Reality Avoidance

Good blog post on Waterfall, Reality Avoidance & People Who Say “No”

One of the problems some managers have with iterative software development is that, when it’s done well – seeking early and frequent feedback and acting on it, as opposed to just incrementally executing a waterfall plan – it reduces the scope for avoiding reality.

On a waterfall project, reality can be avoided for months or even years. The illusion of progress can be maintained, through form filling and the generation of reams of reports that nobody ever reads, right up until the point that software needs to be seen to be working.

If it were my money, this would scare the shit out of me – not knowing what my money’s been spent on until the last moment.

But I can see the attraction for managers. It’s not their money. And typically they get rewarded for this illusion of progress, which can go as far as pretending the software is ready the night before it’s deployed into a live environment.

I think most of us who have worked in the software industry for any length of time will be nodding at that one. Been there, done that, got the polo shirt.

The whole thing is well worth a read, with some real life war stories leading to the inevitable conclusion.

Managers need to be rewarded for testable achievements, and steered away from peddling illusions. The reason this doesn’t happen more often, I suspect, is because the value of illusion increases the further up the ranks you go. If a PM gets a pat on the back for saying “we’re on track”, the CTO gets a trip to Disneyland, and the CEO gets a new Mercedes. Hence, the delusion gets stronger as we go higher. People running governments tend to be the most delusional of all, such is their power and influence. This effect is what produces the sometimes gargantuan IT failures only governments seem capable of creating.

Indeed. Though quite how you can stop politicians behaving like politicians isn’t an easy problem to solve.

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One Response to Reality Avoidance

  1. Michael says:

    Been there, done that, but not been issued with a polo shirt.