Thinking Point: Micro-projects in .NET

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Multiple projects delivering at about the same time will have knock-on effects on the next group in the chain Operations departments may nd that they have multiple updates to roll out, or marketing groups may nd that they have a ood of products to advertise So, while setting up a series of micro-projects may look like a solution, a little systems thinking shows that such an approach is storing up problems for the future
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Thinking Point: Micro-projects
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Look for micro-projects in your organization What caused them to be set up as small projects What problems are they storing up How else might you organize the work
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There is one particularly nasty block to learning and effective team working that is unfortunately all too common in software development organizations This is the management of developers as a common resource pool Under this model, teams are short-lived entities that exist for one project or one section of a project At the end of an assignment, developers are returned to a common pool, from where they may be assigned to another project Usually, the pool is a concept rather than a physical reality Developers are unlikely to sit around doing nothing More likely, they will be moved between different projects that are in process The aim of the arrangement is to maximize the use of developers and ensure that high-priority projects have all the resources they need While this model sounds reasonable, it has a number of failings when examined from a learning perspective The switching of people between projects makes it dif cult for teams to build a shared vision or engage in any team learning Alignment is unlikely to occur when teams are only together for short periods of time This is especially true when people join the team after it has started and leave before it has ended Developers who know that they re likely to be assigned to another project before the conclusion of their work are less likely to take pride in their work The knowledge that they won t have to live with the problems can reduce the care taken in the work For managers, the pool model is especially dangerous for several reasons By providing a seeming solution to a troublesome project add more staff! it can prevent them from looking deeper and examining the real reasons why projects encounter problems Even if they are so inclined, the constant movement of staff makes it more dif cult to actually diagnose problems, let alone x them
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By moving staff frequently, management set the expectation that staff can be moved Therefore, when a project encounters problems, they re likely to increase the staf ng level even at the expense of other projects Consequently, management spend a lot of time discussing who should be assigned where and the relative priorities of projects This in turn creates a fertile ground for of ce politics and division, rather than consensus and unity While it appears to maximize the use of resources, much time and energy is wasted The movements have hindered learning, promoted naive solutions and encouraged of ce politics Management control is more of an illusion than a reality The pool model makes two assumptions about the work environment Firstly, it is assumed that the organization is resource constrained Therefore it is necessary to ensure that staff are fully utilized every minute Secondly, the model assumes that it is easy for workers themselves to switch from project to project, and that neither project loses anything except the time of the developer who moves Both of these assumptions are wrong People take time to come up to speed on a new project When they leave a project they take knowledge with them, and when they join a new project they need time from fellow team members to acquire knowledge of the new project Consequently, the switching costs for both projects are high Development teams are often short of staff and it is sometimes necessary to move people between teams But making these assumptions turns them into self-ful lling prophecies
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