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InfoQ Homepage Podcasts InfoQ Culture & Methods Trends Report March 2022

InfoQ Culture & Methods Trends Report March 2022

In this podcast the InfoQ Culture & Methods editors, along with special guest Sandy Mamoli, discuss what they have seen over the last year and the trends they see going forward.

Key Takeaways

  • Hybrid work is a challenge we are far from figuring out, and often results in meeting hell and other disfunctions
  • We need to be careful that we don't take something that's fundamentally about human interaction and try to turn it into a technology problem – tools matter, but the way we use the tools matters more
  • Effective facilitation skills have become a must-have for effective remote and hybrid collaboration
  • Developer education is evolving to become more focused on the skills organisations need now and the ability to learn in the future
  • Professionalism, craftsmanship and ethical behaviour are under pressure across the world
  • The article InfoQ Culture & Methods Trends Report - March 2022 is also available


Good day folks. This is Shane Hastie and I have the privilege of sitting down with the culture and methods editorial team today, and we're going to look at the culture and method trends for 2022.

Shane Hastie: I'd like to start, we'll just do a round of introductions. We'll start with our special guest we have Sandy Mamoli who's not on the editorial team, but whose content has been covered quite a lot on InfoQ. Sandy welcome, give us the 2-minute who Sandy.

Introductions – Sandy Mamoli [01:06]

Sandy Mamoli: Hello everyone, I am currently in my third career. I had a youth playing handball, representing Austria at the Olympic games in 1992. After that, I realized I had to grow up, get a real job, and there was nothing better I could think of than becoming a software developer. That's what I did for about 10 years in Copenhagen, Amsterdam, and Stockholm, and moved to New Zealand in 2006. And because I had been working agile for quite a while, I decided to not go back to previous ways of working, but to stick with agile and I co-founded a company that's called Nomad8, that is doing agile work and agile consulting, and got at some point possessed wrote a book which if anyone should think about doing that is a lot more work than it seems to be.

I am now in New Zealand and have recently moved to the beach, and this whole working remotely or hybrid ways of working is absolutely growing on me.

Shane Hastie: Thanks, Sandy, and we'll definitely explore some of the topics in the book. Doug, we haven't seen you for a while. Welcome, tell us a bit about Doug.

Douglas Talbot [02:10]

Douglas Talbot: No, it's been a very busy year. I guess I've been in technology all my life. I started off as a developer. I didn't start off with handball, so obviously a different career path. And then I've been in tech roles for about 30 years now, about 20 years of that leading different technology teams across all sorts of different domains, including government, retail, robotics, banking all sorts of spaces. And I'm currently the CIO at Environment Canterbury in the south island of New Zealand, and I'm also the founder of a consultancy called The Adjacent, looking at organizational dynamics and how we can create better organizations, so that's me.

Shane Hastie: And we'll bounce to Ben, Ben Linders, probably the most prolific InfoQ writer across the whole team at the moment.

Ben Linders [02:58]

Ben Linders: Okay, thank you, Shane. Ben Linders, based in the Netherlands and these days, doing mostly workshops, training, coaching for an organization, focusing on finding ways to help organizations to improve. That includes some of the agile stuff, but I wouldn't say it's completely agile. It's much more focused on bringing in the stuff that helps organizations to exploit whatever they have and become better on what they are doing already. And a lot of the stuff recently is around games gamification as a way to help organizations to really find their strengths and exploit their strengths to become better. And a lot of those games are also available online.

Ben Linders: I'm using them in my training, but I'm also making them available for other facilitators to play with them to download and to use them. So, sharing the work about these games and these coaching cards to the world.

Shane Hastie: And Craig Smith.

Craig Smith [03:55]

Craig Smith: Like others, I started my world in the technical space, although never actually meant to be in a technical space, so I actually went to university to become a librarian and somehow moved off in a different direction. Been around the agile field now since the early 2000s and really work in all sorts of different industries, helping people with both their learning and their agile journeys, based in Brisbane Australia.

Shane Hastie: And Raf.

Raf Gemmail [04:18]

Raf Gemmail: Hello everyone, similar paths to some of you are engineer for a very long time since the dot-com severe developer number four at many years ago, trying to do XP, going through to the BBC and other places where I learned to do it slightly better and became leaner, going through frameworks to finding leaner ways of working, came to New Zealand in 2013. And around that time shortly before we'd done a QCon gone talk with my friend, Catherine. I started writing for InfoQ and amusingly when I came out here, one of my favorite stories is that I discovered that the person who was taking me through my training, Shane, lived about seven minutes down the road for me here in New Zealand.

And the other funny thing is one of my first pieces that I wrote for InfoQ was actually an interview with Sandy Mamoli around self-selection, a piece, she did it at TradeMe here, so it's nice to see all these familiar faces. From there, I've gone on to focus on tech coaching using agile & lean methods, currently head of technology at place called Developers Institute. I'm getting a lot of pleasure out of trying to help change people's lives and bring new fresh people into the industry, get them across agile and lean methods earlier, create the people I would have wanted to hire who are experimental, who are open to change recognize that it's a learning journey that's continuous, and that's why.

Shane Hastie [05:35]

Shane Hastie: And I'm Shane Hastie, I lead this band of misfits in the culture and method space. Like the rest of us, I did start off a long time back. And in my case, it's a number of decades back in technology and programming. I've moved into leading teams and now leading teams that help people become better at doing stuff. My full-time job with a training organization based in New Zealand, but working all around the world back with SoftEd after a 5-year stint at ICAgile. 

So, that's us, but we're here to talk about what's happening in the industry. We're going to come out of this, and we'll produce the next written trends report.

We'll have the technology adoption curve that we're all very familiar with, but we want to let our audience know what is it that we collectively are seeing. And maybe let's start with one of the big ones and Sandy, you touched on it. We're all definitely experiencing it, hybrid work. What does this mean in 2022?

Hybrid Work and Meeting Hell in 2022 [06:42]

Sandy Mamoli: What I put down the word hybrid work is we used to come from all going to the office, then 2020 COVID happened, and we all learned how to work remotely. And what I see happening now is that we end up with spending our time partly remote and partly at the office, or partly in other locations. It is both remote, back to face to face, back to remote and people doing this mostly in a way that suits them.

Shane Hastie: How can this go wrong?

Sandy Mamoli: I can easily tell you my annoyances with it. What I've seen is when people decide we need to have face to face, and we also need to have remote time. So, how about we spend Monday and Wednesdays at the office? And what happens Mondays and Wednesdays is meeting hell, because all the meetings are all of a sudden crammed into a day or two and it is not fun. Everyone's really tired. Other things that I find really hard and I'm not sure whether it's going wrong or not, but what I find really hard because I do a lot of facilitation and training is that it is easy to do face to face. We have learned how to do it when everyone's remote, but now you're in a situation, where you always have some people in the room and some people remotely.

And I find it really hard or a skill that I'm hoping to master one day to cater for both groups of people at the same time.

Shane Hastie: Do you think it's a skill to master Sandy, or do you think it's just a mistake?

Sandy Mamoli: I think it's a mistake. If I could avoid it, I wouldn't do it, but I don't know how to avoid it, having the balance of giving people a freedom to live their lives partially working from home and partially working from the office, without either creating meeting hell, or having those mixed environments. What do you think?

