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Urgency in software development

by Topper on April 22nd, 2008

http://www.37signals.com/svn/posts/966-urgency-is-poisonous

When a few days extra turns into a few weeks extra then there’s a problem, but what really has to be done by Friday that can’t wait for Monday or Tuesday? If your deliveries are that critical to the hour or day, maybe you’re setting up false priorities and dangerous expectations.

Sometimes I think we all need step back and think about what we’re doing. In the end the goal of whatever we produce is to help the people that are using it. Sometimes that means getting things rushed out the door, but more-often-than-not careful consideration about what it is you are shipping is so much more valuable.

Most people reading this will probably already believe that the days of waterfall project management have way out lived their usefulness. I think also we’re finally at a point in software development where people realize how it is such an ultimately creative process (very much on par with visual design creativity – though more highly aligned with copy-writing).

I used to think development was like creating a building and I used that metaphor to argue that web designers need to at the very least have a deep understanding of HTML and CSS even if they are not going to actually use it. Much like an architect: you cannot effectively design a building without knowing how the steel is going to hold it up.

I’m trying to come up with a new metaphor though. I’m not sure what it is yet. The stuff we build depends on empathy with users from all members of a team (design, UX, marketing, engineering, accounting). It also depends on all team members having empathy with each other. We need to be able to explore things together, to try them, to see how our users try them. After our users try them we either throw it away or improve it, or leave it… whatever we think (as a team) works best.

It sounds touchy-feely… but it’s working at some of the highest profit-margin companies being run out there. And it’s not as hard to do as one might think.

Even Best Buy dropped their “hours” and productivity went up 35%.

Maybe software development is like an ant colony with thinking ants?

Hmmm…


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