To my colleagues at Unruly

I’ve been here two months now, and that’s not enough to know me, so I’ve got a something to make clear and a small apology. First, some background.

I’ve been involved in software development for more than 30 years. The number of “high performing” (a very subjective term) teams I’ve worked with in that period would fit on one hand. The all shared some common characteristics:

  • each team had specialists with deep knowledge in the tools they used, and often the domain
  • while the team had specialists to draw on, they were also generalists in the sense that everyone could pitch in on anything as required
  • the teams were gelled — there was very little discussion about how work would be split up because the team had established patterns for doing things, and understood each other’s strengths and weaknesses (and accepted them)
  • the team ate together at least once a week
  • the team was small

Take note of the last point in particular.

Right this moment Unruly software development would, on my admittedly subjective scale, be towards the top end of the development spectrum but not quite in the “high performing” category. However, and this is really important so slow down and read it carefully, a few times — I’ve never seen a team of this size that felt like they had the potential for greatness. Let me say that again — I believe Unruly software development has the potential for greatness.

The organisational structures are in place, the culture and values are appropriate, the technical practices are there, the leadership is supportive. So when I suggest new ways to do things (as I will), and I challenge you (as I will), or I seem frustrated (as I will), it’s not because I think you’re doing a bad job. It’s because I think you’re doing a good job when you could be great. I see the seeds of greatness, I see the destination, and I want to arrive, right now! I’m the kid in the back of the car saying “Are we there yet? Are we there yet? How about now? How long until we get there?”.

It’s my personality to focus on the things that can be improved, to never be satisfied with the status quo, and that leads me, unfortunately, to neglect to reflect on all the things that are going well. My first two months have taught me that you’re a really, really good team, and I ask your forgiveness when I don’t make that clear because I’m so focussed on how to get better.

In my three decade career I’ve absorbed a lot of stuff — I hope that some of that will help speed you guys along the journey.

“There is a tide in the affairs of men.
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries.
On such a full sea are we now afloat,
And we must take the current when it serves,
Or lose our ventures.”

Brutus, “Julius Caesar”, William Shakespeare

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