I Hate Project Management

  1. Posted on March 24, 2007 9:36:AM by Earl Beede to Practicing Earl
  2. Methods & Processes, Technique, project management, Agile, Scrum, humor, Management

I really do. I mean, all those details you have to keep track of. Everybody coming up and asking you questions like you have some clue about what is really going on. And of course you pretend like you do. "Why, are three days away from the googoo gate." What I really want to say is, "I have no idea and stop bothering me with all these questions so I can go find one of those little details that I always seem to be loosing."

And that is why I love Scrum. No more project management. The team has to keep track of all those details. Heck, as a Scrum Master, I don't even have to remember them. Each day I get to ask what they have done and what they are about to do. In fifteen minutes, I can forget it all until the next day. The team will tell me again, no problem. I don't even need to write it down, the team has 3x5 cards that they write on. Scrum is great.

I don't even need to think about schedules or Gantt charts. I just need to repeat a simple phrase each time some executive who needs to appear like they are involved in my project asks me how it is going. "We will be done with this sprint in [<30] days." If executive is needs to report to some even higher boss so that the bonus situation works out in his/her favor and pushes me for what will be delivered, I can say, "The team's burn down chart indicates that you will definitely have this and may have that." Then we both look at the burn down chart and nod our heads approvingly even though we both have no guess at what it is telling us but don't want to admit it to the other.

Working with troublesome personnel? Not a issue. The team basically kicks them out for not performing/being a jerk/not bringing in donuts. Resource allocation? One cube, seven laptops, one whiteboard, ready to go! Negotiation of scope? We baffle the customer by splitting their request for world peace into pieces so small that it is like putting together a jigsaw puzzle from chads. Then we tell them we have the resources to do two this sprint. Delivery commitment? Not even part of the Scrum vocabulary. We deliver value, not commitments.

Scrum has allowed me to eliminate project management from my repository. Now, can somebody invent a methodology to end maintenance?

Steve McConnell said:

March 24, 2007 2:39:PM

I think there are two general management principles at work here. The first is "Push responsibility down as far as you can." When you make the team members responsible for managing themselves in as many ways as can be effective, you do that. The second general principle is "Keep feedback loops as tight as possible." When you have a project manager keeping track of details <i>about the team</i> that the team members <i>could</i> be keeping track of, you're creating a big, slow feedback loop. When you make the team members themselves responsible for their own details, you create a much tighter feedback loop, which is faster and requires less overhead.

There's a third general principle which is less directly related to what you're talking about, which is "Involve the people who will bear the consequences of the decision/work in the decision/work." In most organizations, if the team messes up on what's traditionally considered a management task, it's the manager rather than the team that will bear the brunt of the organization's discontent. It is simply inefficient and impractical for an organization to try to hold an entire team accountable, so organizations usually look to hold one person accountable, that being the manager. So you as the manager can't give up managing the details completely, because the organization will still hold you accountable for them, whether you actually managed them or not.

This brings us to the fourth loosely related principle (or maybe this is just a cliche), which is there's difference between delegation and abdication. If you delegate, you're still ultimately responsible, and that means that you still have at least a governance role to play.

EarlBCx said:

March 24, 2007 4:59:PM

OK, that was way too serious for my very funny post.

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Earl Beede

Earl Beede, CSDP is a Senior Fellow at Construx Software, where he designs and leads seminars and provides consulting services on early project-lifecycle practices, estimation, requirements, quality assurance, contract management, and software methodologies.

With more than 20 years experience as a quality assurance representative, systems analyst, process architect, and manager, Earl has designed and written software development processes for companies across a wide variety of industries. Prior to joining Construx, he held quality assurance and systems analyst positions at organizations that include the Department of Defense, Boeing Computer Services and Verizon Wireless.

Earl has a Bachelor's degree from the University of Washington. He is a member of the IEEE Computer Society and a past coordinator of the Seattle Area SPIN (Software Process Improvement Network).


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