[A Scary Halloween Article]
“I am going to describe my personal views about managing large software developments… In these assignments I have experienced different degrees of success with respect to arriving at an operational state, on-time, and within costs. I have become prejudiced by my experiences and I am going to relate some of these prejudices in this presentation.” – Dr. Winston Royce, 1970 Managing the Development of Large Software Systems
I had a fun 20 minute talk with a VP of Development and a Sr. Program Manager at a DoD facility during my time at AgileDC 2011 this year. The topic was around Project Managers managing projects in a way that is already poised for failure. Are they living a lie?
It has always been eye-opening to many people when I tell my workshop participants or clients that they old waterfall way of doing software was never intended to be used. It was a misinterpretation of Dr. Royce’s seminal paper. What happened was that government agencies read the first page, saw a diagram (with a poorly chosen caption), and said: “Hey, that’s how we do software development!”
Yes, that’s right. Waterfall project management was never the point. It was actually iterative development that Dr. Winston Royce was pointing to… later in his paper.
How Not To Manage Large Software Projects:
If they had read the second page of Dr. Royce’s paper, they would have found the following quotes:
“I believe in this concept, but the implementation described above is risky and invites failure.”
“Yet if these phenomena fail to satisfy the various external constraints, then invariably a major redesign is required.”
“The required design changes are likely to be so disruptive that the software requirements upon which the design is based and which provides the rationale for everything are violated. Either the requirements must be modified, or a substantial change in the design is required. In effect the development process has returned to the origin and one can expect up to a 100-percent overrun in schedule and/or costs.”
Interestingly enough, Manoj Vadakkan spoke about Dr. Winston Royce’s findings this during his AgileDC talk as well, but he wasn’t harsh on Project Managers.
One quote during my conversation that almost flattened me was the following:
“You know, Project Managers should wake up and see that their entire existence is based on a lie. Their work, their management style, and their careers, are built upon a fallacy, a lie, and a management construct that should have never been put out there in the first place. It’s like a cult with millions of followers who, the more they learn about project management theory, are going deeper into failure for themselves and their company.” [Paraphrased by me]
So, what you’re saying is that Project Managers… and project management is like… a cult…
What do you think? I hardly had words.
[See Dr. Winston Royce’s Full Paper below]