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The Reluctant Manager: What does your organisation care about

Does he love me I want to know
How can I tell if he loves me so
Is it in his eyes?
Oh no! You'll be deceived
Is it in his sighs?
Oh no! He'll make believe
If you want to know if he loves you so
It's in his kiss
That's where it is

Songwriters: Rudy Clark
Shoop Shoop Song lyrics © BMG Rights Management US, LLC

Three key dimensions by which software delivery is managed:

  • Quality
  • Delivery schedule
  • Cost of production
Typically we are told they are all important. Which while true, lacks the subtlety required to meet the real aims of the organisation. So how can you tell “That’s where it is”? What are the true priorities of your organisation?

Delivering software to meet the aims of an organisation in relation to quality, schedule and cost requires more than rhetoric. No one will deny that each element is important in and of itself. This makes words less than helpful when it comes to improving the alignment between developers and the organisation they serve. This is particularly true for the complex dimension of quality.

The true test of which is most valued is in the behaviour of the organisation.

Quality



There are a number of ways an organisation can show that quality is important:
  • The policy of we will not ship until it is of sufficient quality even if this impacts cost and schedule shows the absolute primacy of quality
  • Budgeting for quality in both the schedule and costs signal the relative importance of quality

Another significant feature of quality is that it is expensive to add it at the end of the project. Processes and decisions that support policy need to be present at the beginning of the project so quality can be baked in. Trying to find and fix problems at the end generally means major re-work and worse still shifting the group values. It takes time to go from valuing speed of delivery to a focus on a quality.

Speed of delivery



Hard deadlines placed in front of the amount of time estimated for the project are pretty good sign that schedule is all important. The most expensive way to improve schedule is to start spending when it looks like the schedule is slipping. Organisations that truly value the schedule spend earlier.

Cost



If your requests for additional resources are resisted then chances are cost is dominant.

Balancing the dimensions



The easiest value to compromise is quality because it is the hardest to achieve. In general, unless there is a focus on quality and significant support for it, it will be lost behind cost and schedule.

So to answer Cher’s question … if the desire is:
  • quality; the answer is “Don’t ship until it is of sufficient quality” and mean it.
  • cost: take it slow but not too slow. COCOMO teaches us that squeezing the schedule beneath optimal increases costs very quickly and expanding the schedule beyond optimal slowly increases costs
  • schedule: deadlines stand but cost and quality are negotiable
So thats where it is