A Practice Approach by Ivar Jacobson

I have just left the RSDC 2006 in Orlando. This was my 10th Rational user conference. It is my favorite conference because I always meet many friends from my days at Rational – both customers and colleagues. And this is where I introduce the latest thinking of our team on software development practices – including people from Jaczone and people from Ivar Jacobson Consulting.

This year I presented our work on Next Generation Process and its first incarnation: Essential Unified Process. Essential Unified Process is just a package of separate practices. Some of them are well-known to those of you who are familiar with Unified Process or Rational Unified Process. We have given these practice names like: Component, Model, Iteration, Architecture and Use Case. However, we also have some new ones. One is about Process Improvement, helping you to achieve many of the values with CMMI. Another one is the Team Practice which is about social engineering or with a more modern word: it is about (the core of) agility.

Much of my understanding of teams was formed many years ago as a soccer player. As very young I was a passionate player. I was playing soccer every hour awake. I was also coaching several teams at the same time as I was an active player. Soccer has always fascinated me. It is played almost in the same way all around the world. Millions of people can play it and billions understand and enjoy it.

There are many similarities between playing soccer and a project, such as developing software. At the core of it is the team. Even if the team consists of individuals, the individuals must be team players. The values of the team have in both cases an enormous impact:

A soccer team consists of eleven players. A player has some competences such as goalkeeper (one player only), defenders, midfielders and forwards. A player that is a good forward is usually not a good defender.

The soccer team also has some other members; the most important one is the coach. The coach doesn’t play himself, but has an important role in creating the team. Typically, a coach is someone who once played soccer himself but has grown and matured. (Are there any similarities to software? :)) He is a leader and makes the team adopt important core values. He selects the players to make up the team. He sometimes has to make hard decisions abstaining from top individuals because they aren’t team players – they don’t buy into the core values. In professional soccer, the coach is the buyer of players from other teams. It is clear that not all players have the same price or the same salary. The difference may be ten- or hundredfold. And that is a manageable problem in team building.

However, while preparing for, playing or learning from a match, we are all members of the team. Although we are aware that the team is made up of individuals and that it is individuals that make heroic achievements, the success of the team is dependent on the whole team and that every member of the team is doing a good job. It doesn’t make sense to say “We forwards were very successful today by scoring three goals. However, they (the defense) were not doing well; they let in four goals.” We are all part of the whole. We want to be proud of the team. There is an expression Proud People Perform which is very applicable here. No one is more important than anyone else. We respect one another, we help, we make mistakes, we repair them and we move forward. The goal is to win, to succeed – to loose, to make a failure is out of the question. We take precautions to get to the right place.

What I just described could equally well have been practices adopted by a software team. There are many good patterns in modern software development that are incorporated in the Team practice, and more will come.