Driving Technical Change by Terrence Ryan
I have over three decades in the scientific and software development world so I was curious when I noticed Terrence Ryan’s new Pragmatic Bookshelf book “Driving Technical Change”. The subtitle is “Why People on Your Team Don’t Act on Good Ideas, and How to Convince Them They Should”. This subtitle tells you a lot about what Terry was writing about. He is mid career in the software development field and has worked in a number of companies. He has had a lot of enthusiasm about bring new ideas and tools into his teams. This enthusiasm comes out as a bit of frustration as he describes the battles with colleagues to embrace new technology and techniques. He turned that frustration into a search for ways to convince the skeptics that the changes were worth the effort.
He approaches the reader by offering a list of stereotypes for the skeptics in an organization in part two of the book. In part three, he offers techniques for mitigating the push-back you get from each type of skeptic. Part four offers strategies for the reader that could be useful in pushing for change. As I read the book, I was often nodding my head agreeing with many of his thoughts. The skeptics do come out and many are the stereotypes that he describes. Sometimes the same people take on several of the behaviors and sometimes the people change behavior depending on the topic. Some people are your allies on an issue and then become your enemy on others.
I think the book is best read by someone with a few years of experience in a technical field, but not so many that they already understand office politics. After a decade or two in a technical field, you know the landscape. The interaction of people on a team comes down to culture and politics of your organization. If you understand people and politics, you will go a long way in making your work life easier. You will also know when to fight the battles and when to retreat. Knowing when to retreat is the most important since most people are competitive and want to fight. That is where the maturity makes a big difference in your career. This is similar to the stock market decisions. It is easier to know when to buy a stock than when to sell.
Another important issue is to decide who you are and what you want in your career. Do you want to fight for technical change on your team or do you move from team to team or company to company looking for that great fit? Which is more comfortable for you? This book could help someone on that quest, but should be partnered with other resources on career development and change management.