Category: Managing

Manage the system, not the people

When you are working with people, one thing you must expect and be sure about: “You are working in a complex system, not in a complicated one” (See a previous post to know the difference).

When you work in a complex system, there are some unpredicted behaviors, as everybody who works with people already know. So, you can’t control the people, you can try a lot of strategies to do it, like: persuasion, influence, fear, bonus, promotions, etc. Some of these strategies are good ones, but others are malicious and just show how bad a manager is as a manager and as a person.

But whatever your strategy is (hope you choose the good ones for everybody), more or later you will have “surprises” because you thought you could control a complex system.

So, how can I manage a team if it’s not manageable by nature and have some unpredicted behavior?

You can minimize the unpredictability managing the system, creating the rules, not rules for the people but for the system. If you are a project manager, or a team leader, you must give freedom to the team members, but show them the constraints that you think will influence the behavior of the system, or in this case, the team performance, motivation, etc. The team, as a complex system with people, will experience a wonderful thing, a complex system growing and self-organizing with itself. I have already experienced this in some projects where the project manager was out or gave this managing opportunity.

This seems to be a simplistic view of software teams’ management, but if you stop and think for a while I am sure you reach this conclusion, or similar, because when you are managing people you are managing the unpredictability which seems to me a paradox, and it is! So, this is why you must let the system go, inside your parameters.

Want an example of this? Traffic.

No one is controlling the people inside the car, and sometimes they really have an unpredictable behavior, but, for the good of everybody in this system (with some flaws but fortunately just a few), the system self organizes. There are anyone controlling the drivers? No! There are unpredictable behaviors? Yes, they are people! The system works? Yes, I use it all the time! This works for software developing teams to, really! Do you have the courage to try it out?

It’s a bug! it’s a feature! Its just code! Its…super-whatever!

 

One of these days someone from my team told me about a story where someone closed a bug with the comment: “Works as coded!”. Well, its true, indeed, and its very difficult to discuss this argument. Probably his project manager will not disagree (I hope) with the comment but certainly will disagree by closing the “bug” with such argument!

 

Once in a while, I do training, I’m a Microsoft Certified Trainer and a Portuguese Certified to do training in any subject. (This doesn’t mean I can really do training to anyone in anything, its just means Portugal accept me to do training).

 

In one of these trainings I was teaching my students about software development cycle, and between roles, risk management, project management, etc.… one of the lessons was about bugs. What is a bug?

 

“A bug its nothing more than a problem in the development that its visible in the final product to the customer. “

 

You can disagree with this sentence, but think in it for while?

– Do you really could design all the possible tests (unit, functional, etc) in a way that you can guarantee that’s impossible your application/system has no bugs?

 

Lets dream (for a big application) you can! And you conclude that you need to  develop about 2000 tests with 10000000 input states for these tests, and expect 190000 different outputs from these inputs. (for clarification, you must test success and probable/expected failures)

If you are developing, for instance a web site, and you know that from all these bugs, only 1/100 could be visible or could bring trouble (semantic and/or behavior) to your application, it means you will not have to correct all the other 9/100 bugs discovered. To your customer, its important to pay more development weeks to the team to correct these 9/100 bugs? And if the customer its your company, I will bet with you that the project manager doesn’t want these 9/100 bugs corrected! It will not increase any value to the final product, it will not have any visible impact to the final customer, the only think that will increase it’s the project expenses.

 

As a developer, as a team leader, and as a project manager, something that I learned it’s: Any technical think in a project must have a business impact, and the goal of a member of team, such as leader, developer or project manager its to minimize the expense and increase quality of the product. This quality is observable by the final customer and not from the developer team. I think, this is applied to any subject, not only software development.

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In a future post, I will merge this bug concept with the complexity/complicated subject post I have wrote before, and we can really have some fun discuss this intersection subjects, since that, most of times, a really software bug its something about application behavior, and behavior its related with predictability,  not related with understanding (at least in complex systems). Read my old post ”Complex or Complicated” and I think you will know what to expect from my future post.

 

In the future, be more nice with the bugs!

Complex or Complicated

 

Usually these are words used as synonymous, when in fact they are orthogonal between them.

 

When we are talking about “complicated”, we are explaining something about linearity. Something is “simple” or “complicated”. What does this mean? Let’s see an example:

 

Something “simple”: understanding how a bicycle works. I think we don’t need to a genius for this, you analyze the “simple” engine and after some minutes (hopefully seconds) you’ve figured it out!

 

Something “complicated”: How a clockwork works. If you try to analyze it, you will have to think and analyze the mechanics for a long time, write a lot, until you figure out how the watch works, and how all those components fit together to give you an “accurate” time. It’s a task that’s its possible, takes some time, but you can analyze it linearly until you find the solution that explains it 100%.

 

Click image below to follow to a site explaining how this works!

 

Terminology of the geartrain

 

The image should be perceived has trying to show a complex system, but its not, it’s just very complicated, but with a 100% detailed explanation how the engine works!

 

 

So, we have Simple and Complicate, as 2 grades of linearity.

 

How about “Complex”?

When we say “Complex”, we are talking about behavior, not linearity. We can take several degrees of behavior but let’s analyze 3 very understandable:

 

“Predictable”: Something that we can predict, we could not understand it totally, but we know how it responds: For Instance: I jump, and gravity pushes me down again. Do I understand gravity? Something in school…. but…. its invisible and pushes me down! 😉

 

Complex: Something that we can somehow predict but sometimes arises some unexpected behavior.  For instance: Social interactions in a small company, home, software projects with several components in different tiers. Or Poker, a game with rules, but not predictable.

 

Chaotic: Like complex systems, but with plenty unexpected behavior factors. For instance: Events in  a big city. weather sometimes is complex and sometimes chaotic.

 

 

 

 

So, I hope in the future when someone use the word  complex knows that’s its different from complicated. Saying complicated means I just need tools and time to figure it out, and complex I could have tools and time and take my whole life and not discover or even completely predict the system.

 

image

 

 

Hopefully in future posts dive deeper on this subject. It’s a very popular one in software team leading.

Great video about education!

Education, Inovation, creativity

Verdadeira Vida

Um salto de alegria!

Será este o teu mundo?

 

O que é a verdadeira vida?

O que é a verdadeira alegria?

Só porque te ris, achas que tens a verdadeira vida?

Já alguma vez te apaixonas-te? Lembras-te do sentimento? No teu dia a dia tens esse sentimento pela vida?

Sabes onde procurar esta vida?

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