San Francisco on the Water

 Posted by on Aug 21, 2011  Add comments
Aug 212011

San Francisco, CA

Aging Israelis like me are very fond of the song San Francisco on the Water [1]. We actually melt when we hear Arik Einstein sing it. His golden voice brings back to our hearts precious memories of what we call Good Old Israel: being in harmony with ourselves, with one another and with the mission. In our youth we did not need the inspiring words of JFK – we were really really really asking what we could do for our country.

I am literally sitting at this very moment on the water in San Francisco. I am sure I look absolutely lost to the world. I did not have the time to thoughtfully pack my bag for this engagement (in less than one hour I will be coaching a sprint planning session for a team split between San Francisco, CA and Hyderabad, India). If a policeman were to arrest me, he/she would probably give the following description of the suspect to the station:

  • Brown shoes (maybe it does not really matter, I have already taken them off)
  • White socks
  • Black shorts
  • Gray belt
  • Red Agile 2010 t-shirt

Add to it a beard of two days (it is my weekend!), a tablet, and this suspicious reddish drink I am sipping (a heavenly Campari and Soda) and you will have pretty good picture how a supposedly respectable Cutter practice director looks in real life…

Please, do not let the way I look lead you to any false conclusions. I am not only having the time of my life, I am exceptionally productive and creative this afternoon:

  • I have reviewed the stories in the backlog for tonight’s sprint planning
  • Other than invoicing and submitting my expense reports, I have caught up on all back office work
  • I am writing this post
  • In a few minutes I will resume my work on a Cutter Executive report I am co-authoring with my good friend Annie Shum.

In addition, I am in intimate relationship with my five new friends on the balcony of Epic Roashouse. I have it on good authority that Charlie always lived in San Francisco but Amy came here from Hawaii because she wanted a change. Over the past hour our relationship has evolved to the level that we are currently debating what would be the most effective spelling of “God-dammit” in this blog post. Some of the folks prefer full spelling; others advocate the merits of “GD.” Some seem to be stuck in the middle, preferring “God-damit” to the other two variants.  As there does not seem to be an easy way to resolve this raging conflict, they have kindly jotted down the three variants of spelling on a napkin for me. If I manage to make up my mind in good time, this post will be accentuated by an honest to goodness GD  (I somehow feel the post needs it). If not, rest assured it will appear in my next Cutter blog post.

Believe it or not, all the crap in the five paras above is essential, actually vital, for your success as a software development manager. Forget about Java, code reviews, Gant charts and – God forbid – performance reviews. The only thing that really matters in knowledge work is whether your team, both individually and collectively, manages to get in the zone. If it does, your software will be lovingly crafted. If it does not, you might want to consider contacting Cutter to arrange an engagement with one of the consultants in the Agile practice.

In just about every Agile transformation engagement I carry out for Cutter,  I ask the development managers to summarize their responsibilities before and after (the Agile transformation). The “after” list tends to be on the short side, as many of the traditional managerial responsibilities are carried out by the self-organizing team. Hence, I suggest some new responsibilities that will be meaningful and important.  For example, I might recommend to a development manager to assume responsibility for technical debt.

The number one responsibility I invariably assign to the development managers, and to their managers, and to their directors, and to their VP, and to their  CTO/CIO, and to the CEO is that of managing the environment.  When everything is said and done, this is the only thing that really matters in knowledge work.

You might not be able to dismantle, move and reassemble the Golden Gate Bridge close enough to your office building to contribute to the environment experienced by your team. With this exception noted, your job definition is to recreate the experience of San Francisco on the Water for them.

[1] You need not know Hebrew to enjoy the song.  Just download any of these albums. Arik will put the magic spell on you no matter what your native tongue might be.


Israel Gat

Israel Gat served as Cutter Fellow and the Director of the Agile Product Management & Software Engineering Excellence practice from 2008 until 2015.


 Leave a Reply

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>