Michael has published a post called “Curious Company” the other day. I swirled with reactions as I read it. Whereas it was mostly delight, I’d like to apply a bit different focus to the subject.
Let’s see. The common concept about businesses and corporations is that they should have a goal. TargetProcess as a company has the goal to develop the best project management tool in the world for small to medium companies. Some businesses have rather boring goals such as adding 20% to their profit, breaking through to new markets, selling more copies of their products, getting more clients to outsource their work to them. We’re very familiar with this traditional lingo of corporate culture.
I want to put an emphasis on some other, more important things. Best people, best place to work at, comforting environment, learning, letting people make important decisions on their own. Does it ring any bells with you?
It might sound weird and totally groundbreaking, but the new paradigm for companies and corporations is not the “correct goal-setting”, whatever this is, but the optimal experience. There’s a classical book on this subject. What is this “optimal experience” put in plain words?
It’s about enjoyment. Loving what you do. Do you have fun running like a squirrel in circles over again, hating your week-days for boring and unrewarding activities? I bet, no. Do you have fun when you spend time with your friends, people who share your passions, people who empathize with you, who understand your discoveries, chime in to your explorations, and are just there for a friendly, live, human talk and smile? (and a hug :)
Recently I talked to one of my former associates. He is an upper-level manager in an IT outsourcing company. Their job is to run two times faster to stay in the same place. They do time and material contracts, custom development jobs, they hunt for new clients, and mostly behave like brides in an oversaturated bride market (we know a zillion faceless IT outsourcing companies, whose only message to the world is “I’ll do HTML for food” or something similar to this). His point was that with that many developers (they’re a 100-500 company), and with that many contracts and clients they have a higher profit margin compared to a product company with 35 people (that is, us). I asked him: “Do you feel that you like what you’re doing? Balancing all those human resources (that’s derogatory, sorry), behaving very much like a farmer who is trying to get the best out of his herd? ” His answer was a bummer. He said: “Work is work, friends and fun are outside work”.
What he said is, unfortunately, the mainstream belief for many more people than we can imagine. And this means, that many more people than we can imagine are spending even more than half of their conscious lives, not living their lives actually, not experiencing what they do, but looking forward to some other better times when they retire, or when they go on a vacation.
I wanted to explain so many things to him. One of them was that people are born to be creative, to live up to their dreams. That’s a bit metaphysical point, but it eventually gets down to solid ground. What are the most successful companies? Why this nation is now booming with the lean startups cult? It seems that the enlightenment is taking the lead, and this instills hope.
If we talk figures and growth forecast, a lean team is able to do a higher profit margin than an average IT outsourcing 100-500 company. It’s very much similar to Archimedes’ “Give me a lever long enough and a fulcrum on which to place it, and I shall move the world.” The lever is the company of passionate explorers and achievers. The fulcrum is the culture of creativity and enjoyment – come on, let’s just call this a friendly environment.
Again, it might be that some people don’t have this ability to create. They’re not able to invent and explore. I think you’re either born an explorer, or you are not. But if you’re an explorer, if this creative spirit is burning in you, then your colleagues (and friends) can’t be anything else but passionate explorers. In whatever domain. Being an explorer is a pretty universal thing, and one of its incarnations is in software product development.
Now getting back to Michael’s article, to the part on friendly environment and passion. You can’t have 50, 100 or 500 friends. But you can have 8-12 friends, and each of them will have their 8-12 friends. (I borrowed these figures from King Arthur and Danny Ocean. And from my own experience). That’s the way the bright company builds itself, and that’s what Michael calls “there’re a few people that push the train forward”. Once your company is build-up of those nodes, or mini-teams, persevering one goal and dream, and passionate about it, sky is the limit.
A gentle reminder, in our case the dream is the best agile project management tool, and we’re living up to it by everything we do.
Friends, keep me company.