This Month’s Pattern *

11 Lease Your Soul

The practitioner is willing to abandon a long-mastered skill or technology.

An admirable characteristic of the competent professional is a willingness to shape solutions to the problem to be solved, rather than force the problem to match the tried and tested competencies of the individual or team. That does not mean that team members lack skill in applying the tools and approaches they know. But instead of selling their souls to any technology, they lease them. In other words, when good new ideas come along, they are ready to consider their merits, compare them with past technologies, and make intelligent decisions about using the most appropriate approach.

It is not always easy to abandon a long-held–and mastered–technology, but soul leasers are able to live with the temporary discomfort involved. They know that their current technology is sufficient, but they also know that a newer technology may offer something more.

While they are not sycophants to every flavor-of-the-month technology, they are prepared to set aside their familiarity with their current way of working and consider the merits of any genuine advance. Their attitude is that of looking to the future, not of seeking reassurance from the present.

The advantage of being a soul leaser is that one is not left stranded when the tide of technology turns. You probably know people who refer to themselves as developers but have not attempted to learn a new programming language in many years. You know these people:

They are the ones scouring the job offers for a mention of their language, which is one in the long litany of once-contemporary, but now almost unused, programming languages. Sadly, these developers sold their souls to that language.

For organizations, it is not so easy to be a soul leaser, but there are advantages that outweigh the difficulties. Naturally, any organization cannot arbitrarily change its technology. It needs a certain amount of stability in its languages, development methods, technological infrastructure, and so on. We are talking about an attitude here. When an organization decides that it will investigate new technologies continuously, it sets out its stall to attract the best and brightest potential employees. It is saying, “Here is an organization that is moving with the times. Work for us and we won’t leave you stranded in a technological backwater.”

Newness does not always equate with goodness. When a new technology–a programming language, modeling technique, methodology, software tool–is released, it is usually accompanied by persuasive publicity and, in many cases, a large helping of hype. Sometimes, the new technology is seen as a silver bullet, something that will make a huge advance in the state of the art. In some cases, people fall under the spell of the hype and become mindless enthusiasts, in the process selling their souls; as a result, they see every problem in terms of the new technology’s solution. Soul leasers, by contrast, separate the promises from the practicalities, and because they clearly see where the advantages lie, they can pick and choose from the benefits of new technology.

Technology moves on at a breathtaking pace, and today’s sparkling innovation is often destined to become yesterday’s rusting hulk. Soul leasers, both organizational and individual, possess a light touch with their technologies. While enthusiastically embracing a new technology, they know this is only a summer romance, and they make no greater commitment to it than using it, faithfully and skillfully, until the next advance overtakes it. The question they ask is, “What problem is this suitable for?” and not “How do I solve this problem using this technology?”

Being able to separate the problem from the solution is the first step to becoming a soul leaser. The second step is to know that no matter how good the technology is, there will be something better tomorrow. Try not to make the Faustian pact by selling your soul to any technology.

* Each month we plan to publish here one of the patterns from our Jolt Award book, Adrenaline Junkies and Template Zombies — Understanding Patterns of Project Behavior. (Watch this space for a mere 86 months and you'll have read the whole thing.) The book is published by Dorset House Publishing, in the US and Hanser Verlag in Germany. It is available at Amazon and also as a Kindle book.


Brussels, Business Analysis Agility
11-Sep-2018 to 12-Sep-2018

James Robertson teaches Business Analysis Agility. Contact IT Works for details of this course.  

Oslo, Mastering the Requirements Process
11-Sep-2018 to 13-Sep-2018

Mastering the Requirements Process with Suzanne Robertson. Contact Den Norske Dataforeignen for details. 

Stockholm, Mastering the Requirements Process
25-Sep-2018 to 27-Sep-2018

Brussels, Mastering the Requirements Process
9-Oct-2018 to 11-Oct-2018

James Robertson teaches Mastering the Requirements Process. Please contact I.T.Works for details.  

Rome, Mastering the Requirements Process
15-Oct-2018 to 17-Oct-2018

Budapest MRP
16-Oct-2018 to 18-Oct-2018

James Archer teaches Mastering the Requirements Process. Please contact Aguarra for details and registration.

Rome, Business Analysis Agility
18-Oct-2018 to 19-Oct-2018

James Robertson teaches Business Analysis Agility. Contact Technology Transfer for details of this course.  

Hilversum, Mastering the Requirements Process
5-Nov-2018 to 7-Nov-2018

James Archer teaches Mastering the Requirements Process. For details please contact Adept Events. Dutch description, or in English.

Oslo, Mastering the Requirements Process
13-Nov-2018 to 15-Nov-2018

Mastering the Requirements Process with Suzanne Robertson. Contact Den Norske Dataforeignen for details. 

London, Mastering the Requirements Process
14-Nov-2018 to 16-Nov-2018

James Archer teaches Mastering the Requirements Process. For details and registration, please contact IRM UK.

in depth

Business analysis is often seen as a technical skill. But the business analyst has another set of responsibilities -- to dig into what the stakeholder's mind and uncover what is really needed, and not just what they say they want. 

A Ruby Beam of Light, Book I of Tom DeMarco's Andronescu's Paradox saga is now available in English in paperback and ebook, from Double Dragon Publishing.

"This war isn't going to blow anything up, only turn everything off."

Suzanne and James Robertson's "Requirements: The Masterclass LiveLessons-Traditional, Agile, Outsourcing". 15+ Hours of Video Instruction. 

Als auf der Welt das Licht Ausging, the German edition of Tom DeMarco's science fiction epic, Andronescu's Paradox, has now been published by Hanser Verlag in Munich.  Translation by Andreas Brandhorst.

James Robertson’s webinar for Software Education explains how agile stories are best used to ensure the right solution. Writing the Right Agile Stories on YouTube. Download the webinar slides.