Jim McCarthy, author of the Dynamics of Software Development and co-author with his wife Michele of Software For Your Head, showed up at the Agile Open Northwest conference last week with a protective plastic layer he unfolded on one of the lunch tables. He sat there with blank canvases, paint, and a menu of conversations – and invited people to dabble paint along with him. This post is about the “Culture Hacking” menu item – for which Jim also held a late night 8pm session in the Seattle Center with about 15 other attendees.
If you’re not familiar with Jim and Michele’s work, the best introduction is probably their entertaining “McCarthy Show“, a podcast with years of recordings. And there are more concise writings available there as well, though my experience is the only way to really get the power of their work is to try a bootcamp and feel the power of a “booted” team. But some of this power is evident in Jim’s speech attached to this post.
Jim delivered a rousing and mobilizing talk calling forth those who work with software, and especially those who are reinventing the way that we do work through forward leading organizational and management tools like Scrum, Kanban, and “Agile” and “Lean” ideas in general – to bring on a new Golden Era like Classical Greece, circa 500 B.C. He believes we can do this by programming culture with the same hacker ethos that helped them reclaim the hardware and access to it from mainframe elites of the 60’s and 70’s, and which was moved forward by the Open Source movement.
Jim’s claim is that we’re only at the “pong” level of cultural hacks with tools like Scrum, Kanban, eXtreme Programming, and the other tools of the Agile Software movement. In a short time, we’ll start to see cultural programmed applications that are orders of magnitude from even the leading edge of what teams are doing right now.