When things go bad…. or ‘When Projects Attack’

The last few months of work have been crunch time. 50+ hrs a week (ususally more like 60+), schedules that keep changing, requirements that seem to move around more than a cornered mouse who just downed its body weight in sugar.
We’ve all been there, it’s part of what we do.

There is a great dilbert comic that outlines perfectly why most people think this occurs:

November 17, 2002

In situations like this we tend to look up and not around. It’s upper managements fault. They didn’t plan things, they didn’t budget time correctly, etc. But is it really their fault?

Lets take a step back and tell you more about me. I’m a Software Developer Manager and Architect. I’m the guy who buffers the developers from the business guys as much as possible. My job is to make the developers life easier, give them direction on where the project is going, help them grow. At the same time I’m buffering them from external pressures (sometimes very heavy), working to set realistic business goals that meet the customers needs (without killing the developers), and basically trying to please everyone and keep everyone happy. (Yeah, I code a good bit as well ;))

OK, back to our regularly schedule program:

When a project hits a crunch time that wasn’t expected or management waits till the last second to make a decision, is it entirely their fault that the project hits a heavy crunch? No. You need to be able to look at yourself in the mirror and say, what could I have done differently?

It could be any number of factors and each one should be looked at to see how improvements can be made the next time. What I’m attempting to point out is that very rarely is something one persons fault. I truly believe that to be a good developer or manager you need to be able to look at yourself, critique, and improve. Accountability matters. You are human, you will get it wrong at some point. Accept that fact, do your best to do it right, and when you get it wrong, learn from it.

‘Why do we fall sir? So we might learn to pick ourselves up’
— Batman Begins

I should mention that sometimes you can’t control the way things play out. There will be situations where you are the low man on the pole and can’t apply the pressure that is needed. In cases like this you need to again look at yourself. Realize the situation you are in and adjust accordingly. Maybe someone else can apply pressure for you? Maybe there is some other way to get things done. There are whole books on this:

I know this isn’t a technical post like 99% of my other posts. My other posts are tricks to get things working or some code to make you a better developer. The thing is, development is more than just good code. It’s learning, exploring, interacting, planning, and so many other things. A truly good developer not only knows what they know well, they know what they don’t know and they admit when they got it wrong. Don’t be afraid of being wrong.

“I have not failed 700 times. I’ve succeeded in proving 700 ways how not to build a lightbulb.”

— Thomas Edison

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Credit where due: “You don’t know what you don’t know” was something a former CTO of mine (Mike Gabrin) told me years ago. It really changed the way I look at things.

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