Call for an Ethical Framework for software development and IT businesses

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How can we influence companies who are simply concerned with shareholder capital without respect for human capital starting with the software development and IT business?

Social Capital
Do we need an Ethical Framework in the Software Development and IT Business?

Welcome everybody to the first Grant Rule Memorial Talk.

I met Grant Rule a number of years ago, and I was very impressed with his wisdom, his intellect and his original ideas. He was very well respected and liked by most people. For me, he was a very important, intellectual partner because whenever I had difficulty trying to figure out what I needed to do when perhaps working with organizational change or introducing Lean and Agile, he always had some words of encouragement and wisdom about how I could move things forward. Sadly, I miss that.

When it came to thinking about a subject for this talk, it set my mind back to the times I worked with Grant. ‘What was his main strength?’ I asked myself. I think his main strength, in addition to his knowledge on Lean, Agile and software development, was his patience. I think that ran through the way he approached all his work. He was always patient. He would listen to people and gently lead them, through a series of questions, to new insights without making them feel silly or stupid. And that was an incredible gift.

So when I was asked to do this talk I had to think long and hard about ‘What would Grant like me to talk about?’ because there was a whole range of subjects he was very interested in. I started thinking about what values he was trying to bring into the world of software development. Apart from all the methods and the tools and the processes he developed, he also had a very human side and it was that humanity he was trying to get people to really understand.

Technical Debt
In addition, he often talked about things like technical debt in software and he of course, as I said, had the methods and processes for dealing with it. He also talked even more about ‘social capital,’ which is basically the collective benefits derived from corporations between individuals and groups, while helping people realize their potential in the workplace. This was a consistent and really important theme that came from Grant and all his work.
Nevertheless, there were occasions when we got frustrated because of the large number of organizations who were just adopting the tools and methods in software development and IT without really thinking about what it meant for the way we manage the people who are actually doing the work. We know these methods only work when management behaviors and attitudes towards people changed from treating people as transactional workers to knowledge workers, to allow them to contribute their ideas and be free to experiment and innovate.
Social Capital
I wanted to make this notion of ‘social capital’ and changing the lives of people by changing the work environment, particula

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Call for an Ethical Framework for software development and IT businesses

