Weeknotes S07E05: Doing things

I have once again had a long week of writing and writing round. But I was also reminded of anarchistic principles for consensus-building and how they apply to all groups, actually, and that helped me remember that some people just don’t want things done.

Sometimes it’s not you.

(Although sometimes it definitely is, the trick is being able to tell which is which)

That presentation I was writing – it seemed to go down a treat. My boss even kept in a horrible pun I’d put in about the evolving nature of ransomware (Cheeky RaaS-cals), and I’m horribly delighted by it. I really feel like I’m starting to understand more of his specific language – you know, the way neurotypical people will half-say things and expect you to understand them. There are some generalities to be sure, but every person has their own way of half-saying things, a sort of meta-communication where the act of not saying something communicates the strength of the unspoken desire.

(Consequently a communication without words speaks desire without end.)

I got some really good feedback this week as well, with a clear direction that I’m ready to start looking for a promotion. Due to the complicated meritocracy of my organisation, that will almost certainly mean leaving the current team. This seems like a design flaw.

It is and it isn’t, and it depends what school of management you hail from. Scientific management demands constant use of all available resources, and having space in your team for a new person and not hiring a new person is, on its face, stupid. If you’ve got a space in your factory where you could fit a new piece of machinery that will speed everything up, then why would you do anything with that space except fill it with a new machine, a glorious hulking behemoth of steel and chrome and lights to further swell your pocket?

Because – says the agile or lean coach – because there’ll come a time when you need to make another machine bigger, or move some machines around, and now you have no space to do it. You’re hemmed in by your own hand, a tortoise starving in a shell that protects against all save the one that gnaws in the belly.

Having slack in a system allows the system to flex at the cost of productivity. Having 100% resource usage requires perfectly uniform inputs. Which sounds more like your company, and which sounds like what your stakeholders expect? Is there a conflict? Why?

Работаем, но не роботы

The team I’m in is starting to gel a little more, despite the fact we’ve never all been in a room together, and this also makes me unreasonably happy. It’s the end of the year and feedback season, so I’ve had a really good chance to think about both myself and my colleagues. I’m really glad of the opportunity to give feedback, even with the challenge of giving critical feedback in a way that won’t be perceived as an attack. It’s easy, and wrong, to imagine that it’s purely a problem of interpretation. I think we can be considerate and purposeful when being critical and I’m trying my best to give that much time and thought to my colleagues. I’m worried I’ve not done as well as I could in some places. Can you get feedback on your feedback?

The end of the year also means looking forward and identifying what we’re going to do next. There’s so much to do, and I read recently about “even overs” – a way of stressing that your choice is between two good things. I love it, and I want to do a find-and-replace for “over” in the Agile Manifesto. I feel that for some people there’s a mental shortcut that happens when they hear “We value individuals and interactions over processes and tools”. They jump to a mental model that says “We prefer good thing over bad thing” and consequently are really, really shitty about processes and tools. And that’s understandable – speeches, for example, will often set things up this way. Like “We choose hope over fear”, as if there are some folks out there who’ll hear it and go “Oh man! I was rooting for fear!”.

But it’s not that. It’s “individuals and interactions, even over processes and tools.” They’re both really important, and when push comes to shove you pick individuals. But you don’t disregard processes entirely.

Anyway, even overs are at the top of my mind as I think about what needs to be done next year. We’re a small team and there are so many things that need to be done. Working out what we’re going to do, even over all the other equally excellent things, is a real struggle. I’m excited for it.

And finally: there’s nothing else. I just really love saying “And finally”.


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