We went sitting in an agile project management “evening seminar” last Monday and
I took some notes it inspired a little rambling. There’s no much useful stuff here, this is just a diary entry. I merely went there to see who was participating as I’m less keen to this Finnish agility enthusiasm. There’s two reasons for it: 1) if google-kind of self-organization isn’t enough for managing your projects, you’re already screwed; 2) there isn’t produced especially good software products in Finland and I think they should put more effort on defining and refining the product strategies – as long as nobody’s interested in the stuff you’re producing, it doesn’t really matter how crappy the management methodology is.
A Fact: Project management is an activity, which consumes time to make better use of the rest of the time. The best case is if people can manage their own work so well that a more rigid management is inefficient; this is the Google case and probably one of the reasons why Google must focus on hiring only smart people who are capable of managing themselves.
Only if you are in such an unfortunate situation that you must produce a working solution with the wrong people, you must very much think about the management methodologies: the further the project scope is beyond the skills of the project team, the more focus on management. My life is really too short for that kind of shit, so I’m focusing more on operational (programming techniques) and strategic stuff (SaaS) than on managerial ones (agile programming). Btw., even if Google was adjusting their product management, that shouldn’t much effect their project management.
Mentoring, on the other hand, is an activity and style of thinking I like very much; I love working with ‘fresh’ people, they just mustn’t be placed on positions they’re not competent for. Tools are yet another, pretty much orthogonal aspect to management and good tooling is a must.
Another major failure is in the managerial thinking. A study of Finnish management in general revealed that over half of managers regarded their own employees as incompetent. Like, wtf? I believe the kind of management style that leads into should be illegal! No professions were specified in the research, but as it was paid by Accenture, it’s pretty safe to assume IT staff was included. So, I guess that explains a little why IT people are so stressed (in general.)
The basic principles of management should be focusing on the strengths (vs. weaknesses, which apparently is the case with over half of the managers) and guiding the employees in using their strengths as a basis for building their personal competitiveness. There is no such thing as an ‘incompetent employee’, there are only incompetent managers who have failed at positioning the people; of course, there are no incompetent managers either, also they are just placed in a wrong position. (Well, ok, people may be incompetent for their positions, but it should be thought of bad casting only.)
Then there was also Tom Gilb giving his presentation and it was pretty interesting – as opposed to our local offering. It had nothing to do with agile programming, but this was probably just a good thing. The quantification stuff, related to measurement, was pretty nice. Although, he stated that a high-level feedback-loop should occur weekly and I believe the situation is pretty bad if significant weekly adjustments are justified; you must adjust if you’re using time on going through tactics weekly, mustn’t you? Otherwise it’s just a waste of time; don’t get hypocritical with this. Actually, that is only a project management issue which were to be ignored anyway. The principal, methodology-agnostic idea of his was to precisely quantify the traditionally immeasurable quality requirements, like maintainability, usability etc. But besides motivation and some good results, he had not much magic to represent; just plain old divide-and-conquer.