A Commonplace

What is a commonplace?



Books are a Load of Crap?

"Get stewed: Books are a load of crap"

Philip Larkin – A Study of Reading Habits

I think I've written this blog post several times before.

It comes into my mind when I am "too much with the world" which is of course what it's like this week when I've been starting a new project. So many different people to meet. So many different things to get a handle on. Then also the worry of being compared to other Scrum Masters who are "doing it right" – which is of course one of the main ways that people try to manipulate you. This is just imposter syndrome, I have to tell myself. All those other Scrum Masters – they're thinking the same.

"Oh really? Well, so-and-so says this" "Everybody else is doing it this way."

More than once this week I've caught myself and realised that I'm worrying about this before it's even happened. But also I've found this Larkin quote ringing around my head. "Get Stewed. Books are a load of crap."

I am most definitely one to rely on books, and poetry especially in times of need and trouble – and of course, so is Larkin (he spent his entire professional life working as a librarian!). Which is obviously a delicious part of the irony of Larkin writing this.

Philip Larkin

Philip Larkin

And it reminds me of something that my colleague Marc Burgauer @somesheep was saying about project management in big organisations. I'm not quoting him directly, but I think he said something like "even when I was good at being a project manager, I didn't know how to do it."

And I'm thinking that one reason why, even when he'd learned how to do it – even when he'd got that "muscle memory" – he couldn't put it into words, because there weren't any words. Why not? Because the way you do project management in one organisation is different from the way you do project management in another organisation because internally all organisations are different, as Tolstoy said about all unhappy families.

"All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way." Leo Tolstoy – Anna Karenina

And this is why books aren't much help. You're trying to learn an organisational language, and the fact that the people in the organisation notionally speak the same natural language might be helpful – but maybe if they spoke another language, for which there were no phrase books or Rosetta Stone courses that would make the situation that you're in a little more obvious and help you respond to it more appropriately. But now I'm thinking about it, I'm thinking that maybe there would be value in reading books about Anthropology. Because that's what this is, in essence. I've been dropped into a foreign tribe. I need to learn their ways. Maybe books aren't a load of crap after all. I should maybe get on kindle and read a beginner's guide to anthropology. Or maybe look online for a bibliography...


Nobody Told me there was a Dress Code - I just came Smart Casual

And a final note. Understanding that this language is different in every organisation might be a way into understanding the hopes fears and tragedies of "the clueless" as identified in Venkatesh Rao's classification of Losers, Clueless and Sociopaths. the clueless only speak organisation.