Shane Hastie: I'm like you really, really struggling with the mixed space, but it feels really hard to tell people no, everyone go and find a desk and sit on your own, so that you participate in an equal way across the team, or everyone come in for that day like you say and have meeting hell that day. So, I'm not quite sure what the answers are, but it feels like trying to force it to work hybrid is the wrong answer. What are we going to come up with in our organizations that's going to allow flexibility, but good team dynamics is a big question. And I think part of it at the moment is actually looking at our environment in work.

Changing the office environment to accommodate hybrid work effectively [09:02]

Shane Hastie: And I've seen quite a few articles on this, people talking about the physical environment or creating remote offices where we can come and work in different ways, or collaborative ways. Maybe there's something in what we can do with our old office spaces that we used to work with desks, but it's a big unknown at the moment, but I feel like you it's a mistake. And I just don't know what the next steps going to come out are.

Raf Gemmail: I'm just going to add a plus one here this sense of it being a mistake. And I think the fact whenever you talk about anything hybrid, to an extent it feels like a transition. Hybrid cloud feels like a transition to being able to just work with the concept of a cloud, where hybrid just happens in the background. Hybrid workspace feels like a mistake, because it's trying to put this noun in front of two things, but it's not really the interface to the two things. It's just a label that's stuck on it. My view on this is I've been working remote since about 2019, and I feel that the journey we're on... I put my hand up as a futurist, but the journey we're on is one which is potentially in the next decade or so sooner, moving away from that physical presence.

And I used to post that. I used to think there was great value in people being face to face, but I think we get the same value remote. And I think there's a tradition that we need to work away from, and there's a new set of tools we need to build, but I do agree with you. It's almost a label that's put on there that says this doesn't work. Hybrid, yeah, that's controversial potentially.

Sandy Mamoli: I'm not sure I agree with you about the future, but I want to point out, I think it's absolutely brilliant what you point out the word hybrid in this. It's like hybrid agile which usually means you take the worst of both worlds. Maybe that's what we're doing at the moment, it's the worst of both worlds and a world of pain.

Shane Hastie: Craig, you've been quiet through this little conversation, what's your thoughts on this hybrid space?

Craig Smith: Thanks, Shane. Yeah, I certainly agree to what everybody else said. I think the thing about tools is what to me is what stands out. I don't think we've got the tools that support the way that we want to work. There's always going to be a want or a need, or people who don't have the space to work effectively from home and having a place for them to go be.

There's also a human element to this that I don't think we can get away from the fact that as humans, there is that connection point that we need to have, whether that means actually physically going to an office because you take something like this recording, where we can all get together from all parts of the world is something that we couldn't easily do even just a few years ago, but I think what we did in reaction to the last few years we've been through as we hobbled together a bunch of technologies that are okay. But from my friends on the call here who people like agile coaches for example, that's a hard job to do remote. Leadership is hard to do remote, and we haven't quite got to a tooling that allows us to do things, like check in on our teammates effectively.

The old thing about walking past somebody's desk and just stopping and saying hello is so much harder in this hybrid world. I think tooling's got a long way to go. And if that starts to get better, we might be able to start to see some things. So, those who are building tools, this is far from done.

Ways of work and culture handbooks [12:00]

Raf Gemmail: Organizations have been remote for a while I'm thinking of the likes of GITLab I'm thinking of a place like Octopus Deploy, these companies that are starting to... Atlassian is now fully remote and these places have one thing I've noticed which is a handbook. And they're becoming handbook cultures where they start having processes or ways for people to work. Now, I know we’re about people and interactions over process and tools, right? But at the same time, these processes add clarity. So, working in a remote environment, I was initially like processes, do I have to to go to a handbook? But they do add clarity. The whole thing about coordinating people, I'm in an organization where we've been through that journey and trying to lead people remotely at first.

You're trying to pull the physical world's paradigm, right? I need to have a one-to-one with you directly I need to walk past you, or you have the one day in the office and you end up like chatting all the whole day of forcing meetings in. But as you go, you start using the tools slightly better, and that's not necessarily the tool. It's your use of the tool. I mean Team Topologies, they talk about how you structure your coordination, your communication spaces, right? Slacks, if they're chaotic, people don't know where to go for communication. If you structure them intentionally, people know how to reach out to each other. I reach out to my teammates digitally.

We engage, we have specific things for trust building and that's not really the tool. It's how we use the tool, so I throw that out there.

Craig Smith: That's a good point, and I think the thing is in those handbooks what we don't end up with is another Spotify agile approach here, where I go and read the book from Octopus Deploy and go I'll do that here because the real challenge is if you're a software company, this is I'm going to say easier to do. I know it's not easy. But if you're a government agency or a large bank and we're also dealing with the culture of people who aren't used to this. And of course, when you then mix in organizations that actually have people who physically have to be on site, because they have to actually remove a physical product, that's where this becomes a lot harder. I think it's still possible.

I think it's absolutely possible to... we have to find a way through this. And I think this handbook culture and if you look at some examples of that, I think there's some good guidance for that. Where we're really going to succeed in this is when organizations start to solve some of those trickier problems.

Don’t try to take a human interaction challenge and turn it into a technology problem [14:08]

Douglas Talbot: I guess I'm living in an organization where the technology service that I provide supports hundreds of thousands of ratepayers, and hundreds and hundreds of frontline staff who have physical interactions with people out on the land and in parks and regional spaces and stuff. Suddenly, those toolkits and the ability to interact with those people and stuff is really, really important. We can't just pretend we're a little tech company doing an online product or a SaaS product. And I think that when we start crossing those borders, these techniques are effective shall we say. It's very, very hard for me to get a bunch of those people onto a Miro and have a coaching session.

Whereas when we could go and visit their depot, it's a lot more effective. So, I think that problem is nowhere near solved. And also I'm assuming Raf, you're not trying to promote the sociological and psychological effects of not having physical contact and body language and such like is the good thing for our society. We're seeing the effects of the COVID isolation on our kids. We can't pretend that remote is going to answer those questions.

Raf Gemmail: I agree with everything you said there I do think we will evolve as we've done with every other methodology, how we do remote well and how we address the gaps in communication, how we address the imbalance of people who don't have access to hardware. And I think as I said previously, we're on that journey.

Sandy Mamoli: I think we need to be very careful, and what we need to be careful about is that we don't take a problem that's fundamentally one of human interaction, a problem of being we and having a shared goal and a shared purpose, and turning it into a technology problem. Technology can be helpful, but I don't think this is a technology problem. And if we only talk about tools and how to use tools, I think we're missing a bit. It's important, but I don't think it's the most important thing. And I don't know how to solve it because we are in this world of hybrid and we are making do with technology to aid us to find a way of working that suits all of us.

Variations on hybrid approaches [16:06]

Sandy Mamoli: And the best that I could come up with crazy idea right now is how can we have both without making this meeting hell or anything like that? Could we experiment with something that we have three months of going to the office working face to face and then three months, everyone works remotely and whoever wants to travel or work from Thailand or the beach, that's cool. Three months later, we go back to face to face. So, maybe it's the time that goes like peaks and troughs in terms of face to face and remote.

Raf Gemmail: I particularly like the Thailand.

