Managers from Hell, The PMO is Dead

I have gotten to know Larry Apke by connecting online. His first book Understanding The Agile Manifesto: A Brief & Bold Guide to Agile was one I really liked. When I heard that Larry was coming out with another book I thought it would probably be good and I would learn a few things. Larry has a great style of telling like it is like he did with his first book.  

Timely Feedback

In Managers from Hell, The PMO is Dead, and Other Agile Stories Larry gives us straight talk about the world of software development. He starts off with the first chapter talking about, “Why Agile Works.” He states how critical the timely feedback is in the Agile approach. “Complexity begs for timely feedback. Take a look at the most popular Agile processes and practices and you can see why they are effective. They all are merely ways to produce timely feedback.” This is such a simple truth and I think this gets overlooked.

 Rate Your Organization

Larry shares with us an interesting way to rate our organizations that he learned while reading a report about DevOps. The study cited research that described the flow of information with organizations. It used the flow of information to indicate other parts of the organizational culture.

The first type of organization is called Pathological. This type of organization is oriented on power has low cooperation and novelty is crushed. Bureaucratic is the next type of organization that is rule oriented and has modest cooperation. When something new is tried it leads to problems for the organization.

The last type of organization is the Generative, where the group is performance oriented and has high cooperation. When a failure occurs in this type of organization questions are asked and lessons are learned. The study found that organizations in the last type were more successful in DevOps adoption than those in the other two types.

 Too Many Bright Shiny Objects

In the chapter entitled “Too Many Bright Shiny Objects” Larry talks about how many companies pride themselves on being able to work on multiple projects at one time. As organizations try to undergo an Agile Transition they are doing many other things. These organizations are doing a poor job at delivering software.

When you focus on doing one thing and do it well you can excel. Managers are incentivized to work on multiple projects at one time. It reminds me of working with a government entity many years ago. The leader of this group came to us, the consultants, and gave us a laundry list of tasks and projects. One of the managers asked him, “which one is the number one priority?” To which he replied, “they are all number one!”

As you can imagine this was a bear of a project to work on. I remember working with these people for a while and then moving on to a new company. When you can’t find your priorities and focus you are never going to move the needle.

Overall I really enjoy Larry’s work and his style. He cuts right to the point to share insights he has gleaned from years of experience.  I would check this book and his first book as they really can help someone understand Agile and the struggles some companies have transitioning to it.

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