Making the date

It was only recently that I blogged about the Five Pound Bag. Now Ron Jeffreys explains why making the date is not a development responsibility. And it’s just amazing how sometimes such logical things can hit you like a ton of bricks.

On a lot of projects, there’s the problem that there’s too much to do in so little time. However it’s Ron Jeffreys opinion that every project should begin with high goals and a short deadline. He explains that a project with high goals can look at a wide range of capabilities and then, informed by reality, can decide what to implement.

It’s not that we don’t have enough time. We have too much to do.

This was my eye opener. When developers (as I am) see a deadline we can ‘never’ make, we start discussing the deadline. I don’t think I’ve ever been in a discussion where the deadline wasn’t mentioned. And as Ron says:

For most projects, resources are pretty much fixed. And we’ve already decided that the date is sacrosanct. What’s left? Some managers assume that it’s sufficient to demand that the team work hard, with a sense of urgency, and get everything done. Well, that’s really good fiction writing, but it’s not management. Management is the process of meeting the goals as well as possible, within the limitations of time and resources.

He explains this using a washing machine. No matter what you do, you cannot make it run faster. You can try to push more cloths in, but it’s done when it’s done. Even shouting won’t help. He goes even further, and this is my favorite, keeping the machine well-maintained will serve you over the longer term.

The conclusion is that it’s not a developer’s job to make the date; it’s primarily management and customer responsibility. They have to steer the project in a way we can have most goals by the date we have to deliver.