Co-working over meetings[16:38]

Ben Linders: I think talking about meeting hell, and I think one of the first thing that you should actually look at is why are we doing those meetings, regardless whether we're doing them on site or remotely, because I'm really trying to abolish every meeting there is. And if I want to do something together with people, I'm going to turn it into a co-working session. And we can do that on site, and we can do it remotely, working with the shared purpose, working on a shared object. And the easiest thing you can do already is work together in the Google Doc or anything. But at least being working together and creating something, that's going to give a completely different turn to collaboration.

And you can do it remotely, you can do that onsite, but most of the meetings are actually worthless because there are meetings that makes them a waste already.

Sandy Mamoli: But how is co-working not a meeting? It's people getting together doing something and talking to each other doing its meeting.

Ben Linders: Well, I think that the difference is you're working together on a result and you're working together, and that's the thing you touch upon already on that shared purpose. You're together there to create an outcome, not to just discuss something, but you're working to produce something, and that's what makes a difference.

Shane Hastie: I've taken in conversations that I have with people that there is a difference between a collaborative working event and a meeting. A meeting in my mind is typically something that is done where a group of people make work and assign work to other people, whereas a co-working session, a workshop, a collaborative event is a collaborative event where two or more people get something done together. If we take this stance of getting stuff done together, versus the traditional meeting, often it's not collaborative, it is a manager in the room telling people what they want them to do. Maybe if we're really lucky asking do you disagree with me and not really listening to that either.

But if we can get to that true collaborative, cooperative, change the focus of these events from the one-way conversation to true purpose-driven working on something together. Craig and I have been privileged in our day jobs over the last couple of months. We've been doing a lot of work together. We're doing it remotely, and the time that we spend for me has been incredibly valuable, and I hope it has been for Craig.

Craig Smith: It's interesting Shane that I feel that attitude to interaction has not been the meme even before the COVID remote game. Whenever you dragged individual contributors into a gathering of individual contributors and said let's figure out a strategy together, let's design an architecture together, let's discuss our performance together, people assumed that was a meeting. And I think that that term has got attached to work where you are trying to forge forward, create products, decide, learn together. And all of those things got called meetings and most of them weren't one-way delivery of information, or assignment out of stuff.

In fact, I'm trying to think of the last time I was in a “meeting” that was one-way delivery - it just doesn't happen anymore in my world, and yet everyone else calls those scheduled gatherings meetings. And because that term has been attached to them, people are pretty anti-them. There's a real negative meme there, and I don't know how we can get past that. I don't know how we can re-badge or something to get the idea that you're passing on, because I think that many of them are actually healthy interactions.

Drawing from domain driven design - being deliberate and selective with the language we use [20:10]

Raf Gemmail: I've done just what Shane said rephrasing it. So, there was a government project a few years ago, many years ago now where I first tried this which was renaming things workshops instead of meetings. And you go through the inclusion, but I'm a big believer in domain-driven design, right? What you call it is how people see it, how they visualize it, how they build it, how they interact. If you’re selective with your nouns, you'll get the right outcome. We were having the same conversation in our work thing yesterday around health and well-being. You take a concept, like a sick day, that's almost got a negative connotation. Can you flip it to a well-being day, or something like that to allow people to feel safe in utilizing that?

Similarly within your local context, within your organization, you can be selective about the nouns you use for those meetings. And it might be a small win. It may not work there, I don't know, but I do think being selective about what you call things can have an impact.

Ben Linders: I agree, labeling them differently, labeling them as a co-working session and making clear that what you want to have is not a meeting where you go out and where you have to do work, but that you have actually done the work when you leave the meeting. You've worked together and you've produced a result, that makes your time much more valuable.

Sandy Mamoli: I think this is hugely important for our group, and I'm glad we cleared that up. I'm super loose on the definition of the word meeting and I'm with Shane, yes, I should change that and it's helpful if we are more restricted, or precise with the use of our words. Do you think that other people outside our circles would care, whether we call it a meeting, a workshop, or working session?

Craig Smith: I was talking to a group about this just this week because I was running a facilitation class in this type of thing, but I think it comes back to the problem without tooling. Because as soon as something ends up as an Outlook slot, that that's the first issue. The thing I always deal with folks in the class is simply they come to some facilitation class. It's their first perhaps get together or after they've done agile fundamentals, for example, and the thing I often get is I love this agile thing, but there's way too many meetings. And you can bring up something just simple like the scrum diagram and go, "Well, there's only four of them." There's maybe half a day to three quarters of a day.

Facilitation is an important skillset that is often missing [22:13]

Craig Smith: What are you doing with the other 98% of the time, and they all agree it's work. And they go, "Well, how do you make those sessions work?" I think the tooling doesn't help us, but also the facilitation doesn't help us. Because when we do get into those rooms, do we have the right people to make the decisions? And this is our problem because again in the workplace, we could just call the Larry down the corridor and drag him in and go, "Larry, we're going to make a decision.” As soon as we start being hybrid, we have to intentionally then get into their calendar. We realize they booked somewhere else we go, we'll have another meeting and all of a sudden, we're back in that same process.

So, naming is one part and absolutely agree with it, but also I think we have to intentionally think about getting back to some of those basics about the facilitation and having an agenda and all those things without also over engineering them.

Shane Hastie: So, how do we do good facilitation? And one of the things that we put on to our trends report last year was the need for facilitation skills. What are we seeing? how is that improving?

Facilitation needs to be independent [23:09]

Ben Linders: Well, I think one important thing about facilitation is that you want a facilitator to be independent. You want a facilitator to be focused on the group, on the culture, on the interaction between the people, and not on the outcome. The facilitator is focusing on creating the best condition for the people to work together. And if the best conditions are there, the best outcome will arise from that meeting. And this already starts when you plan something to work upon, and somebody's going to pick up the role and facilitate. The first check for me is then okay, can I be independent enough to lead this group, to guide them, and to get them towards result, and will I be perceived as independent enough?

Because this perception is even more important. If people feel like no, you're leading us towards a certain result, they're much, much involved in the stuff to work on right now and you're much involved on getting a kind of result out of there, then this independence is not going to work. So, it's about how you're perceived as a facilitator to get the right results.

Douglas Talbot: I hadn't even really thought about it until you raised the question, but I realized that I'm seeing that a lot as a problem at the moment. The amount of time that we're on these interactions in a remote world now, and people are not used to the interaction patterns and the conversation becomes stilted and people talk over each other, et cetera, et cetera and I'm finding that there isn't the skills in the team to lead this, and actually a lot of the skills are required by leaders, whether it's some kind of architect trying to gather devs to a common conclusion, or whether it's management layers talking about strategy.

Remote and hybrid facilitation needs very different skills to in-person facilitation [24:42]

Douglas Talbot: Often, there isn't an independent in the room quite often because that just wasn't people's habits pre-covered, and now the skills are actually not up to it. Most of our leaders have never even touched Miro it's a new game for them. They don't know what to do, they don't know to prepare beforehand. They're turning up to the meeting and just going hoping it's going to happen. I think there is a really big shift in learning needed here if we're going to use this mechanism more.

Sandy Mamoli: I absolutely second that. It's a totally different skill set and I facilitate a lot, and I had to learn that things that work offline or in a room don't work online. It's a totally different way of having to learn how to manage energy, how to get people to talk. Dealing with a reality where people are tired way earlier, a reality where they take in half of what you say, how clear you have to be with instructions, how you have to repeat them and give them in writing and so on. Are you going to play with synchronous and asynchronous communication? I think that's really, really different and the other thing that's really different is just mastery of technology.

