In response to the following blog posts regarding management in Agile processes:
Managers Are Grown-ups, too
Can Managers Lead Agile Teams?
I absolutely agree with the premise that one of the reasons Agile works well (when it works) is because it allows the engineers to indiscreetly yet directly and intelligently control and mitigate a manager’s influence – what has failed to be recognized / admitted by the Agile community is that this just inevitably builds new ways (well, not really) to fail (e.g. all the Agile attempts that fail due to mismanagement because the engineers have no better management chops than their managers). It’s about time Agile communities started to address this problem of what really ought to happen to traditional managers and how to inspect, adapt, and improve on the managerial side of the house.
Many managers and management teams use Agile as an excuse to lose cognizance about the what, why, how, and who of the activity of their team. All they feel responsible for under Agile is knowing when things will be done and a summary of the what’s, who’s, and maybe why’s of development activity. This attitude seems to accompany a lack of interest and knowledge regarding the personal interests and motivations of team members and a disconnect with the fact that these concerns are central to their role – that, as managers, they need to be proactive in learning and discerning them.
From the articles, this doesn’t appear to be particularly uncommon in Agile. Either (1) organizations don’t adopt Agile because they see managerial circumvention as inevitable or (2) Agile fails because the necessary leadership doesn’t emerge as is suppose to happen and/or should already be present in existing management.
Either way, if a manager’s primary concern is not his employees and their satisfaction, he is doomed to failure. Employee satisfaction and budget/schedule do not have to be opposing forces. In fact, with a good balance that emphasizes that employees matter first while not excusing poor performance, a manager should find that he gets more bang for his buck out of his employees because they remain retained/loyal, interested, and self-motivated to perform and improve.
Agile is good at evoking these traits within engineers precisely because it puts engineers at the center of the concern of their work. Personally, I suspect the leading reason while Agile is all the rage these days is because older, more standard processes have become more about the bureaucratic machinations of human resources, schedules, man-power allocation, and budgets rather than keeping talented employees happy and involved beyond that of being mere cogs in the work that they are about.
Management is high-level mentoring. As a manager, you must invest yourself and your time in your people and their work; otherwise, your people won’t invest the best of themselves and their time in you and your work. For them, work will be just a timeout from their real life until they can find a better gig.
The Sun setting behind the line of trees
Toddler laughter chasing, kicking, throwing
The younger teaching the older new skills and new fun
- Swings flying boys up to the moon
An embracing love, simple presence, happy being
Prayers for a memory that anchors a lifetime
What to do with an unyielding son?
… I’ll let you know if I ever figure it out …
When I first took a job with LMCO, it was up in DC, and what I remember the most is a distinct lack of stuff to do. While I was hired to write and maintain software, it was really a job in avoiding insanity by finding something – anything – to occupy your time that wouldn’t get you in trouble. Thus I found myself doing a lot of wandering and talking. When that got old, I taunted a beta fish that we had put in a giant plastic bear container that once housed a ridiculous number of animal crackers. But perhaps most exciting: I, along with my co-workers, became an uncanny slinger of rubber bands.
The rubber bands really were a true source of pride. I could hit someone two cubes away by aiming via the reflections off the sprinklers. When you have as much time to stare at them as we did, you can actually figure both the position and the identity of the source of the sprinklers’ reflections. In fact, though he could never prove it, I shot my manager over a cube wall after he came in to tell us to cut it out.
Probably the worst offense, though, was the shooting of the Potted Plant. The Potted Plant was brought in by an engineer who had long since left by the time I had arrived. We gave it water maybe once a month, and, by genetics that we are apt to feel impossible, it has survived to this very day. To top it off, the Potted Plant has survived many a marksman’s attempts at bringing it down.
So, when one day a particular engineer actually managed to take a leaf off the Potted Plant, I took umbrage. Or rather, the Potted Plant took umbrage. And after everyone had long gone home for the day, the Potted Plant exacted its revenge by stringing up the engineer’s favorite stuffed green Frog. He left a little note scribbled in dirt reading “Don’t Let This Happen to You”, signed with a wilted leaf tucked into a rip in the paper.
