Sunday, October 12, 2008

Software Development - Fire Fighters vs Real Heroes

In a Dilbert cartoon, the pointy-haired boss, apparently frustrated by the company's sub-par products, announces that he'll reward each bug fix with a $10 bill. Wally says: "Hooray! I'm gonna code me a minivan!"

Unfortunately the heroes, those who seem to save the organization in a great flurry of activity, are often reacting dramatically to the problems they created. Like Wally, they're rewarded for the successes while no one notices that furious activity is no substitute for doing things carefully.

Solving problems is a high-visibility process; preventing them is much better, but earns few rewards. This is illustrated by an old parable:

In ancient China, there was a family of healers, one of whom was known throughout the land and employed as a physician to a great lord. The physician was asked which of his family was the most skillful healer. He replied, "I tend to the sick and dying with drastic and dramatic treatments, and on occasion someone is cured and my name gets out among the lords.

"My elder brother cures sickness when it just begins to take root, and his skills are known among the local peasants and neighbors.

"My eldest brother is able to sense the spirit of sickness and eradicate it before it takes form. His name is unknown outside our home."

Unfortunately, sometimes the very best developers get the least acknowledgement, even from their own teams.
- Jack Ganssle, Embedded development expert

No comments: