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Lamentation

Coding

After all these years, I still love coding (as in writing software).

It’s just that it’s tainted by the certainty that there’s so many other more effective ways of adding value and meeting folks’ needs.

Spending time coding feels so… self-indulgent.

You Don’t Understand Software Delivery

And the more senior you are, the less you understand. Even if you were once a developer, given that most developers don’t understand software development / software delivery, a developer background is not going to help you much.

Who does understand software delivery? Folks who have studied it as a discipline. And that’s precious few indeed. Of all the “development” folks I’ve met over the years – and that’s thousands – wayyy less than one percent actually have an effective understanding of the field.

Yes, there’s thousands upon thousands of folks who understand coding (programming). But that’s not much help at all in forming a broader and effective understanding of the wider software delivery discipline.

The upshot? The software industry is stacked to the gills with folks who have no clue what they’re doing, except in the narrowest of specialism. And worse, no ability to recognise the one percent. Result? The blind leading the blind. And the hegemony of the one-eyed man.

– Bob

There is helpful and useful content out there. But finding it amongst all the dross is a massive challenge.

I despair of the boatloads of naive advice, misinformation, and just pure tosh that so-called “Agile” people spout on a daily basis. (Not limited to just “Agile” people, of course.)

Caveat lector!

And just in case you’d like a sanity check on anything suspect or dubious, I’m always happy to support your natural scepticism. Just get in touch for non-partisan help.

Seeds of Failure

Agile has become widespread and popular mainly because it promises “improvements” without demanding that the decision-makers change. Of course, without people changing (in particular, managers changing their collective assumptions and beliefs) Agile has zero chance of delivering on its promises. It then becomes “just one more packaged method to install in the development teams” – and just one more debacle.

As the French say:

“Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose”.

Thus Agile carries with it the seeds of its own inevitable failure.

“But what if managers DO change?” I hear you ask.

Well, if they change themselves in ways that move them and their organisations towards the quintessential, they won’t choose Agile.

Seeds of Success

And if you’re wondering what the seeds of success might look like, you may like to take a look at my recent book “Quintessence” (Marshall 2021).

– Bob

Further Reading

Marshall, R.W. (2021). Quintessence: An Acme for Software Development Organisations. Falling Blossoms (LeanPub).

The irony of my situation. is not lost on me (although I guess it’s lost on most everyone else).

My career has been driven for at least the past thirty years by my concern and compassion for those many millions of folks working in jobs where they have no chance to fulfil their innate potential. Not to mention the unemployed, who also have little to zero opportunity to exercise any of their innate potential.

And now I find myself in the same situation. Oh, the irony.

We might forgive junior software engineers (a.k.a. junior developers) for being ignorant of many things. The field of software engineering is both broad and deep, and it takes many years to come up to speed in all necessary aspects. Indeed, I have seen many engineers with even 10+ years experience having major blind spots and shortfalls in their knowledge. Are the latter “senior engineers”? Many of them bear this title. Outwith my issues about titles, I posit that there are numerous topics, mastery of which is require to fairly assume the title of “senior engineer” (hint: coding skills are but one of some fifteen or twenty such topics).

See also: Scope Of Ignorance

LeanAgileExchange 2021 Conference Report

I’m concerned. I’ve been thinking that folks seem less engaged with my blog, Slack workspace, etc.
But the past two days have caused my to rethink somewhat. It’s been the 2021 edition of the LeanAgileExchange conference (virtual). And I’ve been seeing the same lack of engagement there as elsewhere.

Seems like indifference and lack of engagement is a more or less ubiquitous phenomenon, presently.

The Conference

Overall, I found the event rather, umm, flat. Which is to say, lacking in excitement, a sense of occasion, buzz.

I guess it’s really hard to translate a successful IRL format into the virtual space. Or so it seems.

Not that everyone, especially the organising team, seemed to be doing other than their very level best. Everyone I “met” was keen, courteous, helpful, pleasant and diligent.

