Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Bottom Of The V?

It is backlog management. Everyone is talking about "value" and "maximizing the work not done" and "minimal marketable features" and "prioritizing."

I've been thinking for a while that the problem in a lot of "agile organizations" is that the "agile" ended in the programmers' bullpen. Getting agility pushed into management and Customer hands is often like pushing a rope.

A recent blog ("Platitudes of Doom") covered part of my concern.

Instead of enjoying yesterday, I spent a lot of it pondering the reasons I've seen so much dysfunction in this area.

Of course, it is partly Taylorism (hello Darrin) since a lot of people filling the Customer role aren't paid on the basis of making the product better, but on the basis of making particular external customers happy. Often this places the marketing/product people in competition with each other for development time. If A gets his changes through ahead of B then A is rewarded and B takes a hit. This means a single point of decision has the power to promote some reps and demote others, just by doing his work.

Sad story: I was setting up my "magic funnel" at a company where I worked last year. A product guy told me that I was just killing him. He told me that he would never get any developer time if we grouped all the work together and prioritized. Essentially, he was placed in charge of work that mattered less to the company, so that doing the most important work would mean he would lose his job (as indeed he did, just a few weeks before I did). The organization wasn't ready for a single funnel, because it had a competitive rewards system.

I should let Esther Derby tilt at that one for a while. It is a bad system that sounded good to some executive(s) somewhere, yet this is exactly the kind of problem we in the agile community need to address.

We talk about the agile principles, but we drive programming changes into organizations that haven't adopted agile or lean or win-win thinking or sometimes even human dignity.

"I'd love to change the world / But I don't know what to do..."

One of my brother consultants was talking about such a situation, that sometimes the best we can do is to help liberate people who get it from systems that do not.

Today I am swallowing that pill. Gerry W said that you should not solve problems for people who have no sense of humor.

I've been given all the good advice I need, perhaps. Time to deal with such limitations in a healthy way. After all, there are companies that deserve to go out of business, and they have people who deserve better.

At peace now.