Monday, May 6, 2013

An Uncertain World

I'm feeling a bit cluttered.  That's usually the sign for me to enter another cycle of simplification and I can feel the need rising up within me.  Today was a typical work Monday - part productive and part frustrating.  We are live with the project and now we are in the place where we're dealing with the assorted design flaws and mistakes.  It's chaotic, but it is a tailing off of chaos.  Though, right now, if you imagine it as a tail, it is a very vigorous tail, wagging frantically in all directions.

I have been put into the position of lead on one of the trouble-shooting teams, assigned to one of the more major problems. I spent most of the day just getting my arms wrapped around it.  The problem has to do with a menu that is autopopulated based on a combination of values in another system.  I don't have visibility into this other system, so I am trouble-shooting blind, which can be difficult.

I arranged a meeting in the afternoon with some of the members of the group that designed this particular piece of functionality so I could understand what they were trying to do.  It looks to be a case of good intentions but a flawed design, so tomorrow I am going to document up all the known error cases and then provide them back to the technical design team for review. 

Most of the problems we are running into are a result of flawed designs and then inadequate testing - which I saw coming a hundred miles away.  Even my section of the project has two instances of flawed design - were the design that came out of management and management review simply did not account for all the variations in the field.  There are tools and exercises that allow you to avoid these kind of things, but lacking any real process discipline, they slipped through.

We need to get back into an environment of regular process discipline and I am hoping, with the big project finished, that we can move there sooner rather than later.  I've started driving in that direction already, but its a challenge to do when your own bosses are the ones ignoring the need for discipline. One of the areas I have trouble with, one of the areas I struggle in, is the area of a lack of clarity around the scope of authority and responsibility caused by micro-management.  Most micro-managers tend to be very capricious - that it, they want to micro-manage this part but not that part, and then they want to micro-manage it now, but not later, okay and then again now.  This is very touch on the individual contributors because it creates an environment where they are uncertain of how to act and when to act.  Sometimes if they act they get chastised, other times if they act no one notices or comments, so they have to move through a very uncertain world.  That is exactly where I find myself, moving through an uncertain world.

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