Thursday, March 08, 2012

World of Warcraft management bootcamp

Today's young developers seem to know an awful lot about management.

When I entered the software development industry some almost 20 years ago I was green and naive. I knew more or less nothing about software development and I knew less than nothing about management of people and teams. This is not the case today. Today's young developers have been trained in collaborative problem solving and goal achievement since they were barely out of nappies, or diapers in the case of my American readers.

In online games, such as World or Warcraft, loosely coupled groups collaborate to achieve sometimes seemingly impossible goals. They organize the work, prepare & plan, select leaders and adapt to changing situations on the fly. Yes, they have leaders; but these leaders are subject to constant peer reviews and should they be found lacking they are quickly replaced. Reputation within the community - based almost entirely on previous performance - determines seniority and although many activities are tightly disciplined events; individuals are always free to select which endeavors they deem interesting or important enough to take part in.

This organisational framework mirrors the best agile organisations I have seen or read about. This should not be surprising as research shows us that this is the way humans have collaborated to achieve goals for all of our history. It is only really since the industrial revolution that we have attempted to build large organizations without collaboration and with rigid permanent hierarchies.

This early training has resulted in young developers possessing remarkable management skills often far more advanced than many of their older and more experienced colleagues at work. In agile organizations this is not a problem but in organizations with traditional Taylorist views of management there is an inevitable conflict. These young developers know very well how to organize their work and quickly see where improvements to the organization could be made. Managers, feeling threatened, attempt to tighten their grip on what they perceive as a rebellious workforce unwilling to follow conventions and rules. It is the irresistible force meeting the immovable object.

So I believe the advancement of so called modern (but in reality very old) management techniques is inevitable, as is the decline in Taylorist thinking, and the future belongs to these young masters of collaboration, trained in the arena of online gaming.

P.S. I could have also included something about their early exposure to open source projects, but I decided to save that for another post :P

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