@johncutlefish's blog

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Order-Takers vs. Value-Builders

Published: May 24, 2017

Front-line individual contributors touch the machine, and they care about impact. They’ve survived silver bullets, rush-jobs, the sting of being asked to cut corners, and the scourge of shiny objects. They know what it is like to work for months on something, only for the effort to be canned, or perhaps worse for the work to get shipped and go unused by customers.

At the core you have questions of individual agency, autonomy, craft, and a desire to create impact. Passionate problems solvers don’t want to be order-takers. Unless the problem is solved (in the near and long term), they don’t feel satisfied. In my career, I have heard this over and over ….

It is like a conveyor belt. We are rewarded for output. It is unclear whether any of this stuff even work! I didn’t get into this business to be a ticket-machine.This isn’t just a front-liner thing. You hear the same thing from managers, and VPs who are measured on their responsiveness and output vs. the value they create and maintain. We sometimes call this “getting a seat at the table”, but plenty of people I know who sit at the “table” have the same struggles.

I don’t have a magic point here. Just thinking out loud and making clip-art cartoons. I think the “point” is that at the root of many debates about software development you have humans and their need to create impact (vs. other needs for control, certainty, and credit-taking).

Consider these power dynamics …

1 JAjsRCknNFMMY1E1PzvNzw The ticket-machine. 1 6CvSUZGHzbOP8FbGm6I7wg A problem is presented … 1 KiXN3oylGTDvPakyyKj4DQ More autonomy to achieve those goals … 1 Bgo3n1yzk1WEE4iGTWFT w Projects create complexity that must be managed. 1 rfg9lBs0FjPi2 FjrpPaFA Some autonomy and guard rails. 1 27XxQqppRLAaiqLbr65ALw “Size” can play a role in prioritization. But value is the key ingredient … 1 wNzUhQFAWZ5aVn9K9kyyMg When customers “rent”, the challenge shifts to measuring impact … 1  ewQqNWF826zTLs5vEVzMA Rejected! Rightmost fish doesn’t understand the game. 1 KEVYhMnOW 0NnkcnllXf w Engaged employees care if the work had any impact. 1 9dRxkmCTzJsvpBFcTQZwbA Customer pays on delivery. Value delivery is binary, not continuous … 1 Yp7bdj9uCZ1p8Je2aT6mBw One person’s goal, is another person’s proxy metric. 1 9eQXk3 Ap1DMMNE29ZDvGg If people don’t give us estimates, how will we hold them accountable? 1 0hqOaABQ7XGPT OYNgiUBg 1 Vgw1jkA6hgnvwzTsfMlnpg 1 gKBpq1ruUi0FVK2UM I4tQ

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