General Stanley McChrystal Is A Racist
General Stanley McChrystal is a racist!
Not really. Or more accurately, I should say that I have no idea of whether or not Mr. McChrystal is a racist. But I’m sorry. I couldn’t resist. A lot of people want to believe that some of us believe that any disagreement with President Barack Obama can be attributed to America’s well known penchant for racism. A white man can’t disagree with his black boss without somebody with a race chip on their shoulder hollering discrimination. Some people think it’s some kind of automatic reflex. I just wanted to take this opportunity to yank somebody’s chain. For the record, let me be perfectly clear, I don’t know if Mr. McChrystal is a racist or not. So in the meantime, I will give him the benefit of doubt.
But in some respects, I have to say that I can relate to Mr. McChrystal’s position. When you think you hear or witness your boss doing something idiotic on a constant basis you really start to lose respect for that person. I did not hear or read what Mr. McChrystal and his staff said about Mr. Obama and his administration to Michael Hastings, a reporter at Rolling Stones magazine, so I know not to what degree his insubordination extends. I do know that a general serves at the discretion of the President. From what I understand, if Mr. Obama didn’t like the way some general tied his shoe lace the President has the option to end that person’s military career.
By accepting the resignation of Mr. McChrystal, Mr. Obama made clear that the behavior revealed in the Rolling Stone article amounted to nothing less than insubordination. Mr. Obama said that the general’s behavior did not meet the standard that should be set by a commanding general and undermines the civilian control of the military that is at the core of our democratic system. Mr. Obama said that he welcomes disagreement within his foreign policy team but that he won’t tolerate division.
And like I said, I can relate. As a software developer I had a boss that truly revealed herself to be a first class bureaucrat with an obsessive compulsion for paperwork. When it comes to the development of small software applications for a limited number of users, she wants to use procedures filled with rigid, unbendable rules, and stakeholder meetings to discuss every minute aspect of software in a process that would extend the development of a project from about all of two or three days to an excruciating six weeks. And then she has the nerves to go around and tell people about how she’s making the department more efficient and lean. Seriously!
When I started with the team, my boss promised empowerment and flexibility. Neither concept ever materialized. My boss was a student of the Six Sigma lean development philosophy. Six Sigma is a management strategy originally developed by Motorola that seeks to improve the quality of processes by identifying and removing the causes of defects and errors and while minimizing variability in the business processes. This process has a heavy reliance on measuring the quality of management with the use of statistical methods. Experts in these process methods are referred to as black belts and follow a strictly defined series of steps with quantified targets designed to measure any change that is considered important to the business in narrowly defined terms such as cost reduction, profit increase, process development time, safety, delivery time, etc.
Six Sigma was designed to improve manufacturing processes where variation in the final product could lead to defects and costly repairs or maintenance. The aim is to improve the process of developing a tangible item so that it can be reproduced consistently with minimal variation. The problem is that the development of software is not a manufacture process but more of a creative process. A massively produced item going down an assembly line will have a very finite limit to its possible configurations. The development of custom software follows a very different path of development.
The development of software is more of a creative process than a manufacturing process. Get ten different developers together and ask them to build a program and you will get ten different solutions. Everyone who programs has a different way of doing things. A company with an interest in smart software development and not necessarily rote software development would use a combination of best practices to set standards but would ultimately give its developers the room to do their work.
The proof is in the pudding. The Six Sigma process employed at the company has significantly increased the time necessary to deliver software to our customers, the other departments. When the marketing department needed a quick solution to help them track their events and their customers, working directly with the customers I was able to provide a solution in less than a week. That includes interviews with customers, development of a scope document that defines the customer needs and proposed solution, the development of the code, testing, and delivery. Now that my manager has invoked her Six Sigma training, software delivery now takes months. I’m still waiting for the leanness of her processes to reveal itself.
So I disagreed with my boss. Judging by the feedback caused by unnecessary delays as the result of endless meetings and documentation, our customers disagreed with my boss. She swore her way was the way that would save the company whatever it was that the company wants to save. But, the Six Sigma development process when applied to custom application development is a seriously bloated beast. Anyone who thinks that this process is saving anything worth while is sorely mistaken. And instead of looking at what’s happening and asking the questions if customer satisfaction is up, management looks at charts of statistics. To me that’s proof of idiocy.
And so, like Mr. McChrystal, it was only a matter of time before I was saying something about how idiotic the thinking of the management team at the office was. It’s a damn good thing I never did any interviews with anybody from the Rolling Stones or any other magazine. But then again, when one is harboring contempt for his or her boss, chances are pretty good that it’s only a matter of time before you have to leave and find employment elsewhere.