I'm currently reading the book "The 9 Disciplines of a Facilitator", which I find to be highly insightful. It discusses nine complementary ways of building self-mastery for facilitative leaders.
One of those ways the authors call "Sense of Wonder". It is about appreciating the unknown, about deciding that it's worth for the learning experience alone, and - in my understanding - about expecting to be surprised. That principle rang true for me from the first time I read about it. I still had some trouble really connecting to it, though - until recently...
Being an Agile evangelist for over a decade now, I've also become quite fond of Lean Software Development in the last years. And one of the principles I always liked most (in theory at least) is Stop the Line. So I regularly brought up the principle as a possible solution at opportunities that arose every couple of weeks to months. "You know, at Toyota when they have a small problem with one machine, they immediately stop the whole line..." And, not surprisingly to me, it was smashed down every single time. "Sounds interesting, but that wouldn't work here." "We wouldn't be able to produce software for months if we did that. We can't afford that." You get the idea. I didn't give up, but I also didn't expect this idea to sprout any time soon...
Two months ago, in one of our biweekly team meetings, we had a discussion about our continuous integration server, or rather about our integration discipline - the build would fail often, and it wouldn't be clear who feels responsible for fixing it. We talked a bit about some of the root causes for our problem, and then started a brain storming session on possible fixes.
One of my teammates, half-jokingly, came up with the idea that Eclipse could refuse to commit changes that would brake the build. Another teammate (who also is quite fond of Lean) remarked that that reminded her of "Stop the Line", so this made it into the list, too. No objections where raised, as we were still in brainstorming mode.
After the brainstorming, we clustered the suggestions, and one category we named - "Stop the Line". (At this time, I was more and more taking on the role of an observer, magnetized by the experience.) Then we performed a dot voting on which of the suggestions we wanted to implement. Guess what, "Stop the Line" got by far the most votes - almost everyone in the team voted for it! I felt like I was dreaming - and it was a quite nice dream. :)
So we are doing Stop the Line for more than a month now. It isn't going as smoothly as you might wish, and we are still in the process of adapting it. On the other hand, we already did implement many more improvements to our build systems than in the years before. And our team lead told me that he thinks the principle might also be applicable to bugs. Wow! :)
But most importantly, whenever I'm depressed that things are going so slowly and that some things look like they will never have a chance of being improved, that there is just so much resistance that I wonder whether it's really worth it - I can look back at this experience and tell myself: Wonders happen!