Breaking the Laws of Nature

Are sales people and developers like oil and water?

As I was reading this article I recalled Michael Feathers’ presentation at NDC about “The mistake at the heart of agile”. To recap: Agile closed the developers behind a walled garden, in order to let them produce without interruption from other sides of the organization. On the minus side, it formed the gap between the sides, which had affected how the developers understand the customers.

There are stereotypes of the developer and the salesman. Some of them are based on the occasional truths. I’ve crossed over from the development trenches to the “dark side”. I sometimes get called “working on the side of evil”. Laughs aside, we have these views of the sales and marketing.

No, the other side is not exempt from this behavior. “Why is the product not done, when they said it is? and what is this internal value they work on? I can’t sell internal value!”. Let’s admit it, we’ve contributed to how we look in other eyes. And in our banding together inside the agile circle, we’ve formed the geek culture that helps us look at the other side in Dilbertian glasses (just an example).

This “us against the world” is nice, fuzzy position to be in. But if we want to help our organization, we need to build a bridge to the other side. It starts with learning the vocabulary, using it, and dropping the sarcasm (and believe you me, that was the hardest part for me). Learn their motivation, what makes them happy and what upsets them.

Here’s an example: You know that saying “the testers are delaying  the release”? It’s because the testers get in after the development cycle (in non-agile orgs). And because the development went longer, the pressure is on them. Well, guess what. It doesn’t stop there. Marketing is next, and then sales. The marketing and sales team need the greatest help and info about the product, because now they need the confidence that what they talk about actually does what they say. Otherwise, they are left holding the ball, and if it’s not a quality ball, you know who they blame, and what they think of them.

Oil and water don’t mix. That’s a law of nature.

Developers and sales people? Not so much.

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