I really like this… and I think you know I agree wholeheartedly.
There’s lots of odd paradox about process. We need just enough of it to work together. Too much moves our focus from what we’re trying to accomplish to the process – it makes the process what we’re trying to accomplish. Too little makes it challenging for us to work together.
In classes these days I do a quick word association. That is I write down the word “process” and ask participants to give me first words that come to mind. The words that come up usually aren’t particularly uplifting and give some strong hints about the culture they work in. I then write down the word “game” and ask participants to shout out the first words that come to mind. In addition to words like “fun,” and “team,” I often hear words like “competitive,” and “winning.”
It seems to me that games have just enough rules to allow us to play together as a team, have fun, and focus on the real object of the game – ideally to win. Winning in software [for me] is building a successful product.
Contrast that to the processes most companies labor under. Just surviving a process seems like winning at times. Winning at process is often “doing it right,” or “following the rules.”
One thing I recall from working with your company is that your leaders, most of them, seemed focused on winning the game. That’s the best cultural foundation a process can have.
Reminding people that process should feel like we’re playing a game has helped me a lot lately. Some folks still don’t like the Scrum game. I’ve often South Americans complain about US football that there’s “too many meetings.” One agile “game” may not be right for every culture – but within an organization and especially a team, it’s important that we all be playing the same game.