shivver13 (shivver13) wrote,

How to Run a Team and Instill Loyalty in Your Workers

Answer: Read this post and do everything exactly opposite.

I mentioned earlier that once I got back from Gallifrey One, everything at work jumped off a cliff and that I'd write about it later. It's later.

There's a bit of history to understand here. The client company wants to build a network of apps that work together for a particular purpose. That's always been their goal. When I joined our studio a little over a year ago, they'd been working on the framework for that network for a year. They are still building it. When I joined, they said they wanted us to make a game that would hook into that network, and at the time, they didn't know what they wanted that game to be, but they wanted us to build it as fast as possible. So, we took their piecemeal ideas and built a game and launched it (it was entirely proof-of-concept and so free to play, no monetization at all), and supported it. Of course, their network wasn't ready for it.

Then, after a month or two, they said, Forget that game. Just let it die. We want you to build this new website with this list of features, as well as the mobile app that will hook into the website, and we want you to launch on this date -- which was eleven weeks from that date. (Just in case you can't tell, eleven weeks for a web application is ridiculously small, and that's not counting the mobile app.) We said, can't do it, and they said, make whatever you can. We don't care if it's shit.

Eleven weeks later, we launched the site. The first iteration was fully functional with everything on the basic list and few things from the "nice to have list" - very successful launch. At the time, one of the guys from the client company (we'll call him Dan) came to us and said, "Okay, this was shit. My company has treated you like shit, with all the other guys (Steve and Todd) coming in and forcing you to put in what they personally want without regard to how it all works together. So I'm going to be the lead, and we're going to set up a process in which all requests come through me and get vetted by me and your leads before they get worked on. We're going to have a single vision on this."

That was three months ago. We've been working with Dan since then, setting up Agile processes, making great strides with the website and it's been successful, doing what it's supposed to be doing and making money. There have been a couple of incidents where a guy at the client company coerced a dev to implement a pet project, but for the most part, that stuff has been quashed. So far so good.

A couple of weeks before Gallifrey One, the client company told us, Hey, we've just contracted this new team of developers in New York, and they're going to come in and help you guys, so you can get more things done. Okay, we're NOT stupid. We know how this goes - the new people come in and get up to speed, then the client transfers the project to them - but that's not necessarily a bad thing. This would free up our team to work on the next app for the network (which still isn't ready, but we can dream.) It doesn't look good, because we have about twelve developers on our team and the new team is only five guys, but honestly, we don't have a choice. So, okay, we do what we have to do, but we do know what this means.

The day we got back from Gallifrey One, we found out we were wrong, at least partly. They weren't bringing the new team in to offload the project onto them. They brought them in so that they could cut the teams up. We weren't producing fast enough for them (read: we weren't doing their pet projects), so they split the team up into three parts. They're leaving Dan in charge of the new team, then splitting the rest of us between Steve and Todd, while cutting our leads out entirely so that we have no ability to push back or disagree. So now there are three teams, each with their own goals and processes, working independently from each other - on the same code base.

For those of you who aren't familiar with software development, here's an analogy. We're trying to write a textbook. Dan decided it would be a chemistry textbook for high school students, and is designing it to engage students in the experimental side. Now that the first edition has been published, the client decided to split up the work on the second edition. Dan's team is completely new and doesn't know any chemistry, but they're tasked with writing and editing chapters and designing new experiments. Steve's team will be rewriting every chapter to include references to the company's new series of high school textbooks (which haven't been written yet). Todd's team is going to replace all experiments with ones that are easier for the teacher to set up in their lab, even if that makes them useless for the students. They're all working on the same book, and they're not going to plan their changes with each other.

Meanwhile, since I'm QA (and my husband, having been a lead who was stripped of all lead/management duties), I'm on all three teams. I now have to go to three different half-hour standup meetings every morning (note: standups should be five minutes long; that's why you stand at them), and somehow, I have to test this stupid product keeping in mind three different end goals. At least my husband will continue receiving management pay for doing minion work.

Oh, and by the way, the client company has started this whole thing by setting up a completely new project in JIRA, the issue and bug tracking system we use. They wanted a fresh clean start, not cluttered up by all the plans that Dan had, so now they have a new database with no history, and missing the 80+ bugs reported in the old system that are still valid and weren't transferred over. Good work, guys.

The only bright side of this whole thing is that our company has told us, "Okay, we know this is stupid and they are shooting themselves in the foot. It's only until June, so stick it out, and work in good faith but don't go beyond. Five o'clock rolls around and there's still work they want you to do? Go home. Don't knock yourself out, and don't care if it means they fail." On the one hand, that's awesome. On the other hand, I like doing quality work. I like going above and beyond and making things succeed. It hurts to sit back and watch things fail when you could be helping. But I am starting to get sick of this client, and even though this is only until June, I just know that when June finally rolls around, I'll just be put onto another project for this client, as they propose the next great app for their network that they don't have yet.
Tags: real life

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