Leadership From Below: What Software Developers do for Society and Why Others Should Care


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Developers have some core attitudes that are deeply shaping contemporary society. They foreshadow a society built on leadership from below, where leadership is less hierarchical. In this new, somewhat individualitic world, paradoxically, collaboration and standardization lay the foundation for the future.

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Leadership From Below: What Software Developers do for Society and Why Others Should Care

  1. 1. <Insert Picture Here> Leadership From Below: What Software Developers Do For Society And Why Others Should Care Trond Arne Undheim, Ph.D. Director of Standards Strategy and Policy EMEA Smart IT 2009, Brussels, 17 Sept 2009.
  2. 2. What is Software Development? • A career choice • A profession • A passion
  3. 3. I Considered Talking About… • Cloud computing Enterprise Architecture IT strategy Requirements Value chains Measurement Virtual Data Center Agile Software Factories Specifications Innovation Efficiency Business Intelligence Process maturity BPR web 2.0 CRM Wiki SOA Crowdsourcing Folksonomy Virtualization • But I gave it up…since everybody else talks about it
  4. 4. Lonely? © Trond Arne Undheim
  5. 5. Who are We? • Traditionally, white US/Euro men aged 15-35 • Nowadays, mostly male global workforce, aged 15-50 • In the future, diverse workforce, all ages Software development is a temporary phase, yet an identity you take with you through life and often into management…with a set of attitudes.
  6. 6. What Motivates Us? • Passion for code • Creating something that works • Recognition
  7. 7. Stereotypically, What do We Hate? • Non-programmers • Interruptions • Telephones • School • Directions • Meetings • Speeches • Hierarchies, job titles • Managers • Cathedrals
  8. 8. Stereotypically, What do We Love? • Beer • Code • Women • Computers, E-mail, Chat • Games, Movies (Bladerunner, The Matrix) • Knowledge • Jeans, Wild-patterned black T-shirts • Peer recognition • Plugfests • Bazaars
  9. 9. A Plugfest is the “Developer’s Moment in history” A plugfest is when developers …are coding and talking …standardizing …throwing aside differences
  10. 10. • Some developers, I am told, are also motivated by money • But let’s dig deeper
  11. 11. What is Unique? • Being part of an “invisible team” • Being in the know • Shaping the fabric of society
  12. 12. Society? © Trond Arne Undheim
  13. 13. What do We actually Do? • Code • Interact • Collaborate
  14. 14. Why should others Care? • Enable innovation across sectors – Software is embedded in the majority of today’s products, empowers all sectors of society, is the nerve centre of the modern world • Provide a model for all information sharing • Foreshadow a new era
  15. 15. What’s Our History? • Academic era (1960-79)—watched SMEs turn giants • Beggars era (1980-99)—starved, took the back-office • Choosers era (2000-2009)—did whatever we wanted
  16. 16. What’s Our Future? • Business era (2010-15)—the heart of all business • Pervasive era (2016-19)—we define what work “is” • Post-software era (2020-)—Internet = everyday life
  17. 17. What Will We Do? • Will you ensure the Internet creates a new form of capitalism, based more on individuals, entrepreneurship and personal content? • Will you make the Internet the convenience and lifestyle management tool for everyday life? • Will you change the relationship between business and pleasure?
  18. 18. The Future? © Trond Arne Undheim
  19. 19. What can Leaders Learn? • Work peer-to-peer—treating others as equals • Inspire a “state of flow” • Developers are masters at reaching flow—a condition of highly efficient, deep, nearly meditative involvement and concentration. During flow, you are unaware of the passage of time. Flow gives you an euphoric feeling. You are almost unconscious of effort. • However, it takes 15 minutes before this state of mind is “locked in”, and it takes only a moment to disturb it.
  20. 20. Lessons from Opentech Work Practices • No visible leadership • No meetings • No interruptions • Due to the importance of flow, nobody is allowed to interrupt if it's not crucial to the ad hoc practices of the programmers themselves. Floors are silent. • “Code is ready when it’s ready. Deadlines are stupid and an obstacle to developers.” Opentech programmer
  21. 21. Learn more? © Trond Arne Undheim