I find that recently, I had to learn a lot about almost producing, learning the tools like both Zoom and other tools how to do breakout rooms, how to use virtual cameras, how to make sound good, how to have my lighting in the room to come across okay. So, those technical skills as a facilitator are actually quite important too, and I'm not sure where other people are at because I'm quite biased because I'm teaching that stuff, but I also realize that there's a lot of learning needs around.

Shane Hastie: How do we help organizations see the value in this as opposed to seeing it as an overhead because when we were in person, we didn't have those "extra cost, extra time" of having this neutral person. I want to go meta a tiny bit for our audience. We're using a tool that actually has a raise your hand and I'm noticing when people have what got something to say. Craig, you just raised your hand.

Roles and skills are not evolving at the pace needed [26:48]

Craig Smith: Well, I think we're talking about this role. We have these roles, and we've had them for 15 years. We have roles like scrum master for whatever better term and product owner, as well as leaders that are perfectly suited for this role. By definition, if you dig into the words around particularly that scrum master role that comes from scrum, I mean that is about facilitating the team that's exactly what that role is, but unfortunately the folks that are doing that role. And I'm seeing this particularly in small organizations, that care typically isn't taken.

It's just whoever's the right person to do it and in large organizations, it's just this person sitting over here often is the person who gets to go on a 2-day training class to learn the basics of some framework, and then it's supposed to lead a team. If we want to become more mature in this space, those roles, we need to take those more seriously because there's an awful lot of investment in organizations to having someone sitting there with a tag of scrum master and a tag of product owner, but what I'm starting to see is that as the organization starts to mature and expect more from its teams, those roles often aren't keeping up with that pace of change. So, there's a lot of good people there, right?

Don't get me wrong, but for every great scrum master or product owner I come along, now there is a whole pile of others that are just struggling. Either because they don't necessarily want to do the work, or they're not giving the ability or the time in order to improve their craft.

The difference in high-maturity teams [28:07]

Ben Linders: To add to this, on the other side of the spectrum, what I've seen really high mature teams people working together to realize something. And what you actually see is that everybody in such a team has their facilitation skills. And depending on what they are working on, depending on what they would like to do, one of them will step up and will say, "Let me facilitate this." And I've seen this with teams that I worked in, where I was actually the share of a group and when somebody said, "Okay, but if we're going to do a strategy session, I'm going to facilitate this session because I'm much more independent. I can be much more independent in this role, and I've got the skills to facilitate really around round setting. I know how to pose it, what kind of questions to ask."

Instead of having one person being the scrum master for the team and being the default facilitator, if you're a high maturity team, everybody can be a facilitator. And you're just going to be facilitating on the fly, whoever is the best candidate to facilitate at that point in time. It's a skill that everybody has.

Raf Gemmail: I second that. I've been in those teams, but also been the teams where Craig was saying earlier, you can have the lack of the role be a void which everyone is trying to fill. And then you have those meetings where there are no outcomes. I think there's this need for intentionality around making sure you've got that competency. Like any other competency in organization, if you're having meetings or workshops or whatever it is without the right outcomes, it's probably a smell to the organization that they need to get the right people in. One thing I was going to throw out those there, there's another benefit from building these remote facilitation skills if you can do it right in a remote context is inclusion.

Remote work can improve inclusion and support greater diversity [29:41]

Raf Gemmail: We've been experimenting with putting boards up early, right? Instead of waiting for the day, give people time to think about the problem at hand and contribute before the event. And that means that you're getting wider feedback from the group, there's greater diversity of thought. And if you can start doing those things right, you might see other benefits making up for things which are potentially lost. The things are potentially lost, I'll throw it again as a futurist, we can make these canvases and these environments very interactive. We can make sessions interactive. We can make them suitable for synchronous feedback. N one's going to wipe the board.

Shane Hastie: I'd like to just move us forward a tiny bit, but I also want to tackle the futuristic the technology. Where's the metaverse in this? Where is immersive virtual reality? Is that where we're heading? Is that what we need, and is that on the far, far left of our adoption curve, or are we not even there yet?

Immersive technologies and games are starting to become available [30:31]

Douglas Talbot: I'll avoid specifically the metaverse, but I do think that one of the things I saw literally near the beginning of the COVID game because I was in England for the first months of COVID and pretty much we lived 100% remote for 12 months because you couldn't go out. And one of the things I did see innovated in that time was people using Fortnite as an environment in which to teach agile coaching sessions. And they were arranging the pizza game kind of equivalent teaching people how to do flow management and work in progress limitation and stuff, but actually in a real-time environment inside the Fortnight, the game. And they'd set up their own assault courses and problems to solve as a group and things like that.

And I thought that was a really, really neat of bringing people into another space. And it wasn't VR, but it was taking people into a place where they can act more in a natural not 2D land. And I thought that was really, really cool.

Raf Gemmail: I'd look for the name of it there was a friend of mine at Assurity. At the start of COVID, he's got an Oculus Rift, and he demoed literally like this 3D space with a whiteboard and such. No one probably used it. I'm sure they're like 10 people on earth, but it looked pretty nifty and that tech is out there. I love the idea of Fortnite or another 3D engine becoming an interactive space. In about 2007, I went to a java conference and Sun was still owned it at the time. And they were demoing a virtual workspace, and I'll never forget this. they had 3D avatars from different offices. They had a mix of 3D avatars and a video link to a room, and it looked ridiculous.

And I never saw it again, and I don't know what happened to it, but I think there's a transition through time, where a lot of these ideas were seeded. And the only reason we've got hit COVID and we can work quite well now is many of these things have evolved to the stage, where I can speak to you without high latency. I'm actually coming through Starlink in space and I'm living in the middle of nowhere, and I can do that now. I couldn't probably have done that five, 10 years ago because satellite was high latency then. And there is this journey, but I love the Fortnite metaphor.

Sandy Mamoli: I absolutely love this, and I've got a feeling that we're going to be left with two things. And one is face to face, which I think is irreplaceable and the other one is having something that's absolutely immersive like an equivalent of metaverse or holograms, or there is going to be the Teams and Zoom meetings. I don't think there is room for both of them. I think one of them is going to win, and we're going to have immersion plus face-to-face, or we're going to have the current type of Zoom plus face-to-face. And maybe that's when companies are going to diverge a lot. There are the more cutting edge ones that are taking input from the gaming industry, and then there are the other ones that are stuck in all the technology that is very much 2D.

And I think it's going to be super interesting which one of those two we're going to be left within three to five years.

Shifting from Individual performance to team performance [33:17]

Douglas Talbot: I can jump in with a slight change in direction here Shane, and this brings facilitation as a skill set in our leadership and to get teams together and this 3D world and the metaverse and such like together, is that what we're looking for is arguably more effective teams, more effective individuals, more effective organizations. And one of the things I'm seeing is that the world is still very, very dominated by thinking individual. Almost all of our performance management and all our leadership courses and stuff are focused on how do I do one-on-one coaching using say grow model, or something with one person, but they're not teaching leaders how to deal with a team.

