I was recently asked if I had ever been confident? Kind of a rude thing to ask, but often times these types of questions slap you in the face and make you do a retrospective of the last few years. So...? Is it true? Have I lost confidence over the past few years?

No, I don't think so. Although, since I work in software I think it is key to point out that if you don't have defined requirements or expectations, how can you ever be confident?

The person who asked the question has often seen me be doubtful on confirming delivery dates because there have been many times we have had stories that come in that say "Make software X deliver value". The stories are so arbitrary and general, how do you deliver that on any given date? Or say I have a story that says "implement X with Team A's work". Team A will be working on it the same time as your team and they have their own external dependencies. How confident am I in being able to complete my story within a given sprint? What if they have the same generic general stories given to them? Not that I have any doubt that Team A won't get their stuff done, it's more will they get it done on time? I am less inclined to be confident about reaching a goal given repeated short sightedness by an external dependency, team or project manager.

I know there are ways to counteract these kind of problems. Say you need to implement Team A's stuff. We can stagger our sprints so that I am not having to wait for Team A to finish their stuff. By the time the story gets to my team the wok is completed. Sounds great, except that doesn't happen here. I seem to find myself in positions where we have to do a mad dash scramble to fix problems across multiple team projects. So based on experience I have become more skeptical of the work we can accomplish as a department.

If that is a lack of confidence, then it's sad. Because I am confident in the work I produce if I am the only one I need to rely on or working with a few select individuals. But given a history of needing to rely on other teams or the management of multiple teams working together to solve individual problems, I am not confident.

Moving Forward

So, I've ranted about how it's everyone else that is at fault. What are some things that can improve the situation? In terms of the stories being defined, I think including stakeholders in these meetings help a lot. But also there should be an expectation of the project owner to not allow a story to go into a sprint without enough detail anyone on the team could implement it.

I've done this recently on a project with the same project management. Instead of them conducting the meetings I have just assumed the role of project owner and have invited the appropriate people to the meetings. I filled out all the stories to the point where I could get a confirmation from the stakeholders to agree that for MVP these are the stories we can live with. But also have enough detail that 2 sprints later, be able to open a story and have enough context to understand the work it would take to accomplish it.

So in my opinion that only enforces my confidence in myself of being able to do the tasks I have. It also shows that what I am saying can actually help improve confidence in developers in general when needing to provide better timelines. (Even though I think that should be left up to jira.)

I ended up expressing some concern to my manager about being viewed by some that I am not coming across as confident. One of the things he said was to look out for words that might indicate I am not confident in something. So relating back to giving dates on a particular story. Define the requirements that you would need fulfilled in order for you to give a better confidence rating. So that might be asking questions like what the contract would look like. Does the contract already exist? If the work is not completed when is it expected to be done? Do they have enough information to provide a contract that we can build towards while they are working on it?

I kind of felt like those would be the suggestions I would receive. I was hoping for something a little different just because it feels like I am having to do extra work to make sure they are doing their job. But really, I am more protecting myself by not working on something that I don't have all the answers to.