Mismatched Intuition

Technical managers generally have an intuition about how to structure teams and development processes based on years of experience. But business managers (VPs of Sales, Consumer Product Managers, manufacturing supervisors, bank administrators) often have quite a different set of intuitions.

When business managers challenge technical managers about how to deliver software, we technical managers argue, but weakly, lapsing into jargon. “Agile”! “Scrum”! “Xtreme”! “Stand ups!” “Burn down!” “Velocity!” “Backlog!”

We rant but we don’t communicate very well because we don’t expose the differences in our underlying assumptions. We owe our non-technical colleagues more than just jargon and a shouting match.

Fortunately, (or not) this difficulty is an old, well explored phenomenon. At least as early as 1975, Frederick Brooks’ described this problem in “The Mythical Man-month” (MMM).

In many ways, managing a large computer programming project is like managing any other large undertaking – in more ways than most programmers believe. But in many other ways it is different – in more ways than most professional managers expect.

Dr. Frederick P. Brooks Jr, The Mythical Man-month, 1975

MMM Chapter 2 helps make explicit some of those mismatched assumptions.