By William Knight
Just what is going on?
You haven’t been told the dirty secret at the heart of the team. You thought the silence of the second floor provided a studious peace for busy minds, but deep within the sweet-toffee that presents a chewy, affable exterior, they all know it and you don't: the build team members don’t understand each other and dare not reveal what they don’t know about your business and the business of developing software.
Software development is like doing the Times crossword in reverse; the customer’s needs are the filled in solution and the design is the set of clues.
Creating this set of clues is the absorbing part of building software. It is the part the developer loves. It exercises the intellect, provides unique challenges and presents a platform on which to display extreme cleverness. But here, buried in the fun of this rewarding job, lies the root of the secret: no two developers will ever produce the same set of clues, and they will fail to appreciate each others’ clues to the same solution… but they will still pretend they do. Your build team may be full of noise, but it’s silent of understanding.
In software development, those that seem in the know have power and a perceived lack of knowledge is a weakness. For a developer, it is important to grasp concepts quickly and provide rapid solutions, and attaining the status of guru is a career goal.
Yet it’s no accident that a guru is also associated with religious teachings taken on faith. We often accept information from our technical experts as the words of a spiritual teacher – without question and without enlightenment – for we fear being labelled stupid.
In this prevailing culture, asking for help is a fail, and so we remain silent.
If this sounds like many organisations you have worked in, there are ways to cut the silence and return communication. Here are some, often overlooked, possibilities.
Silence in the office is costing you money. To dispel it, your staff must be unafraid to display their lack of knowledge and truly understand their colleagues. They must never be scared to look stupid – stupid is the new clever.
Note: This post was first published by Computing (VNU UK) and has been updated here because it's still an issue!