And what we're talking about here is how do we deal with a team and arguably, how do we deal with a bigger community using technologies, and how do we make that interaction of multiple people at both small team size and large scale size more effective. And I think that the world has to start recognizing that the sociology of large-scale organizational interaction, the sociology and the psychology of small team interaction and the psychology of individual one-to-one and stuff are very different patterns and skill sets. And we need to have all three of those starting to be first-class citizens for our leadership and for our organizations. And that's not happening well enough yet, so it's all still one to one.

Raf Gemmail: I'm just wondering about descaling, right? We're seeing that again taking this idea that if you have too much stuff, there's too much cognitive load. It's harder to manage, it's harder to dissect. We're seeing these trends around descaling. We're seeing this move away from the drive to grow, to grow, to grow for the sake of growing, to perhaps being more intentional about goals and targets, to be more intentional about well-being in an organization. And when I hear that I'm just wondering, you talk about the sociology of the large enterprise. And I've been in those large enterprises, and they're very different beasts to where I am now, which is more rapid decision startup culture.

And I remember the anecdotes around general electric and others having breakout teams and small innovation organizations. And I do wonder if the way forward is less of the large and more of the new. That's completely speculative, but there's a thought though. When you managing too much complexity, the best way to manage it is to slice it. I don't know if our industry, if capitalism in general, or anything else will support that descaling at large, but you break a big problem down.

Shane Hastie: Sandy, if I can put you on the spot. You mentioned more sales of the book, you're hearing more people asking you about the self-selection. How does self-selection tie into what we're looking at here?

Team self-selection and empowerment [35:50]

Sandy Mamoli: I think there's a bigger trend which is towards trusting people more to make decisions if they're close to the information there is a loss of control for management to tell people what to do. While at the same time, people are going actually this is a good thing. So, I think there's a tendency to trust people more, to choose who they want to work with which is both from the goodness of people's hearts, but probably also out of necessity is at least my theory of why there is a big uptake at the moment and potentially also because it's something that is easily so replicated online. It actually the same principle the same facilitation techniques make it possible to choose your physical team as your remote team.

Shane Hastie: Ben, what are you seeing in terms of you mentioned gamification is a trend? How are you seeing that flying in here?

Gamification to encourage collaboration, creativity and performance [36:42]

Ben Linders: Well, I think the big benefit I see with gamification is that if people start playing games, not doing that together, they do that voluntarily. They do the game playing because they like to do it. It's a fun activity for them, but they're feeling much more engaged into this game and to do stuff in there. And that sets the stage for everyone to bring in the best they have, and to see what those best combined what kind of result that they can bring in there. And I'm talking here about open-ended games. I'm not talking about closed games where people have to go to a couple of steps to get to what's result, but an open-ended game.

And when I use gamification in my workshops, I use it to set up an environment for people to collaborate around a certain thing that I want to teach them, that I want them to experience and then just to see what happens in there. And I've actually seen teams playing one of my games and then bending the rules like, "Okay, the rule was that we couldn't take that card, but actually we would like to take that card, but that card can help us what result. What if we change rules?" Do it. If changing the rules helps you to get the result, then you actually go into a meta level looking at how are we working together? How are we accomplishing that result?

"Hey, we need to change our way of working to get that result out of there." I think gamification works on this invite only basis and engages people in there to bring in the best in there. And actually, it combines with the self-selection. A lot of games that I do certainly if I play with multiple teams, I use the self-selection in there and I ask people to self-select into teams for a certain topic, for certain exercises to work together. And it's always interesting to see what happens in there. And I never know upfront what's going to happen, but I know that whatever result is going to happen if people self-select into a team and start work on something, it's going to be the best result that you can get, because I really, really enjoyed them to do because they had a choice.

Shane Hastie: Last year, we put in our innovator space the discussion about humanistic workplaces. How has that happened over 2021, and what's it looking like going into 2022? Are we getting better at that?

Humanistic workplaces are not making much headway [38:54]

Ben Linders: I think the quietness is already making clear that we're not getting better with that. I think it's a couple of small organizations who are experimenting with this and are really focused on the individual needs of people in their organization and giving space to that. The majority of the organization probably still doesn't have a clue how to deal with this, at least that's how I perceive it.

Sandy Mamoli: I would agree. It's definitely early stages, but I do think there is improvement, but I noticed the division is getting bigger, the differences between companies who manage in the way that they trust people, they take their employee, happiness, mental health seriously, and the companies that don't give people agency and control over their days. I notice it every day. When I work with different clients, the type of organizations where people are asked to schedule their meetings when they want, take time off Zoom and make sure to work with people, work by themselves and not manage their days with breaks and beach walks and so on.

And then there's the other type of companies where you just see people's calendars and they are on screen from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., back to back meetings and no break. And I think that division, what I sense is getting bigger.

The rift between good and bad organisations is getting larger and the impact is hard [40:10]

Craig Smith: Yeah, I think Sandy said it all that it comes back to all the things we've been talking about in this entire podcast is that I feel that the divide is now starting to grow. It used to be they are using new ways of working or not. Everybody is now professing that they're doing some sort of this, just because they happen to have brought a couple of licenses of Zoom or Slack teams on everybody's machine. It's typically the way to do it, but the way we lead those organizations, there's a big divide. The tooling that we provide, there's a big divide. The quality of the work and how people collaborate, there's a big divide. And I think I'm seeing that divide get even worse.

And one of the things that I popped into our notes here is that I actually see particularly large organizations, the IT department going backwards in a lot of cases where the IT department is now just becoming the, "Well, tell us what you want, put it in a document and we'll go and make this thing happen," and removing all of the collaboration and the things that we've built up over a number of years going backwards. So, this divide does worry me and I think we used to think that maybe well, it would be the customer would vote and go somewhere else or whatever and there's a certain extent to that.

But unfortunately for the folks that are left behind and for the customer who's actually has an expectation of product, I think this is going to get worse before it gets better, unless we are able to jump in as a community and fix this issue.

Raf Gemmail: I would reiterate as well, there is a divide. If you look at the world, there are trends and experiments. France experimenting with variants of a 35-hour week. You've got companies which are talking about potentially doing four day weeks, giving people the space to recover. I've seen anecdotes about how in some, and this is another software bias thing again. Perhaps for software industry as opposed to other places, teams which are performing well at remote potentially needing that space to be able to recover and stay healthy mentally. I think there's something happening, but I think it's really at that innovator level still.

And I don't think it's necessarily spread, which is sad because we're in the time where this is needed more than ever, right? I have people, I am related to who have COVID right now back in Europe, and the people getting it up, they're all from here. And people are going through probably the hardest mental health challenges that I've seen in my life. Also, given the geopolitical events, there's so much uncertainty there and we need to be able to create those environments that are safe, and where people are invested in, and where we have those humanistic workplaces where people can be themselves.

And they can say, "Look, I need time out." I'm lucky I'm in a place where we can take mental health days and where we're looking at those problems, but I know it's not the same everywhere, and that's a shame given what's going on in the world.

Douglas Talbot: Doug, you're inside what we would look at from the outside and say is one of those traditional bureaucratic organizations. What are you seeing?

