From the “you call this agile?” department by Joel Spolsky:

Yes, context switching is painful. Yes, you need to take into account the costs of context switching when you interrupt someone’s work. But every decision has pros and cons and when I hear a manager who is just talking about the cons without considering the pros, that manager is not doing their job.

This is a simple article about basically choosing to sub optimize a part to optimize the whole. One of management’s roles is to determine when to trade a loss to one part of the system for the sake of the overall system. One of the big losses for software development is interruptions which distract developers.

The general consensus is that the loss from interrupting developers is much greater than for interrupting most other forms of work and therefor a great deal of effort is placed on improving the system to allow developers to focus. However, that should not prevent decisions that factor in that loss and conclude that taking that loss is worth the gain (to the rest of the system).

Related: Management Science for Software EngineeringStretching Agile to fit CMMI Level 3post on Joel Spolsky’s ideasJoel Management

2 thoughts on “Sub-Optimize

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  2. Pingback: Process Behavior Charts are the Secret to Understanding the Organization as a System « The W. Edwards Deming Institute Blog

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