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17Oct/110

Evolutionary Best Practices

“Best practices” are the proverbial wheel. You know - the one that does not need to be re-invented… The Wikipedia article defines best practice as “ a method or technique that has consistently shown results superior to those achieved with other means, and that is used as a benchmark.” It has been recognized as “management practice” and even made into ISO 9000 and ISO 14001 standards.

Yet they do have a shelf life, and stale “best practices” is nobody’s idea of efficiency. The very same Wikipedia article adds that 'a "best" practice can evolve to become better as improvements are discovered.'

An evolutionary metaphor seems to be apt for a definition of “best practices” - in order for the species to adapt to changing environments they must evolve, in order for species to be recognized as such they must preserve their distinct genetic makeup for some reasonably prolonged period of time.

The trick, as usual, is to recognize the right time to embrace the change, or to reject is. In natural evolution, as in the business environment, the right turn at the wrong moment is just as deadly as wrong turn at the right moment - both would result in particular species (uhm… businesses) being sent to the fossil beds.

8Sep/090

The once and future king..

As labour day is winding down,  I am pondering the miracle of self organization.

It has been forgotten and rediscovered many times in the course of human history. A hierarchical system is usually very stable – as long as its composite pieces are happy (or have no choice but) to stay on their assigned places in the hierarchy; the moment a subject moves, the hierarchy crumbles down. Once free will is accepted as founding principle – as it is in most democratic societies today – a hierarchical organization becomes all but impossible. 

Coming down to a 100 feet view, I am looking into my own garden of agile software development. Agile teams by definition do not have fixed roles, the dynamics within the group defines current role that can last through the project, or might change for the next sprint;  there is no manager to assign tasks – this role was taken by Scrum Master (a.k.a agilitator); the group itself would disintegrate once the purpose that had brought them together is fulfilled.

Back to the Labour Day. A 120 years ago, Peter J. McGuire, General Secretary of the Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners, proclaimed the purpose of the holiday as an occasion to honour those "who from rude nature have delved and carved all the grandeur we behold." A human role as organizer of the nature was clearly taken for granted. Fast forward to the present day: a Dutch town of Drachten did away with all the traffic lights in the city, leaving it up to motorists and pedestrians to negotiate the road space. And the number of accidents went down! Agility in action.

I see it in trends where instead of beating the nature into submission the humans learn to “go with the flow”, discovering that there might be a different way. Maybe, we do not need a king, after all; maybe all we need is an agilitator.