Thursday, May 25, 2006

Quick Bad Management Analogy

I was talking with the other developer today and the subject of our lack of management came up, as it always does. Our suspicion is that somewhere in the project transition there may have been a decision that we were perfectly capable of doing our jobs with very little interaction from them. While this is true, they seem to have taken the old adage that the manager that manages least manages best to an unhealthy extreme. The analogy I came up with is it's like someone driving one of those big 1970's custom vans discovered that if they briefly took their hands off the steering wheel the van seemed to drive itself. So they decided to put a cinderblock on the gas and go to the back to make themselves a drink.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

It's That Time Again

Recently, the new management for my team has stopped the daily status meeting, changed the weekly planning meeting to every other week, and now refer to the planning meeting as an opportunity to "touch base." As if we don't really need the meeting for anything other than a quick status update. Awesome. I feel so over-managed already.

We started the meeting 10 minutes late of course. I was determined that I was not going to lead this meeting. So, we sat in silence in the conference room for several minutes while the manager busily typed some emails on his laptop and the sales guy played with his crackberry. Finally I was asked what I had been working on. I did a quick summary, showed them one screen and that was that. They spent a couple of minutes trying to form meaningful questions, ultimately failing, and in 5 short minutes the whole demo was over.

The other programmer on my team has been spending most of his time working on another startup type of project. He's been doing a lot of research, explaining the overall strategy we should take for the new stuff, doing some initial designs, etc. When he mentioned briefly that he spent the iteration working on the other stuff, both the managers' faces lit up like Christmas morning. This they could understand. They fell over each other asking pertinent questions, offering assistance to keep things moving, and expressed a deep interest in being kept in the loop on things. It was all very fun to watch.

When I brought the meeting back to my project and that we should plan the next iteration I think I actually heard crickets. I spent the next several minutes reiterating our need for test equipment that our product supposedly works with, some sort of requirements (preferably from a customer), and my continued concern that we may be dropping the ball on this product.

The sales guy said, "Now it was my understanding that you guys were supposed to put together some sort of product roadmap." The developers informed him that in fact, we're not supposed to be the ones that do that, although we had suggestions. He then mentioned that he needed us to update the product data sheet. Again, we informed him that, technically, someone on their side is supposed to do that. Finally, he expressed concern at my concern, as if this was all new news to him (despite the fact that I bring it up all the time). "Well, I'm a little concerned to be honest. When the lead developer tells me we may not be making something we can sell." My sneaking suspicion is that this is supposed to have a somewhat accusatory tone to it. That somehow I am not living up to my grand title and pulling everything together for them.

Blow me. Could I instead write about him being the pied piper of ineptitude playing my meat whistle and leading us all to a disastrous end? Yes, I could. But I prefer the simple effective thrust of a succinct "blow me."

He continued on trying to regurgitate technical terms he had heard us use. This is a vain effort to either appear competent or to speak our "language." Of course, when you use all of the terms incorrectly it just becomes comically sad. He has put no effort into learning anything about the product or what it does. He either thinks he doesn't need to or that he'll just absorb it somehow. I felt like interrupting him and suggesting we schedule a training meeting where I can give him the 30 minute HTE of the technology. HTE is the phrase my co-worker and I have been using. It's a summary of something that even someone with severe head trauma could follow--the "head trauma explanation." I decided to let it go since we had been in there an hour and he looked like he was getting sleepy. Maybe I'll try again in a couple of weeks or a month or whenever it is we next need to "touch base."

Tuesday, May 23, 2006


Here's a collection of Derek-isms I've been sitting on for a bit. Not too terribly funny, but they help communicate the overall weirdness of the person.
  • "I also heard you use the word swizzle, which I'm not too fond of, given the origin of the word." He said this to one of his co-workers. I suppose he's referring to his suspicions of the alcohol related origin of the word. Alcohol is wrong, kids.

  • (Riding in the elevator with a complete stranger) "That's an interesting looking name on your badge. How do you pronounce it?" This just struck me as a "mind your business and ride in silence" moment.

  • "Do we have a banner with the company name on it so I can put it in my front yard tonight, so people can find the house?"

  • "If anyone's interested there is some leftover food in the fridge from our work lunch on Saturday." This is said to communicate to anyone that didn't know that he worked this weekend.

