Doing the Impossible

Dogbert teaches us all a management lesson. He’s even offering a diploma. Is that better than a certificate?

A Lesson from Dogbert

In a recent Sunday paper, I found the following cartoon, published here with permission1. The image here links to a larger one for your convenience. Please review Dogbert’s lesson and reflect for a moment before continuing.

image

And For Us?

What is Dogbert telling us about managing software development projects? Unfortunately, he’s telling us rather a lot. All too often I encounter teams who have been told, “You have to get all this done by The Date.” As I discussed here, Making the Date is not a development responsibility, it’s a management and customer responsibility.

The customer or product owner always wants more by The Date than we can possibly have. It’s their job to think of everything that would make the product good, and it’s natural to want it all. Tradeoffs have to be made in order to deliver the product by any given day: tradeoffs in which features to build, how fancy to make them, how carefully to write the software, how carefully to test, and so on. Leaving these decisions to a bunch of programmers, even great programmers, is just bad business. Determining what to put in the product, and what to leave out, is a business decision that should be made by the business side of the house.

When a manager just demands that the team “get it all done” by The Date, they’re asking their employees to do the impossible. That “Bonk! OW!” you hear is the project, falling on their heads. Pick up your diploma on the way out.


1. Used with permission, and at great personal expense, actually …

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Written by: Ron Jeffries

Categorization: Articles, Classics

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