Continuous learning and getting left behind

One of the more tiring arguments against ideas like Agile or Lean is the line of “gee, it used to be RUP, now Agile, now Lean.  Make up your mind!  I’ll come back in 2 years when it’s something else shiny you’ve latched onto.”  But that’s not an argument against ideas, it’s just an argument against change.

If my code today isn’t better than it was 6 months ago, I’m doing something wrong.

If my ideas on how to best develop and deliver software haven’t changed in the last 2 years, I’m doing something wrong.

You know that thing when your ideas change over time, due to experience and new knowledge?  It’s called learning.  And if you’re not continuously learning, challenging your biases and beliefs, you’re not staying static, you’re falling behind.

I’ve been guilty in the past of putting ideas on a golden throne (time-boxed iterations) without really challenging them or looking at other options.  But a person changing their mind isn’t an valid argument against their ideas, it’s a logical fallacy.

So we have two options – cling to what we know and understand for as long as there is a market for that expertise, or, continuously learn and grow.

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About Jimmy Bogard

I'm a technical architect with Headspring in Austin, TX. I focus on DDD, distributed systems, and any other acronym-centric design/architecture/methodology. I created AutoMapper and am a co-author of the ASP.NET MVC in Action books.
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  • D0cNet

    I vote continuous learning.What we think we know and understand is always changing

    “Be like a palm tree, bend with the wind”.

  • Jan WIllem B

    One disadvantage of continuous learning and the consequence, continuous change, is that not every developer can keep up to date. Face it, there are a lot of developers out there, who don’t read blogs, don’t try out new frameworks, and don’t even read the free Microsoft developer magazines.

    These developers are *not able* to adapt change. I have been in the situatiion that I had to carry a lot of this “dead weight” in our company. They just want to carry out their task and do the trick they have done for years, get paid for it, go home and spend time on their hobby (which is not software development).

    IIf you keep changing this “stable development environment”, it could ruin the company if developers are not able to adapt.

  • Cecildt

    I do agree to continuous learning.

    To force other developers to do the same in your company is by having workshops. Show them the latest and greatest! Make small changes in development and they will adapt!

  • Arnis L.

    Worst situation is when there is one person who tries new things & learns a lot but is not capable to be an expert about every single detail. It leads to adapting something new with a great risk to fail at something. It’s worst because others at best will just learn from him but never help with research. After no time he is kind a responsible for everything because he said it’s good and worth trying.

  • http://jwbs-blog.blogspot.com/ Jan Willem B

    @Arnis L.: exactly. I had to learn this the hard way.

    Personally you should renew and learn continuously, but don’t push things into the company if you can’t.

  • http://www.lostechies.com/members/bogardj/default.aspx bogardj

    @Jan

    And someone has to maintain the code from these folks too. Learning isn’t just about new technologies, it’s about striving for better ways to deliver value. I think some tool vendors would like you to believe it’s all about sharper (or just shinier) tools, but continuous learning also applies to soft skills, too.

    A lot of this comes from company culture. If it’s the company culture to continuously improve, they will hire people that share that passion. If it’s protectionism and fiefdoms, they will hire people to protect their cheese from moving.

  • Robin Robinson

    Wish I could get my boss to see things this way. He thinks if it ain’t broke, why even think about making it better. That is until be wants it better and doesn’t understand “some things under the hood” need to be redone.

  • JOE

    The problem isn’t learning or changing. The problem is the near religious reverence people place on methodologies. 18 months ago agile was the only thing that could possibly work, if you werent doing it you were doomed to fail, and if anyone dared to question this the conversation devolved to ad hominem attacks. And now it turns out, oh there might actually be another way….

  • http://www.lostechies.com/members/bogardj/default.aspx bogardj

    @JOE

    I think you’re wrong there – the problem is resistance to change and new ideas. Continuous learning doesn’t apply only to methodologies, but the entire end-to-end process. It applies to methodologies, development, communication, the works. Those in the “I told you so” camp of anti-Agile might be disappointed when new or rediscovered techniques are also Agile.

  • CB

    “If you keep changing this “stable development environment”, it could ruin the company if developers are not able to adapt.”

    It could ruin the company if they can’t get rid of these dead weight developers.

  • Jan Willem B

    @CB, @bogardj: The problem is legacy. A company can make a shift towards agility, but you can’t just fire all of your “legacy” developers – at least not in the country where i live :) .If those legacy developers maintain legacy code, you can probably get away with it.

    There is an interesting, related discussion on Ayende’s blog http://ayende.com/Blog/archive/2009/08/19/the-radical-idealist-problem.aspx

  • Steven

    Maybe the problem is too many people trying to be smart and cool. There’s a flavour for everyone. It would be nice to see simplicity start winning some ground again. How about less is more, instead of invent is more. Oh, and if nothing much has been invented in IT in the last 30 years, is everything legacy? Where does that lead us? More tired arguments I fear or agile, lean, and RUP are great tools to sell more books and tools. Just hire some bright young things to refute all of the arguments and the most honoured MVP label for the hopefuls to help churn the minds. Now you are set… but first thinly veil all this with, “we’re open, we listen, we care”.

  • http://amandabynesnudiesny.xanga.com lilikindsli

    YfNkxC I want to say – thank you for this!