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Quite recently, my company shifted towards Agile and then DevOps approach of software development. This is really helpful for both the developers and the client.

However, one of the effects of DevOps implementation was to move department managers from their small offices (aka. "aquariums"), due to "get together all the members of a DevOps "vertical" principle. This decision was made by the top management and nobody was asked before this.

For us, the developers this means the following:

- much noisier environment: managers will get a lot of phone calls and many people will come to them to ask various things

- breaking the fun part of our lives: before this, we sometimes indulged in various office jokes, mostly making fun of trouble. Some jokes targeted the management, but nothing really offensive). This really helped sometimes to keep the morale high during high pressure periods

Of course, one solution is to extensively use the headphones, but sometimes you really have to concentrate (no music, no talk) on what you are doing.

Question: How should I put this problem when discussing with the manager? Clearly, I do not want to convey a message like "I prefer you do not stay with us".

Soon, I will have the yearly evaluation and it also includes some free discussion about "how I feel" and it will be a good opportunity to talk about this issue.

[EDIT] As explained in the comments by Monica Cellio, this question also takes into the account "killing the buzz" aspect and asks how to convey the issue to the manager, so it is quite different from the "staying focused strategies" question.

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    Agile teams need management, but management isn't actually part of the day-to-day work of the team. I would approach this as "we're still learning how to be Agile for our company, and we tried this thing and it's not really working. Maybe we could try this other way..." There are some articles on Agile like Leading a Self-Organizing Team that might help focus the conversation on being better at Agile and not on how sitting next to a manager sucks :) – ColleenV parted ways Jan 13 '17 at 17:01
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    @gnat overlap, but the "management is killing our buzz" part is not covered there. Further, this question asks how to have the conversation with OP's manager, not how to cope with the situation. – Monica Cellio Jan 13 '17 at 17:36
  • Yes, I can cope with the situation. I am interested in how to address this issue to my manager. – Alexei Jan 13 '17 at 19:23
  • Ah, BuzzWords. The fastest way to disaster in an IT world. More often than not, they mean well but are implemented on such a disastrous manner that they do way more harm than good. – T. Sar - Reinstate Monica Jan 16 '17 at 11:38
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Fact is that software developers and managers work in different ways - software developers work best with long uninterrupted times, while the managers job is continuous interruption. Software developers don't make phone calls, managers make phone calls which are loud because they want to be louder than their colleagues. It doesn't go together well. Whoever decided to put them close together without separation made a mistake.

Your problem is that managers are in no way negatively affected by software developers who quietly do their job, so they don't see the problem.

Here is your problem: You say "Clearly, I do not want to convey a message like "I prefer you do not stay with us"." But clearly, that's what you prefer, so that's the message you need to convey.

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    Thanks for the quick answer. Clearly, I want to convey that message, but in a more diplomatic manner, otherwise it might be taken personally. – Alexei Jan 13 '17 at 16:33
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It sounds to me like some corporate officer attended a management seminar, fell in love with the brochure, and implemented a flowery-sounding philosophy without having any awareness of the practical repercussions of that decision.

The good news here is that the decision was made over the department managers' heads and they are probably hating this arrangement as much as you do, but for different reasons. That means they'll be receptive to your input if you frame it properly.

Think about how they feel about it. Senior management has stripped their status symbol (their office) away from them and has forced them to sit out in the cubicle farm with the rest of the plebs. I use a bit of hyperbole there but having an office/not having an office affects your sense of importance within the company and they're feeling that.

They're also feeling the loss of privacy as well. To you, you're less free to do the mild razzing and goofing off that builds rapport within a team. Thing is, managers do that with their peers too. Everybody does that. That's what makes work tolerable and fun. And now they can't do it either.

Personally, I would never be able to work in that kind of environment. Programming is a mental exercise that requires large blocks of uninterrupted focus followed by a good amount of mental downtime. I can't handle it when I'm trying to code something complicated and I'm getting interrupted every 15 minutes by one thing or another. This is just how software developers work.

I suspect most of your coworkers feel the same way, and this might be something to bring up at one of your weekly department meetings. When you talk to your manager about this, try not to make a case for why this is bad for you. Present why this is bad for everybody. You may find that he's totally on your side.

Unfortunately, if this was a top-level decision there probably isn't much anybody can do about it except suck it up and wait for the idea to fail.

  • Thanks for the elaborate answer. It just reminded me of another way to provide feedback. Some time ago, top management created a small internal web application that can be used by any employee to provide feedback directly to them. E.g. have electronic meal vouchers instead of paper ones. However, suggestions are not anonymous. – Alexei Jan 14 '17 at 7:12
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If your managers are not aware of the negative impact of interruptions and distractions on programmers, you probably have more problems than this.

A place to start would be some sort of benchmark on project/development completion before this change and compare it to where you are now.

These metrics aren't perfect, but when the same programmers, using the same language working on the same project and getting fewer user stories completed during a sprint, something has changed and it's not for the better.

Of course someone could push-back and argue about the inaccuracies of measuring programmer's output, but that person wouldn't be foolish enough to put programmers in the same room with a bunch of people who talk on the phone all day.

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