Sunday, 22 February 2015

My name is Ash, and I was a manager


 
"My name is Ash, and I was a manager"
Sometimes I feel like I should say that in a circle of other former managers and get a ripple of applause for admitting it. 

Pitchforks at the ready.....

Every time I open Twitter or LinkedIn I see a pithy saying about managers, the reasons why your manager is out to get you, or in the way, an unfeeling monster, the root of all that is wrong in the software development world. Managers are generalised and stereotyped mercilessly, oddly enough by those who accuse same managers of the self same behaviour.  

Some dislike specific managers or at least personality types of managers, some management as a concept, some say management is confused with leadership and vice versa. A legion of reasons to mistrust, expressed in many ways.

Because reasons....

Now, I'm not an idiot, this mistrust has been earned. As a consultant to various companies I've seen some very inhumane approaches to management executed by, quite frankly, unstoppable morons with some horrendous results. Broken confidence or even careers justified by terrifying organisational values (or the dreaded 'commercial reality', the catch all excuse for awful treatment of fellow humans), utterly opposed to the contradictions plastered on their marketing material. Maybe people think that about me. I hope not.

This might earn me some grief....

But you know what. for the most part, I'm proud to have managed people, helped them with their immediate and long term goals, provided direction if they needed it and most of all, trusted them to get the job done using their expertise. If I helped them meet their goals and represent the wider organisation, then I can stand by my work. The world is getting flatter and I'm all for it. I enjoy my autonomy, it is a fundamental need that most of us share.

Thinking locally....

Whenever I see the latest 'why managers are bad' schtick, I think of my own manager in my previous role. That person earned but never expected my trust, gave me timely, meaningful feedback and provided a non-judgemental sounding board. If someone can do that, how can it be bad? Maybe I was just lucky.

Now I've got no one to manage but myself. Hard work. :-)

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Scaling schmaling


'Scaling agile' appears to be the latest organisational obsession. I appear beset on all sides by the latest scaling framework for agile ways of working.  SAFe, LeSS and even DAD are examples of acronym driven chicanery which parade as answers to all your organisational needs. 

So, lets just all leap aboard the Agile Release Train (because loading something up with a few months work and careering around at variable speeds sounds SAFe to me) and scale into the stratosphere.

I have a theory I've expressed on this blog before. Its just too darned hard to think about problems like this. So we outsource it. Thinking-as-a-Service. TaaS. We are relatively unique, blog reader, in our desire to go back to first principles.

Anyway, onwards. Riddle me this framework builders. Which of these doesn't scale?




Its all there. Teams, trust, collaboration, conversation, technical excellence, sustainability, self-organisation, reflection.

They are pretty explicit too for the most part. You rarely need to read between the lines. Any framework on top of these is abstraction and obfuscation of these aims.

Lets take an example. Preference for face to face conversation? That scales. More teams, more interdependent stuff to do. Talk more and regularly, at all levels, from the programmer to the CTO. But how do we scale I hear you cry? This is the bit when you consider your options (try 10 options to go beyond the obvious) and apply the rule of three. Otherwise known as the "thinking about it bit".

I won't go though them all but you probably get the picture.

I have a sneaking (more like rampaging bull elephant) suspicion that these frameworks real purpose is to fit around what your organisation already does. Still sat on the same nail and getting more painful but with a lovely layer of process to entertain us while we wear good people out, harpoon careers and lampoon ideas.

But then, at least with SAFe-LeSS-DAD, you get to keep the corner office eh?