Yeah, I would say that my life is definitely back-to-back meetings and not great flexibility. And I think that it's generated from what I see in all of the organizations around me is an inability to say no and to limit whip fundamentally as an organization. As a government organization, people feel like subordinate to central decisions from central government. And I feel there's no way to say we've got too much on, that is not a legitimate answer to your central masters. And I think that we get that happen in big conglomerates, telcos, banks, insurance. I think this is the same pattern where the higher hierarchy have no concept of the cost on the bottom of the chain in terms of work of progress, context switching, and all of those flow problems.

And until they start to recognize that changing 10 pieces of legislation within six months, and what that's going to have is a flow-on effect across say New Zealand government. And they consider that as a bit of systems thinking before they go and do it where we're stuffed, but that's just not part of the government way, or the big corporate way. So, we definitely live inside that. We're literally having this discussion now. I guess some credit for me being a radical in the middle of the organization and going, "Actually, we need to think differently if we're going to be more effective." And everyone in the organization recognizes it. Everyone can see it, everyone can see we're acting this way, and everyone wants to change it, but the pressure is unrelenting.

And it's pressure they can't really control because they don't own their own lives. They don't own their own lives the same way and maybe a 50-person product company might. So, it's a real conundrum for these big organizations.

Sandy Mamoli: I just want to say I so feel for you and I so absolutely appreciate that you're trying to do something about it, because I think only people in your position in a CIO leadership position can change something like this, because one of the trends that I noticed is that people spend lots and lots of time on training and organizations pay for trainings. They give people time to go to training, and then we have people there who say, "This is awesome, this is amazing, this is an amazing tool, but I can't use it because we don't have time. I wish I had to time to do this. I wish I had the time to prepare for this, or use the tools that you're giving us, but we can't because we don't have time.

So, we're not allowed to." And that's exactly those people that you're talking about I think, and I just want to say thank you that you're trying to do something about it.

Have the conversation in large organisations [45:18]

Douglas Talbot: Fingers crossed, yep. There's a good healthy conversation happening. And I think this is the interesting thing for me is that the excitement because we're having that conversation is huge, and I think that there's a lesson there for leaders across all of these more bureaucratical traditional, or large organizations where this problem is that actually your people are probably waiting and eager for that new humanistic world and for a realization that a recognition from the leadership that we can't do everything. We have to actually be more clever about the way we manage work and prioritize. And then we're going to be far more effective if we do do that. Yeah, there's a real excitement in Environment Canterbury at the moment about trying to take on a new working world, and so fingers crossed.

Shane Hastie: Ben, what are you seeing in Europe?

Ben Linders: Well, coming from a country who's famous for the meetings, I think back-to-back meetings is something that I see a lot in the Netherlands. And I'm lucky to be a one-person company, and not having those meetings. And the other thing that I see, what Sandy mentioned, on being able to pick up stuff from training and to use it in your environment. I think the trick there would be to make it smaller, and that's something that I'm doing more and more with the companies I work with. When we're discussing workshops, I'm looking at okay, let's just focus on having one day of workshop, maybe two days max, and then pick out some stuff and start working on that.

It doesn't work to have more days of training because in one or two days, I can give you enough stuff to start working and to start changing something in your organization. So, let's focus on what you want to have in those two days, what's the most important stuff that you need right now to work on, and then start applying that in your organization, and make space for it to do it. And if it doesn't work, it doesn't help to do more training. You need to get the change going.

Shane Hastie: I think we've got a lot of alignment around that that we're not seeing as much as we would like, but there are glimmers of hope. The next topic I'd like us to step into is ethics and professionalism. What's happening in our industry, and I'll think this into some of the tech for good as well, but ethics professionalism and tech for good, how are we doing?

Craftsmanship and professionalism are challenged [47:23]

Douglas Talbot: I think there's a very big difference between professionalism and ethics, but just personal thoughts, and I think craftsmanship is my way of maybe describing professionalism. Care for what I'm doing as a professional in my trade, and I would say that we're seeing that degrading lots over the last five years. I'm seeing small snippets of really enlightened pockets of people, the ones that are really participating in say open source, or in the small companies where they're wanting to innovate tech together and stuff, but I've recently been involved with a few early phase organizations and walked in, and found developers who don't want to test.

And developers that have never even heard of TDD, or never even considered whether or not they're creating their own failure demand when they release to production without thinking about what they're doing. So, I'm quite disappointed in the direction of professionalism for me especially in the software development community. And I think that the days... when I think it's because of the speed at which the community has grown, and now we're seeing it with the low code as people have mentioned in our notes coming in.

Just the mass expansion of, with 10 times the number of people in tech that we were maybe years ago, but actually the same number of people are still coming out with arguably where they've actually taken a professional degree in that thing, and thought about the structure and the way that they do their work. Most people are just jumping into it ad hoc, and they're not taking the time to actually educate themselves on good practice, or read a book like Design Patterns or something. I'm actually seeing that happening a load less. I'm finding a lot of senior developers who really don't know what they're doing in my opinion, and that's really poor. I'll go with that one first before we get into ethics, but I think it's a different thing.

Coaches stepping into domains they are not qualified to work in [49:08]

Sandy Mamoli: I want to have a rant too. If Doug can get rant, I can get one too. Those about agile coaches because that's what I do. And I think it's extremely well intentioned, but I heard our coaches say things like, "We're really done, people are struggling with mental health. What should I do to help them? How can I make sure that people have a workplace, and have the mental health intact? And how can I coach people through their lives to be happier, to cope with things?" And my rant is that I think it's unethical to not be humble enough to realize that you're not qualified. If someone needs professional help, send them on or if you want to do this, get professional education to do this.

And I've seen so many times, been in my own company, people are really struggling in lockdown, what do I do? I was like, "This is not your job, get them to talk to someone who knows about mental health." And personally, I think it's well intentioned, but unethical to overstep those boundaries, rant over.

Shane Hastie: On that particular topic, I'm in the midst of doing a program on mental health first aid. The whole program has actually been offered to professions like chartered accountants. I'm an ICF coach, and the message of that is you can't help people, but what you can do is point them towards this is the resources that are available. And this concept of mental health first aid, I'll put the links in the show notes because it's a really powerful program. But Raf, I think you wanted to say something and I hope it's about how you're educating people to be better.

Raf Gemmail: Very much, it's intentional for us. I just wanted to touch on the health thing I agree with Sandy about the fact that there's coaching different domains, right? And people have different proficiencies, and you can do more harm than good if you start getting into trying to help someone well-intentioned, but without the right skills. At the same time, you can also look at it as another capability. Now, we talk about capabilities that your organization needs. In our space, we've brought in someone to handle that well-being, because you need someone who is an expert in that realm. And that's something I'd probably recommend the listeners to think about.

Because if it is a genuine need and you can resource for it, or you can provide a person for it, it's probably worth doing. On the other side like responding to Doug there, I've seen exactly the same as you, right? I went through 2000s and I have still got my gang of four book there and Eric Evans, and all of these things which I feel helped me along my engineering journey. 

And I'm in a place now where a primary question, the many people have been in industry who built software in my team. And our question has been, what is it we're looking for when we're trying to hire people? And it's not always the grad who comes out, right? I don't think they do do the university.

