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Pawel Brodzinski on Software Project Management

A Story of Parachute Manager: Don’t Change Anything

Parachute

I had a spell in a company where I was hired to sort things out in technical department (development, quality assurance and project management). I went there with a head full of ready-to-apply ideas how to solve issues I’d heard about. One of the most important things I’ve learned there is you can’t find the right cure unless you know the disease very well. And you can’t learn what the disease is unless you get dirty going into the middle of the mess.

Pretty similar lesson I got from our Kanban story. I think this message is often lost between discussing a few simple Kanban rules, Kanban board etc. The message is: start with mapping what you have; don’t try to change the process on a day one. Reason is simple: get dirty going into the middle of the mess and then you’ll learn what you should really change in the first place.

I know it’s tempting to start adjusting surrounding world to the vision you have in your head. Every now and then I feel that whenever I find myself in new environment. But I learned to resist. First, the vision we have in our heads on the day one will be changing over time and it will be changing really fast, especially at the beginning. Second, the opinion we have about surrounding reality is wrong, at least most of the time.

So yes, my advice is: don’t change anything. Don’t change anything unless you see everyday proofs that it has to be changed. Don’t change anything unless keeping things as they are is a real pain in the ass. Don’t change anything unless you’re pretty sure you aren’t seriously screwing things up because of your limited knowledge.

It doesn’t mean you have to wait long until you start improving things. Just be sure you’ve got your hands dirty before you do that.

In my case you can count this as a part of a story of parachute manager since that’s exactly what I do now. However it works the same every time you join new environment, no matter whether it is a new team, new project, new customer, new company, new method or new people.

in: software business

5 comments… add one

  • Maciej Malek February 22, 2011, 1:19 am

    This is so very true, it’s a pity that my current boss is not reading you blog. It would help.

    Ps. Don’t you need an Unix sysadmin in your team ? :)

  • Pawel Brodzinski February 22, 2011, 1:09 pm

    You learn those things hard way when you fail. That’s how I learned them. Hopefully your boss will do too. They don’t teach you that on studies. Heck, usually even your role models won’t teach you that – I had a couple of damn good ones and had to find it out by myself.

    PS. Unfortunately we don’t look for sysadmins.

  • Wojtek Szywalski February 24, 2011, 12:51 am

    Hi Pawel,
    Based on the picture above, I would say “paraglide manager” ;)

    Cheers
    Wojtek

  • Pawel Brodzinski February 24, 2011, 11:15 am

    You’re right. But the situation is the same – you land somewhere and everyone looks at you as you were a giraffe or something. If somewhere means team and giraffe means manager you know what I’m talking about.

  • James Peckham March 23, 2011, 11:48 am

    Great article! Thanks!

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