Lone Heroes on Software Projects

Sunday, Mar 25 2018

On a software project, communicate to colleagues, managers and clients when you’re in trouble:

Some software developers place a high emphasis on project heroics (Bach 1995). But I think that they do more harm than good. In the case study, mid-level management placed a higher premium on can-do attitudes than on steady and consistent progress and meaningful progress reporting. The result was a pattern of scheduling brinkmanship in which impending schedule slips weren’t detected, acknowledged, or reported up the management chain until the last minute. A small development team and its immediate management held an entire company hostage because they wouldn’t admit that they were having trouble meeting their schedule. An emphasis on heroics encourages extreme risk taking and discourages cooperation among the many stakeholders in the software-development process.

I’ve taken this quote from Steve McConnell’s Rapid Development. Often, by playing the hero, you’re just unconsciously trying to save face or impress your co-workers.