Sunday, December 18, 2005

Local Optimization - bad. Global Optimization - good. Universal Optimization - huh?

Hi Andrew. I want to share something important with you that I learned this week.

I have already shared with you how Theory of Constaints teaches about Local Optimization - pactices within an organization that may appear to be effective but in the bigger picture of the organization, they are really ineffective or even detremental to achieving the overall goal of the organization. In contrast, processes that focus on the overall goal of the organization are referred to as Globally Optimized processes. The Principles of Agile software development such as early and often delivery of working software help me as a PM to focus on Global Optimization.

But is there such a thing as Universal Optimization? Are there processes and a goal that can make Corporate profits, an individual's happiness or some political ideology another instance of Local Optimization? These questions proach on the subject of one's 'world view' or their religous beliefs because you have to begin with defining what is the Univeral Goal. (In most places this is a difficult subject to discuss, but at ThoughtWorks, where we embrace a diverse culture, I can share my ideas and be challenged to think clearly and rationally. There are many bright people at ThoughtWorks who have well thought out world views that are in contrast to my world view but they have helped me formulate and clearly share my ideas on such subjects.)

So let me share with you what I have learned this week regarding Universal Optimization.

I have been reading from the Book of Job in the Old Testament. I have known about the story of Job for a long time but I never really understood it. To summarize the story, Job was a righteous man. He knew it and God affirmed it. But the Evil One asked God for permission to mess with Job in hopes that Job would eventually curse God. God allowed it with the condition that he spared only Job's life. Until today, this never seemed fair to me.

The Evil One took everything away from Job - his wealth, his family, and eventually his health. Several of Job's friends then tried to council Job about why this is happening to him. Their council was amiss though, in that they told Job that God was judging him because of something he must have done wrong. Job never curses God but continues to assert his own rightousness and therefore wants to question God about why this is happening to him.

God eventually steps in and lets Job's friends know that their council was bad. God then talks with Job and essentially tells Job that he may be rightous but he does not see 'the bigger picture'. Job repents and says 'My ears have heard of you but now my eyes have seen you'. He has come to an understanding of Universal Optimization - Job learns that life 'is not about me'.

So Andrew, I believe that there is a higher purpose or ultimate goal in life: 'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.' (Matthew 22: 37-39)