22 December 2014

As a software engineer I've worked on both brown field and green field projects. As a young engineer I thought that green field projects were the best. The freedom to experiment and do what I wanted to learn and use the technologies I needed to learn instead of the mess somebody left for me to work on.

And then I came upon a legacy brown field project. Large in scale and large in years with a rich and complex history behind it. With problems, with issues and design decisions that stuck and made life miserable for developers for years to come.

And I learned.

Oh, boy how I learned.

I would advise any young engineer to work maintenance on any large system for a year or so. The possibility for growth and learning are endless. There is no bigger learning incentive then adversity put upon your not so strong back.

On December 5th I've held a talk for the HTML5 User group in Banja Luka where I worked for a year or so. It was the second such talk. It seems they liked the first so they invited me for one more.

As a theme for the talk I played with the idea of extending the concept of brown field software development to organizations. How to develop and integrate new software into existing organizations, organizations which are not your own which at times may be adverse to you , have their own quirks and rules.

Not to bother any one, the gist of the matter is that there are three key elements, ideas, issues, topics, and agendas one must cater to when coming to work as an outside entity into an existing organization:

  • Fear
  • Communication
  • Realism
Fear is the driving force of human kind. Fear of death, the tax man , of cheating spouses and public humiliation. Fear is to life what a cone is to an ice cream ball. Its every where, its all around us and its the primary motivation for many of our actions. As a consultant coming into a new organization you must realise that many behaviors and rules are fear motivated. Fear of change, job loss, learning, fear of fear it self. 

Communication in brown field organization development is the art of finding and understanding all information exchange pathways, who and where are the key players and what is understood, what needs to be said and what needs to be kept silent. It is imperative to join the mainstream communication pathways as soon as possible. That water cooler is your friend and that bear with the guys is never just a be.

Realism is the main principle which should govern your life. We all wish things were different. But they are not and may never be. Real progressive change is painful difficult and takes continuous effort over time. And comes with small increments. Find out what is really possible and focus on that. Everything else is a shared pipe dream. Chase your dragons somewhere else.