Developer education is evolving [51:52]

Raf Gemmail: I don't think they necessarily look at the gang of four in university. So, the question was what are we looking for in terms of competencies, and what would we be hiring in someone who's starting that journey? How do we give them the learning skills to go along that journey? I helped shape a program that we're delivering to learners remotely, fully remotely which takes people from client-side development, through to server-side development through to understanding product development, asking questions around their test cases and scenarios, how to validate and shift right, how to test early and shift left. And it goes on to touch mobile development and machine learning and other things.

And it's very intentional in trying to create those people that are missing in the industry. That desire to learn, that desire to be really on a continuous learning journey, and also to start from the perspective. I was taught waterfall as probably the rest of us were at uni as a software engineering practice. And I think I often apologize to the learners that I am the reason you may go into an industry where people will hand you a document that will tell you exactly what to build, and you'll discover it's not the thing you're supposed to build at all. And it won't solve the problem. We're trying to get people to think about that know what they don't know, validate often be experimentation driven. I'm doing that.

There are other boot camps out, there are other universities. I was involved with another organization which was doing that in Europe a few years ago, and I think I'm hopeful that what we're going to see in coming years, even now starting out is new diversity coming into the industry. People with new perspectives, new backgrounds, people who don't fit the old cookie cutter, who can help challenge teams and say, "Hey, why don't we look at this a different way," but still value the fact that there is an engineering discipline for them to be familiar with, an engineering discipline that's evolving still, right?

I'm not going to go off and tell everyone, "You need to follow these architectural patterns” because they may not be valid anymore in a stream-based world, but I want them to think about what good professional skills are. We're doing that and I'm sure many others are.

Shane Hastie: Craig, can I ask you for your thoughts on either of these?

There is often a vacuum in leadership  [53:53]

Craig Smith: Yes sir. Sandy and Doug rant, I'm going to go on my rant then and say yes and to what everybody has said. There's two past this. I think our leadership in organizations has a lot to answer for. I was talking before a little bit about the IT going backwards. And what I'm seeing is that that is due to a complete lack of leadership in some places. Some places are very good, okay, but again this is divide. I was just recently in a place where the engineering manager didn't know a lick of engineering, was hiring for the wrong people, didn't talk to the engineers about the code, but on the same token, would be complaining about why things aren't working right and it falls flat.

He wasn't setting those expectations in this particular organization, then allow them to go do good things. And this stuff doesn't happen magically. The flip side to that however is what Raf was just talking about is that most of us that came through that waterfall culture, and most of us have been around on this journey for some length of time was that at some point, we realized that TDD, Kent Beck writes a book and we read it we go, "That's a really good idea," or we read the extreme programming, or we saw something like DevOps and went, "This is a really good engineering practice." Yeah, the amount of organizations who I come across who don't even have good version control for crying out loud.

They want to say we're putting in a DevOps pipeline, but they don't even know to put their code into version control is just nuts. So, there is a professional angle, and this I think all comes back to the WIP thing that we're trying to do too much stuff, so therefore what gets thrown out? What gets thrown out is that good practice and that good engineering. What I fear for is that in the coming years, we're going to have more of these issues that we often see in the news, where core pieces of infrastructure, because it's now driven by technology are going to fail and fail badly, because of these things. I get the feeling we've been lucky.

There's enough good stuff out there enough, good people that are holding it up. But as this continues to grow, that's what I worry about. That's my rant, how do we divide that divide, put more stuff in the leadership and make sure that the people are coming through understand those disciplines, and have the space to be able to innovate and lead like Raf was saying? Because yes, I have my gang of four book and my Kent Beck book and all those things, but they were the tools 20 years ago, how do we start to populate these new ideas.

Douglas Talbot: Great rant Craig, yeah. I'm fully supportive of this and I do think that so much now does rest on leadership that understands these concepts and can get its head around the way we should structure our organizations, lead our organizations, and bring all these things to life. And we've talked a lot in the agile community about bottom-up versus top-down. And I've become convinced that if we don't get a revolution in the leadership knowledge that we're never going to make the full shift we need. It's almost becoming a generational game of the right people just coming through by dint of the wrong people falling off the top, and that's a bit disturbing.

And I wish it could be a lot more intentional that we had leaders with growth mindset who are willing to go out there and learn how to do their job better and figure out what the modern world has to offer.

The rise of the B Corp – focusing on social good

So I think there is another more positive thing to say, however, Shane in terms of ethics which is maybe the rise of the B Corp and that might be worth saying a few words on if you'd like to go down that path, but I saw B Corp fraternity becoming much, much more strong in the last bunch of years in the UK. And over here in New Zealand, it's got a bit of momentum and now when you starting an organization, a corporation in England, for instance, you get to select whether or not you want to make it for social good.

Douglas Talbot: And that's a decision with the company's office that you're putting into your constitution and whether or not you would be assessed against that and what elements that would change about your obligations as an organization. And you'd have to actually fill in a report every year and file it on that basis. And there's a change in the law for directors in the UK of large organizations that they must consider social good community good staff good, as well as shareholder good inside the organization. That's now compulsory for directors of the FTSE 100. I think there's an ethical move which has probably been instigated by some of the climate change discussions and other such things around the world over the last few years.

Douglas Talbot: I do think there is a positive thing happening there. I wish it was happening faster.

Shane Hastie: Anyone else like to comment on that.   

My personal perspective there is yes absolutely, and we are starting to see that the organization that I work for, and Craig and I both work for now is a for-profit organization, but all of the shares are owned by a not-for-profit trust. And we see them doing good work with those profits that's been for me personally quite gratifying to see. I know that C4Media the holding company of InfoQ also has a 1% pledge, and has a very strong social motive. We're possibly seeing it from inside a small bubble, but I'm with you, I hope we're seeing more of this.

Understanding the ethical implications of the tools we have available to us [58:33]

Raf Gemmail: I was going to loot this back to low code, no code, AutoML type space which is we talk about ethics. There's also a movement going on where we're empowering people to solve problems with off-the-shelf tools and it's that whole with great power comes great responsibility thing, because those tools can often be using private data. They can often be vectors for attack into an organization. In one way, they're helping us build the right thing. Sometimes, they may not be helping us build it right. And what I see at least in my space coming out of that is the need for responsible architecture around that, and that's also mandated by regulation which means that I can see it impacting other organizations.

So, I'm thinking in the likes of GDPR, Chinese regulation, privacy regulation here in New Zealand, because there is a state level awareness of misuse of data. We're also seeing the current situation, the horrific situation in Europe at the moment that cyber warfare is a major part of that. So, the decisions you make can impact an organization. They can impact a nation, the individuals in the nation. So, I'm seeing a need to be more intentional in the architecture of how we use those low code solutions and having an ethical outcome, i.e., we're doing the right thing by people today. And we have regulations that are pushing us along the right way. Is everyone doing that?

Is everyone meeting the mandates of those regulations? Probably not yet, but it is again another step in the right direction, but I am quite concerned by the notion that there are many tools out there that make work and life easier. And they may have consequences which are counter ethical if we're not responsible in how we use those tools.

Sandy Mamoli: Absolutely, I want to echo that with freedom comes responsibility. And that is both the tools and the frameworks we need to have in place around them in the form of a legal framework, in the form of governance, and rules and regulations. And the other thing I wanted to call out is that I think we need to be careful that we don't just do leadership bashing that we go, "Oh, this is all leadership's fault." And while leadership of course has some fault in how things are not going great, I think everyone else needs to take responsibility for that too, because what I also see is that people are demanding freedom. People are demanding their right to just make decisions, their right to not have a hierarchy, to not have a leader, to break it to make all decisions themselves.

