50 Shades of Contracting #3: The Master of Darkness
50 Shades of Contracting is our weekly series in which you tell scandalous freelancing stories. In this post, a contractor finds a working practise based on divide and conquer management tinged with the dark arts.
One boss I worked for early in my contracting career had a nickname: Master of Darkness. He was very good at reflecting back ideas, agreeing when agreeing had to be done, and reporting up to senior management. But when it came to actually running the show he made Benny Hill look like a six sigma black belt.
He wasn’t by any means a man with any stature or scariness in the epic sense. He reminded me of Kevin Spacey as Verbal in The Usual Suspects, and had a voice that sounded like it should be on Radio 4. You never knew what he was actually up to, or where it was all going. But if it hit the fan you were definitely getting a piece. And a far bigger piece than Mr Teflon!
Agile that’s fragile
The project we were working on was as a result manic, with a very much an ‘us and them’ feeling between the development and analysis teams. It had elements of control, but ultimately it got to the point where the boss man and his minion lost control and the ‘agile’ way of working was touted as the saviour of the situation.
The ‘agile working’ methodology, for those who don’t know, is a flexible working approach in which team work is key. Done right is like a well drilled kitchen getting “ready steady cook” style randomness thrown as requests, and expected to create a spot on dish. To do this everyone must know what they are doing, when it has to be done by, and to communicate effectively against the clock.
Even though he didn’t actually know how proper agile methodology worked, he and his minion threw a few “We do” and “We know” statements into a crisis meeting that was held when the wheels properly fell off and everyone involved felt even more dejected.
Us and them
Suffice to say the agile way of working made all the issues of the project come to a head even faster and the “us and them” vibe between teams was ramped up to fever pitch. Never before had I worked on a project where there was so much animosity between two teams on the same project.
To make matters worse we were one row of desks apart. Which made for interesting days when you would hear tuts and insults coming from the other team when we would send them team emails. To which we responded to laughing every time they sent one to our group.
There was only one end result to this, the project along with a fair few others got axed. And the Master of Darkness kindly allowed us to sit at our desks with nothing to do for the majority of the notice period. During the summer. That was naughty, though not Mr Grey naughty!
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