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Pawel Brodzinski on Software Project Management

We Are Unique Syndrome


That Scrum thing sound fine but, you know, the way we work here is quite specific so it won’t really fit our organization. And yes, unit testing is such a great idea but we have pretty unique work environment and I see no way to implement this practice. Oh, I’ve heard about this new web framework, which we might use, but I believe it would be better just to build the stuff in-house. And by the way, that issue we were discussing yesterday – just apply some hacks, I don’t think anyone could have had this problem before.

You’ve definitely seen that. The canonical example is NIH syndrome often seen in programming. We hate tools built by others because, well, they aren’t built by us. We are so damn unique that there’s virtually no other organization similar to ours in the whole damn universe.

The same principle applies to other areas as well. Cross-functional teams work in other organizations but here, in this unique, extraordinary and special company they would not, no way. Empowering (damn, I used the word) people results in better motivation and higher retention but it won’t be like that in our organization because we are different.

Well, yes you are. Everyone’s special. But somehow huge numbers of companies face the same problems. And the funny thing is it seems that usually common solutions help majority of those organizations. Strange, isn’t it?

While you can pretty easily convince me that your company is special in this or that area (I don’t know your company as well as you, so it’s not that hard) I just don’t believe you’re so freaking different that none of recipes known to the world works in your case.

If you come to me with unsolvable issue with integrating web services written in Java and .NET I call bullshit. I don’t know the solution but I find it hard to believe that hundreds thousands of web services written in one technology can’t talk with hundreds thousands of web services written in another. Either I miss something here or this was kind of principle for guys who were standardizing this web service gizmo.

Someone had that problem before (like hundreds or thousands people). You ain’t that special.

Now go look for solution using this hi-tech tool called Google search. Or you’re so unique that you won’t use such a plebeian tool, eh?

The same applies to project management issues. Ditto organizational and people problems. Pretty few people in the world can say they worked in truly unique environments on ground-breaking ideas and they had to solve issues no one had had ever before. Yet we all tend to play like we were working on Apollo program and it was sixties.

Now, I’m not trying to tell you that silver bullet exists. I’d be a hypocrite, wouldn’t I? What I’m trying to say is that your issues have (likely) been solved by others and they (likely) described solutions in details.

If you deliberately want to keep the way you work unchanged I’m fine with that. Just don’t tell me it’s either the best or the only way unless you have checked. And if you’d checked you (likely) wouldn’t have been selling me that bullshit about your uniqueness.

in: software business

2 comments… add one

  • Michał Paluchowski November 22, 2010, 1:03 pm

    Ah, the usual “yeah, in theory that’s great, but in practice…” I’m arriving at places like that every. Single. Day. There’s nothing like a couple of people entrenched in the small box they live and work in.

    The truth about Agile is that I never met anyone who wasn’t happy about it, once it was implemented in full and done right. I did hear a lot of “it won’t work here” by people who never tried and “it doesn’t work” by people who tried something that could be a “half-assed” agile approach at best.

  • Pawel Brodzinski November 22, 2010, 1:32 pm

    The hard part in implementing pretty much anything, and agile isn’t an exception here, is doing the thing right. But then I don’t think agile suits just everyone.

    However if you’re struggling with specific issues agile addresses, like frequent scope changes to take the most obvious example, and the problem is solved by hundreds of companies with agile approaches I’d be very far from telling “won’t work” unless one tries or has way better argument than “because we are specific.”

    Anyway I don’t want to make it an argument over agile. It happens to be even more painful in terms of engineering practices. I see it over and over again in project management. And don’t get me start with rants on management in general.

    “We are unique because we have this special product no one else in the whole freaking world has.” And then you hear yet another boring story about yet another CMS or (even better) about workflow solution. Sometimes I think that virtually every company feels an urge to build their own workflow system and only few are able to resist.

    “But our solution is different. And better.” Oh, really? I mean how much one CMS can differ from the other. After all these are all CMS.

    The issue is general. And sometimes I feel it is imprinted into company culture so deeply that it’s close to impossible to change people’s attitude.

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