Skip to main content

Software Deadlines

Deadlines are a necessary part of life.  I wish all the things I worked on didn’t have deadlines, yet I want other people to give me a timeline and stick to it.  For instance: I am currently going through a house remodel and it’s taking longer than we thought (most of them do).  It takes a massive amount of awareness and empathy to understand that getting everything right is impossible when you are paying for it out of your own pocket.

It’s hard to talk about deadlines in isolation, deadlines are a part of a larger system of goal setting: time, teams, objectives and results.

Over time my view on the subject of deadlines has evolved and I am certain that a part of this article is going to be a shock to some people who worked with me several years ago. I was an early adopter of Scrum in 2001 and loved sprints with estimates for a long time, but in the last couple of years I have stepped away from Scrum because I realized that Scrum fails to distinguish important vs unimportant tasks and activities.

If you focus on too many things at once, by definition you are not focused.  If you estimate every task and make sure that every 1-3 days there is a mini deadline, you start to miss the forest behind the trees.  The burn down chart becomes the goal and the actual goal takes a back seat.  People start feeling like they are hamster in a hamster wheel running somewhere and being stressed out for an uncertain cause.

One of the groundbreaking books I have read on the subject of goal setting is “Measure What Matters”.  A quote that stands out from the book is: “When people have conflicting priorities or unclear, meaningless, or arbitrarily shifting goals, they become frustrated, cynical, and demotivated.”

I would add to that quote by saying that if you have too many small goals it fails to inspire longer term thinking and bring people together.  In short: while decomposing a task into components helps you understand it better, driving for everyone one of those to be estimated and done on time wastes precious management ammo.

Deadlines are a source of stress, but they can also be a source of pride and celebration.  When deadlines are put in a meaningful context, which 1-3 day stories rarely can be, the team rallies to achieve them and the company should celebrate those wins.  If the goals are not meaningful enough to recognize and celebrate were they important enough to stress about?

Sources:
Doerr, John. Measure What Matters: How Google, Bono, and the Gates Foundation Rock the World with OKRs. Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
https://medium.com/@jproco/the-end-of-software-development-deadlines-8fef7d6c9c7c
https://www.freecodecamp.org/news/how-to-make-peace-with-deadlines-in-software-development-6cfe3e993f51/
https://www.businessinsider.com/time-management-productivity-rocks-pebbles-sand-2019-2 

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

SDET / QA Engineer Interview Checklist

After interviewing and hiring hundreds of engineers over the past 12+  years I have come up with a few checklists.  I wanted to share one of those with you so you could conduct comprehensive interviews of QA Engineers for your team.

I use this checklist when I review incoming resumes and during the interview.  It keeps me from missing areas that ensure a good team and technology fit.  I hope you make good use of them.  If you think there are good questions or topics that I have missed - get in touch with me!


SDE/T or QA Engineer interview checklist from Mike Borozdin
If you like this checklist you might want to check out these posts:
Emotional Intelligence in Software Teams  and Good-bye manual tester, hello crowdsourcing!

Code versus Configuration

At Ethos we are building a distributed mortgage origination system and in mortgage there is a lot of
different user types with processes that vary depending on geography.  One of our ongoing discussions is about how much of the logic resides in code vs. being in a workflow system or configuration.  After researching this topic for a bit, I have arrived at a conclusion that the logic should live outside of code very infrequently, which might come as a surprise to a lot of enterprise software engineers.

Costs of configuration files and workflow engines First thing that I assume is true is that having any logic outside of the code has costs associated with it.  Debugging highly configurable system involves not only getting the appropriate branch from source control, you also need to make sure that the right configuration values or the database.  In most cases this is harder for programmers to deal with.  In many FinTech companies where the production data is not made readily accessible…

Quality of Code is Quality of Life

About 20 years ago when I started working in technology companies I remember “the best” engineers had similar patterns:
-They worked crazy hours
-They knew the systems no one else knew
-They could react and deliver something faster than anyone else
You could always hear other employees say: “Bob is really smart, no one knows how to get anything done in system X besides him!”

This reinforced optimization around being the only person who knew how to do something in some part of the code.  That in turn reinforced job security and bargaining for those engineers, but also chained them to a particular system.  We had big code bases of C++ or Java code where some “Bob” hacked up features as soon as he possibly could.  “Bob” would have occasional nuclear disasters where he’d sleep in the office or through the weekend and then everyone would thank him for how he “saved the day.”  “Bob” sacrificed his quality of life to get praise when he hacked stuff up quickly and then the second time when n…