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Re: [scrumdevelopment] Organizational politics

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  • Eric Deslauriers
    Joe, Great topic, high value thread. I do agree some front line employees think that managers have a pretty cushy job (and some do, I ll admit). When I first
    Message 1 of 17 , Apr 23, 2009
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      Joe,

      Great topic, high value thread. I do agree some front line employees think that managers have a pretty cushy job (and some do, I'll admit).

      When I first started out, I dug ditches with a shovel. The higher I moved, the cushier the work (backhoe operator, auto mechanic, semi truck driver, SW Engineer, Sr. QA Engineer...) Then I became a manager, and before I knew it, I felt like I had gone back to digging ditches <grin>. The only difference was, at the end of the day, it was real hard to look back and see how far I'd dug.

      It's all about context right? Seek to understand why someone is giving you the answer they're giving you (and hope they're shooting you straight or that you're smart enough to read between the lines).

      One thing I frequently see teams do is live with things within their power to change.

      Some time ago, I had a team which complained very strongly about some of the manual processes and what was I going to do to fix it?

      My choices were
      1. Assign someone from the team to solve it
      2. Challenge the team to self-solve the problem they perceived (and which I was clear to state I agreed was was suboptimal).

      I went with 2. Man, was that ever a disaster <grin>.

      Another is that folks frequently fail to satisfactorily justify their request. A common outcome is complaining that they're not being listened to, unfortunately. 

      Many years ago, I had a manager who was pretty tight with our funds. Working at a public company, I completely respect that (and totally resemble that myself, though I do give people guidance on how they can decide if their recommendations are justifiable before bringing them back to me). He refused to get me a new PC, asserting that mine was "fine", regardless of whatever explanation I used on how it would make me more productive. I could not sell it, and I tried pretty hard. Another manager would have probably gotten sick of it. <grin>

      I ended up making the mental leap that his goal was to save the company $$, and that he may have thought I was coming at this from equipment jealousy and using productivity as the justification for new hardware.

      Being the tenacious person that I am, when one of my coworkers was going on vacation for a week, I asked if I could use his new Pentium while he was gone. I tracked all my tasks and timed them the week before he left, then used his machine and tracked how much time I was saving. I then used the time savings to calculate how much the company was wasting having me sit around waiting for things to happen (compiles, etc.). I got my new PC a few weeks later.

      I frequently use this example whenever team members may be getting frustrated that upper mgmt is denying one of our requests. We just haven't put it in terms that they get and/or we don't understand why it is not important to the org (or why they don't realize it's important).

      At the end of the day, it's about shared vision. Management sets the direction. If we don't like it, we should constructively voice our opinion in the right setting, to the right people. If that doesn't work, as employees, we need to get on board and do our best to make it succeed. Or the alternative. :)


      Regards,
      Eric

      On Tue, Apr 21, 2009 at 12:05 PM, Joseph Little <jhlittle@...> wrote:


      Hi,

      I am a trainer and a coach.  In the course of my work, I hear people talk about how hard is to get things done in organizations. (This happened again recently.)

      And I know from personal experience too, it is hard.

      But I wanted to emphasize that organizational politics is not as hard as we make it for ourselves (at least sometimes it is not).

      Here are a few nuggets mined in the field of hard knocks. 

      A few suggestions re ACTION (perhaps you find one useful):
      * When boxing, do not expect to have the first punch be a knock out.  Set 'em up for the kill in the 4th round.  Lots of combination punches.
      * The truth is hard to resist.  (Yes, I know people will deny the truth and will often kill the bearer.)  Keep finding ways for the truth to be repeated and dealt with.  Scrum throws up the truth.
      * If a bunch of people go together to a manager's office, it is much harder for the manager to resist.  (Make sure you have the truth on your side, and that your idea makes sense.)   Maybe even harder if the manager comes to the Team room.
      * Justify your impediment removals.  Do much better cost-benefit analysis.  Do them as small experiments (eg, show the actual results later). 
      * Justifications include: higher NPV for the product, higher velocity for the team, faster delivery, etc, etc.  Make the link from your improvement back to these key things.
      * Make the case.  Make it so obviously right that the only question is: "How do I know your numbers are right?"  Managers only like to approve obviously right things.
      * Ask to do an experiment.  Make sure the test sample is big enough to draw conclusions from.

