Marcin (@mfloryan) asked me a while ago if I could ‘balance’ (or complement) my posts about Lemon Agile Consultants and the problems of having managers. He suggested another post exploring how some developers seem unwilling to adopt or engage with Agile development methods, or appear disinterested in the whole idea of improvement – either of themselves or the working practices in which they participate.
I’ve since been struggling to find a ‘peg’ upon which to hang this idea, and thus, hopefully, make it interesting and relevant. So here it is: mea culpa, mea maxima culpa. My mistake – it’s all my fault.
It seems to me that implicit in the general question of “why do some developers seem uninterested in Agile – or the wider issues of improvement” lies the assumption that anyone in their right mind should be so interested.
Most of the folks that I know, talk with regularly, identify with are so interested.
Thus a lack of interest seems an aberration, a deviation from the norm. I seem to have succumbed to the fundamental attribution error - attributing the behaviour of others (the disinterested developers) to dispositional factors. Factors such as; they can’t be bothered, they’re unimaginative, they have poor a sense of social responsibility, they lack a sense of teamsmanship, and so on.
Are We Learning Yet?
How about we learn from the fundamental attribution error and admit the possibility of situational factors playing the key role? I’m not trying to deny the widely-reported observation that some developers do behave as if they have little interest in raising their personal skills, or the capabilities of their group, team or organisation. But how about considering why this should appear so?
Number one on my list of possible reasons why, is that no one ever told them that it’s even possible to spend time on, invest effort in, self-improvement and/or group improvement. (The A.R.C. coaching mnemonic reminds us that Awareness is at the root of commitment to e.g. action). I mean, it’s not like this possibility is taught in schools or Universities, is it? The capacity for “divergent thinking” is actively degraded by our educational systems, according to @SirKenRobinson. Nor is the possibility for intentional improvement taught or experienced in the workplace, either, by and large.
Absent any such information or awareness, is it reasonable to expect folks to have some kind of natural, inborn predisposition towards self-improvement or group improvement? In the general case, I think not. (I’d be delighted if anyone can share any research or findings on the presence or absence of such a predisposition).
And then there’s a whole bunch of other situational factors which can come into play in any given set of circumstances. Can you think of some that might apply in your context, in your team or organisation? (If yes, might you like to share them, here?) .
So yes, I’ve fallen foul of an unwitting assumption about these developers’ dispositions. But maybe, just maybe you could find it in your heart to pray for me? And maybe have a chat with them about their perspectives – on the issues of both self-improvement, and improvement more generally?
The Three Ingredients of Commitment (Agile Studio Blog post)
Coaching For Performance ~ Sir John Whitmore