Julio Cortázar and software development methods

Nadie habrá dejado de observar que con frecuencia marcos del proceso se aplican mecánicamente.

Maybe Julio Cortázar, whose 100th birthday we celebrate this year, would have begun a set of instructions for implementing a process framework with similar words. No one will have failed to observe that many individuals, teams, and organizations are quite befuddled by the process framework they are trying to use. They struggle mightily to follow every “rule” the framework “requires,” even when their goals are ill served by those rules.

Indeed, it is typical for such individuals, teams, and organizations to lose sight of their original goals altogether in their attempts to satisfy the real or perceived “rules” of the process framework. No matter how haphazard their previous mode of work may have been, many conclude that the framework “doesn’t work,” and revert to their former methods.

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Get out of your own way!

This is a re-issue of a post from my old blog dating from December 17, 2006. It is a review of a session I attended at XP Days Germany 2006. I think it is still relevant today.


One of the most interesting sessions I attended at XP Days Germany was Developer Awareness, given by Shamsuddin Butt. Butt has a dual background in software development and psychology, which gives him a unique perspective on issues of organizational culture change, team dynamics, individual performance, and coaching.

In this session, Butt applied concepts from Timothy Gallwey’s book The Inner Game of Tennis to the question of individual and team performance in software development. In the book, Gallwey describes the “inner game” within a player between his/her Self 1, who is judgmental and controlling, and Self 2, who can realize the individual’s potential for high performance if only Self 1 would get out of his/her way. The basic idea is to feel what you’re doing and just let yourself do it, rather than trying to monitor, control, and criticize yourself from an internally-imposed third-party viewpoint.
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Choices, consequences, intentions

I have this concept that no one seems to like. Whenever I start to describe the concept, people interrupt me before I’ve finished in order to tell me how stupid I sound. I usually begin with a non-controversial opening statement like, “Funny that people insist on choosing pain (or failure, or high costs, or long lead times, etc.).” That’s when the interruptions begin.

Now I’m typing, not talking, so friends can’t protect me from my own words before it’s too late. Nevertheless, I choose to proceed.

The concept is this: We make choices because we think the choices will fulfill our intentions. In one of those cruel twists that the Universe seems to enjoy so much, it turns out that choices and intentions are not connected with one another. Instead, choices are connected with consequences. Each choice has its own natural consequences. The consequences apply regardless of our intentions and regardless of whether we properly understood the consequences of our choices at the moment we made them.
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