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In an Ideal World

Warning: Rant.

Many of us who try to help organizations and teams improve the way they carry out software development and delivery work encounter a bizarre response from clients on occasion: “Your suggestion may work in an ideal world, but it can’t work in the real world.”

Why bizarre? Because they are experiencing challenges in their work and they have engaged outside helpers to advise them, and yet they dismiss the helpers’ advice out of hand. If all they intend to do is continue working in the same way as before, and claim that nothing will work “in the real world,” why do they bother to spend time and money to engage outside help?

Many people assume the advice we offer was just made up on the spot, or represents some academic theory that hasn’t been tried in the field, or requires the organization to be perfect even before they can try to implement the advice. In reality, the things we suggest are not new.

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The Problem with Metaphor

Some time ago I wrote about the use of metaphors in the field of software development (Metaphorically Speaking), and more recently on the risks of using colloquial English with international colleagues who learned business English (English for English Speakers). I’d like to revisit the subject, as I still see a lot of confusion out in the world, and we’re still coining new terms that strike people differently than intended.

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Balanced Professional Interest

Balanced Professional Interest

Warning: Preachy content.

In working with technical people at the individual and team levels, I often find attitudes that pull toward one extreme or the other: Either our work is inherently uninteresting, and we’re only in it for the paycheck; or our work is a boundless source of joy, learning, and achievement through which we can transcend the human condition.

Both have it partly right. But I think both are missing a thing or two.

tl;dr (Conclusion in a nutshell)

Don’t be put off when agilists seem to be demanding more of you than is reasonable. They like to use extreme language, like awesome and passionate. They really mean competent and professionally engaged. On the other hand, software work is more than “just a paycheck,” even if it’s less than “a profession” in the sense of medicine or law. You have to do more than just show up.

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