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Pawel Brodzinski on Software Project Management

Against Rightshifting

Against Rightshifting post image

Rightshifting is a nice idea. In its origin it says about improving effectiveness of organizations. When an organization rightshifts it becomes aware of different approaches, methods and techniques that can be used to work better. Eventually, the company adopts some of them and starts treating them as non-optional. Oftentimes, it means that the organization refuses to work “the old ways” as it is clearly considered suboptimal.

I do like to think about rightshifting in terms of personal development. Every one of us can (arguably should) learn new approaches, methods and techniques. With such an attitude we eventually learn how to work better. Oftentimes, we’d love to reject to work differently, on occasions we even do, although this time the case is more complex.

Being a part of a bigger entity, we rarely have comfort do fully decide how work is being done. If you ever heard “do we really need to write unit tests (a client won’t pay for this)” discussion you know exactly what I mean.

What happens then? Well, usually we develop our frustrations regarding lack of workmanship. Some leave in pursuit to find another job that suits better their expectations and skills. Some stay and try to change the organization from the inside. Sometimes they even succeed, although more often a success is local (a team level) than global (an organization level). Anyway, besides these rare successful cases usually much frustration is involved.

Bad news is that a scenario involving frustration is a frequent one when we personally rightshift. More often than not, the pace of our personal improvements is better than the one of organizational improvements. On one hand it means that personal rightshifting introduces at least some dissatisfaction. On the other it should open new opportunities.

Yes, of course. The problem is that there are fewer and fewer of them, the further to the “right” you are. There aren’t enough great companies, or I should say mature enough companies. I mean, maybe there are, globally. But few of us operate on a fully global job market and jobs in general, and jobs at great companies specifically, aren’t distributed evenly across the world.

So sorry, in most places on earth “there’s no shortage of talent, only a shortage of companies that talent wants to work for” isn’t true. Even less so, when one has high expectations for craftsmanship and organizational standards.

In other words, in theory, you can rightshift yourself to the point where you’re practically unemployable because you aren’t willing to accept anything but your impossible-to-meet standards of work. I’m pretty sure it’s not only theory and quite a few folks out there could tell by their own experience.

I know by mine that definitely the more to the “right” you are the fewer companies you want to work for.

So my advice would be: don’t rightshift… too fast.

Be aware that rightshifting closes a few options here and there. Rapid rightshifting may close the option you’re exploiting at the moment too (also known as a current job). I wouldn’t call rightshifting a career-limiting move, although in some ways it might be considered this way.

Is it different when we look from a perspective of an organization? A bit. When the company rightshifts faster than individuals working there, there is frustration too. However, people tend to adjust to the way their company works. After all, it is one of conclusion that may be drawn from famous Deming’s work (95% of variability is caused by the system). In other words, improving the system (the organization) we naturally pull people to the “right” too. Most of them at least.

Unfortunately, raising standards means that there are fewer people that you’re willing to hire. It limits company’s pace of growth. It makes hiring people’s work way more difficult. Of course you can always fall back to good old growing people from basics but you can afford to have only that many of them.

So again, don’t rightshift… too fast.

in: personal development, software business

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