Vox Pop

Development — Software, Personal, or Otherwise

This website is being deprecated. All archives and new writing is being moved over to MatthewReinbold.com.

The Bad Kind of Status Update

A Pep Talk for the Minefield

It was the kind of earthquake that sets off aftershocks of "let's get our story straight" and "is XYZ ready?". People, a bit shaken by the implied danger, are trying to best brace themselves for what comes next.

Meetings are (usually) insipid. They are high-noise, low signal events. Too often they occur because someone doesn't know what they're doing and are looking for help. "I see Google Analytics still has the downward trend we saw last quarter." Slightly more tolerable are the "let's get on the same page" mind melds.

There's also the bitch meeting. Despite the name these are cathartic and not just reserved to the empty room with the big table. Employees do it over lunch. Or at the water cooler. Or on the company IRC backchannel. "Can you believe we're two weeks behind the initial milestone and he's still leaving at 4pm?" Those in charge often don't have the luxury of this informal information transfer, however; there just isn't the opportunity.

So they schedule the meeting.

"We are THIRTY DAYS behind schedule and I'm not hearing progress on the requirements documents. Creative sucked and I don't see movement on the technical gaps. Conference room first thing tomorrow and you can tell me if I'm missing something."

It could be a simple misunderstanding. It is not about your output. The problem is that the people with the power to summon the shitstorm you're currently facing don't know about it. Somewhere along the way communication broke down. The right people aren't getting what they need.

Everybody reports to somebody else; be it another layer of management, the C-level executives, investors, their god, you name it. The angry tone of the meeting invite is because one of these ethereal beings asked them a question. Your meeting-caller was put in the uncomfortable position of answering "I don't know". As someone charged with knowing things this makes them very, very, pissed. And yes, that is your fault.

Thankfully the answer is much more straightforward than many of the problems you'll have to code today. If you have been working the looming inquisition becomes a much more innocent show-and-tell engagement: show all the wonderful progress made and tell how you will keep them in the loop going forward. Doing so will keep future bluster (and the associated crap) to a minimum.

If all of the above is true because research for your company's fantasy sports pool is only interrupted by two hour liquid lunches then you're getting what you deserve. You know what you need to do: it starts with "get your" and rhymes with "bit weather".