One highly ineffective habit of software development teams

And that habit is: ‘overpromise and underdeliver’ Marc Evers and I just pubished a new article on this topic in Dutch, Belofte maakt schuld (‘promise is debt’). It is a case study, in which we apply systems thinking to this highly destructive habit. We plan to make an english translation available later on.

As an aside, I’m inspired to use the word habit today, after stumbling across this interview with Ivar Jacobson in our local industry magazine Bits & Chips (in Dutch), in which he explains to use ‘habits’ over ‘process’, because process has become such a loaded term.

This was registering with me, because Marc mentioned a couple of days ago, that he was looking for an alternative to the word process. After some mulling about, we came up with this:

A process is what happens (as the total of actions by the people), a habit is what people do normally. You want people to change their habits, if you want a more effective process…

A popular way of doing that is by ‘installing new procedures’. Procedure is an even more loaded or dreaded word, that means a process in the narrow sense, what people are expected to do. But basically, if you follow a methodology by the book, that is what you are doing: following, or trying to follow new procedures.

But, old habits die hard. Belofte maakt schuld (‘Promise is debt’) is yet another example of how to let people fall back: ignore the reasons for an initial success, and let the team fall back on its’ old habits by increasing the pressure to deliver… “I already promised this to the customer, you could produce as much earlier (under the false promise of time to make up for any corners cut during a crunch), so stop whining, stop testing, stop pairing, just deliver…”.

And then when the teams’ velocity drops even more, promise even more to the customer. ‘Just’ rely on the teams aim to please…

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