blatantly copying Martin Fowler
Because I was a ThoughtWorks principal, people sometimes ask me about Martin Fowler. He's the Chief Scientist at ThoughtWorks. "Does he wear a white coat and experiment with explosive agile things?" they joke.
And the answer is that sometimes he might do that. I'm not sure. But most of the time he does a really cool job.
When you're sitting on a ThoughtWorks project in the middle of nowhere Martin, just occasionally, turns up. It always seemed to me he appeared by magic, just turning up and sitting down. I often wondered how he got through security at these various clients. Perhaps he's a ninja as well. I never asked him that.
Anyway, he sits down and we chat about the weather for 5 minutes because, you know, we're both English even though he's an American now.
And then he asks "How's it going?". And you tell him. And he gets out a notebook, or a laptop or something and starts writing down notes. And occasionally, you'll say something about this piece of technology or this practice or that problem and then he'll say something like "Oh, do you know that Jim in Canada is doing that?" or "You should talk to Jane in Brazil about that because they found an interesting solution..." or something like that.
You sit and talk to him for a while and then he might even come out to dinner with you, especially if you've got a bit of a team there. And you'll chat about Software and Agile and Northamptonshire and the terrible British weather and the hideousness of travelling and what it's like to be quite famous. And then he'll fly on to the next team.
And then he goes home and he puts all this information from all these people into his head and he mixes it around and it comes out as blog posts. Blog posts about problems people are experiencing every day, blog posts about tech trends that he actually sees happening. Not ones that people are paying him to write about. While he's writing them he often involves the people that he's been talking to. Which pulls everyone back together around that one problem. Even if only for a few days while everyone discusses what Martin found.
In this way his job is very scientific. Which is why he's ThoughtWorks' Chief Scientist.
Why am I writing a blog post about this? Because I passionately believe that Martin's job is one that is not being done by enough large firms. ThoughtWorks has about 3,000 people and I'd guess it was about the size of many struggling enterprises. One thing those enterprises could do to improve would be to have people doing the Martin Fowler role. Travel round, even virtually, and talk to people. Find out what they're doing, how they're solving problems, what new things they are using, if any. And then write about it and involve the people you're writing about in writing about it.
It's this process of constant review and re-broadcast that seems to me to be central to getting better. In effect, what Martin does is a constant retrospection on ThoughtWorks' clients technology trends.
I am trying to do exactly that at BwinParty. like ThoughtWorks and many other non-small enterprises we are heavily distributed so there's a lot of travelling. I'm not trying to do it on my own though. Instead, I'm trying to get a few people across the organization interested in doing this frequent travelling and meeting people and learning from them.
Maybe it would work at your enterprise?