The Content

With three tracks (I loathe multi-track conferences, whether IRL or virtual, BTW) over two days, we had some 28 sessions to choose from. I did my usual “butterfly” thing, and frequently exercised the Law of Two Feet.

Aside: I tend to treat all conferences as OpenSpace events, whether formally governed by the Four Rules, the One Law and the Two Insects of OpenSpace, or not, whether IRL or virtual.

The sessions I stuck with were few, but I did much enjoy a couple:

Most sessions were recorded (although not publicly available), and I have yet to catch up with a few I missed on the day.

The Hallways

Although supported by Slack, I missed the hallways and lounges of IRL conferences. I generally spend little time in sessions, much preferring to hang out in the interstitial spaces for pleasant and interesting conversations. I find Slack to be a very poor substitute, more useful as an intercom or public address system.

My Session

I feel driven to briefly mention my session – “CultureShift through memeology”. The three-track setup meant that few attended (some 20 people, IIRC, the conference hosting, I guess, some 200 attendees, all told).

And aside from two most welcome Q&A questions and a smattering of chat, zero feedback (so far). Aside from using the session as a mini book launch for “Memeology”, my key message was (as ever):

“Organisational Psychotherapy proposes a sea change for the software Industry, and for business generally. Away from methods, processes, practices and tools, and towards people.”

I truly wonder how many folks are even interested in a sea change, let alone feel the need for one. This session failed to answer that question.

Summary

As this was a ticketed (paid-for) event, I wonder how many people felt they received value for their money? Personally, as a speaker, my entry was complimentary (thanks! to the fine Software Acumen folks for that). Even so, attending was hardly (borderline) worth my time.

– Bob

Jira, Dogs and Chocolate

I’m a dog person. As such, I know that chocolate is toxic to dogs. They’ll happily wolf it down, of course. But then they’ll get sick, with a range of symptoms including vomiting, diarrhoea, increased thirst, panting or restlessness, excessive urination, and racing heart rate. In severe cases, symptoms can include muscle tremors, seizures, heart failure and death.

“Clinical signs of chocolate poisoning can take hours to develop, and last for days.”

Chocolate is toxic because it contains a chemical called theobromine, as well as caffeine. Theobromine is the main toxin in chocolate and is very similar to caffeine. Both chemicals are used medicinally as a diuretic, heart stimulant, blood vessel dilator, and a smooth muscle relaxant. Dogs cannot metabolize theobromine and caffeine as well as people can. That is why dogs are more sensitive to the chemicals’ effects.

So it is with teams and Jira. Teams will happily embrace Jira at first, but then quickly sicken as its toxicity kicks in.

Clinical signs of JIRA poisoning can take days to develop, and last for weeks or months, even when the ingestion has ceased.

Teams and organisations use Jira is a way of communicating without talking with each other. It’s an impersonal substitute for common forms of human communication, and offers only a fraction of the understanding we get from actually interacting with one other directly. It’s toxic to finding common ground, and common understanding, especially in its typical mode as a “communications” nexus.

As an expert in team health, I recommend you avoid exposing teams to Jira in any form. Jira is an example of a tool with which it is far easier to poison your teams’ relationships, than to enhance them. Much like chocolate and dogs.

– Bob

Postscripts

Slack

Also applies to Slack, and maybe other tools too.

Non-dog People

I can remember many occasions where clueless non-dog people insisted on feeding chocolate to my beloved hounds, even surreptitiously after I’ve requested them not to. So it is with many managers, who, heedless of the health and social dynamic of teams, feed them Jira, regardless.

I’ve been taking in a few online meet-ups recently. Without exception they have been poorly hosted and heinously presented with execrable powerpoint shitshows. I’m amazed anyone turns up for them (although I have, sigh).

At least with in-person meet-ups (COVID restrictions permitting) one gets to bypass the presentations and chat with fellows.

Never again.  #NoOnlineMeetups

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