Having worked in large organisations for most of my adult life, I have regularly been bemused by what happens in project estimation and reporting; how a series of intermediaries go through some sort of Chinese Whispers processes until there is an unsustainable deviance between what is reported and what is real. Quite often, that which is reported becomes that which is perceived as real, and we all know that perception is reality.
There is an incredibly large body of literature to do with projects, their management and their regular failures to meet cost, time and quality objectives. Most of the time, the “blame”, for want of a better word, is laid squarely at the feet of IT as a profession. We’ve tried many things in our varied attempts to “solve” this, focusing on the requirements gathering process via time-boxing and fast iteration, improving estimation processes using a plethora of tools, seeking to simplify coordination failures by disaggregating work packages and keeping project teams small, using enterprise bus architectures with reusable common components in order to simplify the design process, having regular design and code walkthroughs, sophisticated post-implementation reviews, what-have-you.
And yet the cases of sustained success are rare.
More recently, I have been looking at the psychological aspects of all this, both from an individual viewpoint as well as from an organisational one. Is there a group-think problem? Do I (and people like me) fall into a trap of self-deceit? And if so, where does this self-deceit enter the process? Unless you recognise a problem you cannot fix it.
It is with all this in mind that I chanced upon Richard Feynman’s submission to the Rogers Commission on the reliability of the Shuttle. Tragic as the occurrence was, we are all honour and duty bound to learn from it so that we can avoid repeating it.
You can find the full text of the submission here. I think his last sentence says it all:
For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for nature cannot be fooled.
More to follow; let me hear what you think.