The Landmarks and Goal Posts of Software Development

There is a recent resurgence of hybridization of football-like huddle-scrimmage-iterations and laissez-faire hands-off zero-effort management philosophy. In truth more often than not these two are paired together in a good cop bad cop setting by ingenious amateur managers (amateur as in not business schooled management). The manager would institute rough on rough project management, torture the team with completely context free project manager whose job is mainly to say “are we on time?” “What is blocking you from progress” and maybe sympathetically repeat text from training: “I know you are frustrated, we all are, but in the interest of progress, can you just shovel the manure? For the team!? Even though I can just as easily do some work and tie the camel to the barn, but you must compromise, right?”

No, but there is no reasoning with an unreasonable setup.

After a torture cycle, the good cop kicks in. The good cop will express his endless enthusiasm and confidence in your ability. He will give you complete latitude to self manage. However, the good cop will operate as an individual contributing agent of the system. He will only go to bat for you at a limited pace. He’ll even let you manage the portion of his resource that he has given you–time, knowledge, relationships, etc. the best manager an employee can have. (No pressure, but employee cannot fail because it really would be all your fault, because you got everything you wanted (that he can give you))

As shareholder, however, you kind of wish there was a little more. Hands on active management. Even though there is a huge school of investment advisors advocating for passive management of money, the same cannot be applied to people. Things could be more efficient… (a small voice says: don’t optimize too early) but really, we can do better than that, can’t we?

Enter the next phase of management evolution. So there is always an ideal mix of a fully managed team and a small-management team. They are opposing ideologies like communism and capitalism. It is not a personal preference or team culture. Rather this is a collision of worlds. It feels like two people sitting across from each other are aliens from different galaxies because we really are! Our foundamental assumptions about the worlds are different. The laws (physical laws) of how our world works (as theories in our minds) are different. Even if we live in the world with same physical laws, the properties that we rely on are completely different.

But we can still hybridize. In the least, we should introduce monitoring. Landmarks that are foundamental to software development should be observed: requirements, specification, design, implementation, integration, deployment rollout, and celebrations.

The metrics for monitoring can be discrete or continuous. They should correspond to real world measurable quantities: time to completion, lines of code, peer reviewed, management reviewed, etc.

Can we at least agree to this? Management should engage in passive but publicly visible monitoring.

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