Utterances of a Zimboe

Programming the Internet.

Agile rambling

with 2 comments

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.


Written by Janne Savukoski

October 28, 2006 at 4:25 pm

Posted in Diary

2 Responses

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  1. It seems that you just forgot, that some of the projects in IT-industry must report their doings, predict the future, and do all of this in numbers.

    Ok, this can be done just using the professional gut feeling.

    Then add another thing to the previous, the project groups are thrown together from what company x has in a moment of time t. The group y is random, with people thinking and talking differently, thus creating communicational challenges.

    Well, my! We have a solution to this! Let’s write extensive documentation to group y, so that everyone can read it, and maybe then understand?

    I think this approach sucks, big time, writing papers when you already should be running. This is why I think that projects in general need thorough and light ways of constant communication, which to me means adapting some AGILE bs and sticking with it.

    So yea, once again I am not in line with your views… Beer tonight? :)


    November 1, 2006 at 10:23 am

  2. The industry is luckily very dispersed, but all management activities must help in getting things done, and not hinder — ie., mostly staying out of the way. And if the project group is dysfunctional, perhaps you shouldn’t put it into production use — do something less important just to get the group formed.

    Not documentation, but mentoring! A few weeks of it and then we could be doing something. This is the crafting style, which produces good quality software and happiness all around. And, when you can get it rolling — after the initial investment (in time) — it’s highly productive.

    Ah, and I must add, there are different kinds of enterprises and work environments, and one must know what kind suits him best.

    Beer would be great! :)

    Janne Savukoski

    November 1, 2006 at 10:46 am

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