Many trees were taken down on my farm by the recent ice storms in the mid-Atlantic. Today was one of the first sunny days I could go out and start chain sawing them up. As I was working I got to thinking how nature had not only taken out some old and dead trees, but also some large branches from healthy mature trees. I got to thinking about how many new trees will spring up now there is additional sunlight hitting the ground and how this will change the dynamic of the forest for the good.

As with many things I observe on my farm, this stuck me as a metaphor for I think needs to happen in Software development and IT departments. Often teams develop together and grow as the company grows and there is not much turn over in the staff. Many managers think this is a good thing, and in some ways I agree. But often it leads to sluggishness and lack of creativity. Without new personnel, group think and stagnation of ideas occurs. You also don’t leave much area for growth and development. New ideas become infrequent and a “lifer mentality” sets in.

So what to do? You certainly don’t want to let a decent employee go just for the sake of getting some new ideas. So here’s some thoughts :

1. Send staff out for training and user group meetings. Ask them to report back on what they have learned. Make sure that they don’t just go and keep the information to themselves.
2. Use consultants. Yes, they are expensive and sometime their ideas may seem farfetched, but often they can bring fresh perspective to a stagnant situation.
3. Move staff out to the business units. Having them sit with their customers and experience the business firsthand can be a real eye opener.
4. Hire interns as often as you can. Nobody knows more about “everything” than a 20 year old. And if you listen, they will be happy to tell you. Don’t correct them until you have heard everything. You might learn as much as they do from the experience.

Change is good. New ideas, even if they are not put into practice are good to roll around and consider. Do a little pruning when you can and get rid of dead wood before stagnation spreads.

Spring comes every year on the farm and with it come chicks and ducklings. At work, a new crop of interns and first time job seekers. I look forward to it every Spring.

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