Working with people in complex or complicated environments is hard

I’ve been stupid almost throughout my entire early life – also sometimes when it comes to agile software development. There, I have said it.

I’ve had the pleasure of meeting and working with very skilled and intelligent people in interesting projects. For most of my life, I have been preoccupied with solving technical problems, and thinking about ways for healing the world through good engineering, logic, reason and rational thinking. However, I’ve come to learn, and realize, that in the end, merely solving technical problems is not enough, nor necessarily the smart thing to do. Technical problems can be mere symptoms of human challenges, and by treating those challenges with the proper care, one can make perceived technical challenges disappear, or make them less relevant.

While I can be proud of being proficient in understanding and solving technical problems derived from business needs, I feel like I’m just dabbling and taking baby steps in the long journey of becoming a better person, and understanding and working with other people. Modern management science, as well as agile software development practices, are aiming at the same goal – sometimes with similar ideas, sometimes with different perspectives. Though management bestseller books and flavor of the month software development fads make dealing with complex reality sound easy, it is everything but. Unfortunately, saying that can preclude you from selling snake oil, books or consultation.

Agile development methods can be a great framework for providing context, mindset, common language and focus for software development work, but that’s it. Beyond that, you need a wide set of skills which touch on the fields of psychology, sociology, complexity theory and philosophy. No process model, stand up meeting or work in progress measurement method makes any difference, if you don’t know how to handle the other aspects of working with people in complex or complicated environments.

The sad truth is that you can still drown, even though you followed the process to a Tee.

There are no silver bullets or process models that save your ass.

Working with people in complex or complicated environments is hard.

Get used to it.

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