Thursday, April 04, 2013

Management of Failing Project - the Busywork Spiral

Managers, like all of us, respond to rewords, and both use and elicit signals.
In most cases, that process is benign, ensuring the managers of an organizations are aligned (through incentives) with the organizational goals.
In failing projects, however, a curious phenomena can be observed. As the project drifts more and more into late territory and employee time becomes more of a rare commodity, more (rather than less) time is being consumed on managerial overhead - meetings, status reports, and similar artifacts.

On explanation for this phenomena is the managers' reasonable desire not to appear neglectful. If the project is late and status was NOT collected, he is at fault, at least in the eyes of his superiors. If all controls were implemented, however, the responsible party is not as clear, and the manager may avoid being penalized personally for the project delay or failure.

And of course, since the Mythical man-month we all know that adding people to a project mid-way will slow it down.. and yet, twelve times out of every dozen projects, management will 'help' delayed project with assigned resources.

Some of this is discussed in Why Software Projects are Terrible and How Not To Fix Them 

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