      Go get 'em.
      Nothing I said guarantees success. Accept that the other person is free and you can't make him change.  Give him some respect.

      Regards, Joe 



      Joseph Little
      Agile coach, MBA, CST
      Kitty Hawk Consulting, Inc.
      704-376-8881 (Charlotte)
      917-887-1669 (cell)
      http://www.kittyhawkconsulting.com/
      http://leanagiletraining.com/
      Blog: "Agile & Business"




      --
      Eric D
      08 K1200S Tricolor (phreowww)
      06 Husqvarna TE610
      Sandy Eggo, CA (Ramona)
    • Roy Morien
      ... An interesting associated matter was the fact that that organisation was an IBM shop . They always cried poor about upgrading their mainframe, because
      Message 2 of 17 , Apr 23, 2009
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        :) I did some of my best article reading while I was waiting for the mainframe computer to respond. Coincidentally, and somewhat amusingly, I was reading an article from the IBM System Journal entitled (something like) 'The Impact on developer productivity of slow systems response time'. I could only agree with their discussion and findings (but at least it gave me time to catch up on my reading).

        An interesting associated matter was the fact that that organisation was 'an IBM shop'. They always cried poor about upgrading their mainframe, because they didn't have the funds. When they purchased a pile of new IBM 3278 terminal, at almost double the cost of an equivalent 'clone' terminal from Raytheon, they were unimpressed by my suggestion that the money they could have saved by going with Raytheon and their response was 'We are an IBM shop'.

        Another example of slightly peculiar management thinking. Of course, this was in the era of 'Nobody ever got sacked for choosing IBM', so their judgement was entirely clouded by that thinking.

        Regards,
        Roy Morien


        To: scrumdevelopment@yahoogroups.com
        From: eric.deslauriers@...
        Date: Thu, 23 Apr 2009 21:36:52 -0700
        Subject: Re: [scrumdevelopment] Organizational politics



        Joe,

        Great topic, high value thread. I do agree some front line employees think that managers have a pretty cushy job (and some do, I'll admit).

        When I first started out, I dug ditches with a shovel. The higher I moved, the cushier the work (backhoe operator, auto mechanic, semi truck driver, SW Engineer, Sr. QA Engineer...) Then I became a manager, and before I knew it, I felt like I had gone back to digging ditches <grin>. The only difference was, at the end of the day, it was real hard to look back and see how far I'd dug.

        It's all about context right? Seek to understand why someone is giving you the answer they're giving you (and hope they're shooting you straight or that you're smart enough to read between the lines).

        One thing I frequently see teams do is live with things within their power to change.

        Some time ago, I had a team which complained very strongly about some of the manual processes and what was I going to do to fix it?

        My choices were
        1. Assign someone from the team to solve it
        2. Challenge the team to self-solve the problem they perceived (and which I was clear to state I agreed was was suboptimal).

        I went with 2. Man, was that ever a disaster <grin>.

        Another is that folks frequently fail to satisfactorily justify their request. A common outcome is complaining that they're not being listened to, unfortunately. 

        Many years ago, I had a manager who was pretty tight with our funds. Working at a public company, I completely respect that (and totally resemble that myself, though I do give people guidance on how they can decide if their recommendations are justifiable before bringing them back to me). He refused to get me a new PC, asserting that mine was "fine", regardless of whatever explanation I used on how it would make me more productive. I could not sell it, and I tried pretty hard. Another manager would have probably gotten sick of it. <grin>

        I ended up making the mental leap that his goal was to save the company $$, and that he may have thought I was coming at this from equipment jealousy and using productivity as the justification for new hardware.

        Being the tenacious person that I am, when one of my coworkers was going on vacation for a week, I asked if I could use his new Pentium while he was gone. I tracked all my tasks and timed them the week before he left, then used his machine and tracked how much time I was saving. I then used the time savings to calculate how much the company was wasting having me sit around waiting for things to happen (compiles, etc.). I got my new PC a few weeks later.

        I frequently use this example whenever team members may be getting frustrated that upper mgmt is denying one of our requests. We just haven't put it in terms that they get and/or we don't understand why it is not important to the org (or why they don't realize it's important).

