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Death March “Mission Impossible” Projects

Death March “Mission Impossible” Projects. By Edward Yourdon. What are they. Death march projects are rarely billed as such. They can be hard to identify. Project parameters exceed the norm by 100%. Risk of failure > 50%. Why do they happen?.

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Death March “Mission Impossible” Projects

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  1. Death March“Mission Impossible”Projects By Edward Yourdon (c) Ian Davis

  2. What are they • Death march projects are rarely billed as such. They can be hard to identify. • Project parameters exceed the norm by 100%. • Risk of failure > 50%. (c) Ian Davis

  3. Why do they happen? • When I first started hearing these stories I was puzzled, but after careful analysis I have developed a sophisticated theory to explain the existence of bizarre workplace behaviour. • People are idiots. • Including me. (c) Ian Davis

  4. What are the requirements • Want the job done twice as fast • Want the job done with half the people • Want the job done at half the cost • Want double the functionality • Want double the performance (c) Ian Davis

  5. Why these requirements • Politics • Power struggle between departments • Project manager may be supposed to fail • We do, or we die • Naïve promises • Hysterical optimism • Known lies to customer (c) Ian Davis

  6. Why continued • Cuts in project schedules • Assumption that planners pad schedules • We can do it over the weekend • Minor details like input, output, testing documentation don’t count. • Start up mentality • If your company name doesn’t include the word Java, you’re likely to be short of resources. • You’re going to change the world. (c) Ian Davis

  7. Why continued • Marine Corps Mentality • Real programmers don’t need sleep • Every project is like this • We know how to get things done • It works, we’re successful and proud of it • If you can’t handle it, you don’t belong here • [Deliberate decision to create Death March] (c) Ian Davis

  8. Why continued • Outside pressures • The tax laws have just changed • The turn key system doesn’t turn • System must be operational by arbitrary date • Unexpected crises • programmers quit over management practices. • Vendor has gone bankrupt. • Your about to be sued for violating ... (c) Ian Davis

  9. Why continued • Procrastination • We can fix the Y2K problem later • January 1st is a Saturday, so that gives us three days to solve any problems • When did not know that 2000 was coming • [Things come as a surprise] (c) Ian Davis

  10. Why do people participate • Risks high but so are the rewards • The “Mt. Everest syndrome” • The buzz of intensity, .v. boredom • Naivete and youth • Want to rise within organisation, not fired • Hero complex.. Want to save the company • Regular ego boosts • Revenge (c) Ian Davis

  11. Why not to participate • Most projects are doomed to fail • Not worth sacrificing life for a company • Wife and children are more important • Health is priceless, beating the odds isn’t (c) Ian Davis

  12. Rewards of participating • Sense of being valued • Pride in the task you are undertaking • Belief in the team • A real life experience, real life memories • Potential career advancement (c) Ian Davis

  13. Hopeless projects • We’re going to do this without all the pieces • Your going to die but think of the glory • Were going to do the impossible • Lets put Windows NT on a 4K ROM • That would be amazing • So what. • Keep asking the “So what” question (c) Ian Davis

  14. Waste of time projects • We’re going to increase profits by 3 cents per share • I’ve 100 shares, so I’m going to give up the next six months for $3. • Am I going to get paid overtime? No that’s the beauty of this project. Costs will be minimal. • Lets make it a death march project • It improves moral and get things done faster. (c) Ian Davis

  15. The players • The owner • The customer • The shareholder • The stakeholder • The champion • The manager • The grunts (c) Ian Davis

  16. The moral forecast (c) Ian Davis

  17. The value added forecast (c) Ian Davis

  18. Negotiation ploys • Project managers ploys • Double and add some • Superiors ploys • Reverse doubling (divide all estimates by 2) • Guess the number I’m thinking of • No, no, no… good I like your estimate • Double dummy spit • Blind rage.. followed by blind rage • Leaves manager cowering for their life • I work incredibly hard to produce those eggs each morning said the chicken. • Well there is no question that you are involved said the pig, but I am committed. (c) Ian Davis

  19. More negotiation ploys • Spanish inquisition • Demand schedules in a high level meeting • The manager better not be heretical • Lowest bid / gotcha • The customer leaks lower bids • The provider hides the real anticipated costs • Leak the over-runs to the customer slowly • Smoke and mirrors • This formula says you can do it in half the time • Consultants been paid a lot of money to agree (c) Ian Davis

  20. More negotiation ploys • Hidden costs of maintainability/quality • I can deliver the software tomorrow • It won’t actually work • We won’t be able to make it work • Tomorrow I won’t be here • Heck it isn’t going to be my problem three years from now • Lets promise everything and then leave • Maybe I’ll end up with a better reference (c) Ian Davis

  21. Some comments • The leader who cares will not try to sell his people a bill of goods about the level of effort required, and chance of success. • Programmers are not stupid. • They have a keen sense of smell. • Programmers know where the buck stops. (c) Ian Davis

  22. Napoleans observations • When soldiers have been baptized in the fire of the battle-field, they all have one rank in my eyes. • Any commander in chief who undertakes to carry out a plan he considers defective is at fault. He must put forth his reasons, and insist on the plan being changed. He must tender his resignation rather than be an instrument fo his army’s downfall. (c) Ian Davis

  23. More advice • A general is just as good or as bad as the troops under his command make him. [MacArthur] • Surround yourself with the best people you can find, delegate authority, and don’t interfere. [Ronald Reagan] (c) Ian Davis

  24. Hiring issues • Hire superstars • High risk • Hire a well-honed mission impossible team • Sorry but all our teams quit over last mission • Hire mere mortals, and educate them • Have to make them aware of the challenge • Take the dregs, and convert them • Well, it works in the movies (c) Ian Davis

  25. Doug Scotts e-mail • I always accept more people • I put them to work on the coffee machine • I hang on to the occasional good person • I help the bozos resign • In one case I cut 80% of staff and maintained output levels. (c) Ian Davis

  26. Bonuses • Far more important to the underpaid • Can lead to friction • He’s going to loose us our bonus • People at top do nothing and get lions share • Doubling the bonus won’t double the effort • Not if people are already working 18 hour days (c) Ian Davis

  27. Net productivity .v. hours worked (c) Ian Davis

  28. Triage • Identify tasks as: • must do • should do • could do • Failure to do this at beginning of project usually leads to ugly crisis towards the end (c) Ian Davis

  29. Team jelling • Forming • define goals, roles, and direction • Storming • rules established, decisions made, arguments • Norming • procedures, standards, and criteria established • Performing • The team begins to function as a system (c) Ian Davis

  30. Causes of teamicide • Defensive distrustful management • Bureaucracy and paper work • Fragmentation of peoples activities • Quality reduction in the product • Phony deadlines imposed by management • Managements desire to break up cliques (c) Ian Davis

  31. The bottom line • I wake up each morning determined to change the world… and also to have one hell of a good time. • Sometimes that makes planning the day a little difficult [E.B. White] (c) Ian Davis

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