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."


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