The ICC Champions Trophy is on the go in South Africa at the moment (… I’m talking about cricket). Yes, the Proteas failed in a big tournament (again!) but the Poms will be touring here this summer. As passionate as Saffers are about their national teams, we also seek revenge, but in a nice way; I mean face-to-face revenge, not back-stabbing revenge 😉
So with all this cricket frenzy going on, I caught an amazing interview with the captain of the Pakistan team, Younis Khan, on cricinfo.com. For a person that lives in a country that is literally self-destructing, he views his purpose not just as a captain, but as citizen of a troubled country. He views his influence on the team as lasting. Like he says in the interview, when his time is up, he wants to leave with dignity and that which he leaves behind is more important than what he takes with him.
That is what I mean by Ubuntu coding. It’s more about what you leave behind than what you take with you. When you leave behind a code base that someone else will enjoy, then you are already more than 50% down the path of helping yourself. If you left behind a mess, then you breed more messy developers. I’ve stopped asking “What will I get out of this?”. I think more about “What will you get out of this?”. That subtle switch in perspective is enough to make me realise that the value is in what I leave behind. It also means that my search for quality and fulfillment is in the moment, not some future time which may never materialise. Now, I stop chasing some future desire and appreciate the quality and importance of now, and realise that I what I leave behind is significant – good or bad.
There is also a comment from Younis about coaches.
In the senior team there should be helpers who are also coaches, like Bob Woolmer was. He was a coach but he helped out with everything – in bowling, in life, in stretching, in luggage, in everything. This is not football, where you need to have that kind of coach. Here in cricket it is in individual game in a team game.
This feels a lot like coaching software developers … individual game in a team game, and that experienced developers need nudges and guidance, and noobs need technical coaching. And as a coach, you need to help out with everything too. I recently realised that I don’t help out with many things. Actually, I don’t want to either. It’s not that I can’t help, but I just can’t multi-task and be effective at everything. I am the kind of person who multi-tasks and delivers less than 100% quality on each task, but when I serialize my tasks, I hit 100% quality quite often.
So, here’s my take on coaching software teams. It’s sometimes like cricket, and sometimes like football too. You need many coaches. Coaches that work with technical things, people things, process things, communication things, management things and all sorts of things. I know that I suck when I try to do people and process coaching at the same time as technical coaching. It’s the thing that Peter Hundermark made abundantly clear to me over the last few weeks. Now I know why he says that Scrum masters can’t be product owners, or can’t be part of the team, all at the same time.
That is also the reason why I can’t create miracles. The people that have had greatness bestowed upon them; Mahatma Ghandi, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, and many others; never created miracles but they allowed the people that they influenced create their own miracles. Good software coaches are like that too.
So, Younis Khan and I are not related in blood, nor in career paths, but I have learned from an unlikely source with a very similar name.