The Software Engineering Manager’s Lament

The engineering manager’s lament by Eric Ries:

In teams that follow the “pick two” agenda [quality, time or price], which two has to be resolved via a power play. In companies with a strong engineering culture, the engineers pick quality. It’s their professional pride on the line, after all. So they insist on having the final say on when a feature is “done” enough to show to customers. Business people may want to speed things up by spending more money, but enough people have read the Mythical Man-Month to know that doesn’t work.

In teams that have a business culture, the MBA’s pick time. After all, our startup is on a fixed budget. They set deadlines, schedules, and launch plans, and expect the engineering team to do what it takes to hit them. If quality suffers, that’s just the way it is. Or, if they care a lot about quality, they will replace anyone who ships without quality. Unfortunately, threats work a lot better at incentivizing people to CYA than getting them to write quality software.

* Practice five why’s to get to the root cause of future problems. Use those opportunities to add tests or alerts that would have prevented that problem. Make the investment proportional to the problem caused, so that everyone (even the business leaders) feels good about it.

Excellent post, focused on software development but with usable information for anyone seeking to improve management practices.

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