Monday, November 24, 2014

Work to do in the shadows.

Change takes place when we work together in the shadows
Illness and the grey rainy weather of November in Chicago have put in a philosophical mood.  I have been contemplating a few things.  Today, according the United State Census Bureau there are 7.2 million people on the planet earth.  That is twice the population of when I entered this world pink and helpless in 1968.  How have we been able to double the world’s population without famine, war, and the complete collapse of civilization?  It struck me that what keeps the world civilized are many people working quietly in the shadows to keep it that way.  I am one of them and I am sure some of you are too.

When I was born the big intellectual book of the time was Paul R, and Anne Ehrilch’s “The Population Bomb.”  The book argued convincingly that as world population grew it would be harder to feed and provide for additional people.  What the authors did not count on were the smarts of scientists, engineers, and common people like me to solve problems.  The green revolution spread through the developed and third world during the 1950’s and 1960’s.  This gave the world enough to eat.  What started the green revolution?  Scientists and farmers who realized there needed to be better yield out of crops and figured out a way to do it.

During the 1940’s the biggest killer of children in the United States was polo.  Countless children died or were forced to breathe with iron lungs.  The March of Dimes was founded because they were looking for a means to wipe out polo.  It took huge efforts from science and government but the first vaccines began to appear in 1952 and polo was eradicated in the United States. 

The March of Dimes continues its efforts today but instead of polo they have focused on birth defects.  Again to the rescue, stubborn and determined people who worked quietly doing the necessary work.  People like Clair Patterson who determined the age of the earth but also found the link between leaded gasoline and lead poisoning in humans.  With opposition from the petroleum industry Clair proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that lead levels were rising.  With the help of congress and international treaties, leaded gasoline was banned.  As the level of lead in the atmosphere declined, we also saw the decrease in birth defects and problems caused by lead poisoning worldwide.

Again not glamorous work, but necessary to make the 7.2 million people of earth happy and healthy.  It is work being done be civil engineers to make sure that sewers keep our drinking water safe.  It is the work being done by infectious disease specialists tracking bird flu and Ebola.  This is the work of software developers helping build logistics systems which move goods and services across the country. It is doctors, janitors, clerks, nurses, and ordinary people making hospitals not only more effective but more efficient.

Some of you may be asking, where does agile come in to this picture.  For too long, the world of business has been dominated by too many damaged, neurotic, and just plain mean people perpetuating a cycle of abuse kept alive by the threat to take away living wages.  It is why investment bankers didn't leave their steakhouses and join the occupy Wall Street movement.  Agile and the agile movement, which I am proud to be a part of is not a revolution but rather an evolution of the business world so that it is more humane, sustainable, and satisfying to the people doing the work.  In other words, work is changing from toil serving unnamed shareholders or executives to a craft where people can take pride in what they do.  We have so much work to do but in just thirteen years since the creation of the Agile Manifesto the face of business is changing more of them are “doing” agile.  It is my hope that someday soon they will “be” agile as well.

This is because people, like me, are quietly working in the shadows to make it happen.  Please join me.

Until next time.