  1. 1. Grant Rule Memorial Talk By Stephen Parry 11/8/2012 UK Software Metrics Association Author of Sense and Respond 23rd Annual Conference: 21st Century MetricsSocial CapitalDo we need an Ethical Framework in the Software The Grant TalksDevelopment and IT Business? ••• Even though many of us workWelcome everybody to the first to people and gently lead them,Grant Rule Memorial Talk. through a series of questions, to in a world of analysis, data and new insights without making them detailed measurements, GrantI met Grant Rule a number of years feel silly or stupid. And that was never forgot what it was all for,ago, and I was very impressed with an incredible gift. he challenged everyone to helphis wisdom, his intellect and his people do better work,original ideas. He was very well So when I was asked to do this talk improve themselves along withrespected and liked by most people. I had to think long and hard aboutFor me, he was a very important, ‘What would Grant like me to talk their companies and societies,intellectual partner because about?’ because there was a whole to realise their human potentialwhenever I had difficulty trying to range of subjects he was very to create possibilities for afigure out what I needed to do when interested in. I started thinking better life. So how do we respond to his The greatest waste in organizations is the waste in challenge? How can we human potential. influence companies who are simply concerned with shareholder capital withoutperhaps working with organizational about what values he was trying to respect for human capitalchange or introducing Lean and bring into the world of software starting with the softwareAgile, he always had some words of development. Apart from all the development business?encouragement and wisdom about methods and the tools and thehow I could move things forward. processes he developed, he alsoSadly, I miss that. had a very human side and it was that humanity he was trying to getWhen it came to thinking about a people to really understand.subject for this talk, it set my mindback to the times I worked with Technical DebtGrant. ‘What was his main strength?’ The Grant Rule Trust. The In addition, he often talked about Trust will be seeking toI asked myself. I think his main things like technical debt in promulgate the insights intostrength, in addition to his software and he of course, as I said, effective business practiceknowledge on Lean, Agile and discovered or inspired bysoftware development, was his had the methods and processes for Grant through a series ofpatience. I think that ran through the dealing with it. He also talked even "Grant Talks"way he approached all his work. He more about ‘social capital,’ which www.grantrule.orgwas always patient. He would listen is basically the collective benefits
  2. 2. derived from corporations between Purposeful measurement engagement of the knowledgeindividuals and groups, while workers themselves and theirhelping people realize their potential Unfortunately, software and IT removal or withdrawal of theirin the workplace. This was a measurement and development willing contribution and theirconsistent and really important methods in the hands of a particular innovation. Basically, they withdrewtheme that came from Grant and all management style and approach, their talent. And not only is this ahis work. ones that tend to treat knowledge social capital issue—it makes noNevertheless, there were occasionswhen we got frustrated because of The wrong measurement applied for the wrongthe large number of organizationswho were just adopting the tools and reasons in the wrong way, often results in themethods in software development wrong people being placed in the wrong.and IT without really thinking aboutwhat it meant for the way wemanage the people who are actually work as if it were a commodity, is business sense either because itdoing the work. We know these sadly all too common. Often there results in the creation of productsmethods only work when are well-intentioned managers who and services that are not as good asmanagement behaviors and attitudes use software and IT measures for the they could be.towards people changed from wrong purposes, applying them in order to create work intensification, I remember having manytreating people as transactional to assign blame and target discussions with Grant about theworkers to knowledge workers, to underperforming staff. The wrong software practice of refactoring,allow them to contribute their ideas measurement applied for the wrong debating whether it was waste orand be free to experiment and reasons in the wrong way often value? And after a lot of discussions,innovate. results in the wrong people being we both came to the conclusion that it was unnecessary waste work,Social Capital placed in the wrong. occasionally unavoidable but wasteI wanted to make this notion of‘social capital’ and changing the livesof people by changing the work Measurement is a two-edged sword that must beenvironment, particularly software used wisely to avoid self-inflicted woundsdevelopment and IT environments,the main theme for today. Measurement is a two-edged sword work nonetheless. I’m sure some ofWhen discussing software that must be used wisely to avoid you might take issue with Grant anddevelopment, Grant talked about self-inflicted wounds. me on that view. Softwareissues like technical debt, he worked development organizations and ITvery hard to reduce it by creating Therefore, we return again to the fact businesses, however, are stilland teaching methods to produce that it’s all about the mentality of dominated by the mass production,software products that worked with those who apply these measures— industrialization, command- and-little or no rework, that meet the and to what purpose? control paradigm.needs of customers and the business.When he did so, he kept stressing Work intensification Having met Grant a number of yearsthat the work climate needed to ago, I have since been introduced to There are too many environmentsfoster respect for people, create a many software developers. Often where management is striving toblame-free approach and even when delivering Lean Seminars to IT intensify the work, to speed it up,eradicate fear in the workplace. This infrastructure staff, application and this results in increased errors,way, software developers could support and development staff, I rework, and technical debt. In thesebecome creative, innovative and found really great people being situations, what decreased was theadaptive. constrained from great achievements.
