Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Dead Man Walking

Most software projects fail. The statistics are varied but a pretty fair sweeping generalization of all the research would indicate that most software projects fail.

If most of them fail, then it is logical to surmise that at any point you care to examine them, the majority will be dying. Sure, they might hang on. They might be fighting horribly and even look like they have a chance to succeed. But most of them fail. They die.

If you were out hiking in the woods and came upon a man mauled by a bear and he was shouting incomprehensibly and swearing like a sailor what would be your reaction? A helpful or trained person might run over and assess the situation. They would question and listen, they might possibly poke or prod. The answers might be meaningful or simply swearing or more realistically just Pain, Pain, Pain! The conversation would get more succinct, more direct. Answer me or I can't help you! Neither would stop to criticize poor grammar or discuss the appropriateness of language. They would listen to the content and contribute to the sharing of information. Presumably, they both want to save the dying man.

As the situation progresses, the person trying to assist the dying man would make decisions based on what they independently observe is hurting, by which movement brings the loudest screams, or by which open wound is bleeding most profusely. Because the priority of the situation demands it, they would ignore the swearing and the sweat and the blood. If the wounded soul gets out of control, they might sedate them if possible, or simply slap them to snap them back to reality and focus. Having been in similar situations, I can tell you there is shouting and flailing galore. The communication will be rough, it will be high velocity, and it will rarely be diplomatic or couched in rhetoric and hyperbole. After all, someone is dying.

If you are starting a new project, chances are it is already dying. Will you watch politely while it bleeds out? Will you bind the hands of those who can set the bones or knit the flesh? When a person with their hands in the gaping head wound says "Move!", don't demand they say Please. Remember, your project is dying.

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