We are a small startup of 10 people (web tech in heavy industry). We have a rather peculiar setup since 2 of our founders and 2 devs are situated in one country (call it location A) while the other founder and 4 devs including me are in another country (call it location B). 1 dev is working remotely. We are one company though.

Until two months ago, there were no devs in location A and until one month ago I was alone with the founder in location B. We then had three people working remotely. I am the head of software development.

Ever since the founders in location A decided to also get devs at their place, things have started to become turbulent.

It starts with them all being of nationality A, while we are very mixed here. Before they also got devs (they essentially just hired them), we had the agreement that the technical development was taking place only at location B, and business development would happen at location A.

They plainly said they needed some devs there, too (of nationality A), to get certain government funding from country A, not giving us a chance to try to convince them otherwise since this would make communication quite hard.
We by now at least managed to have those devs develop one separate aspect of the product, so that we have some kind of clean separation of concerns here.

But this is not where it stopped.
They since then hijacked pretty much all Slack channels by simply using their super user powers. They are not just listening but actively taking part, even in the dev channels where we have some heavy dev talk. They just throw in a question or suggestion which to date has always only led to confusion, waste of time and was plain wrong from the beginning in the first place. Also, they tend to joke around in those channels, while it is clear that we have special channels just for that.

Furthermore, they have begun to start watching each and everyone of us. They monitor what everyone is producing and pretty much only talk with all of the devs directly, circumventing my and 'my' founder's authority. They essentially never talk to me directly.
For example they give a junior dev certain instructions which I only realize a few hours later since the dev thinks this is how it is.

Like this, they are heavily undermining our scrum process by practically assigning tasks as they please.

I have talked with 'my' founder here at location B about this. He then told me that one of the junior devs also approached him about this. But at the same time he says he cannot do anything about it, his hands are tied.
Earlier this year he once told me that he had given up arguing with the other two founders since it didn't lead anywhere.
I told him that he would nevertheless have to strengthen his position to oppose the other founders, but he has given up doing that.

So my question now is: Can I do anything about this? How can I make the founders in location A leave our Slack channels at least? My approach would be to set up regular meetings to inform them about everything they wish to know, at the end of every sprint for example or more often. Is this the right way? Telling them that is also costs a whole lot of their time?

Additional information: To my knowledge nothing has gone wrong in the past that would require supervision. I do assume that they kind of are not happy with 'my' founder and therefore decided to do everything by themselves, however not having any clue about software development and its processes.

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    In Slack you can create channels and invite people to join them. Can you create a channel without your manager? – DarkCygnus Sep 19 '17 at 16:14
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    @GrayCygnus not when the managers are the admins for the Slack in question. – user44108 Sep 19 '17 at 16:15
  • Like I said, they are admins and can just invite themselves to any channel. If you are talking about temporary groups, this is not the way to do it if you want it permanently imo. – Sebastian Sep 19 '17 at 16:16
  • Is it possible to user other channels, like Instant Messages, Hangouts, etc? – DarkCygnus Sep 19 '17 at 16:17
  • Sure, but wouldn't this bypass the real problem? They would of course notice that no messages would be written any more on slack. I'd like to make them aware of the problem. So I am asking how to do this. – Sebastian Sep 19 '17 at 16:19

Stick with the process.

I have no idea what business process you have to analyse and assign pieces of work, but there has to be something to feed into the top of your workstream, surely...

In my line of work, we have a set up business requirements that gets written up when then gets translated into a solution design document, which then gets signed off by the business representatives.

Anything that changes after that has to go through a change process because ignoring the analysis and solution design phases screws up everything.

Your bottom line is the resource plan and the amount of time for each man-sprint (or whatever you're calling it). Throwing spanners in the works just screws up the schedule.

Make it stop. Define a process and stick with it.

Please, for your own sanity.

  • We do have a process! It is called Scrum and we have clear biweekly sprints with well defined tasks. Management just ignores it or doesn't know to value it. I'm afraid your answer misses the point. – Sebastian Sep 19 '17 at 16:23
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    It's your managers that are missing the point. Slack can't and shouldn't be an avenue for submitting change requests. You should no be accepting formal requests for functionality this way. You need analysis and signoff. – user44108 Sep 19 '17 at 16:25

Why should anyone care?

Site A wants to be involved in site B. That's a good thing.

It's also good to ask, what if Site B acted like Site A? Is it cool if you contact Site A developers with work for them to do?

You've explained that you and your site B founder are being made superfluous by this informal process. But that's a political problem. What business problem is this creating?

If your attempt to fix this solves only your problems it will be seen as a simple power play. You don't want to do that and lose.

Set your ego aside and look at this from everyone's perspective. What problems is this really creating that aren't just yours? Is work failing to be tracked because of this? Are people getting proper credit for their work?

If the problem is just that you've lost the ability to direct work then look into getting another job, at another company if you have to. Once you feel you can secure one have a frank talk with the founders (sites A and B) and point out that your job is disappearing out from under you because of this process.

If there are problems beyond yours bring them up in the same meeting. Again, take your ego out of it. Point out the problems, the alternatives, and their down side. Then just ask them to decide if they want to make a change.

Also, if there are problems beyond yours find people who will argue for them besides you. It's taken much more seriously when the complaint comes from someone with nothing else to gain.

In case they decide this will continue unchanged think seriously about what it means your job really is. Forget about titles, preconceptions, and promises. What will be the reality? Is that job interesting enough to keep you in it? What will?

When they set up this system they likely had no idea what would work so they guessed. Now things are changing as they discover things. Don't hold on to the past. Learn and grow.

You can argue for formal processes for formalities sake until you're blue in the face. I have more luck showing people real problems.

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