        At the end of the day, it's about shared vision. Management sets the direction. If we don't like it, we should constructively voice our opinion in the right setting, to the right people. If that doesn't work, as employees, we need to get on board and do our best to make it succeed. Or the alternative. :)


        Regards,
        Eric

        On Tue, Apr 21, 2009 at 12:05 PM, Joseph Little <jhlittle@mindspring .com> wrote:


        Hi,

        I am a trainer and a coach.  In the course of my work, I hear people talk about how hard is to get things done in organizations. (This happened again recently.)

        And I know from personal experience too, it is hard.

        But I wanted to emphasize that organizational politics is not as hard as we make it for ourselves (at least sometimes it is not).

        Here are a few nuggets mined in the field of hard knocks. 

        A few suggestions re ACTION (perhaps you find one useful):
        * When boxing, do not expect to have the first punch be a knock out.  Set 'em up for the kill in the 4th round.  Lots of combination punches.
        * The truth is hard to resist.  (Yes, I know people will deny the truth and will often kill the bearer.)  Keep finding ways for the truth to be repeated and dealt with.  Scrum throws up the truth.
        * If a bunch of people go together to a manager's office, it is much harder for the manager to resist.  (Make sure you have the truth on your side, and that your idea makes sense.)   Maybe even harder if the manager comes to the Team room.
        * Justify your impediment removals.  Do much better cost-benefit analysis.  Do them as small experiments (eg, show the actual results later). 
        * Justifications include: higher NPV for the product, higher velocity for the team, faster delivery, etc, etc.  Make the link from your improvement back to these key things.
        * Make the case.  Make it so obviously right that the only question is: "How do I know your numbers are right?"  Managers only like to approve obviously right things.
        * Ask to do an experiment.  Make sure the test sample is big enough to draw conclusions from.

        Go get 'em.
        Nothing I said guarantees success. Accept that the other person is free and you can't make him change.  Give him some respect.

        Regards, Joe 




        Joseph Little
        Agile coach, MBA, CST
        Kitty Hawk Consulting, Inc.
        704-376-8881 (Charlotte)
        917-887-1669 (cell)
        http://www.kittyhaw kconsulting. com/
        http://leanagiletra ining.com/
        Blog: "Agile & Business"




        --
        Eric D
        08 K1200S Tricolor (phreowww)
        06 Husqvarna TE610
        Sandy Eggo, CA (Ramona)



        Download it here. The new Windows Live Messenger has landed.
      • Brad Appleton
        One of the real eye-openers for me on the subject was from Joe Marasco in 2001 entitled On Politics in Technical Organizations . I found a reprint of it in
        Message 3 of 17 , Apr 24, 2009
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          One of the real "eye-openers" for me on the subject was from Joe Marasco
          in 2001 entitled "On Politics in Technical Organizations".

          I found a reprint of it in a 2004 issue of The Rational Edge at
          http://www.ibm.com/developerworks/rational/library/4690.html

          --
          Brad Appleton <brad {AT} bradapp.net>
          Agile CM Environments (http://blog.bradapp.net/)
          & Software CM Patterns (www.scmpatterns.com)
          "And miles to go before I sleep" -- Robert Frost
        • Jayanthan Bhattathiripad
          Thank you for the link, Doug. You might enjoy Margaret Wheatley s Leadership and the New Science: http://www.margaretwheatley.com/books.html
          Message 4 of 17 , Apr 28, 2009
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            Thank you for the link, Doug. You might enjoy Margaret Wheatley's
            Leadership and the New Science: http://www.margaretwheatley.com/books.html

