A mentor and friend introduced me to the term “I speak Wookie!” I instantly knew what he meant, both in reference to what happened long time ago in a galaxy far far away, and the belief that developers should be kept away from the general public for reasons of safety and comfort. And far be it for me to criticise our hirsute code cutting brethren for speaking a language few others even want to understand.
The term itself conveys far more than simply, I speak their language. Developers have a particular way of seeing the world, of seeing their role in the organisation. Of seeing their value to make something happen, that very few outside the secret society will understand, or appreciate in quite the same way; A herd mentality unlike any other species.
And when harnessed correctly and focussed accurately to a task, the wonders they can create are simply staggering. The power they can provide to an organisation through a new product or additional functionality is simply inspiring. But for every twitter or Facebook, a thousand projects lie on the bottom of the Project Management Ocean. Huge cumbersome hulks of code, without additional funds or resources, out-dated legacy systems abandoned on the tides of change.
The business simply does not care how ground breaking the code is, how simply brilliant the concept may be, at least until the market is prepared to pay for it. The business sees the cost, usually per Wookie per hour which does not equate to a return on investment close to what is lost at the development team Friday lunch time meetings at the pub. Brilliance to the organisation is what the accountants tell them.
I understand business language and behaviour as well. I understand Project Management with their gannt chart hocus pocus – the natural enemy of the free spirited and peace loving People of the Trees. I understand the need to harness the power, tether it to the common goals of the organisation and quantify it through milestone achievement. I understand why the Developer must be engaged in the solution development and, I know how to achieve it.
Speaking the language requires more than simply the words to use or describe a situation through a use case or requirement. Understanding the questions, the push back and resistance to code within the lines, does not require me to understand how to code, it requires me to understand why the question is being asked. Why the requirements are not correct and the business wrong for even suggesting such a thing could occur, such a thing should occur and be ready for testing by Friday.
Speaking the language translates sometimes into understanding the thoughts, the subtle nuance of non-verbal communication that every language has unwritten. The ability to know what is a genuine issue, a real risk to the ability to deliver a suitable solution and what is simply misdirection: “I suggest a new strategy, Artoo: Let the Wookie win.”