The Utter Bullshit Of Management Methodologies
4 months ago

All of us have probably been in that rather painful situation in a call "Do you have any questions or anything to add?" asks the Scrum Master in earnest, hoping that this time someone, anyone might have something constructive to contribute, at this point even something unconstructive, a tirade of profanity, anything to give a sign that there is sentient life on the other end of the call. But no, the deathly silences echoes in our ears and perhaps if you lucky a good samaritan will bother themselves to press the unmute button and mumble with the coherence of a brick wall "nothing from me."

This situation of almost zero engagement is so common, we are all aware of it, it's the elephant in the room, except the room is full of elephants and everyone is pretending they aren't there.

In my experience, the Agile methodology is a bit like communism in the sense that no true form has ever existed. Every company has their own strange and quirky implementation, they follow the bits they like and forget the bits they don't. Have a stand up every day (unnecessary) but the Retros (Retrospectives) are never done.

Why does this happen? Can it be changed? If so, how can it be changed? Do these methodologies even work in the real world?

These are some of the questions that might pop into your mind, if you're vaguely invested into this topic and have a atom of logical progression about your person.

The first thing to realise, if the majority of your developers are not engaging in your processes, then the problem is you, you being the company, the people or person that implemented the processes in the first place. Hard to hear I know.

All these processes require the team to engage sincerely in the chosen framework, they must believe that participating in this activity will result in the change they are wanting at least some of the time, otherwise after continual failed attempts they disengage becoming blank canvases of indifference.

If you live in a dictatorship do the majority of people bother to advocate for change? No, they believe there is no point because it won't make a difference or more likely that they will be punished for their efforts. So they make the most of it and get what they can out of a broken system. Sound familiar?

There is nothing inherently wrong with Agile methodologies, basically, it doesn't matter what methodology you are using. Like religion, you bring what you are to the belief. If you were an asshole before becoming a monk, then most likely you'll still be an asshole afterwards, just in more Zen clothing.

Therefore, the decision makers use Agile to achieve their objectives, usually to push to deliver the product faster because this makes it more profitable and makes the client slightly less of a pain in the ass.

The developers use Agile to obfuscate and delay, more often that not because they are overloaded and burning out and don't bother advocating for change for the aforementioned reasons.

The scrum master is constantly trying to shift blame away from themselves, because of the human condition, we don't care if something we aren't personally invested in fails but as long as we aren't to blame and retain our position.

This is not even to mention the people that are intentionally withholding knowledge to ensure they are indispensable to the company, which happens at all levels and positions and I would argue increasingly so with the advent of AI.

My point is everyone is using the methodology to achieve their ulterior motives, very few people are actually focused on doing the work, communicating efficiently and working as a team to achieve the greater objective. Ultimately we are dealing with the age old problem of human nature.

Is there a solution? For me its very much dependent on the context of the situation, many teams are beyond fixing, the culture is too ingrained and the status quo is set, protected and change is not merely difficult but actively avoided and if possible killed.

However, if there is a modicum of proactive action pushing for change that is external from oneself, then there might be a chance.

Go for the low hanging fruit and begin to build trust, firstly ask the team to write a list of frustrations, no matter what it is, (even if it's "fuck off" or "I hate this company" engage them genuinely, give them examples like, "I'm not being paid enough", "I don't give a shit about this project or company", "there is too much stupid bureaucracy". Ultimately, it's impossible to build trust unless all parties are being completely open and honest with one another. Whatever way works for you to achieve this, do it.

It is worth mentioning at this point, whenever one speaks about such problems, invariably the conveyed sentiment is, this is all people have in their lives to worry about, which is not true. From children to hobby crafts, we all have our personal lives outside of work and we have to remember that the majority of people are doing an activity in exchange for money, at least, that is as far as their motivation goes. What is a reasonable expectation to have of someone with such motivation?

However, once you have this list of frustrations, you can work towards resolving some of their issues, showing the team that genuine change really is a possible outcome.

This is merely the first step in a long, difficult, frustrating walk up hill dragging all those elephants behind you.