  • If you mention you have something like a doctor's appointment at 2:00, he'll be sure to remind you 30 minutes beforehand, because he cares.

  • If you're in your cubicle and your phone rings, he'll still say, "Your phone is ringing."

And finally, someone I know contributed this fine image to the HIT (hang in there) collection:

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Busted by Deduction, Baby

There I was, headed to the bathroom and minding my own business when I pass one of my co-workers almost exactly at the threshold to the bathroom. We exchange mumbled courtesies and I head into the bathroom. As I'm entering, I distinctly hear the urinal still running and then cut off. You know where this is going.

After I'm done with "my business" I flush the same urinal and walk briskly to wash my hands with soap. The urinal is done before I can even get to the paper towels to dry my hands. Always one to give someone the benefit of the doubt, I re-ran the less appetizing, but still mostly acceptable, scenario of the "quick rinse" this time. This time the urinal cuts off as I'm just starting to dry off my hands.

And finally, just to confirm it, I tried the flush and run. Accounting for the fact that the co-worker in question uses the "fat guy shuffle" as his primary mode of transportation, I managed to make it through the door as the urinal was finishing up. Being a nut I had to give the hands one more hit with the soap and water before heading back to work, ever leery of all the piss soaked surfaces on the way.

Were at my previous place of employment, I'd have to tape a sign on everything he touches, warning other people about it. I have not yet reached that level. And sure, there are dumber and nastier cases of people not washing their hands, but I don't have to work with those freaks.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

They're Baaaack

Everyone is back from their trip to MA. While they were out, they had the network guy move their cubicles (probably a little further away from me) for whatever reason. Of course one of them had to write a big gay "Thank you!!! for moving us!!!" on the network guy's whiteboard (actual punctuation).

As soon as they got back, I found myself riding up in the elevator with Mr. Kitten (aka "I'm hanging in there"). For the first time since I've been working here (maybe even ever) he was cheerful. He had such a swell time in MA doing all sorts of fun team activities. They went bowling together, went to a baseball game together, ate at the best restaurants together, etc. I really missed out. But on the plus side, I got to learn that even without the dreary self-pity, Mr. Kitten still annoys the shit out of me.

Unfortunately, the other programmer on my team has been out sick since they returned, so I can't get the real story. Doubtless the 24/7 force feeding of syrupy sweet rah rah extreme teamism may have had something to do with his illness. I just hope he wasn't at the bottom of the hill when the snowball came around, if you know what I mean.

Today is also demo and planning day. I went to the meeting and found that it was only me and my "manager." The other programmer is out sick as I mentioned and the sales guy just plain isn't there.

I didn't bother demo'ing anything since no one cares anyway. When it came to iteration planning, I laid out a high level plan for a two week iteration. I got the passing nod followed by some overly general "maybe we could do <blank>" statements. Meanwhile, no one has gotten us the market research, beta test customers, or equipment access we've been whining about for months. So pretty much business as usual.

Since we're only meeting every two weeks, it seems like someone thought we should cut the available meeting time in half (I'm fine with not meeting at all). I found this out when I heard the sales guy bellowing about how he's likes college basketball in the next conference room, so at least he had a good reason for skipping the meeting. He then poked his head in and reminded my manager that they have a meeting scheduled with someone else. I really have no why no one knows what's going on on this project.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Why So Many Meetings?

I got an email from my manager canceling today's demo / planning meeting. I expected this since everyone is out of town this week. He then asked what we were working on this iteration. Again, I should expect this question since he wasn't present at the last demo / planning meeting and hasn't attended a daily standup meeting since he took over as manager. He's also apparently forgotten about the planning tool we use to track these things. He then had the suggestion that we have the weekly meeting every two weeks instead. Presumably, that is so he will miss half as many meetings. That's an outstanding increase in efficiency.

I fired off a reply stating my task list (half of which is what I would consider product management) and said I didn't have a preference in the area of one versus two week iterations. Of course, I actually think a one week iteration suits us better, but who the fuck cares at this point. Next, the sales guy chimed in and stated that he does have a preference and that it is for meeting every two weeks. That way he can better spread out that uncomfortable combination feeling of uselessness and ignorance he has to suffer through every meeting.

I'm hoping we can somehow resolve this so my attempt at developing a product won't cut into their nap time. Wish me luck!!