Episode 396: Enthusiastic scope creep and human search engine

Soft Skills Engineering

Feb 19 2024 • 35 mins

In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions:

  1. I’ve recently started a new Gig as a Senior Developer/Tech Lead at a company where we are our own clients, using the software we develop in-house.

    I’m encountering a bit of a hiccup, though. Our product owner, is primarily focused on support and doesn’t provide formal Acceptance Criteria. This means I spend a lot of time sending follow-up emails to confirm our discussions, drafting these criteria myself, and handling the management of boards and work items. Another challenge is our product owner’s enthusiasm. He’s full of ideas and tends to expand the project scope during our meetings, perhaps not fully realizing the additional development work and the impact on our timelines. I sometimes think that if he wrote down his thoughts, it might give him a clearer picture of the challenges we face in development in keeping up with these changes.

    I’m in a bit of a quandary here. How can I gently nudge him to take on some of these tasks, or should I discuss with my boss how this is taking up about 1 to 1.5 days of my week? While I’m more than willing to handle it, especially with the prospect of moving into a management role, I also don’t want to set a precedent that creating Acceptance Criteria and managing Work Items are part of a developer’s job scope – at least not to this extent. Any thoughts?

  2. Sean asks:

    Hi Soft Skills Engineering,

    I love your podcast and I have a question for you. I have a very good memory and I can recall details from a long time ago. This sounds like a great skill, but it also causes me some problems at work.

    Often, I get asked questions by my colleagues or my boss that are not related to my current tasks or responsibilities. For example, they might ask me about the content of an email that they sent or received a year ago, or the outcome of a meeting that I attended (but also did they). They ask me because they know I probably remember, and they want to avoid searching for the information themselves.

    This annoys me because it interrupts my work and makes me feel like a human search engine. I want to be helpful, but I also want to focus on my actual work. I can’t redirect them to my boss, because he has a very bad memory himself.

    How can I deal with this situation without being rude or lying about my memory? How can I set boundaries and expectations with my colleagues and my boss? And without gaslighting them into thinking I already answered their questions, of course.

    Thank you for your advice.

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