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Feature teams and vertical slices in a large corporate IT environment

The idea of a feature team that incrementally delivers vertical slices of application functionality is central to many “agile” software development organizations. A feature team possesses all the skills and resources necessary to deliver a customer-centric software feature end to end. How feasible is this model in a large corporate IT environment?
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The accordion game

As a middle manager in a large corporate IT department, you feel as if

  1. you are in the middle of an accordion
  2. and the accordion is being played by a monkey
  3. and the monkey has taken some sort of unknown street drug
  4. and the strange music the monkey is playing makes no sense to you
  5. and your bosses think the monkey is a genius
  6. and your subordinates think it’s all your fault
  7. and you don’t see how it could possibly be your fault
  8. and you’re not even sure what “it” is.

You never know whether your job will survive the next re-org. Furthermore, you’re not even sure that your job adds much value to the organization: In a nutshell, you (a) take direction from above and disseminate it downward, and (b) collect data from below, compile it and report it upward. You don’t know how to run the business from the top. You don’t know how to do the hands-on work at the bottom. You have only a vague idea of what’s going on. You can’t trust any of your peers. What will happen to you if your present position is eliminated?
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