There are organizations in which any kind of criticism is considered personal and therefore taboo. Somehow, the work product and the work producer are packaged as one. The odd logic goes like this: “A criticism of Meg’s schema is a criticism of Meg’s ability, and that is a criticism of Meg, the person. I won’t criticize Meg, because that would hurt Meg’s feelings and would open the door for others to criticize me for criticizing Meg.”
It’s not just straightforward criticism; it bleeds into any kind of implied criticism, such as a review or assessment. Any review short of “Great job, Hal” is socially uncomfortable for everyone in the room.
The result of this misdirected civility is deep mediocrity. Serious improvement is highly unlikely, and any kind of complete restart or rewrite is just about impossible. No one is ever going to say, “Let’s trash this code and rethink the whole front end,” even when it’s the best thing to do.
The source of false good manners is a clear, but never publicly stated, message from somewhere on-high in the organization. It is a form of cowardice that is disguised as politeness.
“We will always try our best to be polite to one another” makes sense and is agreed to in most healthy organizations, but in a Miss Manners shop, this rule has a subtext. It is “We will not allow criticism, because once begun, it could spread, and our culture is not strong enough to benefit from such introspection. Decisions can’t be proven best or worst, so accept all decisions without comment.”
Miss Manners organizations are all facade and no face. People who populate them are obliged to wear masks all day long.
Business Analysis Conference Europe. Details and registration a Details and registration at Business Analysis Conference Europe 2015.
Take a look at Tom DeMarco's new article in the January, 2015 issue of CrossTalk. It's called Risk Management for Dummies.
Als auf der Welt das Licht Ausging, the German edition of Tom DeMarco's science fiction epic, Andronescu's Paradox, has now been published by Hanser Verlag in Munich. Translation by Andreas Brandhorst.
Read Tom DeMarco's article from the July/August edition of IEEE Software: Sigil, BlueGriffon, and the Evolving Software Market.
Announcing the publication of the third edition of Tom DeMarco and Tim Lister's iconic text, Peopleware: Productive Projects and Teams. The book is available now from Amazon or directly from Addison Wesley. See press release on Business Wire.
"This war isn't going to blow anything up, only turn everything off."
Read Tom DeMarco's essay from the July/August issue of Software Magazine. It's entitled, Bells, Whistles, Power, and the Requirements Process.