A bizarre mix of two things for you: love, and a rant.
So I’ve had an incredibly rough day. I can’t – won’t – say why. It’s not important. But the day has been rough: it started at 8am and now, at 6.30pm, it’s almost finished. I’ve had to deal with all sorts today; the little and the big, the complex and the merely fiendishly difficult.
And when I stop working at last, she wraps me in an enormous hug, and she puts pizza into the oven because I know if I cook and the slightest thing goes wrong I’ll be on the floor in floods of tears, and even if she doesn’t know that precisely she knows that I can’t – won’t – cook this evening, and she doesn’t make me say it which is great because masculinity is toxic and boys should cry but right now asking for help is more than I can put into words, will take more than I have, because it’s sometimes easier to put one bleeding broken foot in front of the other than stop.
And I sit on the balcony and let the normal faraway world of train whistles and distant shouts and the warmth of the Sun, which is as close as it ever is to us today, warm my back, and she puts a pot of soup into the microwave and I can smell it, friends, and it smells like someone cares, and the heat of the Sun is stinging my eyes and making them water.
And when we’ve bathed and wrapped ourselves in towels and each other and we go to the bedroom to sleep and let the day slip from us, to slither away into the heat of the night because the Sun is as close to us as it ever is, I see that this beautiful dork; this most excellent genius; this woman I love has made a sign on the crap old mattress I can’t get rid of because everything is shut down, and it says, in bold scrawled letters,
NOTHING REALLY MATTRESS
and I am doubly now in love as ever I was before
Alright, but let’s talk about work. I’m working as a Private Secretary, and one day I’ll write a guide for people wondering if it’s a job for them, but right now there’s a cool thing in that I get to see all the inner workings of complex stuff. Here’s a thing about agile, and why sometimes it’s a problem, and a metaphor about vinyl.
DevOps in large organisations is a goddamn nightmare. It’s a culture, rather than a job title, despite what recruiters on LinkedIn keep offering me. And like any culture it sticks its nose into literally every part of the organisation and insists things be done its way.
Six Sigma, Agile from the 80s, is the same, by the way. Setting up six sigma means restructuring your corporate functions to enable it.
To further horrify my colleagues in finance, I think there are times when a single organisation needs to be able to do both. There are bits of your organisation that have to run in a DevOps fashion, with long-living teams that are given budget to free-wheel, create as they want, and bin 90% of their attempts. There are also bits that need to produce the same thing 99.999966% of the time.
In corporate land, we have to deal with both. This brings us to the real struggle, which is that it’s mind-bendingly difficult. Let us take, for example, a fictional company: ACME Burger Co.
(I had heard that ACME stood for A Company that Makes Everything, but to my great disappointment Wikipedia says it aint so)
ACME has an ordering system with a web form, a stock management system, and software that displays what the burger artisans need to produce. It also, as you will have guessed, has ‘burger artisans’, a term which has earned its inventor a special, oily, place in hell.
The software engineers who make all this software demand to be treated in an agile way: three teams, with a DevOps culture, who will own the entire technical stack and lifecycle, including future iterations, of their products. The burger artisans want to produce the same burger every time for customers who know that when they come to ACME Burger Co, they get the same burger every time.
It is clear on the one hand that a DevOps mindset will not work for the burger artisan; nor will a Six Sigma approach satisfy the developers. What to do?
The answer in some businesses appears to be ‘ignore the group of people I feel least affiliated to’. I am quite tired of concerned looking finance people from other organisations approach me and tell me they’ve been told to ‘become more agile’. That’s not how this works. Finance, at least the finance that’s paying you, should not be an agile process. It should be absolutely fucking dependable, even if that costs you some creativity, because ‘creative accounting’ is not a phrase we should be excited to hear from our finance people.
For me it boils down to the fact – the awkward truth – that leaders in all corporate enabler spaces have to be comfortable with both camps of rabid extremists and, if at all possible, for leaders in those camps to stop insisting that their process is the silver bullet that will solve everything.
You’re wrong, and if one more sad accountant asks me how he can implement ‘people over process’ when deciding IR35 status I’m going to put salt in your sugar shakers.