Episode 41 – You Need Mastery, Autonomy & Purpose with David J Anderson

 In Podcasts

David J Anderson is the Chairman of Lean Kanban Inc, a management training, events and publishing business which licenses its brand and franchises its events and training classes globally. David began his career as a games developer in the early 1980s and has worked at companies including IBM, Sprint, Motorola and Microsoft. He is also author of several books including the best-selling Kanban – Successful Evolutionary Change for your Technology Business.

In this episode David tells us why we need to have Mastery, Autonomy and Purpose, and that you need to be prepared to fire your boss. David also discusses the career decisions you may have to make between being professional & ethical and keeping your job as well as the importance of sociology in the I.T. industry.


Time Stamped Show Notes

(00:54) – Phil introduces David J Anderson

(01:36) – David talks a little about his family and says that he’s currently in Portugal

(02:15) – David tells us that he started out as a games developer and subsequently attended university

(02:45) – Ultimately David ran the software engineering group for Corbis which enabled him to meet Bill Gates


(03:24) – Unique Career Tip: David quotes Yogi Berra, “When you come to a fork in the road, take it!”

(03:43) – “Never look back and never regret. Make the best of the choices you make in life.”

(03:56) – “It’s always possible to excel, to become world class at whatever you do”

(04:55) – David refers to Daniel Pink and says that we need to have Mastery, Autonomy and Purpose

(05:03) – “From time to time in your career, don’t be afraid to fire your boss”

(05:29) – “Pursue mastery” but it takes time to achieve

(06:01) – Forget the 10,000 hour rule popularised by Malcolm Gladwell; there’s no magic number

(06:10) – A general principal of 5 to 10 years doing something is the order of magnitude you should be thinking

(06:19) – To be a Master you need to be able to teach and become a teacher

(06:54) – “Learn to value experience”

(07:23) – “Technologies change. Languages, platforms, APIs but most of the basic problems in I.T. just don’t change.”

(08:04) – The key to obtaining Autonomy is to be trusted and to be trustworthy you have to exhibit confidence

(08:38) – We all need a purpose and answers to questions so work for a company that has mature leadership

(09:15) – “If you’re going to feel fulfilled, if you’re going to have that autonomy, mastery and purpose, you need to be prepared to fire your boss”


(09:25) – Worst Career Moment: David says that he believes all careers are riddled with failures

(09:43) – David says that he’s been fired a couple of times because politics happen in big companies

(09:50) – You could get fired for being professional or acting in an ethically correct manner and David uses the example of the Volkswagen emissions employee who was jailed

(11:01) – You need to think about what you value in terms of your principles, your ethics and your self esteem

(12:04) – David describes another time when he was fired because he had a narcissistic boss and therefore he was setup for failure

(13:00) – David tells us the story of when he was running a small games development house while he was studying at university

(13:14) – David had a contract to develop a game for Electronic Arts but the end produce was not a good game and it was decided not to publish it

(14:09) – This hurt David financially and caused him to quit the games industry


(15:01) – Career Highlight / Greatest Success: David talks about publishing the first game for U.S. Gold in 1984

(15:30) – The game was launched at the P.C.W. Trade Fair in London and David has worked on the ZX Spectrum version

(16:00) – Other developers had said that converting the game from Commodore to ZX Spectrum couldn’t be done but David stole the show with it

(16:21) – In the early 1990s David won three innovation awards from the Scottish Government

(16:32) – In 1999 David was part of the team that delivered a bank lending system which was developed using a process which became known as Feature Driven Development

(17:16) – In 2011 David attended the 10 year anniversary of the Agile Manifesto and published his first book, “Agile Management For Software Engineering” in 2003

(18:12) – And in 2017 David received an award for a paper written in 2007 which was recognised as the most influential paper 10 year retrospective

(18:45) – But the career highlight for David is two lectures that he has given, one at the University of California and the other at the University of Strathclyde

(19:16) – David’s lecture at Strathclyde was about pursuing risk and uncertainty – choose the path with the highest chance of failure. And also to develop a diverse social network. David believes that both pieces of advice remain valid today.

(20:38) – David talks about his University of California lecture and his relationship with Barry Baum


(24:29) – What Excites You About The Future of a Career in I.T.? David says that during his career the recognition that I.T. is a “team sport” has been the greatest change

(25:19) – Sociology has become very important and therefore the importance of organisation and leadership of humans has remained in place

(25:42) – For David, Sociology is the big thing and that is what excites him the most


(25:51) – The Reveal

(25:56) – What attracted you to an I.T. career in the first place? – “The digital revolution was happening … and in 1981 the Sinclair ZX81 appeared”

(27:07) – What’s the best career advice you’ve ever received? – “Perseverance. You just have to stick at it” and “Ask yourself, ‘What are people afraid of?’”

(28:09) – If you were to begin your I.T. career again, right now, what would you do? –”Enlist in a really good university. One that has a reputation for being good at computer science or software engineering or electronics”

(30:46) – What career objectives are you focusing on right now? – “I’m trying to focus more on my health, my family. Everything I didn’t pay enough attention to when I was younger. I’ve got four or five books buried in the remaining unpublished class material”

(32:57) – What’s the number one non-technical skill that has helped you in your career so far? – “Communication, and specifically public speaking”


(34:06) – A Parting Piece of Career Advice: David recaps on some of his earlier points about pursuing risk and uncertainty, and developing a broad social network

(34:23) – David talks about the movie “Charlie Wilson’s War”


3 Key Points:     

  1. We all need to have Mastery, Autonomy and Purpose, and be prepared to fire your boss
  2. You can get fired for being professional or acting in an ethically correct manner
  3. Sociology has become very important in the I.T. industry


Resources Mentioned:

  • kanban.com – David’s website
  • LinkedIn – David’s LinkedIn profile
  • @agilemanager – David’s Twitter handle
  • Fit For Purpose – David’s new book on Amazon


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