Monday, October 14, 2013

E Versus T at a Riot

CEOs in one panel discussed with CTOs in another at last Friday's LACTO Forum. A kind of "E" versus "T." Surprisingly, both groups agreed.

A major discussion point centered around CEOs influence in the company. Especially, about the unintended consequences of their comments. It's almost as if CEOs need to distinguish between ex-cathedra pronouncements, and ober dicta. For those of you who aren't lawyers, and TheHackerCIO hopes that's everyone: ober dicta are statements said in passing -- they are remarks, or observations, -- and are not legally binding. Both the CEOs and CTOs were troubled by how such a passing remark could affect the direction of the team.

If this new direction is not communicated to the rest of the team, then it can result in different people or groups pulling in differing directions. The CEOs were troubled by this unintended consequence. The CTOs suggested that it was the duty of everyone, and especially senior management to re-validate such directional messages across the organization. That way, by enhancing communication, the CTO can at least know if a questionable direction has been posited: he can investigate in private with the CEO, if necessary, and a formal position can then be established for everyone.

The CEOs further lamented that this can even extend to unintended consequences from their seeming enthusiastic about something!

Personally, I've never experienced this problem, but it's good to file away for the future.

The CTOs had an interesting technique for communicating with the CEO about a proposal. So long as it's not wrong headed altogether, instead of saying "no," just say, "OK, but that will take 4 more engineers and we will deliver 4 months later than scheduled." This is an excellent bit of advice, and reminds me of the negotiations used in Agile programming.

The event was hosted by Riot Games, who are awesome -- both for hosting us, and for their well -organized development. They provided a tour to those interested, and TheHackerCIO is always interested in technology tours! This one is particularly heartening, because the Agile artifacts are all up on the walls everywhere you go. Post-its are in particular places to indicate remaining work and burn-down charts track the progress on every sprint. The tour-guide mentioned that in their post-mortem analyses, every time they missed out on cross-functional teams, they had problems. It's kind of cool at Riot that you can see the whole pipeline of their work as you move down the hallway: from creative inception and content development, to more technical elaboration and finally to testing/ playing. They even have simulated cafes -- because many of their game users have their User Experience in a computer cafe.

All in all, a most profitable session!

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