I am currently a developer in Japan, and recently I am assigned with a new project. I will just list it up, so that it is easier to understand:

  1. The manager said that we will be implementing Agile but since he don't have experience he will let us handle that
  2. After our meeting on data requirements, although the requirements are so sooo vague, I still created some simple screen and database flow, just to check if we have the same understanding.
  3. Unfortunately, these documents are not correct according to Japanese standard(When I asked if they have a format, he cannot give me one). Also they want me to create details specification documentation, database relationship flows and functionality flows and etc at the start of the project. It so ironic to call this project to be using Agile.
  4. For this to complete including the lots of documentation since it is a simple keyword matching project(which by the way based on their specs is not), they just give us a month since he said it is Agile.
  5. We can't start it up, because I cannot give him these documents in Japanese standard format, although I already give him a lot of flow related documents which is more important for us when we developed our task. We haven't even reach to the Story level kind of preparation, since he also want this documented at the first stage of the project and all other things.

My previous projects with a Japanese person was successful since they are open and listen to my suggestion(since I have quite of experience working in Agile team) and we had quite a lot of fun on that projects even though it was too complex. This project is too simple though but as it drags on, they keep adding something which will make it hard for us finish in 1 month.

My problem now, I've given them a lot of documents but they never try to check or sometimes if I asked a feedback they will just said that it is not a Japanese standard. I also did tried to tell them that it is not an Agile way, if create these documents on the first stage, we might as follow it just like a normal Waterfall do. Cause everytime there might be a change, during development we also need to change these document.

Am I wrong insisting what I want, considering the time constraints? Or maybe my approached was bad or something? Or should I just go on their way? Because I am pretty sure that, if me and my teammates will do their way, we will fail due to time constraints with all these documents needed to be created and stuff. Or maybe I am just being negative? I am really not sure anymore. I hope anyone who have the same experience can help me out.

  • are you employee or a contractor? Do you work alone or have a team under you?
    – Strader
    Commented Jul 10, 2020 at 14:23
  • I am regular employee. We are a team but we don't have a lead, so I just assume the responsibilities of lead since I had the most of experience.
    – ky-chan
    Commented Jul 10, 2020 at 14:47
  • IMHO, this is a bit problematic, assuming the team lead role would get you noticed, but in this case seems to me, without formal authority, you cant ask questions and get answers you need
    – Strader
    Commented Jul 10, 2020 at 17:45
  • are you Japanese yourself? I ask because of the attitude some have towards non-Japanese Commented Jul 10, 2020 at 18:41
  • 1
    @DenisG.Labrecque no,certainly not. I am not sure why he became an IT department head without the knowledge of IT infrastructure and flows. He can't even understand simple flows. Well I've heard it is not his idea but push on to him, that's why maybe he also doesn't understand what he is saying. Since the specs been given does not match to what he is saying.
    – ky-chan
    Commented Jul 13, 2020 at 2:37

1 Answer 1


Disclaimer: I'm a developer, but not experienced. However, you clearly have a communication issue.

First off, let them know that you will not complete the tasks on time. You are the specialist in this area, and the business team cannot/should not dictate the time scale for the tasks to be complete. This is not going to turn out well for the project, and is not a realistic expectation to set.

On a side note, projects usually take much longer to complete than originally estimated -- sometimes much longer. See this video (timestamped) in which a veteran software engineer explains that estimates are really not a set date; they should be a range of values with a best-case scenario, worst-case scenario, and nominal case. When pressured by management, engineers can cave and give the best-case scenario; but while pressuring someone to a conclusion is a way for managers find truth, it is incorrect from an engineering standpoint. Clarify this with your supervisor, and explain that this project, especially if suffering from featuritus, will absolutely not meet the deadline. Plan with your supervisor on what deliverable he needs.

Second, this project has poor management, and is therefore bound to be unproductive. If the expectation for documents is not even clear, how will you end up with a deliverable? It seems like your boss wants to look good in front of his management by claiming buzzwords like "agile" without expecting the project to be actually managed that way. If he wants waterfall, that's fine, and do the work you're paid for: but ask. Maybe the methodology isn't a culture match for your company. Explain that in your professional experience, this way will take longer. If they just want to call their methodology a certain name, you know better, but no need to argue about it.

I have personally taken charge of a college project for a short period, and was aghast at how much time we gained by strong leadership, regular meetings, better communication, and set expectations (as compared to the previous manager). You need to step up to the plate and set expectations for all coders, otherwise they will be a disorganized hoard, and the blame will fall on you. (If your teammates are Japanese, can you ask them what the document formatting requirements are, or get them to do it?)

Finally, it seems like this company is a mish-mash where you are the leader, but not, and management wants something, but doesn't know what it wants. You need to have a private, heartfelt conversation, and be transparent with your manager. Put some of it in writing if necessary -- "in my opinion, this project will not be on time for the following reasons..." Ask questions: "how can we, if..." Someone will have to take the blame in the end; no need for that to be you.

For my answer: deep down, you know where the project is heading. If I were a manager, I'd like to truthfully know where my project is heading -- not get fake numbers. (Maybe that's different in Japanese culture, but you're the best judge).

  • 1
    It seems like your boss wants to look good in front of his management by claiming buzzwords like "agile" without expecting the project to be actually managed that way. - I think this is the best to describe him. I tried everything that you just said, but my explanation and suggestion just jump out the windows. I don't have any choice but to follow them I guess, I don't have power. But I will definitely gonna tell him in advance that this project is due to fail within the time frame given.
    – ky-chan
    Commented Jul 13, 2020 at 2:28

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