Flying High Above Turbulences In Software Development (Part 1 of 2)
The past few years have taught business owners everywhere that predictability is a thing of the past. Whether they learned it the hard way, or were among the survivors of repeated turmoil, everybody from team members to CEOs is aware that uncertainty is the new “normality” and world class researchers already recognized the “chaotic” economic model as the status quo.
Reasons that led to this reality include globalization, the unprecedented expansion of the Internet and other networks and the lightning speed at which information spreads, as a direct consequence of permanent connectivity. Today’s bleeding-edge technology is mainstream by tomorrow, only to become obsolete just as fast and maintaining a competitive advantage is harder than ever.
Not surprisingly, the IT industry is profusely affected by turbulences due to its unique characteristics. IT has a very high innovation threshold and a very educated public. This means that technology shifts happen frequently and abruptly. Also, software development is a highly complex activity involving numerous interactions within the team and outside, which can easily turn chaotic. On top of this, development methodologies like Agile Scrum or XP increase the number of variables one has to deal with, adding pressure to the chaotic melting pot. From the above justification, one can already grasp why it’s hard to survive in this chaos.
But surviving is not nearly enough. In order to make a difference, to establish ourselves as a front runner company we have to thrive in chaos. We have to envision the company as a “living-breathing”, dynamic organism that permanently changes, shifts and is alive. And although unpredictability is the name of the game, preparing for what we can’t predict can make the difference between long run success and epic failure.
So, how do we deal with a chaotic reality in software development?
There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this problem and obviously, finding the solution is a serious challenge. But there certainly are a series of steps that can help us steer through turbulences.
First, make sure you identify your unique blend of assets that you perform the best. Pinpointing this set is known in theory as finding your hedgehog concept. Just like a hedgehog avoids being eaten by a smart, cunning fox by doing one thing – rolling into a ball of thorns – but doing this perfectly, you have a better chance of surfing through unplanned adversities, standing up to competition and being a performer in the long run, if you identify and perfect the unique quality mix that you excel at.
The hedgehog is found at the intersection of your deepest passions, your top level skills and methods by which you can obtain benefit from these. Both the metaphor and the concept are summarized in the images below.
Once you have identified your hedgehog concept, the next step in surviving turbulences is acknowledging the control/non-control paradox. This states that although you understand that continuous uncertainty is beyond your control, you reject that chance presides over your results and you take full responsibility for the outcome.
This statement is a very powerful one. Even if it is easier said than done, understanding that you control the results of your business beyond unpredictability, luck or other random aspects, is crucial for your long-term success in a turbulent environment.
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