And I think that's very naïve. The completely flat organization is naïve, because we all know what happens when there's anarchy that it may remain flat for very long. It usually ends up in a dictatorship, but dictators that are not elected where there is no framework and regulations around who does lead. So, I think we need to be a bit careful to not just go, "Hey, abolish all the leaders and not go hierarchy is bad." There is some hierarchy that is needed, and decision making power is great. Some hierarchy is needed, all those tools are absolutely great and empowering. At the same time, yes, we need to counter balance that too with regulations and rules about that.

Shane Hastie: Ben, can I ask you to chime in here, and this is your opportunity for a rant if you have one.

Trust and psychological safety have been severely eroded over the last two years [61:43]

Ben Linders: Well, my rant would be around trust, and I think that's why we've taken the big hit in the last two years starting with COVID and now with the war. I think on the topic of trust, people are much more fearful on what they can say, or what they can do in organizations. And my negative self says we have been set back for at least 10 or 20 years on this topic. So, we're going to need a long time to recover, and regain that level of trust again what we actually need for teams to work well. This trust is a foundation for psychological safety that you want to have in your teams, where people feel safe enough to speak up. And if they don't feel safe because the whole world has become unreliable as people Europe see right now, you can still try to create that bubble of safety within your team.

That's going to be, yeah, a big, big trouble thing and I think chance of realizing that it's going to be very difficult. So, I think the key topic to work upon is to go back to this level of trust and create this openness in the safety of people for people to work together, and that's going to take a long time. We'll take the big hit in there.

Shane Hastie: So, how do we do it?

Ben Linders: Well, I think the key word is already in doing it and that's where I would say like I know this is going to be difficult, but I want to stick to my values. I still believe in being transparent and being open when I work with people is the best way to do it. When I go in, I still start from trust by default. If I start working with somebody on whatever I do, whether that's working for workshops I'm setting up, or working with a new partner to see what kind of training that we can deliver or connecting with somebody to do a Q and A for InfoQ, I start with trust by default. I start by being open about my motive, being open on what I would like to do.

Just bringing my whole self, the stuff that we're working upon and seeing how that works out. And luckily with the people I work with, that still seems to work quite good. Trust by default and just trusting that your other party also wants to get the best result out of there seems to work well with the people I'm working with. And maybe that's a lot on whom I'm working with, but I think the majority of the people still has adequate attention there. So, how do we do it? Stick to your values, even you know it has taken t. Just start from trust and start working with people from the bases of trust, and see how that works out. And most of the time, that works out well. That's my experience at least.

Shane Hastie: Raf, you wanted to say something?

Evidence that some things are getting better [64:20]

Raf Gemmail: We're seeing the world and the world is like going on a downward slope sometimes. And maybe we've had rants, but last year's state of DevOps report, when you look at that, you see that they look at high-performing teams and they look at people who are feeling safe and communicating well, and releasing often and learning. And in there, it sounds horrible. I hate the language. They call them the elite group, but people who are performing at that elite level, which just means they're performing well and they're safe and they're delivering, that had gone up. It dipped briefly in 2020, but it's gone up again. And we're seeing it go from like what I remember with single digits to something like 40%.

So, there is still always going to be a trend, and I think the trend is still going upwards. And we're in a world where just about everyone I know is suffering from some sort of anxiety or who's feeling uncomfortable, and we're in these uncertain times, but we're at this point in this curve. And I'm so optimistic the curve will continue as it has through history to improve for the betterment of humanity, I hope.

Ben Linders: Again, don't give up.

Raf Gemmail: Exactly.

Shane Hastie: One last round, what is your message for our audience going forwards? Craig, can I start with you?

The trend is upwards [65:28]

Craig Smith: We've talked about all the things that are happening, and I love what Raf had said before. We go in these peaks and troughs. I think I just want to end by saying the reason that we can have a conversation like this and talk about these things is the base that we're working from is a lot higher than it was a couple of years ago in relation to culture and methods, but we can't take our eye off the ball the types of people who listen to this podcast, what really trying to say is that we need to work together as a community. We all need to think about how we can continue to make this better for everybody. Because every time we introduce something new, it moves things around and the world doesn't stop.

I have this hope that we will continue to innovate and find great solutions to these problems. That's my hope for this community.

Shane Hastie: Doug.

We live in a world of complexity and need a growth mindset to cope [66:10]

Douglas Talbot: I think the one message from me would be in this culture and methods space, everything is really, really complex and if we want to quote the Dave Snowden model complex inside Cynefin model. The only way we're going to progress in it is by having a growth mindset and continuing to experiment, try, learn, and give each other feedback. And I think that that's the fundamental here is if all of you out there can put on a growth mindset hat and be open to checking out the world around you, checking out what everyone else is doing, and actually challenge whether or not we're going in the right direction on a regular basis, so we can pivot when we've gone off down some scary dead end, then we're all going to keep moving forward.

The peaks and troughs will be going in the right direction, and so a call for growth mindset and learning.

Shane Hastie: Raf.

Work to improve your local context [66:59]

Raf Gemmail: I will reiterate and echo what everyone said as I've had with every other remark. I think I would recommend to everyone to look at their local context, yeah, understand your context and keep improving it, understand the challenges in your context the people challenges, the delivery challenges, the challenges that are there in these are unique times, but you can locally optimize, right? You can make things better where you are. You can learn from others and learn from this trends report, learn from the anecdotes that come up in InfoQ news and from elsewhere, and use that as a way to try and improve the environment that you can influence.

There's only so much we can influence and if you can try and make a difference where you have that ability to make change, you will see as Doug said that trend or your place on that curve keep moving upwards.

Shane Hastie: Ben.

Make small positive changes constantly [67:46]

Ben Linders: Well, adding to that, if you're looking for a way to change things in your organization, to change things in your team, make it small, look at the smaller step that you can do right now. And this is basically an agile approach to agility. If you want to change things in organization, look at what's important right now and work on that, and don't be afraid that you're missing out on stuff because if it's important, it will come back. So, don't try to do everything, try to do as little as possible, but whatever you're doing try to do that in the best way you can.

Shane Hastie: And Sandy, the last word.

We have the opportunity to rethink everything – try out new things [68:19]

Sandy Mamoli: In a way, nothing has changed we are still figuring out ways for how to collaborate better to create amazing things. In some other way, everything has changed and change in the recent past has been huge, not unprecedented, but huge. And in any change, there is opportunity. We have the opportunity to rethink everything, how we live, how we work, how we interact with each other, how we collaborate. And I think this is the age of experimentation. I want to encourage everyone to try out stuff and be open, and be open to trying out things. And some of them you like, some of them you won't like, but now is the time to try things and to invent things, and make things better through trial and error.

Ben Linders: Love it.

Shane Hastie: That's a wonderful ending point, make things better through trial and error. Folks, thank you very much. It's been a pleasure to have the six of us together around a screen. One day, we'll get together around the table again, we hope and I'll put all of our contact details in the show notes. And just thanks so much and to our audience, thank you for listening to us.

Learn more about emerging trends and practices at QCon Plus online software development conference this May 10-20.


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