Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Further Thoughts on Corporate IS

NM is a great company.  I won't deny them that.  However, in the nearly 10 years I was there the majority of IS has changed  into a very heavy, process driven, risk averse, department that is greatly hampered by their consensus driven approach to development. There are pockets of some "entrepreneurial" software development and experimental projects and of course the Architect group itself that I would have liked to get into but these positions are few and far in-between.  Ultimately you are still part of a larger organization that is becoming sloth-like and fat.

I think a big thing for me was that philosophically I was not anywhere close to where NM has gone.  NM IS has gone totally post-modern.  If you want to talk about the art of framing conversations and understanding one another by creating a shared understanding well This is the place for you.  There is no right or wrong (but you are wrong if you act without a shared understanding) and hence decisions cannot be made unless the entire team has come to a common understanding.  That's at the project level.  This drives me insane.  If we were agile we could make the call, get something out there and iteratively improve the idea as it is flushed out or change it if needed.  Instead we talk about it for weeks till we all feel warm and fuzzy inside. 
At the IS management level it includes coming to a common understanding on the process we follow.  They tried "healthy Conflict" as an IS virtue for a while but that was squashed quickly along with the new innovative VP they brought in who was advocating it.  So depending on the manager of course you either go with the flow of this happy land of consensus building and creating shared understandings or you are not onboard with the program and anathema to IS.  I had some good managers in the past that appreciated the "healthy conflict" I brought to the table but those managers have all but disappeared.  What I ended up with was a dyed in the wool, 100% post-modern loving, company woman who just got her masters in something as well.  Being a new manager, she only read the company line out of the manual.  We did not have a shared understanding.  So it was just as well I moved on because there would be no joy in continuing our relationship.  I understand the kind of person I am.  I know I was not what NM IS wanted and was continually forced to decide whether I should just play the game or not. 
I am what a small shop wants because they need to make a profit and meet deadlines on limited budget.  I like to surround myself with people who are opposite myself and argumentative.  No shrinking violets and wallflowers please.  No one who is timid, shy, or intimidated and for heaven's sake...this is software development...it's not personal. You don't need to cry if we don't like your idea or we change it or shred it. Better luck next time.  One of the best development situations I had at NM was with a friend of mine from Russia.  He is cantankerous, blunt, and very talented.  He had no problems telling it like it was.  I can always hear him in my head in his Russian accent saying "That's just stupid.. you should design it this way..."  In another conversation with a Manager and a Director in the room he said something to the effect of, "Let me make this simple so a manager can understand..."  It was beautiful.  I think the accent is what I need.  I could say anything with an accent and then I'm just eccentric.
I guess it goes to my nature that you should stand for what you believe in.  There is right and there is wrong.  When something needs to be done...the most important thing is to do something.  If it fails, I'm fine with that and I'll take responsibility if it needs to be taken but then go forward and try it again and learn from your mistakes and keep trying. Everything is not personal.  You don't need to make me feel warm and fuzzy to go ahead with something.  Actually, I find that the best people in the various roles are the ones I dislike the most and would totally hire myself.  That project manager who bugs the crap out of you for statuses and updates yet has a handle on every deliverable and dependency?  Love that PM even if I hide from her and physically cringe when she pops up at the desk.  Combative App Engineer who tells you your designs are flawed?  Love it.  However I think the large corporate atmosphere is totally self-absorbed into the post-modern thought and these kinds of things literally blow their minds in an era where we should be about toleration, consensus and accepting.
Well in keeping with the theme, the most important part is that I'm happy right? ;-)  Well I am and it really has made a difference in how I feel.

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