            Doug McQuilken wrote:
            >
            >
            > Jayanthan,
            >
            > very insightful - there is an entire field termed "organizational
            > development" that deals with these issues. One luminary in this area
            > with a technology focus can be found here:
            > http://business.uccs.edu/html/robert_zawacki.html
            >
            > Your basic premise is absolutely correct - that is, functional
            > organizations tend be insular. They are most effective when one wants
            > to preserve the status quo.
            >
            > Agile addresses this, to a degree, by bringing in the PO.
            > Unfortunately, in larger organizations it no longer is the SWN (Single
            > Wring-able Neck) but becomes a liaison, of sorts, to the
            > decision-makers external to the team
            >
            > Regards,
            > Doug McQuilken
            >
            > --- On *Thu, 4/23/09, Jayanthan Bhattathiripad /<jynthn@...>/*
            > wrote:
            >
            >
            > From: Jayanthan Bhattathiripad <jynthn@...>
            > Subject: Re: [scrumdevelopment] Organizational politics
            > To: scrumdevelopment@yahoogroups.com
            > Date: Thursday, April 23, 2009, 11:03 AM
            >
            > Hi Joe,
            >
            > My experience has been the opposite. I think the most difficult
            > hurdle
            > that one faces in an organization is the politics. It is perhaps
            > natural
            > that when people get together their personal prejudices and
            > selfishness
            > impedes the greater good. Many times common sense just doesnt make
            > sense
            > to even the smartest individual. Which is why, as an organization
            > grows
            > larger, the politics gets worse. More people, and more "at stake".
            >
            > It is, IMHO, usually the system that causes people to behave in ways
            > that are locally optimized. If you you incentivize a manager with a
            > bonus that is doled out based on staying within budget, the
            > manager is
            > bound to question the need for many items on a "must-have" list.
            > Hierarchy in an organization implies peers are fighting each other
            > for
            > that one spot above. Functional silos means that the greater good
            > of the
            > project is undermined by the need to prop up the function.
            >
            > Your points make absolute sense. My thoughts are more around why we
            > structure our organizations in such a way that we dont get the
            > best out
            > of it. And how do we do that?
            >
            > Regards,
            > Jayanthan
            >
            > Joseph Little wrote:
            > >
            > >
            > > Hi,
            > >
            > > I am a trainer and a coach. In the course of my work, I hear people
            > > talk about how hard is to get things done in organizations. (This
            > > happened again recently.)
            > >
            > > And I know from personal experience too, it is hard.
            > >
            > > But I wanted to emphasize that organizational politics is not as
            > hard
            > > as we make it for ourselves (at least sometimes it is not).
            > >
            > > Here are a few nuggets mined in the field of hard knocks.
            > >
            > > A few suggestions re ACTION (perhaps you find one useful):
            > > * When boxing, do not expect to have the first punch be a knock
            > out.
            > > Set 'em up for the kill in the 4th round. Lots of combination
            > punches.
            > > * The truth is hard to resist. (Yes, I know people will deny the
            > > truth and will often kill the bearer.) Keep finding ways for the
            > > truth to be repeated and dealt with. Scrum throws up the truth.
            > > * If a bunch of people go together to a manager's office, it is
            > much
            > > harder for the manager to resist. (Make sure you have the truth on
            > > your side, and that your idea makes sense.) Maybe even harder if
            > the
            > > manager comes to the Team room.
            > > * Justify your impediment removals. Do much better cost-benefit
            > > analysis. Do them as small experiments (eg, show the actual results
            > > later).
            > > * Justifications include: higher NPV for the product, higher
            > velocity
            > > for the team, faster delivery, etc, etc. Make the link from your
            > > improvement back to these key things.
            > > * Make the case. Make it so obviously right that the only question
            > > is: "How do I know your numbers are right?" Managers only like to
            > > approve obviously right things.
            > > * Ask to do an experiment. Make sure the test sample is big
            > enough to
            > > draw conclusions from.
            > >
            > > Go get 'em.
            > > Nothing I said guarantees success. Accept that the other person is
            > > free and you can't make him change. Give him some respect.
            > >
            > > Regards, Joe
            > >
            > >
            > >
            > > Joseph Little
            > > Agile coach, MBA, CST
            > > Kitty Hawk Consulting, Inc.
            > > 704-376-8881 (Charlotte)
            > > 917-887-1669 (cell)
            > > http://www.kittyhaw kconsulting. com/
            > <http://www.kittyhawkconsulting.com/>
            > > <http://www.kittyhaw kconsulting. com/
            > <http://www.kittyhawkconsulting.com/>> http://leanagiletra
            > ining.com/ <http://leanagiletraining.com/>
            > > <http://leanagiletra ining.com/
            > <http://leanagiletraining.com/>>Blog: "Agile & Business"
            > >
            > >
            >
            >
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