An eternal flame is a statement of values like a manifesto.

An eternal flame is a statement of values like a manifesto.


Every profession in the IT world seems to either have published a manifesto or is in the process of publishing a manifesto.  With this proliferation, perhaps we could create a meta-manifesto that identifies a central core of behaviors most manifestos impacting software development and IT have in common. So, here is the beginning of our meta-manifesto.

  1. There are consequences to all actions.
  2. Favor intimate communication whenever possible.
  3. I am not a cog and neither are you (unless you choose to be).
  4. One size does not fit all.

There are consequences to all actions.

Statement:  I accept the consequences of my actions; you must accept the consequences of your actions.

Newton said, “To every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.”  Changing an organization requires the application of force; the amount of force is directly related to the amount of change needed.  If all reactions were positive we could rationally move forward; however, even under the best of circumstances not everyone will react positively to change.  You can help shape change and reap the positive consequences or you can fight change.

Deming said, “It is not necessary to change. Survival is not mandatory”.  When he made that statement, I would suggest that he laid down the gauntlet to all leaders to continuously improve their organizations.  I would suggest that companies like 3M, GE and Toyota (regardless of its current woes) provide good examples of what occurs when organizations embrace continuous improvement.  If these examples are representative of what can be, “why is resistance allowed?” [NEED LINKS]

Get on the train by embracing the need for change and help direct it if you are uncomfortable with the direction of the change.  If you choose to resist you may lose and end up being run over.  Remember that history is written by the winners and there are very few Robin Hoods. It’s your decision and your actions are a reflection of those actions.

Favor intimate communication whenever possible.

Statement:  I will use the most intimate form of communication possible at all times.

Intimate and synchronous communication is more effective during times of stress.  Change creates stress, therefore anything that reduces stress or possible miscommunication is good.  I will walk over to the office of the person I want to talk with rather than phoning or sending emails, IM’ing or scheduling a group meeting whenever possible and appropriate.

A few years ago Radio Shack terminated employees by e-mail.  Informing anyone that you are changing their work by e-mail is at best insensitive, and at worst, inappropriate.  The mismatch between message and communication technique reportedly caused significant stress.   If you want people to follow, build connections through quality communication.

I am not a cog and neither are you (unless you choose to be).

Statement:  I’m not a cog and I do not want to be treated like one; I will assume you are not a cog and will not treat you like one.

Changing the status quo requires authority to upset the apple cart.  Authority within most organization is a reflection of hierarchy.  Position in the hierarchy confers power that can be used to direct activities, but it does not mean anyone will follow.  Individuals and teams act in a manner that they believe is in their best interest.  As change leaders, we must understand what those interests are and understand that change may not always be in everyone’s best interest.  To be brutal, the governed must agree to follow; therefore, we must collaborate to decide what is in the best interest of the majority. This often requires compromise (unless you own the company and think people are fungible).

One size does not fit all.

Statement:  One single standard process will not solve every problem.

All roads lead to Rome. Most work in the IT space resists the application of detailed, single-path solutions because a large component of the work involves discovery and exploration.  That being said, industry data shows that frameworks and methodologies increase efficiency, quality and predictability.   Frameworks are most effective when they guide how work is done, while allowing discovery, rather than prescribing a single path. Frameworks and methods must reflect that all all projects need to deliver business value must like all roads leading to Rome.  What frameworks and methods don’t suggest is that every project has to be done exactly the same way in order to deliver business value.

Why does this matter?

The large number of manifestos popping up are a reflection of a set of ideas about how we should approach work, how we should collaborate and communicate. there are similarities between many of these manifestos. For example, the Business Analyst Manifesto states “Out of disagreement, we create alignment” and the Agile Manifesto states “Customer collaboration over contract negotiation.” Both of these value statements make extremely strong statements about communication.  The core manifesto threads of consequences to behavior, the need to communicate early and often, that process does not equate to human robots and that there is not a single set of techniques and processes that works for all projects is really a statement of humanity.  People represent a random factor in how work is done therefore each of the core ideas msut be addressed to make your process improvement programs more effective.