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In one of the company's im involved with there is a problem between one manager and a programmer. They are both very good at their jobs, but there is constant clashes. I would like to get some feedback to help me sort this out. I did some research on the topic, including using my account at https://www.oreilly.com/ but this topic seems to not be covered in the literature.

The programmer works in cycle's of 2-5 days, mostly in 6 phrases.

  1. Brainstorming
  2. Create plan.
  3. Coding
  4. Testing.
  5. Implementation.
  6. Clean up the code.

The programmer complains about the manager stepping in when he is in the later stages of the cycle, and often later in the day and start to question the scope of the current cycle, or the larger strategic plan, that it should be changed and a lot more should be included. He says he is in "rally mode", and totally focused on the current stage. He say he is more than willing to discuss this when he is rested and its in the beginning of a new cycle. But when he is in the middle of something he feels its very frustrating and unproductive to "step out of the car" and let go of the information currently uploaded in his short-term working memory and go up to the bridge and assume the "commander roll" and start think more long term strategic.

The manager sees it as he job to question the scope of the current cycle or the greater plan when ever see the need. He don't see any valid reason for not doing this during the daily and scheduled contact.

I'm trying to ask as neutral as I can, so I don't affect the answers with my own bias. But should i somehow retrain the programmer so he is better prepared to always be able to brainstorm about the larger picture? Should I try to convince the manager that he should hold of the strategic issues until the current cycle is finished and a new cycle is starting?

2 Answers 2

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I am going to give my totally biased opinion on this classic developer vs manager issue.

Why would a manager question the scope of a development cycle DURING the cycle? From what I understand, the cycle is 2 to 5 days long and the very first steps of the cycle are brainstorming and planning (and I presume that both are done together with the manager). If the manager is unhappy with the scope of the cycle, he should have voiced his opinion during the planning stages. And if he only later decided that he is not OK with the scope, he can suck it up, wait for the next cycle (which is not a long wait considering one cycle lasts 2-5 days) and hopefully during the next planning stages he puts more thought into it upfront.

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In these sort of conflicts, the manager needs to adapt. They already have to adapt to the various strengths and weaknesses of the people on their team, and should be the best equipped to do so.

I think it is also unreasonable for the programmer to expect 2-5 days completely uninterrupted. Do they not offload their work when done for the day? Yes, minimize context switching, but this sounds like more than that.

It sounds like you need a team lead or other third party that can provide that strategic technical guidance that the programmer in the question is weak at. And since team composition is the manager’s responsibility, they are ultimately responsible for the current state of things.

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  • There is a scheduled meeting every day. The conflict is if that meeting should be focused on the current cycle/scope (as the programmer wants once when the coding have started) or if it also can be used for changing the current scope, and for larger strategic issues as the manager wants.
    – Kaffeburk
    Dec 15, 2020 at 6:37
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    @Kaffeburk, from the manager's point of view, what is the importance of raising these issues immediately, rather than a few days later in a scheduled planning and review meeting?
    – Steve
    Dec 15, 2020 at 7:24
  • I have not explicit asked him, but maybe i should. My guess is that its out of habit. I also think he did say that he have a slight tendency to not intuitive read other peoples emotions, he have to "manually" think about it, but it will not be an automatic process.
    – Kaffeburk
    Dec 15, 2020 at 10:18

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