Argentinian Pizza

I spent some time in Argentina a few years ago. At the time the travel books were raving about how a large influx of immigrants from Italy had created a home away from home, so I spent a good part of my time frequenting various Italian eateries as a break from the Argentine staple of (divine, heavenly) beef in all its guises.

What I discovered is what you get if you’ve seen a picture of a pizza, but never actually eaten one.

These strange concoctions looked like pizza but varied in style and texture between sliced pan and cheese on toast. Significant ingedients (like tomato sauce, cheese) were often omitted unless specifically ordered as an extra. When they did appear they often turned out shockers like pure tomato puree (like sucking the barrel of a gun) or some liquid cheese disaster left over from the set of a Night of The Living Dead movie.

I say all this not becuase I want to be hard on the Argentinians but more as an analogy for what passes as management in many of the software companies I’ve worked for. They’ve seen a picture of it (they may have even seen it done) but they never thought to inquire as to the ingredients or what it should taste like. So we see teams that get increasinly disillusioned with vacuous and empty headed “team building games” or morale boosting “incentive programs” that usually have the opposite effect.

Its not that these managers are bad people (far from it) its more the case that they are trying to skip a essential learning curve. Observing is not doing, just as doing is not always learning.

Writing good, useful software takes time and learning to create and manage good, useful software teams takes even longer.

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