Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Hacking Work...

There are too many obstacles preventing us from doing our jobs. We are strapped with archaic and inefficient processes that add little value and really just slow us down. I am not alone in this thinking. During several sessions at the AgileCoachesCamp I heard others trying to make sense of clumsy processes that they had to suffer through just to make management happy. These Agile coaches and trainers were describing having to move through the motions of waterfall to satisfy their managers or customers while they actually execute their projects in true Agile fashion.

Is this what we are reduced to? Is this what I am expected to do? Are there any organizations that get it, really get the idea of Agile and why it does not necessarily need to be prosecuted in waterfall fashion with waterfall processes and artifacts? As a burgeoning Agile professional, I am somewhat disappointed at this prospect.

Last week I read an article in HBR about "Hacking Work." That's what we do when we overcome obstacles to getting our jobs done. I know I have done this; what's more, I feel that I do this more often. I see others do it so often that it almost becomes the new norm. There are unofficial positions at companies filled by people that just get things done, regardless of how.

My issue is that I think "hacking" causes us to use more time and resources than we should have to. It introduces stress. Let's face it, those of us that are embracing Agile or have embraced Agile are doing so because we passionately feel that we can do better...better than we did in the past...better than we were taught. What keeps us pushing in our jobs when their is so much pushing back? How do we change our organizations? I mean, if status-quo was good enough there would not be this movement towards Agile. Doing what we did and getting what we got would be just fine.

According to Dawn Cannan, "There are many techniques for pushing through resistance...". I agree with her when she says, "Change your organization, or change your organization." I am just not sure how much fight I have left in me. I am truly ready to help transition an organization while learning the best ways to go Agile and deliver value regularly and routinely. However, is there an organization out there that is ready to take that journey with me? I hope it is my current organization, but if it is not, I might just "change my organization."


  1. Hi Jimmy-

    I can relate to your frustration. It reminds me of my first job doing data analysis. My boss was responsible for the myriad databases and scheduling of reports for the company (~100 employees), and a lot of what she did was "in a black box" as far as our team went. When she got married and was out of town for three weeks, it fell on myself and a co-worker to oversee these databases. Our first day we both came in to find numerous error messages, unupdated databases, and reports that were incomplete and/or wrong. Her documentation provided steps on what to do to run things manually, repopulate missing data, etc. Essentially, a large part of her time appeared to be spent building and using workarounds to problems instead of solving them. The fact that she had documented the workarounds made me wonder how long they had been institutionalized, and whether anyone outside of our department knew? Needless to say, 2 years down the road and at a different company, I still shake my head at the lengths people go to to NOT fix something.

  2. I think it come down to how someone thinks. Frequently creativity is needed to develop a short term workaround. However, all workarounds by definition are short term endeavors and incur a certain amount of technical debt.

    The harder task is to conceptualize the long term solution that is more architecturally sound and supportable. The critical and conceptual thinking that is needed to keep your solutions from trapping your organization in tech-sand comes mostly through experience and increasing knowledge.