Using Google is not waste

Over at LosTechies, Derick Bailey posted about how answering no issues in a daily standup is not acceptable.

I’ll leave it for other discussions whether or not the overall theme he was commenting on is good or not, but he discussed something that is worth commenting on, and I’ll quote extensively:

“When was the last time you spent 10 minutes wrestling with a problem, spent 10 minutes in the debugger of your IDE or looking at log files generated by your code? When was the last time you hit up Google for an answer to a question, or struggled with a design before asking someone on the team for help?

Or worse: When was the last time an external factor had a negative impact on your ability to work? A boss asks you to join in a meeting. A coworker needs a ride to the mechanic to pick up a car. A department head decides that their support of your project is a lower priority, for whatever reason.

It does not matter how large, how catastrophic – or how insignificant and small the issue is. Any struggle, any minor distraction, any politics that need to be dealt with – anything that is a waste of time or other resources in the context of productivity… they are all issues that need to be reported during the stand ups. They all cause a drop in productivity. They all cause schedules to be adjusted (even if the project schedule accounted for them, from the start, the schedule was still adjusted for them). They all take your team’s efforts away from adding value to the project.“

Not to put too fine a point on it, but this is idiocy. 

At one of my previous clients, a certain team was required to log in 15 minute increments exactly what they did each day.  It was never clear to me if they logged the time that they were forced to log each 15 minute increment.

It is just stupid to think that any member of any team that is doing any productive work has to be actively engaged in the work that they are doing every minute.  It is insanely stupid to think that any member of any team that gives a ride to a fellow team member needs to report this in a standup.

I suppose it depends on the situation, but in general, looking up something on Google when one is not sure of what to do is probably a significantly better use of time than trying to fuck around on one’s own. 

In general, with almost no exception, the need to micro-manage the time used by the members of a team to the extent that if a team member has to report in his next standup that he spent an extra 20 minutes in the can because of a bad burrito from the night before suggests that the team is highly dysfunctional on many levels.

A highly functional and productive team has a lot of attributes.  There is no way to specify in an “a=b” sort of way exactly what works in each team. 

Having said that, if your team can’t handle a group of your team members ‘wasting’ 20 minutes talking about the game last night, you shouldn’t be part of the team, or managing it.

People who talk about ‘waste’ seem to know nothing about what it actually is, and how to mange it.

posted on Friday, March 27, 2009 12:53 AM Print
# re: Using Google is not waste
3/27/2009 4:55 AM
# re: Using Google is not waste
Troy Tuttle
3/27/2009 2:22 PM
Not to cast aspersions on Derick, but this kind of thinking just shows there can be tendencies toward being Process Nazis in Agile as well as waterfall projects. It is a total fallacy that any software project manager can effectively account for periods of time as small as 10 minutes per team member and think that has any meaningful impact on the schedule or team performance.

It is Bean Counting for software projects and nothing depresses me more in my profession.

# re: Using Google is not waste
3/28/2009 6:04 PM
Maybe it would be better to say:

When was the last time you hit up Google for an answer to a question, and you couldn't find the answer?
# re: Using Google is not waste
3/29/2009 9:32 PM

Well, I guess that would be slightly better but only if it was time-boxed appropriately, e.g. 'I ran into a problem and spent 2 hours on Google and found nothing.'
# re: Using Google is not waste
Derick Bailey
3/30/2009 7:27 PM

you bring up some good points that others, including Troy, brought up in comments on my blog and in response posts of their own.

i jumped way off the deepend in my attempt to get my thoughts out of my head, and didn't realize the magnitude of some of what i said until i started seeing the feedback.

after having read the feedback and absorbed it a bit, i think it may more appropriate to pin the "no issues" anti-pattern on immature teams - something that may help to get people through the learning curve of what issues really are and are not, and what needs to be reported.

like Troy said in his blog post - a mature team won't wait until the stand up to voice concerns about issues, they will get voiced as they happen, and be resolved as needed. it may be more likely to have "i resolved issue xyz" stated in the standups as part of what happened yesterday.

i appreciate the communities' responses. it keeps me from doing stupid things like micromanaging.
# re: Using Google is not waste
3/30/2009 8:06 PM

Hey, that's cool. After posting, it occurred to me I could have made the point without as much harshness. That's one of the great things about blogging, at least in my experience. You get an idea that seems great from a certain context, without perhaps seeing the limitations that the context itself presents.

LosTechies is in my feed reader, so I read most everything you post, and see that you are looking for ways to continually improve the processes you are practicing, which is cool.

Thanks for the feedback on the feedback.

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