by Phillip Smith, Vice President of Operations and Services
Once upon a time there was a wolf and three pigs. One pig acted in a cost conscious manner. One acted with urgency. The other one… well, he stayed in business long enough to tell the story. In IT, we need all three attributes: cost consciousness, motivation, and quality focus. Yes, the quality conscious pig who built with reliable design and materials is going to be the first one that I’ll select to be on my project team. This individual not only cared about the end result, but he (not being gender biased here; I looked it up and the three pigs were males, sorry ladies) cared about the process. He thought about how to measure success (security was considered in the requirements) and about sustainability (I understand a wood stove and a chimney were included). The windows had curtains and shutters which increased usability, and the foundation was solid with an open floor plan in case of further expansion.
The third pig used a process to get to his end result. He did not react; he planned. He followed what he had learned in the past and put his best skills and resources to work.
In real life, I don’t get to pre-wire all of the members of a project team, and most of them, myself included, are not wired like that last pig. In fact, most of us are wired with action (get it done, move on to the next task) and with a tendency to think about getting there with low cost, which is always noble and usually rewarded. In fact, most of us have to stop and remind ourselves of the things we were taught that may not be inherent in our genes—namely, to plan and deliberately execute, rather than to simply execute.
Therefore, project teams, by nature, are made up of people with a mixture of tendencies, and many of them will not be process oriented. It is important that teams be intentionally staffed and supported by people who value process and are capable of influencing their other team members.
When we drive our cars, we all follow a basic set of rules based on lanes, signals, and safety. We all understand and accept these rules, and follow along with them without much discussion. Yes, similar rules exist in the world of software development.
- Requirements should be documented and validated
- Testing should be planned
- Work products should be reviewed
- Team members should be trained
I could go on for a while with this list. And, very few in the software industry would argue with these basic rules. Yet some of the most talented engineers are comfortable moving straight from a conversation with the client to writing code.
I want these talented engineers on the team. I also want to balance their action oriented initiative with some process so that the end result is similar to the brick house. If the three pigs had pooled their talents, they would have all been better off.
One parting shot… don’t load your whole team with process people unless you are creating a PMO. They are certainly invaluable, but if you put them all together they will build a better process, not a brick house.