Hot off the presses, I just received a Groupon offer to take a $99 online Scrum Master certification course. Holy crap! Instead of paying $2000 and taking 3 consecutive days off from work, I can learn how to become a micro-managing process enforcer from the comfort of my own home; munching on chips while lounging around in my skivvies.
How can I refuse such a great deal? Just look at all those smart, well-dressed, professional, micro-managers in the advertisement staring at a burndown chart. It’s an especially nice touch that the marketing team put a pair of eyeglasses in Katherine Heigl’s hand.
From the course description:
CSMs understand Scrum values, practices, and applications and provide a level of knowledge and expertise above and beyond that of typical project managers.
Thanks to a social media friend, I was directed to an agile transformation case study written by a management consultant and posted on the consultancy’s site along side several other huge success stories. At the end of the long writeup, the following outcomes were asserted:
When I see fancy, professionally-crafted, “qualitative” success lists like these, knowing that they are touted by highly subjective people whose livelihoods require the projection of infallibility, my BS detector starts beeping. For this specific list, these questions come to mind:
- “Feature time-to-market has been reduced“: by how much?
- “Ability to release frequently has been increased“: by how much?
- “Technical debt has been reduced“: by how much?
- “Reactivity to portfolio prioritization is much improved“: by how much?
- “WIP has been reduced”: by how much?
- “Morale is strongly improved within and between teams“: by how much?
- “Trust between sites is improved“: by how much?
- “The dispersion of development over many sites has been reduced“: by how much?
- “Global product and technical leadership is visible“: by how much?
- How much did this 18 month transformation cost the client? How much money did you make?
- How much have client revenues increased and costs decreased as a result of your effort?
Of course, no quantitative percentages were given because no pre-transformation benchmarking was performed. If benchmarking was indeed performed, there would’ve been a chance that the before-and-after metrics may have driven the client to conclude that the whole effort was a huge waste of time and money.
It’s funny how managers who love to hold others accountable for adhering to micro-defined, quantitatively specified, burndown charts, not only get to evaluate themselves, but they get to do so qualitatively, with no supporting data.
In God we trust; all others must bring data. – W. E. Deming
In Consultants we trust; all others must bring data. – BD00
My absolute favorite leadership quote of all time comes from philosopher Karl Popper:
“The day soldiers stop bringing you their problems is the day you have stopped leading them. They have either lost confidence that you can help or concluded that you don’t care. Either case is a failure of leadership.” – Karl Popper
IMO, no other leadership quote comes close to hitting the nail on the head as Mr. Popper’s. Do you wanna know why? Because over my long and un-illustrious career, I’ve heard some anointed leaders say the equivalent of this:
“Don’t bring me problems, bring me solutions!”
I’ve heard that at least three times, and all three times I’ve thought:
If you’re not here to help solve your soldier’s problems problems too, then what do you do here besides watch numbers, approve/disapprove actions, reduce costs, and strut around; why are you even here at all?
Anyone with half of a brain in their head knows that saying shit like “don’t bring me your problems” drives important problems underground. And under the surface, they fester, grow, and morph into downstream crises that eat into the treasury from which these “keep your problems to yourselves” leaders draw their personal sustenance.
Great leaders encourage their troops to bring their problems forth into the light. Then they roll up their sleeves, jump into the tar pit, and help as much as they can, where they can. Paradoxically, this style is called “servant leadership“, and Theory-X managers just don’t get it. They never have, and never will. In case you’re wondering why the nerd in the cartoon is just thinking the word “Clueless” instead of saying it out loud, it’s because:
To learn who rules over you, simply find out who you are not allowed to criticize. ~ Voltaire