Confusion in her eyes that says it all.
She’s lost control.
And she’s clinging to the nearest passer by,
She’s lost control.

Joy Division

“I hate Jira!”

I was in a room full of Devs at an engineering chapter lean coffee and we got around to talking about how Jira made everybody’s life hell.

“If I want to go from A-B I have to click though loads of screens just to get there”

This is not an uncommon complaint and there were lots more, with the general consensus being that Jira is just pants.

But you know its not really Jira’s fault at all, using Jira “agile” out of the box is very simple and without going into details when you get started you get very simple with small 3/4 step work flows, it couldn’t be easier.

But then the people get to work and it’s the people who control it that make it complicated and bloated with rules, over-constrained, but why?

In a word control, people who set up the Jira workflows believe that by imposing lots of workflow rules and validations they have control over what is going on and this must mean that things are safe,sure and predictable and that the quality of the end product has to be better, right?

I know that this is the case as these tend to be the answers that I get when I ask people why they have set things up the way they have and to be honest I too have been guilty of this, long ago though –  honest.

Let’s be straight, it makes people very happy to  create these beautifully crafted workflows, the effort that goes into them is truly amazing and the body floods us with serotonin and happy endorphins for a job well done, high five.

So in the name of order and control we create complex workflows with tens of steps,  with highly regulated directions of flow and rules such as work can only go forwards, or you can’t restart till you get to the end or a host of others.

I could literally list at least 50 such rules I’ve seem.

It also allows us to impose checklists, we can have them pop up to confirm that certain quality items have been completed, such as peer review or QA and these always work don’t they?

Of course all that happens is that people skip though the screens to get where they’re going and after about 5 minutes stop using the checklists,. or even just filling in any old rubbish to get ahead.

So that feeling we get of control that we have is just that a feeling, an illusion with reality being that people are simply working around all of the goodness that we have put in place, and sometimes just not bothering to use Jira at all because its just too hard, we’ve made it too hard.

” what’s this post it note on your screen for …?”

In these situations we have far less control than we think we have, but the real danger is that we “believe” that we are in control when we aren’t and this can be a huge problem.

When issues hit us from an unexpected direction  that we were simply are not aware of, then  the cries of “but you ticked the checkbox” can be head, ouch!

I’m also skipping over the whole motivational side of this too, by imposing rules on people and subjecting them to what is in essence micromanagement we are putting a knife in the back of “autonomy” and demotivating them.

So by placing more  than “just enough and no more” we are making our whole process very inefficient, effecting quality and impacting our people negatively, so let’s not do it.

Let’s keep it simple and trust people to be grown up and do the right thing, remember a physical Kanban doesn’t have this level of control and whilst we need electronic tracking tools to scale agile and get metrics let keep the touch light.

If you want to put a checklist in then really question why you are doing it and if you start getting funky with transitions, workflow steps and validations then your probably just about to lose control… again!