  3. 3. And the one thing that I know about the focus of current management really big problem within thesoftware developers and IT staff, practices?’ industry as a whole.having worked in the industry forsome years, is that they have a great Well, we tried better measurement I have spoken to a lot of people,interest in creative ideas, new but that sort of misfired, not visited many workplaces, manymethods and theories but feel everywhere to be fair, but it didn’t were good but sadly there are notfrustrated when they know they can succeed or break through to new enough of them. Many are usingdeliver so much more but feel management practices as much as industrial thinking, creatingtrapped by old world management we would have hoped. environments that are quitethinking. oppressive, lack flair and ingenuity We tried better methods. Grant was and give rise to a feeling that people very good at that, but that too failedTaking control only deliver what is needed to to change the work climate where survive and nothing more. ManyWhat I think many are trying to do is the willing contribution was would leave if they had somewheretake control of their environment in withdrawn. to go. Many do leave and set upspite of the management structures their own business but they often fail So measuring software and IT SLA’sand practices around them, in spite because they don’t have the is not enough, better methods andof the way the measurement is used connections; they don’t have the processes are not enough. We mustagainst them. This I believe has relationships; they don’t have the start measuring and changing thegiven rise to the proliferation of so business acumen, and very often, climate in which development andmany new methods, such as Agile, they reluctantly return to places IT work is performed.Scrum, Lean, Kanban and the like. they’ve just escaped from. Start measuring the work The right question is ‘how do we change the climate climate or the system and the focus of current management practices?’ So, we need to think about measuring the environment. We need to start talking to managementThey just want to get control of their I’m at a point now, to issue a about moving away from disciplinedwork and their lives; they do not challenge to you all. Many of you compliance towards disciplinedwant to be treated as a commodity or are in the measurement business. experimentation. We need to remindas an interchangeable part. You often Many of you know how people about human potential. Wehear them saying, especially when measurement can be used wisely and need to say that it’s all about the waythey know there are better ways they how it can be used foolishly. we treat people, and we need toare not allowed to try, ‘Look, it’s a foster an environment for willingcreative act. It’s a knowledge-based So, my challenge here to you as a contribution, autonomy, innovationcomplex activity and you cannot community, is to start thinking about and customer outcomes, all fear free.force that into simplistic tasks.’ not only measuring the production methods but also start measuring the However, I am afraid that evenSo, I asked myself ‘is this a fault of climate that workers work in. measurement of the workplacemanagement?’ and I think no, it’s not climate is still not enough. Sure it’sthe fault of management. They are I am issuing you that challenge important to know where we are, butunder pressure too. They are victims because there is little point in being what is even more important isof the same way of thinking, and really good at measurement and knowing where we need to get to. Ivery often, if they don’t conform, production methods if the climate believe we need a professional ethicsthey have to leave. itself doesn’t allow us to realize our framework. return on the potential in the peopleThe right question is ‘how do we and the potential investment in the We have tried accreditations andchange the climate or the system and software and infrastructure. This is a manifestos and that moved us forward, but accreditations and
  4. 4. manifestos talked mainly about the While I am proposing we create a they were all saying, ‘Yes, we reallytechniques and methods for better new framework of ethics, I’m not do need something like this, becauseproduction to reduce technical debt. asking us to put it in so that we can at the moment, all we do is sit thereI am now talking about something have a list of things we can go and and complain that our managers domuch higher than that. I am talking beat people up with. That would be not understand and we accuse themabout software development counterproductive, so we would of being command and controlorganizations and IT businesses in need to build in safeguards. managers,’ when in fact, they knowgeneral, adopting a set of no other way to evaluate theirmanagement ethics—not the usual What it would mean, however, is behaviors.corporate stated values, such as, ‘We that we would be able to say,value teamwork,’ and ‘We value our whether we apply Lean, Agile, Creating wealth togethercustomers.’ This is often rhetoric in Kanban, software measurement— whatever it is—we can say, ‘These What I want to do now is create athe marketing brochure and absent methods will only work and deliver unifying force, starting with ain the workplace. their full potential if we actually number of people who will comeWe need a set of professional ethics create an environment based on this together to create this framework. Ito provide a sounding board against ethical framework.’ want to start small. I’ve got one orwhich we can gauge our behaviors, two people already interested. And Iwith which we can test and What we all need to be working on, am pushing this out to you. If any ofchallenge ourselves and be held the staff, the managers and the you are interested in helping meaccountable. owners of the business—is actually form a small group to set up the trying to figure out what those ethics process by which we can startEthical Framework mean in their own companies, developing these ethics, then testing workplaces and teams. it with the communities such as theThe concept of ethical frameworks isnot new to businesses. In themedical, psychology and coaching The soft stuff is the hard stuff and it’s the only stuffprofessions, ethical codes of practiceare well established. These are all that creates wealth in the knowledge businessexamples of ethical frameworksbeing applied to knowledge work. My challenge now, to you in the Agile community, the KanbanThere are even lesser-known ethical software measurement community, communities, IT etc., then please letframeworks for non-knowledge the software development me know directly by email or via mywork such as franchising. community and the IT community, is blog site www.leanvoices.comI’m thinking, if an industry as to create a professional ethical framework specifically for your I know some people will be criticalreasonably straightforward as businesses. and say this is motherhood andfranchising can adopt a code of apple pie and it’s all about soft stuffethics to outline how the parties aregoing to behave, and professions Is there a need? in a tough business environment, and my answer to that is: This idea issuch as doctors, can have ethical Before delivering this talk, I wanted not only about people and socialframeworks, then why can’t we have to test the idea of an ethical capital; it actually makes perfectone for software development framework. I wanted see if it was a business sense. It is more profitable.companies and IT businesses? They crazy idea or not. So, I spoke at a It is more innovative. The soft stufftoo are knowledge-based and number of software development is the hard stuff, and at the end ofrequires technical skills. They too and IT conferences and simply asked the day, the only stuff that createshave to keep their skills up to date. the audiences, ‘Is there a need for wealth in the knowledge business.They too have to keep learning organizations to understand the We are now in an age where wemodern techniques and methods. ethical and behavioral part of need to put away industrial thinking.They too have to be creative and development and IT support?’ and We need to put away command andadaptive.
  5. 5. control management. We need to put I will leave you with perhaps one organizations that are makingaway the notion that everything more crazy thought, which is, ‘What investments in new technologies,comes top down, and we need to put would it be like if you had a software new processes, new measurementaway the commoditization of equivalent of a Fairtrade mark?’ systems or frantically going after oneknowledge workers. Software and IT Imagine we had a badge, which said, accreditation after the other.is so much at the heart of everything ‘This software is command- andwe do in the world today. This control-free,’ or such like? I would We no longer have to stay silentethical framework is not only about like to examine whether that would about the human factor; we canrealizing the potential of staff and be possible, because if we could do factor it in. And if we can do that, Imanagers, but helping realize the that, we could engage consumers by think we will be true to what Grantpotential of the people in the world giving them an ethical-social choice has been telling us all along. We canwith software and infrastructures about which software they purchase. really create a legacy and we canthat are not only profitable but Then, we would really demonstrate make command-and-controlchanges lives and creates new the power of social capital. management history, at least in theopportunities and social capital. software and IT industries. Then, Now, I may be overreaching, but who knows, we can move on toOne more thought for unless we look at the potential, we other industries? won’t get very far. With an Ethicalsoftware development Thank you very much. Framework we can all start raising awareness and a debate. Let’s talk to Stephen Parry Author of Sense and Respond: The Journey to Customer Purpose Senior Partner at Lloyd Parry www.lloydparry.com Stephen Parry is an organisational designer, international leader and strategist on the creation of Lean service enterprises that are adaptive, innovative and engaging. He has a world-class reputation for passionate leadership and creating global organizations with superior service climates by changing the way employees, managers and leaders think about the business. He developed the Sense and Respond 3.0 principles and methods to bring about customer, employee, management and leadership behavioral change and organisational development. If you wish to be involved with the formation of the new ethical management framework then contact Stephen directly via Stephen.parry@lloydparry.com or his blog www.leanvoices.com If you wish to know more about the Grant Rule Trust or make a donation then please visit www.grantrule.org Thank you.

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