How do we take XP to the next level? How do we get respect and freedom to work as we’d like? How do we get them to listen to us? XP has successfully raised expectations for what is technically possible with software development. The next challenge is realizing that potential. Doing so requires not more technical skills, but better relationships within the organization, a shift in attitude and perspective.
It’s natural to want to have impact in the world. How can we best have impact on organizations? Counterintuitively, the way we gain influence is to listen. The way to gain freedom is to be accountable. The way to get respect is to give it. The way to get them to listen to us is to eliminate the dichotomy between us. We are all on the same side working towards a more effective software development process for the good of our company. What we need is a change in perspective. XPers should first demonstrate that others have impact on them, by listening and acting on what others say. We need to offer accountability. With a record of careful listening and trustworthiness, we will be well-positioned to be heard when the organization has a problem and we have an idea.
A common barrier to organizational impact for programmers is our sense of “being special”. The days of the prima donna programmer are over. What would happen if we treated everyone we talked to as if their ideas, needs, and perspectives had equal value with our own? That would be extreme. It would require a shift in our beliefs about organizations and our contributions to them.
XP has improved programmers work. Influence at the next level uses the same principles apply that have guided XP thus far. Respect, mutual benefit, improvement in baby steps from where we are today; these are principles that can guide the maturation of an XP team to be a full partner in business. These are the principles that, if applied with humility and awareness, will help us take XP up another notch in impact and influence.