The yin and yang of software development

The topic I talked about last week led me to think about it more widely. And I ended up with the thinking that many problems in software companies are a clear problem of balance between their yin and their yang.

This old chinese principle is documented in a very old-fashioned way, opposing genders and principles. But actually it sums up in the fact that many dynamics are to be based in a balance between two opposing principles. Otherwise they fail.

The way I see it, software developers are a nurturing kind. This profile has to consider long term. It decides actions for later outcomes. It’s about giving life and growing it. It feels closer to the Yin principle.

On another hand, the business people are bound to a shorter time frame. And I don’t talk about the entrepreneurs and the rare visionary people, but the real business work force. They are competitive, aggressive, fighters. That really feels to me like the Yang concept.

And all occurrences where I saw software companies failing, I think it was because there was a lack of balance between those 2 principles. Either the management was too soft and not aggressive enough towards its market, either it was too aggressive and nurturing was not considered enough in their equation.

I don’t think that this balance requirement applies to everything, to be honest. But in a constituted body of a software organization, considering the current (questionable) market economy, it feels that the Yin and the Yang have to be in balance to grant a chance of survival to the organization.

One may have the feeling that the dominant Yang (business side) is the more common case. But they are just more noisy. Many projects stay silently in the darkness just because there was no real business consideration (or even refusal of it).

The keynote of Grady Booch (linked in the video section) confirmed me in various ways in this opinion. Engineers have the duty to fight for the balance when they can. They have to understand that it’s not a one-way deal, as well. If you want to exercise programming in a nurturing-only context, win a lottery and dedicate your time writing free software (where market requirements don’t apply). But in the usual case, you may have to consider if you are in a balanced context, and if not, try to work on balancing it.

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