Wednesday, April 2, 2014

all the things, all at once.

We're having an extraordinarily busy time here at the Snugglehaus. Anna and I wound up booked for stuff several weekends in a row, enough that we moved our planned trip to Vancouver out to November. We weren't going to Vancouver for any particular reason--I've never been there, and we had 6 hours left to use some frequent flyer miles--but she had the genius idea to go there around our anniversary. This at once gives us a special way to celebrate the end of year 3, and more or less relieves her from having to remember when our anniversary is.

(There is a mosaic plate in our living room with our anniversary date on it.)

I have been fully engaged at work in what we call a "fire drill," which means different things in different contexts, but always involves something important enough to override your previously-most-important work and require your attention until it's resolved. In our case, an unfortunate confluence of organizational failures led to a certain amount of engineering work having to get done within 7 weeks or so, before a certain date.

If you're unfamiliar with the practice of engineering, defining a required set of work and a hard deadline is a terrible idea. It's beyond terrible. It's fundamentally stupid. It produces tired people and crappy code, because there's no time to apply the usual techniques for making sure our code isn't crappy.

It happens anyway, because the world is inconvenient, and the most you can hope for is that the executives truly internalize that this is a corrosive and unsustainable way to operate. They'll do their best to avoid it, and be really apologetic in the future when it happens again, and they'll take your glaring and severe tone of voice seriously.

We're doing stellar work, of course. Tonight I am taking some time to sit back and admire my ability to take a team full of chaos and quickly induce order and organization. The last time I did this I was pleased with the magnitude of the change; this time I am startled by the speed. Once I started facilitating, the fundamental change was almost immediate, within 48 hours. Now it's an actual cohesive team, fluidly communicating, sharing and handing off work, with lots of self-organization. People trust each other, and so there's beautiful, mostly-productive argument. And. And. This happened as we all walked out of our semi-weekly retrospective/planning meeting, which took just under its allotted 2.5 hours.

"This meeting will get shorter, as we find our rhythm and cadence."

This is a true statement.

P is one of my favorite people at work. We argue and debate constantly, which was a little uncertain until a couple weeks ago I made a point of signaling that I understand we disagree continuously and that I really enjoy working with him.

"Lies. I don't believe you."

He was being flippant. It's what we do. And yet. I turned around, grinned, and wagged my finger at him, walking backwards.

"You don't know shit. You don't know that this is my mission in life, and I'm good at it."

I laughed, turned around, and kept walking forward.
He paused for a second.

"Okay. I earned that."
It was just an impulse, to turn his glib moment into something more serious. It's important that they trust me, though. Cynical jokes are funny, but they can also be seeds of doubt, especially in the two new people. The meeting will get shorter, because we will work more smoothly. There is not, in practice, a question about this. They want to perform better, they are more than capable of it, and I am more than capable of guiding them to do that. If we are left to our own devices, it is a certainty.

And now, I think, they have seen some of my certainty.

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