This is the second post on where Executives and Agile Experience diverge. It relates to the attitude towards Dragon Slayers and Farmers.
The Dragon Slayer
The executive sat in their office looking out toward the team. They hoped that today would be a quiet day, a day without Dragons. Draco arrived late and unpacked their back pack over their desk. Draco was often late because they nursed the system late into the early hours until it was stable and on its way to a successful run. Draco had saved the Executive’s job several times… a week… ever since the executive had taken over.
The executive opened outlook and started to scan their e:mails and mark them as urgent or important. As they worked down the list, a small crowd of the usual players gathered around Draco’s desk. Draco took a sip of their coffee as they listened, put down the coffee, and removed their glasses to pinch the bridge of their nose. They closed their eyes and remained still for a moment before silently nodding consent. How many times had the executive seem this ceremony play out? The players were headed towards their office. Behind them, the executive noted Giles and returned his wave. Giles pointed at their wrist indicating they would be over in five minutes for their one-to-one. Giles would push the executive for more money to invest in irrigation and fences, not an exciting decision for a battlefield commander. The delegation was now at the executive’s office. They paused at the threshold to make eye contact and agreement to progress. The executive waved them in and they rushed to their familiar spots around the executives small table, with the major positioned at the white board.
The major cleared their throat. “The trades failed to cross the bridge. There was a new variant of trade that caused the check-point to fail.”
The executive nodded. “Go on.”
The major drew three squares on the white board and tapped on them before crossing one out. “I propose we clear the bridge, delete the offending trade and restart. We should be done by the deadline and the Prince need not know anything about it.”
Out of the corner of their eye, the executive saw Farmer Giles hovering at the threshold to the executive’s office. The executive waved the farmer away. The one-to-one would have to wait. There was a Dragon to slay!
The executive stared out his window at the office directly opposite. The office with a small leather sofa AND a small table. The office that they hoped would be theirs one day, providing the Dragons did not kill the executive’s career. “Draco, what do you think? Will it work.”
Draco blinked behind their thick glasses. Remained silent for a few seconds and then replied. “It won’t work. There are several reconciliation points which would fail later on as they check to make sure every trade is present.”
The major jumped in. “So what should we do?”
Draco, more confident now. “Lets clear the bridge. I’ll copy the bridge script and create a tweaked version for the new trade. We should hit the deadline.”
They turned to the executive who continued to stare out of the window. “Draco. Will it work?”
Draco was quick to answer. “Yes. It will”
The executive closed their eyes. This is a good decision for a battlefield commander. “Do it!” they said.
“I’ll get my men to clear the bridge and prepare for the script variant.” The major was happy to have a role to play in slaying the dragon. They all rushed from the executive’s office.
Later in the day, the executive looked up to see the Prince laughing and joking with Draco and the Major. The Prince saw the executive looking at them and waved. He strode over toward the executives office. “Great team you have here.” And then the Prince was gone.
The farmer signaled to the executive that they would join them in a few minutes as they passed behind Draco and co. The farmer checked the monitors for their system. Nothing had happened. Boring, boring, boring! Just as they liked it.
They dropped their bag on their desk and headed over to the executive’s office wondering whether their weekly one-to-one would happen. It was cancelled more often than not by a wondering Dragon that Draco needed to slay.
The executive waved the farmer away. They frowned, it would mean longer until they got more capacity in the lower field.
The farmer was grateful that they did not have to fight Dragons every day. The first few months had been hard. Early starts, late finishes and never a chance to help with the school run. The arguments with their partner because they could not take the kids to school or drop them off. Hiring the right people, shaving the Yak, introducing effective tests, removing technical debt. “Digging ditches and mending fences” as he explained to the executive and Prince. Now the system was boring, boring, boring. The farmer saw no reason to leave, provided they got the promotion they expected.
The Annual Appraisal
The executive hated the annual appraisal and promotion round. There were always people who were angry and annoyed. This year was going to be worse than normal, the Prince had told the executive that there would only be one promotion in their team. They would have to choose between Draco and Giles.
The executives focused on the questions that formed the promotion request.
“Please give evidence of leadership and problem solving.”
“Please give evidence of calm leadership under pressure.”
“Please give evidence of where the candidate has put the company first.”
It was easy to fill out the form for Draco. Draco filled the form several times a week. They barely knew Giles, it had been a month since the last one-to-one. He remember that he had been quite stressed when he started the job, and the executive had doubted their strategy of digging ditches and building fences when the dragons were flying overhead. In fact, the executive remembered feeling quite anxious about it all.
Besides, the Prince knew Draco well and did not know the Farmer at all.
The executive was quite pleased with the way things were. Unfortunately Farmer Giles had left after it was announced that Draco would take over, something that had only been made possible by an ingenious double promotion. As soon as Giles and some of his team left it became apparent that they had been hiding things. Dragons had started to appear but luckily they had Draco in place to cope with them, the executive was sure that the system was now in safe hands. The executive looked forward to their new office.
The executive picked up the book in front of them “Agile Software Development” by Alistair Cockburn. Something about the story of the author’s son planting next year’s profit bothered them but they could not work out why.
There are a couple of points I want to confess to with this post…
- This is faction. It is based on several real experiences and observation made since first reading Alistair’s book.
- This is the first blog post I’ve tried to deliberately write in a gender neutral manner, trying to use “They”/”Them” instead of “He”/”She”. It was harder than I expected and it does not flow as well as I would like.
- The photo of the Dragon guarding the City of London was taken yesterday outside of Chancery Lane tube station. I tried to snap the Dragons in Moorgate and Bishopsgate but they are gone. Perhaps it is a sign that there are fewer Dragons in the city thanks to Agile?
- The photo is the first that I have edited. The dark original with tree branches and a tower is shown below side by side with the edited version finally used.
March 20th, 2017 at 4:01 am
[…] Chris Matts continues his series reflecting on the difference between executive and practitioner visions of Agile methods, in terms of dragon slayers and farmers. […]
March 22nd, 2017 at 5:29 am
[…] Dragon Slayers and Farmers Written by: Chris Matts […]
March 25th, 2017 at 5:22 pm
Absolutely true to life. I do feel a bit of empathy for the executive given the number of technical people who are seduced by dragon fighting and have never known the joys of farming.
I appreciate the effort to produce gender neutral prose. I suspect the lack of flow may simply be a lack of familiarity.
April 17th, 2017 at 4:56 pm
[…] point at the result of the initiative and claim them for themselves. “Top Down” is a Dragon Slayer […]