Micro-projects and Solo Developers in Visual Studio .NET

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in work action in order to avoid dealing with dif cult problems It can be easy to nd pressing work to do when the alternative is doing something we would rather not do For example, 11 discusses how project retrospectives can be used to improve teams But if we re fearful of what the retrospective may nd, then it can be all too easy to nd work that needs doing now and that prevents a retrospective from taking place All work and no re ection is bad All re ection and no work is bad We need to nd a balance between the two Most importantly, when our re ection shows us some new insights, we need to act on those insights and not hide behind work
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554 Micro-projects and Solo Developers
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Anyone who has worked in software development for more than a few years will have come across individuals who are technically brilliant but are less gifted at working in teams Such individuals may well possess excellent technical skills and even personal mastery, but they may lack other skills The situation is exacerbated when these individuals start to see their co-workers as technically naive or inexperienced These people present managers with a dif cult choice In solving one problem, they risk creating another It is a little like the man who goes to the doctor with his brother: Man: Doctor, my brother thinks he is a chicken Doctor: Here are some tablets Give him two a day If he s not better in a week, come back Man: But doctor, we need the eggs Often, managers respond by nding, or creating, some little project where an individual developer might work alone I call these micro-projects Here, a developer can work on his own code, at his own pace, without the interference of team members Other developers won t bother him and equally he won t bother them This is one example of what Thomas Davenport has called HSPALTA:17 hire smart people and leave them alone Assigning developers to micro-projects allows them to work in isolation Micro-projects have an additional bene t for the manager responsible They can legitimately claim we re working on it whenever asked how the project is going In fact, micro-projects are an example of shifting the burden , because while they solve some immediate problems, they create additional problems in the longer term
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See Davenport (2005)
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Financially, it is more worthwhile to have many developers work on one project at a time Companies realize a higher rate of return when multiple projects are run in series rather than in parallel A team rapidly delivering one project and moving on to the next is worth more than solo developers working on multiple projects Imagine that we have ve projects to carry out, and suppose that each project will take 12 man months We could set ve solo developers to work In one year, they will deliver ve projects and revenue will start to follow Alternatively, we could have all the developers work on one project at the same time A little over two months later, the project would be complete, allowing the company to recognize revenue or savings from the project Since the money is seen sooner, it s worth more to the company Individuals working alone miss out on opportunities for team learning and knowledge sharing This is re ected in the resulting code base, with different coding styles and different design idioms and patterns in use Such code lacks consistency and some functionality will be implemented multiple times In the long run, the lack of knowledge sharing makes the system more dif cult to enhance and maintain Melvin Conway pointed out as long ago as 1968 that system design will mirror the organization that designed the system Conway s Law,18 as it became known, states: organisations which design systems ( ) are constrained to produce designs which are copies of the communication structures of these organisations Melvin Conway (1968) Five systems designed and built by ve different individuals will be just that: ve very different systems Without any commonality, the long-term workload will be higher While reducing the teamwork and interaction, micro-projects actually increase the amount of management time required Rather than focusing on one project at a time, managers now need to track and manage multiple projects From time to time, these projects will come into competition when limited resources (eg testers or machines) are needed by several projects at the same time In these situations, it is quite likely that managers will be called to arbitrate and decide priorities Often, micro-projects eventually need to be integrated, perhaps into a common code base This results in multiple integration events, which themselves consume time Integration will expose con icts in the different ways that developers have tackled issues Inevitably, developers will have made assumptions about how other code works and some of these may be exposed as false
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Conway s Law has been the subject of much debate over the years: see Coplien and Harrison (2004), Hvatum and Kelly (2005) and Raymond (1996)
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