Tim Lister, the author of Peopleware,
spent a couple of days at Red Gate last week. I was slightly nervous –
Tim’s last visit culminated in my group haranguing by thirty
developers, testers, designers and technical authors following Tim’s
excellent, concise and witty summary of all Red Gate’s – and,
implicitly, my – failings.
It was worth it though. In the year and a half since Tim was last here
we’ve implemented many of his recommendations. We got rid of project
team bonuses, improved our project approval process and hired six more
people to join our user experience team. Sure, we’re not perfect, but
we’re a lot better than last year.
One thing that Tim noticed was how articulate and passionate our development team is. According to Tim,
"Software development is about informed argument. Arguing about
what the product is, and how exactly it’s going to do it, is
fundamental to building a product that people will pay real money for."
But although articulateness and passion produce better quality
arguments, and hence better software, they also have a bastard cousin:
obstinacy. As Tim said,
"Obstinacy is “I know the best about everything”, which comes
from a child’s view of the world. Being obstinate is friction. It’s
wasted energy. We need a definition of what is valid debate and what is
obstinacy: the debate has to come to closure. You win some, you lose
some, but you need to move on."
Tim also made the excellent point that individual team members,
especially developers, need to de-optimize themselves to optimize the
team. The aim isn’t to get developers developing in the most efficient
way: it’s to deliver a complete product. An individual developer might
need to sacrifice some personal productivity for the benefit of the
overall project. He might need to change the way he works, or throw
away some code, or go off and do something else for a bit, so a tester
can test sooner or better and the project can run quicker.
Which leads me to this week’s question of the week. If there was
one thing you could change about the way you write software, what would
it be? And what’s stopping you? $20 for the best answer. Post here.
Last week’s QOTW was “Why do, or why don’t you, use Twitter”. Of the 25 replies, I think Adriana Iordan’s deserves the $20 prize.
I hope you can join Steve Johnson and me for an online chat about
product management on Friday. Steve is an expert – he’s taught
thousands of people about product management, and presented at the
Business of Software conference two years running. You can sign up here.
The video of Steve Krug’s talk at Business of Software 2008 is now
online. Steve has a theory that our lives are full of things we know we
should do, but don’t really want to do: brushing our teeth, doing our
laundry and usability testing, for example. So what is the least you
can get away with? It turns that you can get extraordinary results with
a minimum of input. For usability testing, anyway. Watch Steve’s video to find out more.
I’m hoping to announce the date and location for Business of
Software 2009 very shortly. If you want to be the first to know, then follow me on twitter.
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