Setting the Scene
Dressed in a business suit, intended to convey a certain amount of professionalism, while still not quite hiding some rather interesting feminine topology, Rita Wye, CEO of SmartSoft Inc., leaned back in her chair and bent a pair of large blue eyes on George Buck, the architect behind most of the company’s software. This had been going on for some time, an attempt at being in control – cold and dispassionate. At present, a growing sense of exasperation and a growing sense of anxiety was robbing it of some of its chill.
Warmth had crept into her eyes, the fiery warmth usually associated with an erupting volcano. So far, Rita had kept quiet, something she commended herself about – knowing when her words would be most effective – she could feel her anger bubbling, but she was – perhaps not quite ready to erupt. She was waiting, waiting for George to stop his monotone rambling, hoping against all past experience that he would stop, turn around – and tell her that the current crisis would pass, that she would be free to spend a rather pleasant evening with John Einan.
John Einan, a staffing specialist from Shortfall – was staring disinterestedly out the window, entirely oblivious to the ramifications of George's monologue. Next week, he would get his new BMW, and it wouldn’t even make a dent in the bonus he was about to receive for his handling of SmartSoft. SmartSoft had money, and Shortfall had the manpower. So far he had helped SmartSoft reduce their staff by 30%, and he had people who could talk the talk, and if he had any luck, even pull off a project or two.
Rita, still staring at George, was letting her mind wander – five years ago everything had been different; she had been happy, a leader of one of the fastest growing technology companies – admired and respected by her employees, while making investors ecstatic. She was known as Rita “Why not”, and she was going places.
For some time, ever since John Einan had waltzed into her office, showing her how she could cut costs by reducing staff. “Just hire on temporary staff when it was required” – George Buck had become such a whiner, she hardly recognized the vigorous man she had used to know just a few years back. In a way she was responsible, but it was all so tiresome. Occasionally, she still found this animal useful, extracted from it a certain amount of satisfaction. It brought in money and kept customers happy; and sometimes it even kept her bed warm. It made her laugh and feel unexpectedly tender – but mostly it worked, long hours – often still on the job when she arrived in the morning.
But excitement—where was the excitement? Headlong passion—what had become of that? And why did this animal fail to arouse in her that delicious feeling that enabled her to make such lasting impressions on other people ... such as John Einan? Couldn’t he understand that she needed to feel successful to be successful?
Unconscious of his CEO's protracted scrutiny, perfectly ignorant of her state of mind, George, his body plunged in a deep armchair, was telling her how a new startup, FastSoft Inc, were pilfering away their customer base. Charles Munder, the founder of FastSoft Inc, a former employee, was a dull turd that had never shown her the respect she deserved – how such a man could succeed at anything was, as Rita saw it, unbelievable. FastSoft Inc had hired on everybody she had “regretted” letting go. She had implemented her vision for SmartSoft, as a smart, young, vigorous and agile outfit – never mind that some of them had faced foreclosure, tough times requires tough decisions. Shortfall had helped to implement Scrum, providing the expertise to turn SmartSoft into the optimal development company, evaluating and streamlining the organization, leveraging proven best practices – and George was telling her that they needed to respond, that even while FastSoft Inc software wasn’t as comprehensive as SmartSofts, they were definitely working on it.
George was on to his favorite topic, how they needed leverage SmartSofts expertise to regain the customers – how the sales department needed to be out there, engaging the customers, forming lasting relationships.
So he still didn’t know, and she had kept quiet about it, SmartSoft was about to outsource the sales department. In this modern day, with internet and all, it was an obvious move – you could reach anybody from anywhere on the planet. She realized that Oliver Manning, the head of the sales department, had kept quiet about it too – he had laughed when she told him that she regretfully had to close down the sales department – a bit of a surprise there.
George was one of the first people Shortfall advised her to get rid, but she had resisted – they went back a long way, and she was somewhat fond of him after all. She remembered how this had irritated John – one of the few things that had marred their otherwise pleasant relationship.
George, although underpaid and frequently patted on the back, was nevertheless held suspect by Shortfall. He was surrounded by an accusing aura of cynical detachment, and he had the irritating habit of being right more often than he was wrong. From somewhere within his being emanated a spirit of unorthodoxy. At times, his presence made Rita experience a vague feeling of insecurity; and for the moment even suspect the efficacy of her most dependable platitudes. Even while she was showering praise upon him for some brain wave, she did realize that in George Buck, she did not have a willing convert to her vision for SmartSoft.
Rita fixed the architect with an unadoring gaze and gave utterance to a single word which sounded strangely cold and hostile in the silence of the room.
“Well”, she said.
Across vague leagues of nebulous speculations George’s eyes sought Rita’s.
“Huh?” he inquired inelegantly. “Well what?”
She went on in the level tones of one exerting the utmost self-restraint, “Can you pull it off?”
Slowly and uncomprehendingly, George’s eyes journeyed to the whiteboard. Gradually intelligence dawned – “You mean I’ll have to do it all?”
George looked silently at John, who was still staring dreamily out the window. Then he indulged in a display of sheer animalism which his CEO, and sometimes lover, found exceedingly trying. With a sigh, he rose and walked over to the whiteboard, where he drew a small circle encompassing a few of the planned elements. “Working day and night – I’ll be able to do that – in a year”.
“Are you ready! Are you ready for a good time!” – George picked up his mobile.
“Let me get back to you later, Charles – I’m in the middle of something here”, putting the phone back in his pocket, George’s eyes danced mischievously in the direction of John.
“I’ll leave you two to it then”, he picked up his notebook, and headed for the door.
Hopefully, I’ll be able to do this in a somewhat entertaining manner. Inspired by Peter Norvig's Teach Yourself Programming in Ten Years and the Manifesto for Agile Software Development.
I'm thinking about "best practices" that are sometimes far from the best, and how the computing industry has become infected by a somewhat parasitic industry that has grown up around the concept of agile development – entirely for the wrong reasons.
As far as I am concerned agile development requires an experienced team and a solid relationship with your customers and other stakeholders. It's not a magic wand, it's a tool - and like all tools it has to be used correctly and for its intended purposes. Agile is funded on trust, and if we are following agile methods, then trust is our most valuable commodity - something that needs to be cherished and nutured.
So if this concept meets with your approval, I’ll continue the series, if not I'll drop it.
- 18th of March, 2011 - Initial posting