarifies it’s culture for the next period of time.

There are places where you can spot culture at a glance, in an unusual way. Continue reading “Water Cooler Culture”

Non-Obvious Books on Agile Philosophy

In recent months, I ran dozen trainings on Agile aimed at (mostly) non-IT crew of a very large and old company. It was extremely challenging to my comfort zone, especially as it meant the whole course to be rebuilt from scratch. I had to stay as far as possible from IT-related terminology, examples, and practical applications of the philosophy I shared. While the whole experience gave me a lot of thinking – and while you’ll be able to see quite a lot of it in upcoming posts – let’s focus on one area that almost every group asked me about.

What books could you recommend?

It really troubled me at first. Not only I wanted to stay outside boundaries of geeky world of deliveries, releases, and features. I wanted to convey philosophy, not specific methods – especially given most of these people, in their workplace, are unlikely to drastically change the processes they are involved in. That unique challenge resulted in following list of three books that I recommend to everyone.

Coincidentally, two of those three books are those I give away as gifts regularly.

“The Obstacle Is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph” by Ryan Holiday

Why? Because to me, almost everything about Agile is to accept reality as it is. Which is contrary to how most old-school approaches seem to operate. We all suck at precise estimations. Agile addresses it in variety of ways. No rock-solid plan ever survives first contact with reality. Likewise, there’s something Agile could do about it. Transparency and understanding of what’s really important is crucial to every business successful operation. Again, plenty of mechanisms and approaches are spread across things called Agile.

Make no mistake, Ryan Holiday’s book makes no reference to the new black of IT. It’s all about seeing the world the way ancient stoics did – as it is – and making smarter choices, instead of habitual ones.

Does that ring a bell to all you Agile aficionados?

I buy this book in bulks to give to people who could benefit from it.

“Man’s Search for Meaning” by Viktor Frankl

It is, indisputably, the single best book I have ever read. I doubt it could ever be moved from the first place. Written in 1946, it chronicles Frankl’s experience as a concentration camp inmate in WW2 Germany. Being already a renowned psychologist, he observed how sense of meaning and freedom of choice (present despite nightmarish reality) affected longevity of prisoners.

Book is, at one time, extremely sad and uplifting. First time I read it, it watered my eyes, yet left me with positive outlook on life. It turned out, that even when things go inhumanly wrong – we can always do something about it.

When read in combination with the first book, it prioritizes our problems properly. In essence, it makes most of them not worth our while.

When putting Agile philosophy into practice, it’s good to know what’s truly important and remember that we always have a choice.

Heck, it’s good to know these two to live a good life.

“The $100 Startup: Reinvent the Way You Make a Living, Do What You Love, and Create a New Future” by Chris Guillebeau

Compared to the two first choices, this one seems odd. It’s neither philosophical, nor life changing. Why is it on the list then? Because most employees worldwide have negligible to none experience as business owners. And bringing operations closer to business is one of the cornerstones of Agile as a whole.

This book bridges that gap. In simple words, with great examples, and practical recommendations, it explains basics of entrepreneurship, from mindset to practice. Entertaining and worthwhile read.

A word of advice

Each of these books can make you want to quit your job. Whether it’s good idea or not – that depends. It’s always worth consideration and analysis though.

Origins of Culture

Once you enter a particular workplace, you notice a few things. The way people talk. The way they act. The things they say. While every individual behaves in their own, very specific manner, you’re likely to notice a pattern. They do have something in common, something distinctive. It’s almost like visiting some other country, which you expect to be very similar to yours. Very quickly, you’ll discover that your first impression is wrong. Nations grown upon, say, Greek and Roman heritage, generally behave the same way for any outsider. The quirks and peculiarities emerge rapidly though, making each of them to stand out. And all the companies within such national environment display the same differences to each other. In essence, that’s what we call culture.

But where does it come from? Continue reading “Origins of Culture”