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Re: Conflict in Teams

by sundialsvc4 (Abbot)
on Jun 12, 2017 at 15:22 UTC ( #1192605=note: print w/replies, xml ) Need Help??

in reply to Conflict in Teams

Excellent comments, Eyes.   Now, I happen to work as a software consultant, so I usually wind up walking into either “active fires” or, more likely, “smoking ruins.”   The project has usually reached and passed its turning burning-point.   Heads have rolled, and the best people have quit.   So, one of the first things that I try to do is to look at the team’s work-flow organization, or lack thereof.

Superficially, this is (for instance) their ticketing system.   But, on a larger scale, it is the entire process of how changes and new tasks are introduced into their team workflow and how they are vetted before being formally introduced.   I also look at who within the business the team effectively answers to:   usually, this person is part of the marketing department.   Is the team’s approach pro-active or reactionary?   How much do people believe that they actually have an influence on how their department’s daily activities are run?   Why do they think that, when starting on a particular work-order, they actually possess all of the information they need in order to complete and then to test it?   How many of the subsequent “bug reports” are actually design changes, or the ex post facto reactionary discovery of defects or omissions in the design?

I have actually very rarely encountered an actual “know-it-all,” although I have encountered a fair number of people who initially struck me as being very obnoxious.   I once unfortunately worked with a team that I privately thought of as “Mark, Carl, and their Ten Little Indians,” because the bean-counters had swallowed wholesale the idea that H-1B non-immigrant visa holders (from India) were “cheaper,” but also that they were quite “expendable” and “interchangeable.”   Many of the Indians were foundering, poorly trained or not at all, and got shifted from one project to another by the accountants.   (Of course, an absolutely untenable situation for them!)   Really, only Mark and Carl knew what the project was about, and, during my engagement, Carl (a true old-hand) left.   I felt that Mark was soon to follow, although he did not do so before my engagement ended.

I happen to think that, if a programming team has conflict, it is best addressed as a symptom.   It is an indication of the fact that the team feels that they are in a pressure-cooker, and the surface boiling is probably a warning of much bigger organizational problems than that.   Sometimes, managers are promoted from the programming ranks without being given programming training, but I don’t see that nearly as much as I used to.   (Today, there are usually two parallel tracks – technical, and project-management – and I think that this is an improvement.)   I also don’t generally think that managers are actually the autocratic blow-hards that their teams might say they are (behind their backs).

I usually recommend that organizations should expose their technical implementation, testing, and other related teams to project management perspectives and issues, although w-i-t-h-o-u-t swallowing the kool-aid of “self-directed teams.”   Technicians need to see their work as the business does.   But the business(!) also needs to better understand how computer software actually works.

I read a little e-book called Managing the Mechanism ... I have never seen it on a shelf ... that had a lot of influence on my thinking.   The premise behind this book is that software is a self-directing, autonomous software automaton.

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