A Scrummy Agile Serving of Pomodoro Sauce
Помидоры – овощи,
Пизда едет на кобыле,
Хуй – на скорой помощи.
The poem above has its roots in a Tsarist Russian worksong, but is often used by managers in modern-day Russian companies as a motivational multiplier. It speaks of productivity, and with Russia being a Matriarchy it resonates equally among working women as well as men. We were reminded of it recently, when one of our consultants happened to find himself (briefly) in a software development role where everybody had just been issued personal online-Kanbans, desktop egg-timers, and were coached on the Pomodoro Technique (PT).
Now that’s an impressive sounding name. Pomodoro Technique. In Russian: Помидоро метод. Like the Ludovici Defence, it sounds impressive – until you find out the Ludovici Defence is merely an obscure chess opening where Black moves first, and then gets disqualified allowing White to win without making a move. The Ludovici Defence describes stupidity and the same can be said for the Pomodoro Technique – sounds interesting, turns out to be bollocks, a load of. Like putting your hand around a Хуй and moving it rapidly backwards and forwards until the sperm comes out – it is wank.
A Clockwork Tomato
So what is it? You can buy entire books about PT, there are myriad google-dependent websites discussing it, and you may hire any number of well-dressed consultants, analysts, and coaches who specialise in it. Or you can save your valuable time and money, and find out everything there is to know about the Pomodoro Technique in the next thirty seconds.
What PT tells you to do is to put a tomato-shaped alarm clock on your desk and set the alarm for 25 minutes into the future. Then start working on something until the alarm goes off while completely ignoring anything else that goes on around you. When the bell rings, you take a two-minute break. Then repeat the process. This next bit is tricky, so bear with us: Every fourth break should be 15-minutes long.
Righty-right droogies, as Little-Alex might govarite, you’ve now learned the Ludivico, appy-polly-logies, Pomodoro Technique and you can put on your CV/resume that you’ve been trained, if not conditioned real horror-show. You could probably go to the Agile community and buy certification, but that will cost you $3,000 and you just learned it here for free. Or we’ll certify you ourselves for the low introductory offer price of 1 bitcoin : Buy now, get hired/promoted tomorrow: 15XmhHshBvj3ANvLKEEnBxdj3gA8Dz35uN
Is This For Real
If you don’t believe us, go to your precious google and type in +”Pomodoro Technique”. You’re going to find hundreds of thousands of websites – all carrying google ads targetted at you based on the burgeoning dossiers google has on your private lives and most of all your spending habits and disposable credit. These sites are all trying to sell the Pomodoro Technique (alongside whichever products and services google has determined you are most likely to buy). Tomato-shaped egg-timers are a “must have” item for aspiring experience creators, apparantly.
How did this start? Some student once used such a technique in order to manage her time while she was working on her Ph.D thesis hungover from partying the night before. Nobody ever reads her thesis, or knows what it was about, since she was obviously a bright lass and realised she’d make more money than her wildest dreams by selling her new time management “system” to pot-bellied middle-managers.
We figure she must have been studying animal psychology and had accidently discovered that many corporate managers behave like a farmyard herd and will buy into whatever the next guy has bought into. Millions of employees then get the latest management fad rammed down their throats, lest such management be seen to be wasting the company’s time and money, not to mention failing to deliver on their objectives.
Being an Agile adoption, there can be no word said against PT. For example, over at pro-corporate website “InfoQ” they have an article in which they quote in it’s entirity an entirely valid critique of PT. Which the site follows with precisely the kind of leading questions one would expect to find from brown-nosing boot-lickers doing Agile.
There isn’t much you can actually do by way of “taking a break” during the two to three minutes that PT mandates, except go to the loo. So after a week or two of this what you find is that when the alarm goes off, your bladder starts to ache. You’ve been turned into a Pavlovian Pissing Hound-dog. Which is ironic, since you’ve been acting like a sheep.
Every twenty-five minutes a whole bunch of alarms go off and about half the office ritually get up and go to the toilet. This happens three times, then they all go to the coffee-machine instead. Then the cycle repeats with a mind-numbing regularity, punctuated by shrill alarms and the sound of marching feet. They should just put bars across the cubicles and be done with it.
Toss the Salad
Any dissent towards this disruptive prison-like behaviour will be dismissed, as will you if you don’t toe the line. “It’s the latest thing, and you are just being resistant to change and showering negative energy over the project“, you’ll be informed. A statement that cannot be argued with. Not because it has any validity, but because it makes no sense whatsoever and comes from a person who thinks they are on Cell Block H and wants to make you their bitch at the first sign of perceived slackery or insubordination.
If somebody needs a tomato-shaped alarm clock to tell them when to take a rest, they probably shouldn’t be hired. So the best thing to do with your pomodoro timer is to toss it. Right now. Take a break when you feel tired. Don’t sit there looking like you’re trying to kiss boss ass all day. Get up, stretch your legs. Go smoke a fag if that’s your thing. That works, it’s natural, and if you think you need an alarm clock to tell you how you feel, you should take a day off and go see your doctor.
Uncovering Better Ways of Doing Naught
Is it any wonder that commerical software is over-priced and full of bugs when the people writing it need an alarm clock to tell them when to take a rest? Most of us will use an alarm clock to tell us when it’s time to put an end to resting, wake up and go to work. These guys have got it all wrong. They do everything backwards, misuse every device, stubbornly refuse to use a PC to organize their tasks and schedules, and then write crap code.
Why do managers like PT so much? Well, they get to feel good about “being involved” in the latest fad. They can enter on their 360s that they “lead and innovate”, just like Steve Jobs. Best of all for them, they can use PT to play mind games with their staff. They’ve got their team convinced that if they increase the number of “pomodoros” (i.e. number of hours) that they do in a day they are more productive. It’s even encouraged to make it into a “game” to see who can do the most pomodoros. Why would you hire anybody that would fall for this? Naturally, those who are taken in by it fail to realise that all it means is they are going to be working for an extra few hours each day without pay.
And software-development managers love that. The extra hours being put in will make themselves appear more productive, and the problem of the workforce being so tired they’ll be nodding-off every half-hour or so self-resolves. Their managers can slip-off down the pub of an evening secure in the knowledge that the staff are back at the office still at it. Every twenty-five minutes the bar-tender will spring to attention as the alarms on so many expenses-paid management smart-watches alert those who wear them that it’s time to go take a leak and order another pint at the bar.
The rest of us know when we should work and when we should take a break because we are professional, and because we know ourselves. We were not among the children who had their college degrees bought for them and inherited their way into the job by virtue of having rich and/or well-connected uncles and aunties. We learned our business through doing business, not by farting around. We learned about ourselves by being ourselves, not by apeing others. We don’t need no stinking pomodoros.
Some day, we shall sneak into the office while everybody is on their pomodoro break and reset all their phones to have the same ring-tone as their pomodoro alarms. Then we can call them up mid-pomodoro and put their employer’s out of business after productivity – such that it is – falls off a cliff in the confusion.
The Agile Chef