Unfortunately, I cannot provide a report on the engineer’s initial response when he found his dear Frog near death the next morning. However, I can report that by the time I arrived, the Frog had made his way to my coffee cup, whereupon he was sitting and reading what looked like a newspaper. As I arrived at my cube for the morning, the engineer reached across and gave a tug on a draw-string in the Frog, at which the Frog began to vibrate.
After a good 10 minutes of hearty laughter, I went and washed out my cup. It wasn’t that I didn’t trust the Frog – but I wouldn’t put anything past an engineer. After that, we moved the Potted Plant and the Frog into opposite corners of the cube for fear of future engagements and/or retributions; however, I have heard that a Cold War replete with espionage and sabotage has continued between the factions of the Frog and Potted Plant ever since.
In general, when folks talk about giving up something for Lent, it tends to be a vice or vanity. The television goes off in our house, as do the game systems. We become more mindful of our sweets. And this is when my parent’s home becomes particularly popular – they do not come from a faith tradition that observes the Lenten liturgical season, and so we allow the kids to take a Lenten reprieve when there.
In Lenten seasons past, I tried to set aside more time for prayer and meditation – time to draw closer to God. And I probably should have done the same again this year. Time is at more of a premium these days than it ever has been before – regular prayer time being limited to meals, boyhood bedtime, and Mass – and setting aside that time would have meant all the more. But I decided against it, looking instead to improve on some inner-discipline. Part of me has guilt – I’ve backslidden in my spirituality! – and part of me shrugs and says I’m just at a different place in life than I was in years past. The latter is certainly true. The former … I’m always ready to believe that’s true if someone wants to deliver a spiritual 2×4 to the back of my head to make the point.
This year I identified a sin in my life that has been a particular plague upon my soul, and I decided I would suffer it no more except through perseverance. And so, after talking with my wife, that is what I set out to do.
I wonder what Jesus had in mind when he said, “My yoke is easy. My burden is light.” Perseverance in goodness does not at all feel that way. And the perseverance itself begs questions of the whole experience – why this moment of hell? Why not end it by giving over and getting on with more important and interesting matters? What good fruit comes from this mortification? What is the end of this mean estate that I suffer?
Honestly, I don’t know that there’s a satisfying answer. All there is … is that I believe in Jesus. And Jesus suffered all to conquer all so that I might join with Him in all that I am and to share all that He has attained. And so, I give myself over to the good so that Jesus prevails in me and I in Him.
But that isn’t satisfying. It is poetic. It is beautiful. But my sin speaks so much more eloquently to me. “Take, revel, and return when you want more.” The Lord’s Supper isn’t so hedonistic. “Take and eat. Take and drink. Do this in memory of me.” He didn’t ask to be laid aside until we approach His table again. And growing up in a culture where the former is supreme and the latter is viewed as a form of insanity … it makes holding to the latter in fullness and earnestness difficult.
I’m glad to say that I fared fairly well, though admittedly not perfectly. And my precious wife has bore with my struggling – and at times irritable – spirit with the grace and love that called me to marry her. As for TV and games and sweets – we probably did the worst there. First of all because we didn’t do it as a family. I wasn’t willing to give up TV this Lent. I’m a jerk. And the kids would have gone nuts if they lost both TV and sweets. I think next year, though, we will give it up as a family. We should bear our children’s burdens if we are going to place it on them. It’s wrong to do otherwise. And, for giving up the TV, we still did a lot of TV viewing this year – it’s just really hard with 3 boys to keep them from killing each other when trying to clean, pay bills, budget, cook, etc etc etc.
During my Lenten Reconciliation, I confessed my sin, the struggles surrounding my sin, my desire to do away with it. And for now, while I cannot escape the near occasion of this sin, I feel cleansed of it – a first in a very long time.
I confess to Almighty God
And to you, my brothers and sisters,
That I have sinned of my own fault:
in my thoughts and in my words;
in what I have done
and in what I have failed to do.
And I ask blessed Mary, ever Virgin,
All the Angels and Saints,
And you, my brothers and sisters,
To pray for me to the Lord, Our God. Amen
Oh, my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended thee,
and I detest all my sin because of thy just judgment,
but most of all because they offend thee, my God,
Who art all good and deserving of all my love.
I firmly resolve with the help of thy grace to sin no more
and to avoid the near occasion of sin. Amen.