Managing Developers...Part 7...Anarchist Tendencies

Some managers claim that their developers are just anarchists at heart and hate any form of management, bureaucracy, or governance. (See my Benevolent Dictator comments for immediate refutation.) "No one could manage these people." Managers who have failed at forcing scum/agile or kanban, or whatever, down their team's throat will claim that their developers will never accept any structure and process. This is wrong. You'll find that developers LOVE structure and order and process...what they hate is stupidity. Developers love structure and order so much so that they will spend countless hours refactoring code to remove redundancies and inefficiences in an effort to get to Perfect Order.

Here is the issue.

Developers are not interchangeable cogs in a giant machine. Contrary to kanban, we are not hot-swappable. Do not try to throw more people on a team and expect it to work. Do not expect a Java Jock to help your testing team when they are behind. We are not interchangeable and we don't want to be thought of as such. Coding is an art. Coders are logical and try to make development a science. They will try to automate as much as possible, even if it means automating themselves out of a job. But good coders know that there is a human element to their code and that makes it partly a craft. Don't marginalize that by assigning me 3 "helpers" at the last minute to assist me in completing a project with a deadline I told you was unrealistic weeks ago. It makes me feel as though anyone can do my job.

If you feel as though your staff is insubordinate then your rules, processes, and policies are too rigid and illogical. Or you micro-manage. Or your decisions are asinine. Or you are causing your people extra work.

When managers experiment with Agile I often need to remind them of Tenant Number One of the Agile Manifesto...Individuals and Interactions over processes and tools. As a manager, work on breaking down the bullshit processes and let your people be individuals.

Again, if your people are insubordinate you are actually very lucky. If they've moved past that (think "the 5 level of grief") and are now ambivalent, you've lost them. Probably not forever, but you have a hard road ahead of you.