Monday, December 7, 2015

You can't fight mother nature.

The flooding is pretty bad in Chennai
This has been an unusual week.  My off-shore development team have been off-line because of horrible flooding in Chennai, India. I have been worrying about the health and safety of my teams which include a few newlyweds and new parents.  This natural disaster also gave me pause to think about the things we can’t control.

A common theme in Western literature for the last two hundred years is the struggle human beings have over nature.  We have fought it on land, sea and air.  We have endured terrible cold and withering heat.  Authors from the naturalistic period of writing have been very honest with their readers.  People struggle against nature and sometimes nature wins.  More contemporary writing has ignored this wisdom and has championed human engineering and willpower.  Some books pioneer the bogus notion that we can use our willpower to transcend reality.

This kind of magical thinking has crept into the business world. It is not uncommon for project managers to think that if people work harder, faster, or smarter that can overcome the constraints of time and nature.  It is true that we can manage time better, but we cannot change the fact that you cannot force twelve months of work into five months of time.  Each day project managers and scrum masters are asked to do this and it undermines the very nature of our profession.

There are contingencies which can be made and allowances which can be incorporated into a plan.  Unfortunately, real life gets in the way and projects slip.  As Mike Tyson used to say, “Everyone has a plan until they are punched in the mouth.”  People get sick, snow falls, and entire cities and engulfed in flood waters.  People who make software are not tools to be used up and thrown away.  Software developers are not resources, they are flesh and bone people; so asking why the project is not on track is not only stupid but insensitive.

My heart goes out to the development teams, their families and the citizens of Chennai, India.  I hope all of you get through the catastrophe safe and sound.  Some things are more important that project deadlines and this is one of them.

Until next time.