Wash your hands - make your hands clean

· August 27, 2015

We’re ready to sit down to eat. The kids comes running and I do the regular check-up: Nope - all hands, some of the faces covered in dirt. Me:

Wash your hands!

The run off, remarkably without complaining. 15 seconds all three of them are back. Hands, faces and much of the shirts are dripping with water. Hands and faces are still dirty.

This is my fault. I was really just focusing on the activity rather than the outcome. I see this sickness in myself, many organizations and even our community at large.

In this post I wanted to examine this thought a little closer. I have no idea where I might end up, but I’ll type on for awhile and then structure it into something worth reading… or you’ll never read this

My favorite verb-form (what kind of sick person have favorites among verb forms…) is Imperative! It’s so funny to use for things that you cannot really demand;

  • LOVE!
  • Be passionate!
  • Happy, Now!
  • Self-organize!
  • Be creative! Faster!

Imperative is really bad coaching (and parenting as we saw). The feeling of Imperative is that it closes down options. It prescribes steps and procedure and leaves less room for questioning. It has a correct and a wrong way to do it, I know this. These are the steps - now execute!

It focus on the activity; wash your hands.

Imagine if I instead had told my kids:

Find a way to make your hands clean

Which, I now realize, also is imperative but in another tone. Crap - it didn’t hold up…

Now I’m creating options. I trigger creativity and innovation. I humble myself before the fact that they might find better ways than I thought of.

Also this way of putting it focus on the outcome; clean hands.

Outcomes or activities?

There’s many things that is discussed in the IT community today that comes back to this simple distinction; are we focusing on activities or the outcome of our work?

The General (world wide leader) of the Salvation Army - General Andre Cox puts this beautiful in this video:

From time to other ideas takes foothold in the community that put this distinction to it’s test. I think my favorite example right now is mob programming that I’ve written about at CodeBetter, for an introduction.

Here the ways, procedures, activities that we used to do gets challenged. And much of the criticism and objections I get when talking about this concept is around that; “that cannot be efficient?”, “so some people are just going to sit around?” or “how will this look in front other teams”.

I’ve very seldom heard any criticism about the outcome from a mob programming team; “that produces crap software”, “people are miserable in a mob” or “we lost money due to the mob”

I’m suspecting that agile, xp, pair programming, tdd, continuous delivery, micro service or basically anything “new” was criticized in the same way when it first was introduced.

The criticism is healthy, don’t get me wrong. But I rather focus on the outcomes from the new practice rather than if the activities in it are correct, follows my current thinking or can be fitted in my current ways of working. If the practice is any good it should show in the outcomes from it, right?

Newer is always better - it’s my oldest saying

Newer is always better - it's my oldest saying
Barney Stinson - How I met your Mother

As readers of this blog can see over the years, I change a lot. I get ga-ga over things. Sometime “GA-GAAaaaaaa!” even. And then something new catches my attention. And then the next thing and so on.

I think that what I know now, what I believe now, what I think is the right way now - all of those things are only best so far. There’s always something better coming.

I guess that makes me liberal … a least not conservative. [Footnote; first remotely political statement on this blog, ever. And last - hopefully ]

  • Agile - best so far.
  • Kanban - best so far.
  • Continuous deliver
  • Estimates
  • No Estimate
  • Mob programming
  • Node
  • Koa
  • .NET
  • Self-organizing
  • Teal organizations
  • [newest thing you heard that blows your mind with innovation and produces amazing outcomes you couldn’t dream of]
No - I promise you! Then the blog post went on like that for about 60 pages listing every practice he's ever heard of. It was a drag...

I’ll save you from that…

But check this short list above. Why will they all be replaced? And what will they be replaced by? What in Barney Stinson funny quote is wrong?

All of the things above will be replaced by something that procedures better outcomes faster. At least I’m willing to try that for anything in my partial list above.

Barney is wrong because it’s not the “newness” in the thing that makes it better. It’s the “better”.

It would be very sad if mob programming was the best the human kind ever invented. Or Agile. Or Estimates. Or NoEstimates. After that nothing better would ever come. So sad.


I’m looking for better than what we do today.

What is that? No idea. Better outcomes. Better ways to reach our goals.

There’s comfort in these not knowing what those “better” ways and practices are. Just be open, humble and willing to learn and you will get better.

There’s also bad news… everything we do today will be changed. That reminds me about something; Ah - the universe, the world, evolution, human kind, knowledge, science … and stuff.

Now; Find a way to make your hands clean!

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