  22. 22. In the Internet age, you do not have to be a leader to lead Effective leadership is about attitude, not position
  23. 23. What is Leadership From Below? • A leadership paradigm – The notion that influence is more important than control • A perspective on life – You can and should take charge when needed—even if you are not the leader—but you do not need an office, a title, money, or employees to do so.
  24. 24. Who’s in Charge? © Chris Martinez
  25. 25. What’s needed is not an ego-attitude—we must nudge, collaborate, listen, tailor, and standardize concurrently.
  26. 26. Leadership From Below has Three Components • Asian ideas about energy flow • Scandinavian ideas on work-life balance • The socially-networked internet’s peer-to-peer logic
  27. 27. Trends and Counter-trends • If we are on the verge of a new era, it is not the era that trend spotters predicted (global village, nomadic work, globalization, the world is flat etc.). • Following the logic of leadership from below, society might split into lifestyle communities • …enthusiastic about streams of knowledge, business, tech, religion, wellness, environment, militia, global, and various local concerns • …each building private clouds around themselves • These are the post-modern tribes.
  28. 28. Where do Developers come in? The Internet generation of inter-culturally minded, socially networked leaders is redefining the workplace. • Management is slow to respond. • Developers are trend setters—early adopters of a leadership style—based on not asking permission. • Software companies are notoriously difficult to lead, since programmers are fiercely independent. This could, incidentally, be a good thing.
  29. 29. Our Role is Changing • No longer a sub-culture of geeks. Not so esoteric • Mainstreaming. Diversity. Women. Asians. • User oriented design. Web interfaces. • Life is changing. Politics. Money. Realities. Kids. • Developers are many things to many people. Developers are increasingly part of the larger picture
  30. 30. Blooming? © Trond Arne Undheim
  31. 31. The Rise of the Internet Generation • The Internet Generation are all those born from 1970s onwards, or who embrace the Internet mentality. – Know when to speak – Know when to be silent – Respect knowledge, integrity, ethics—not authority alone – Aware of the need for psychological balance – Globally minded • This is a work-in-progress. That could be interrupted.
  32. 32. What would be a Developer’s Advice to a Leader? • Use formal power, but be aware: it is not enough • Don’t misuse or overuse your position, corporate symbols, or management decisions • Anchor authority in people, ideas, code, text, and attitudes
  33. 33. What would a Leader say to a Developer? • Take into account that hierarchies exist • Have respect for all work styles • Standardize your code
  34. 34. Fire hydrant? © Trond Arne Undheim
  35. 35. Standardization is a tool to grapple with globalization and leadership from below A platform of individuality— standardization sets you free (whether you are a developer, a government or a company)
  36. 36. <Insert Picture Here> Vint Cerf Father of the Internet “The Internet is fundamentally based on the existence of open, non- proprietary standards.”
  37. 37. Characteristics of Open Standards • Cannot be controlled by vested interests • Transparent evolution process • Platform independent, vendor neutral • Openly published • Available royalty free or at minimal cost (with field of use and defensive suspension on RAND terms) • Approved through due process, rough consensus Source: Roadmap for Open ICT Ecosystems, Harvard, 2005 http://cyber.law.harvard.edu/epolicy/
  38. 38. The Benefits of Open Standards Innovate Better products New technology Transparency Avoid lock-in Market stability Market access Economic growth Reduce costs Source: The Momentum of Open Standards - a Pragmatic Approach to Software Interoperability The European Journal of ePractice, No.5, 2008 [http://www.epracticejournal.eu/document/5156]
  39. 39. Remember to push for more open standards- based interoperability when you build the Commission’s IT systems
  40. 40. In Sum? • Developers do crucial work • …laying the foundation for innovations • …shaping society in the process • …especially when they code using open standards Society should care
  41. 41. Read more? • Trond’s Opening Standard http://blogs.oracle.com/ trond/ • Leadership From Below http://www. leadershipfrombelow.com/