Dysfunction in a Word

Creative problem solving as rote mechanical construction. Twist the wrench and pass it on.

  • forces sequential phases, “first we determine what it looks like then we figure out what it does.”
  • forces development in horizontal rather than vertical layers, i.e. “we’ve spent weeks coding but none of it does anything yet. We’re almost done though”
  • forces thinking in schedules instead of priorities, “I’ll have my part done in two weeks. What is it again?”
  • silos workers from each other, “What are you working on? Well, anyway, goodnight.”
  • ensures workers don’t have big picture, “Her copy doesn’t fit in my div based on his mockup. It’s not my fault.”
  • encourages hierarchies and coordination overhead (chicken husbandry), “My manager will get with your manager”
  • enourages narrow specialties instead of versatility and craftsmanship, “He does jpegs and gifs. She does html, css, and javascript. She does C# and Java. None of us actually build applications. By the way, did I already say it’s not my fault.”


    Distill complex interactions into a pretty picture. Take authoritative guidance from someone who’s only spent 15 minutes thinking about the problem.

  • encourages passive, diffuse product ownership, “you’re on the hook but they’re the deciders”
  • locks in premature commitments, “I put aside $10K for database integration”
  • invites arbitrary changes. “make this bit here blue”
  • creates low-value artifacts that lie, “sure it will work just like the wireframe.”
  • rewards promises over performance, “it will do everything I say, cost $40K, and be done in one month.”
  • bakes failure in, “how did we end up with this late, expensive hunk of junk?”


    offensive getwith: “you need to getwith Joe on this.”

  • forces input from people with authority, no accountability and no direct contribution — like being made to run around with a target on your back
    defensive getwith: “Does Joe agree with this decision?” “I gotwith him on it.”

  • ask someone to attend one meeting, characterize them as agreeing with anything you do after that — like pulling a target of your back and sticking it on someone else’s

Any additions?

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About Ken Judy

I am an executive manager, software developer, father and husband trying to do more good than harm. I am an agile practitioner. I say this fully aware I say nothing. Sold as a tool to solve problems, agile is more a set of principles that encourage us to confront problems. Broad adoption of the jargon has not resulted in wide embrace of these principles. I strive to create material and human good by respecting co-workers, telling truth to employers, improving my skills, and caring for the people affected by the software I help build.