Wednesday 16 January 2013

Stop It! No… really stop it.

There are 5 worst practices in software development that if stopped immediately will:

Improve your productivity by a minimum of 12% and improve quality by a minimum of 15%

These practices are so common that people assume that they are normal -- they are not, they are silent killers wherever they are present.

We hear the term best practices enough to know that we all have different definitions for it. Simply put, a best practice is one that increases the chance your project will succeed.

How often do we talk about worst practices?

More importantly, what about those worst practices in your organization that you don't do anything about?

When it comes to a worst practice, just stop it.

If your company is practicing even one worst practice in the list below it will kill all your productivity and quality.

To make matters worse, some of the worst practices will trigger other worst practices to come into play1.

The 5 Worst Practices

The worst practices and their effect on productivity and quality are as follows:

Worst Practice Productivity Quality
Friction/antagonism among team members -12% -15%
Friction/antagonism among management -14% -19%
Inadequate communications with stakeholders -14% -19%
Layoffs/loss of key personnel -16% -22%
Excessive schedule pressure -16% -23%

Excessive Schedule Pressure

Excessive schedule pressure is present whenever any of the following are practiced:
Excessive schedule pressure causes the following to happen:
This alone can create a Death March project and virtually guarantee project failure.

Effect of excessive schedule pressure is that productivity will be down 16% and quality will be down 22%

Not only is excessive schedule pressure one of the worst practices it tends to drive the other worst practices:
  • Friction amongst managers
  • Friction amongst team members
  • Increases the chance that key people leave the organization

If your organization has a habit of imposing excessive schedule pressure -- leave!

Friction Between People

Software development is a team activity in which we transform our intangible thoughts into tangible working code. Team spirit and collaboration is not an option if you want to succeed.

You don't have to like everyone on your team and you don't have to agree with all their decisions.

 You must understand that the team is more important than any single individual and learn to work through your differences.

Teams only work well when they are hard on the problem, not each other!

Managers disagree because of different perspectives on resource allocation, objectives, and requirements. Not being able to come to a consensus will cave in projects and make all the managers look bad.

Managers win together and lose together.

Effect of management friction is that productivity will be down 14% and quality will be down 19%

Friction among team members happens because of different perspectives on requirements, design, and priority. Again, everyone wins together and loses together -- you can not win and have anyone else lose.

Effect of team friction is that productivity will be down 12% and quality will be down 15%

You are wrong if you think that friction can be allowed and projects will succeed.

Any form of friction between managers or the team is deadly.

Inadequate Stakeholder Communication

Inadequate stakeholder communication comes in several forms:
  • Not getting enough information on business objectives
  • Not developing software in a transparent manner
Poor business objectives from stakeholders will lead to bad requirements  If you are not transparent in how you are developing the project then you can expect excessive schedule pressure from senior management.

Effect of inadequate stakeholder communication is that productivity will be down 14% and quality will be down 19%

Loss of Key Personnel

To add insult to injury, any of the other four worst practices above will lead to either:
  • Key personnel leaving your organization
  • Key personnel being layed off
The loss of key personnel through turnover is not a worst practice but a derivative practice of other worst practices.

Badly managed organizations and projects will cause the most competent people to seek better jobs elsewhere.

In addition, projects in distress tend to cut key personnel because they are expensive. Laying off key personnel will sandbag your ability to get back on track; laying off non-performing people is the only way to advance a late project.

Effect of layoffs/loss of key personnel is that productivity will be down 16% and quality will be down 22%

Loss of key personnel has a dramatic effect  productivity and morale and directly affects product quality


Any of the worst practices mentioned above will cause a project to be late and deliver defective code.

If you are in an organization that habitually practices any of these worst practices then your only real option is to quit.

Worst practices tend to feed each other and cause a negative spiral such as:
  • Excessive schedule pressure (leads to)
  • Management and team friction (leads to)
  • Loss of key personnel

Senior managers that allow any of these practices can count on canceled projects and/or highly defective products

See also:


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