Come back Josh! All is forgiven.

March 20, 2009 at 11:24 am Leave a comment

This is an interesting article (especially for a developer of the quirky persuasion):  “Are quirky developers brilliant or dangerous?

It is written from the point of view of a manager.  It tells the story of “Josh”. (Not OUR Josh, of operatic Flex fame – another Josh).

Josh is a gifted but anti-social Software Engineer and project champion.   An apparently invaluable and over-utlised resource.

In my opinion, Josh worked for knee-jerk managers who react to one crisis after another, but don’t know how to implement or manage something sustainable.   These managers call the shots. Quality or Fast? – they always want the latter.  So Josh works miracles to do what he can in the time allowed.  But if there are issues over quality – they blame Josh.

A large company is like an organism.  It has an immune system.  If your face doesn’t fit, eventually you’ll trigger a antibody response.  Corporate grey corpuscles.

The comments are worth reading.  There was plenty of agreement that management was at fault here.  Other than that, it’s clear that Software Engineers and Traditional Managers are two different species.  From different planets.  With completely different mindsets.

I found the following comments particularly insightful:-

By Turtle   March 16 2009 12:46 PMPDT

MOST of the time — the issue is not with the developers, it’s with nontechnical or insufficiently-technical management swooping in insisting on trying to “lead” a development team. You. Will. Fail.

By Pete   March 16 2009 1:26 PMPDT

Wow. For an inside-the-box guy (xSTJ), Josh is an evil monster. For an outside-the-box guy (xNTP), Josh was just an introverted intuitive and creative problem solver with a bit of an attitude.

Josh, as described, definitely had some issues. My guess is that 95% of those could have been easily been handled by even a mediocre manager or a decent team-mate. Stick him in an office full of robots with an average IQ of 90 and under a manager completely unprepared and untrained to actually MANAGE, and you can easily turn an INTP into a Josh.

 Josh has some real problems and issues in his workplace, but no one was prepared to try to solve them. So Josh just did what he best to get his mission accomplished.

Eventually the company addressed the issues, and got rid of Josh at the same time. I imagine they’d be MUCH more profitable if they had simply addressed the issues and KEPT Josh. Josh wasn’t the problem, he was just a symptom of how incompetent management was. His “convoluted” code was still brilliant. I am certain it formed the basis for the cleaned up version the “in-the-box” coders eventually produced. Good teams and management know how to get the most out their people.

My personality type is INTP. I have first-hand experience of the situation that Pete describes.

I was once a “Josh”.

I didn’t work in a room full of robots. Their IQs were high. Half of the people in my group had PhDs.  I mostly had a problem with one manager who I had most dealings with.

He considered himself to be a logical and rational person.  But his logic was simplistic. A blunt instrument.   He was equally incapable of grasping technologically complexity, or the nuances of human behaviour.  I withheld information and fed him half-truths in order to protect the project.   The more he tried to control and interfere – the more I became like “Josh”.  A quirky and arrogant prima-donna.

There were basically two types of people where I worked.  Lions lead by donkeys.  Lions – Intelligent and capable project champions, motivated by a passion for what they were doing.  And the donkeys – parasitic politically sycophantic ladder-climbers motivated by self-interested ambition.

When I eventually left the company – it was like being propelled forward on a slingshot.   No longer held back by paper-clip counters.  This phase of my life was more creative than ever before.  I expressed myself through writing, theatre directing, film-making, fine arts and programming.  In the corporate world, I had never been promoted.  Although I was a manager myself, I was never trusted with more team responsibility.  But now, in the real world, I set up my own company, and successfully lead ambitious team projects, with noone to stop me.  And this was the REAL world.  Not just political games inside a large protective corporate arena.


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