Better Success Across Large Projects

George Dinwiddie is an independent software development coach who helps organizations, large and small, to increase the effectiveness of their software development efforts. He provides guidance over a broad range, at the organizational, process, team, interpersonal, and technical levels. He is currently crusading to break down the barriers that hinder effective collaboration between the business, the programmers, and the testers. George is a frequent speaker at Agile conferences. See his blog at http://blog.gdinwiddie.com.

Anytime you get a large number of people working on something, there are going to be differences in style and capability. When that work is software development, some of those differences are arguably better or worse for the maintainability of the software. And while maintainability is not the only important aspect of a software system, it’s always a significant one for enterprises. After all, when you’ve spent the work of a large number of people, you’re likely to want to reap the rewards for a long time.

So how do you achieve a better and more consistent outcome? In one approach, one person directs all the work at a fine-grained level. You might call this person a chief engineer, a lead architect or a traditional project manager who performs a detailed work breakdown structure and delegates small bits of work to others.

I’ve never been satisfied with the results of such an approach. It seems as if it should work in some circumstances. When I’ve seen this attempted, that central person has always become a bottleneck in the process. They get overwhelmed by the oversight required of them.

It seems a simple matter to ask someone to deliver a small bit of work and then examine it to ensure they delivered what you expected. In my experience, the person who is asked often misses that mark. They might deliver something other than expected …

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"I have never met a man so ignorant that I couldn't learn something from him."

- Galileo Galilei

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