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Double Whammy

Five Principles

Watts Humphrey is perhaps the most decorated and credentialed member of the software engineering community. Even though his project management philosophy is a tad too rigidly disciplined for me, the dude is 83 years young and he has obtained eons of experience developing all kinds of big, scary, software-intensive systems. Thus, he’s got a lot of wisdom to share and he’s definitely worth listening to.

In “Why Can’t We Manage Large Projects?“, Watts lists the following principles as absolutely necessary for the prevention of major cost and time overruns on knowledge-intensive projects – big and small.

Since nobody’s perfect (except for me — and you?), all tidy packages of advice contain both fluff and substance. The 5 point list above is no different. Numbers 1, 4 and 5, for example, are real motherhood and apple pie yawners – no? However, numbers 2 and 3 contain some substance.

Trustworthy Teams

Number 2 is intriguing to me because it moves the screwup spotlight away from the usual suspects (BMs of course), and onto the DICforce. Watt’s (rightly) says that DIC-teams must be willing to manage themselves. Later in his article, Watts states:

To truly manage themselves, the knowledge workers… must be held responsible for producing their own plans, negotiating their own commitments, and meeting these commitments with quality products.

Now, here’s the killer double whammy:

Knowledge worker DIC-types don’t want to do management work (planning, measuring, watching, controlling, evaluating), and BMs don’t want to give it up to them. – Bulldozer00

Besides disliking the nature of the work, the members of the DICforce know they won’t be rewarded or given higher status in the hierarchy for taking on the extra workload of planning, measuring, and status taking. Adding salt to the wound, BMs won’t give up their PWCE “job” responsibilities because then it would (rightfully) look like they’re worthless to their bosses in the new scheme of things. Bummer, no?

Facts And Data

As long as orgs remain structured as stratified hierarchies (which for all practical purposes will be forever unless an act of god occurs), Watts’s noble number 3 may never take hold. Ignoring facts/data and relying on seniority/status to make decisions is baked into the design of CCHs, and it always will be.

It’s the structure, stupid! – Bulldozer00

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