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Motivated Developers Do Valuable Things (Mostly)

I have a provocative claim that people do what they want in a given software organization and then play the game of scrum or some similar established process. A more nuanced way of putting that is that we (developers) are incredibly easy to sidetrack from the commonly agreed "most important TODO items." Sure, we follow the abstract, larger vision of a given product, but the more granular the level, the more variance there is in people following the predetermined issue list.

When it is written or said out, all that does not seem that provocative. It is actually written in agile process documentation, but not in those words. Agile process talks about "requirement volatility" which can be seen as a similar thing I am talking about.

Given most employees do what they want, how do organizations keep on top of that?

Now, for what might seem like a continuation of stating the obvious: meetings and issue trackers are vital tools for monitoring team activities. Motivated individuals naturally tend to do impactful work from their perspective, but that may not hold collectively, thus highlighting the necessity for these tools.

The naivete I have grown out of is believing that meetings are unimportant. Meetings are not just a formality; they are, more often than imagined, more crucial than writing code. They are one of the most valuable activities a company engages in. Without meetings, the organization is likely solving such trivial issues that they cannot pay software engineering-grade salaries.

Indeed, the world is full of poorly organized meetings. It's a common theme across countless business self-help books, each proposing ways to inject discipline into them. This reminds me of the nature of coding: a portion of what we write is incredibly valuable, driving significant revenue. However, let's be honest, a good deal of it is less impactful, often addressing imaginary problems (my favorite blog post of the year thus far).

I still grind my teeth every time a meeting is called. I must emphasize that it stems mainly from my predisposition rather than the organizers' insensibility.

A piece of insight that struck me recently touches on meeting participation. If you're consistently passive in meetings, or never initiate discussions, you're likely missing out on a crucial aspect of your role. Your value in an organization is not just about the current feature you develop; it's also about your ability to contribute to broader discussions and decision-making processes. Do not expect a bump in salary if all you can show are green tiles in GitHub.

Turning to issue trackers, let's talk about Jira. I can't believe I am writing this, but Jira is actually... good.

Yes, really!

In my current project, we're using an alternative tool that, despite its sleek UI and speedy tab-focus-to-new-issue rate, needs certain features that seasoned developers like us have come to appreciate in Jira. While our processes could be optimized, switching tools or methods feels like a distraction from our primary goal: refining and prioritizing tasks.


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