24 January 2011

The "F" Word

No, not that "F" word, although in many of the consulting clients I visit the word about which I'm thinking may as well be considered dirty.

My "F" word is FUN.

When I work with a new team and have the opportunity to both train and coach them, I use a game I found on TastyCupcakes.com called "Presto Manifesto" prior to introducing the Agile Manifesto.  That game asks the people to look back on work they've done in the past that they would consider successful.  The people then list what success meant to them, and what they did on those projects that led to success.

Without exception, every group with whom I've used this technique has responded with "Fun" as something that was a part of success.

I also saw this in previous coaching engagements when, after introducing the Values of the Agile Manifesto, I asked the team what they valued.  Again, "Fun" was invariable one of the responses.

I suppose that shouldn't be a surprise, since we spend about half of our waking hours on the weekdays with our co-workers, possibly more.  People who are having fun are much more motivated to come to work.  They're much more likely to enter a state of Flow (the Csíkszentmihályi type, not the Lean type), and in the end are much more productive.

So, how do we have fun at our work?  Simple.  We play.

As Dr. Stuart Brown so eloquently said in his fantastic book Play,
The opposite of play isn't work, it's depression.
Dr. Brown's work has shown that, as a species, humans need play.  We already do this in many ways of which we aren't even aware, but when we leave our home in the morning and walk in those doors at work we're supposed to be serious.  There are people, like myself, who just can't pull that off despite trying many times.  We joke around, we may even play some small pranks on others.  But then we have to get serious and get down to business.

It doesn't have to be like that.  We can get business done and have fun at the same time.  In fact, and you can refer to Stuart Brown and Dan Pink if you don't believe me, we will get more work done if we're having fun and playing!  You don't have to be an extrovert to have fun.  You don't have to be the class clown, desperate for attention.  You simply need to open yourself up to finding joy in what you do every day.

Within the software development community, I see this in spades with the people pushing Agile Games.  At last June's Agile Coach Camp in Waterloo, there were sessions on Improv that I really wish I had attended for both the fun, and for ideas to help me help teams to break down the artificial barriers we've created in our careers as part of being "serious".

I also see this coming from the Software Craftsmanship movement.  The people pushing Craftsmanship are passionate about doing their best to write the best software possible.  To them, solving problems using software, and doing not a good but an excellent job doing it, is fun.  It's play.

If you want to kill innovation on a team, and suck out all their motivation beyond a paying job, tell them to cut corners on quality in order to ship something by an impossible date.  Take away their ability to be passionate about their work, and their productivity will suffer considerably.

So, in the end having fun - playing - isn't just good for the soul, it's good business.

1 comment:

Mark said...

Hi Dave... Yeah, that makes a lot of sense to me... We're so much more relaxed and likely to think better when we've had some fun. Playing is a great way to shed stress... it makes you happy, and happy people are productive people. I'll put that book about Play on my reading list.... Thanks for letting us know about it! ... Mark