Three stone cutters

Ivan Sanchez put up a blog entry on a parable: Three stone cutters. He challenged my thoughts with the following question:

Sometimes I have this feeling that we as professionals are frequently trying to be more like the [“I’m a great stone cutter. I can use all my techniques to produce the best shaped stone“] stone cutter than the [“I’m a stone cutter and I’m building a cathedral”] one. Am I the only one?

Due to the analgoy I felt the urge to reply to this question with Elisabeth Hendricksons Lost in Translation and Gojko Adzics Bridging the Communication Gap. Most of the stone cutters I meet in daily business think they are creating a cathedral, while building a tower of babel. The biggest obstacle to efficient project success lies from my point of view in communication among team members.

This principle was discovered in his research on successful project in the 90s and early 2000s by Alistair Cockburn, see for example Methodology Space or Software development as a Cooperative Game (Warning: don’t get lost on his wiki site just as I did several times). Software Development is done for people by people. Since people are strong on communicating and looking around, software development as whole should strengthen this particular facet of us. A cathedrale is of no use if the entrance is on the top of the highest tower. Though during day to day work I see software developers lacking early feedbacks, that do not see the problem.

The industry I’m working in has a high changing rate of requirements. In the mobile phone industry there really are impacts from competitors, that you will have to react on to stay in business. For me this means to reduce the time to market for the product we’re building as massive as reasonable from a quality perspective. This also means to communicate with our customers spread all over the world in different time zones – even in distributed teams. This means that I need to find technical and motivational ways to bring people together that do not see each other on a day to day basis in the office. Just last week I we performed a Lessons Learned workshop on one of our products, where our colleagues in Malaysia took there web cam the first time and showed us how the world was looking outside their office. (It was during a refreshening break, so don’t get wild on wasted resources, my dear boss.) This lead to personal touch and a lower personal distance between the two teams – at least during that session.

Anyways I wonder why these moments happen too little. Instead I see teams – erm basically groups of people – working without communicating with each other though they need some information from the co-worker directly near to them and wondering in the end why there is an integration problem. Another point is the problem of open interfaces (lacking communication of protocols and the like), open scope (lacking the communication of content of the project), open everything. Clearly, for me it seems there is no way to communicate too much, it’s more the opposite that I bother about.

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