Tuesday, 26 July 2016

To manage software teams, take a page out of the baker of breads

Software management metaphor - Another one of those "This might not work" posts...

Last night I woke up from a deep sleep, to the sounds of the howling wind outside, the tatter-tatter of light scattered rain hitting the window, whooshing branches of the garden palm tree against the roof & telephone cable, at about one in the morning, and the sounds of an indecisive impending thunderstorm about to break - when a thought came to me: that managing software teams is just like being a baker who bakes bread

And if you're going to coach software teams, you won't do a great job unless you've been through a few projects yourself, in say maybe three different products...just like a baker should never profess to be a a true baker of breads if he/she only knows of just one type of bread :-)

So let's build on this metaphor
There are no doubt a wide variety of breads, over two hundred according to wikipedia. Each bread appears to have its its own unique characteristics, not just from outward appearances, but also sometimes, unique ingredients as well. 

Though most breads may share a common pool of ingredients, they will vary in terms of process & methods.  Some doughs (infrastructure code perhaps or engineering methods?) must be repeatedly pounded,  some need to reach a different points of elasticity, some need varying amounts of time to soak, just in preparation time, and some might be best served a day later. 

Some breads need a tender touch, care and extra attention, whilst some breads are rough, solid and can take on a few dents and bruises here and there. Either way, the baker understands that balance and care are needed to get the best bake out of the ingredients, methods and process - just enough and not forgetting, the baker's intuition, experiential wisdom all play a huge part into what makes a baker of breads, a great baker of breads...

The baker of breads is no doubt expert, finely attuned to the methods and processes that must be applied to each bread to get the desired result: beautifully baked, well worth the time, effort, energy and most of the time, patience.

Any shortcuts taken, or hastily applying a different method based on some other bread type could result in failure, or perhaps a mutation of sorts. The end result is likely not a very good bread, far from edible.

In pretty much the same way, a software manager (coach, consultant, etc.) needs to approach each software team with care, take time to understand its own unique character, culture and drive for success, applying possibly unique methods to "bake" the teams to reach their desired goals and outcomes. And this outcome in my view, is one of delivering value, keeping customers happy.

So to end the metaphor, a software manager must become a master chef, a baker of breads. Understand each bread is unique, invest in appreciating this uniqueness which may need you to change your own behaviours and biases. 

And revel in the the taste of variety...

Then I went back to sleep...

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