Today is a big day for people tweeting how they deplore what other people are doing. Others retweet those tweets. I think that’s a fruitless behavior and suggest something different.

If you think I’m talking to you here, well, I might be, but I’m really talking to (a) a bunch of people who’re doing it today and (b) to everyone, and (c) perhaps mostly to myself.

When I say something like “There are a lot of people out there who say [your favorite stupid idea here] and they ought to stop”, I’ll likely get a lot of retweets. Yeah, those stupid so-and-sos really ought to stop saying that.

I believe that in the religion trade that’s called “preaching to the choir”. All those retweets? People who agree that the idea is stupid and that people shouldn’t say it.

What did I want? Well, I suppose I wanted people who say that stupid thing to stop saying it. There are just a few problems:

  • Quite likely no one really says that thing that way;
  • Quite likely people who say things like it have good reasons in mind;
  • Quite likely people who follow me are not among the people who say that;
  • … if there even are any people who say that!!

Two topics from today, as examples:

Some people say it’s OK to ignore teams.

(Thanks, Al.) Well, I don’t know anyone who really says that, though I probably know plenty who mostly talk about other matters, such as how to design UIs, or how to figure out what a product should be, or how to do TDD, or how to be a nice person. (I plan to learn that last thing real soon now …)

My guess is that these people are not saying “teams are bad” or even “teams are not important”. My guess is that they are saying something more nuanced, like “teams are important and I like to address them this way rather than directly”, or they’re just saying “my particular teaching is about a different topic”.

I suspect that if I sat down with one of these people, I could have a useful and interesting conversation. I might have to give up trying to change them, at least until I understood them.

Some people say managers are evil and should be abolished.

(Thanks Andy.) Again, I don’t know many people who say that, although I do know some people who believe strongly that hierarchical management as it is done today is not a good way to work. And those people have some really good points, and some really interesting companies to point to. Read Joy, Inc for some useful thoughts. Or look up Semco or Zappos and consider how they operate. Not very conventional at all.)

And some people have had long and bad experience with conventional management. I count myself in that number. It has caused me to be pretty skeptical of what managers, especially lower and middle managers, are likely to do.

Now as it happens, I do not care to enter the management training business, although I am certainly in it peripherally, via Agile, Scrum, and the like. I teach a particular set of ideas and practices that tend to lead to better management and a more team-oriented organization, but I don’t care to go in and directly talk about what managers ought to do, nor do I care to go in and tell them “There, there, you’re really OK, everything will be all right”.

Truth is, I suspect that once you get Product Management sorted out, and true teamwork in place, with Product Owners and a mostly non-hierarchic way of doing things, most of those managers will find themselves working in a very different way – or at a very different place.

Again, if I sat down with some of the stronger anti-management people, if there are any, I suspect I could have a productive conversation with them.

What would it take?

Well, thanks for asking.

Probably it wouldn’t help if I had built up a reputation for not respecting them by tweeting bad things about them.

Probably it wouldn’t help if I packaged up their ideas into 140 characters and began with “WHY DO YOU SUPPORT THIS STUPID IDEA: [insert stupid idea here]?”

Maybe it would help if I began with “Let’s talk about [some neutral idea]”, like, say “I’d like to get your views on teams”, or “Let’s talk about hierarchical management”.

Maybe it would help if I listened, with an open mind, to what they had to say. I might even learn something. If nothing else, I might learn how better to express my own ideas. But I’m told that if I listen actively, I actually learn new stuff. And maybe, if I listen, so would they.

Maybe we’d both learn new stuff. That would be cool.