On the Handrail into the Decision-Making Circle – Networks and Companions

What on earth did Mark mean by that ques­tion? Why did he want to know what “assign­ment” T. had? After all, it was only sup­posed to be a small exchange of expe­ri­ences. T. sim­ply want­ed to estab­lish a net­work of like-mind­ed peo­ple and reg­u­lar­ly exchange ideas with col­leagues who, like him, were no longer inter­est­ed in heavy­weight soft­ware devel­op­ment in the water­fall mod­el. Peo­ple who had already expe­ri­enced the poten­tial of agile soft­ware devel­op­ment here or else­where. Or just peo­ple who had under­stood the short­com­ings of the pre­vi­ous approach in today’s fast-paced world. Fif­teen years after the pub­li­ca­tion of the agile man­i­festo, a cor­po­ra­tion might dare to do so. That’s what he want­ed to talk about. And not about the legit­i­ma­tion of this idea by an offi­cial assign­ment from a high­er authority.

Now T. also under­stood bet­ter why his group leader respond­ed so ten­ta­tive­ly to this idea last week in their one-on-one meet­ing. “Bet­ter present it in the group meet­ing first. And then in the depart­ment meet­ing.” As so often, T. felt over­pro­tect­ed. Of course, this was all well meant by his group leader, as were the omnipresent signs ask­ing him to use the handrail on the stairs. Well-inten­tioned and cer­tain­ly sen­si­ble, but also inca­pac­i­tat­ing. He want­ed to be treat­ed like an adult, want­ed to decide for him­self and want­ed to bear the risks him­self. He was accus­tomed to this.

It was­n’t about any­thing par­tic­u­lar­ly excit­ing. It would nev­er have occurred to him to ask his group leader for per­mis­sion for such an exchange with like-mind­ed peo­ple. In the one-on-one meet­ing he had only men­tioned it as an aside. Even less would it have occurred to him that it might require some kind of assign­ment or oth­er per­mis­sion. He just want­ed to try it out and if it was a win for the par­tic­i­pants, the exchange would grow and if not, he would try some­thing else. 

There were enough inter­est­ed col­leagues scat­tered all over the IT and beyond. T. knew this from numer­ous dis­cus­sions in the Enter­prise Social Net­work, which was still more or less like a ghost town. How­ev­er, T. tried again and again to elic­it life from it by some­times provoca­tive con­tri­bu­tions and com­ments. He knew some of those from pre­vi­ous years and got to know oth­ers over cof­fee after the dis­cus­sions in the Enter­prise Social Net­work. And there were cer­tain­ly many more such col­leagues whom he did­n’t even know yet. In any case, he want­ed to build as broad a net­work as pos­si­ble with pre­cise­ly such com­mit­ted peo­ple so as to joint­ly fos­ter greater agility.

For oth­er pur­pos­es, there were already more or less dense and more or less offi­cial grass root move­ments and net­works, to which T. also felt attract­ed and part­ly affil­i­at­ed. Sabine and Robert, for exam­ple, had set them­selves the goal of fun­da­men­tal­ly trans­form­ing the cul­ture of the orga­ni­za­tion and built up a large net­work across all areas of it. They even had a men­tor on top man­age­ment lev­el. Or Anton, Ines and Jür­gen, who tire­less­ly tried to explain to every­one the ben­e­fits of col­lab­o­rat­ing in the Enter­prise Social Net­work. The deep­er T. entered the back­stage and under­ground of the orga­ni­za­tion, the more he got to know and appre­ci­ate such net­works and move­ments and their leaders.

These peo­ple and their com­mit­ment to change was also the only thing T. still held here. Of course, his supe­ri­ors were sat­is­fied with his work. Very much so. And thus he had also sur­vived the pro­ba­tion­ary peri­od with­out any prob­lems. Con­verse­ly, the cor­po­ra­tion almost did­n’t sur­vive T.‘s pro­ba­tion­ary peri­od. Maybe he should have left right away. In his first few months with the cor­po­ra­tion, T. spoke twice with oth­er, much small­er com­pa­nies. But some­how he did­n’t want to return to IT ser­vice and con­sult­ing. He had been doing this for too long. It was after all good to have a fixed place to work now and not a new project some­where every six months. Bet­ter for his fam­i­ly life at least.

Even with­out the for­mal assign­ment, this first exchange was very fruit­ful. The expe­ri­ences were sim­i­lar for all of them. It had been the­o­ret­i­cal­ly pos­si­ble for some years to car­ry out IT projects in an agile way, but this option was more like an ardu­ous beat­en track, where­as the water­fall approach was like a motor­way. Accord­ing­ly very few dared to leave this motorway. 

Some of these pio­neers now sat at the table and report­ed where this the­o­ret­i­cal pos­si­bil­i­ty quick­ly reached its prac­ti­cal lim­its. And there were more than enough of those lim­its, but also suc­cess­es and rays of hope. They would meet again, that much was certain.

This is the third chap­ter of a still to be writ­ten nov­el about life in the cor­po­ra­tion enti­tled “On the handrail into the deci­sion-mak­ing cir­cle” (Chap­ter 1: The Appli­ca­tion and Chap­ter 2: Meet­ings and Cir­cles). This nov­el is an exper­i­ment for me that depends on your feed­back. Is it worth writ­ing this nov­el? What could I do bet­ter and what should I do differently?

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Chris Philpott 10. September 2019 Reply

Servus Mar­cus,
Not much to say, but wow — this is mov­ing for­ward at such a fast pace and I can still iden­ti­fy with it so much.
I wait with bat­ed breath for the next chapter.
Thank you.

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