One of the (three) reasons we chose the name “Familiar” for Europe’s first 100% agile software house (1996-2000) was because of the very UN-familiarity of how we did things. Our (highly effective) approach to delivering quality software systems seemed very alien to the customers with whom we worked.

Our approach, our demeanour, our vocabulary, our assumptions and beliefs. These all appeared very alien to folks who had spent maybe their whole careers in much more familiar (sic) business, IT and software development environments. Indeed, they came to us often as almost a last resort – because those familiar approaches just weren’t working.

That Was Then

That was, then. And this is now. My journey has continued, and my approach has become ever more effective, and ever more alien. I find myself now at the point where folks are unlikely ever to be able to implement any of my approaches within their organisations, simply because those approaches are just too alien to seem rational, or plausible, or comprehensible to their peers.

Carry On Regardless

Honestly, it’s not my fault the whole world of software and product development, and tech (a.k.a. knowledge work) business in general, is totally borked. I’ve done my share of selling orthodoxies, and thereby making matters worse, to be sure. But I’m mostly over that now. And I’m not prepared to conspire in deluding folks about the effectiveness of those orthodoxies, just to make a buck. I sincerely feel for those folks who are still wedded to those orthodoxies, whether through choice, ignorance, or expediency. But I’m not prepared to play that game. I’ll continue to be the alien, thanks.

Not Around Here

The most common response I get these days is, “your approaches are great, but that’s never going to be the way things are done around here”. Which I translate as “we have no ability to evaluate let alone implement alien ideas, no matter how much more effective they might be.”

I’m minded of Gerry Weinberg’s caution in The Secrets of Consulting:

“Never promise more than a 10% improvement. Promise more and your customer won’t believe that it’s possible; deliver more and you make your customer look stupid. If you happen to achieve more than 10% improvement, make sure it isn’t noticed.”

~ Gerald M. Weinberg, The Secrets of Consulting

One more reason for folks to regard highly effective approaches as alien.

– Bob

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