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My IBM end of year review (2014)

IBM runs yearly reviews / assessments for all of it’s employees every year, as I’m sure most companies do. These reviews are only ever from people above your level looking down, though there are occasions where feedback can be provided in the opposite direction.

This year my feedback included what felt like a more personal comment than any previous years:

his style can come across as inconsiderate of others and largely rude at times

I even tweeted it to see what people thought: https://twitter.com/bluemonki/status/560099310415917057

I’m not entirely naive about this, I’m certain that sometimes I am rude and I may be being inconsiderate. Or worse, that people think I am being rude and inconsiderate when it is not my intention. What is slightly odd is these are exactly the traits of the recently departed project manager.

My issue with this statement is the situation from which I believe it arises, a comment like that sticks out in a review, but such a statement should never be made without context. What follows is my best guess at the context for the comment.

Like many projects there are time and content pressures, I like to agile as well as deterministic when I’m running a team, I’m open to plan changes, but there have to be limits to what can be done late on in a cycle.

For instance a piece of development work that will take 4 weeks cannot be started with 4 weeks to go to a ship date, it certainly cannot be started with 2 weeks to go.

It sounds simple doesn’t it? I have similar conversations with my son “No the train can’t go in there it’s too big”, “No you can’t get in there you’re too big”.

When this development item appeared I talked it over with the team manager and made my stance clear, if it could not be started by a certain point, it would not be started at all. We were in agreement.

At 3 weeks to go the issues preventing the piece of work from starting had been resolved. It got put back into plan. It was shipped. It was terrible. A critical defect in the entire design was found 5 days later. The entire piece of function was re-written for the next version.

During this time I was almost certainly a rude grumpy man, but it’s not entirely clear to me if this was unprofessional. My role at the time was the team leader, to guide and assist the development team to a well tested product release. Not to force in untested function at the last minute, not to have the constraints that had been agreed between the team manager and I ignored.

I actually felt betrayed, someone had taken what I and the team had lovingly crafted and forced us to corrupt it.

This review comment really brought up that time in my mind again, but now with the thought that people believed I was being rude and inconsiderate. It’s not a time I want to re-live, but it is a time that I will learn from.

If anyone truly feels that I was rude to them then I apologise, but I don’t remember anyone apologising to myself or my team for the mess we were forced to create and then later clean up.