Medieval project management

I wrote a post on my personal blog recently called Medieval software project management. The post compares software project management to the medieval practice of “beating the bounds,” having young boys walk the perimeter of a parish to memorize the boundaries in order to preserve this information for their lifetimes. Many research projects use a similar strategy, assigning one person to a project for life, depending on that person’s memory rather than capturing project information in prose or in software.

Johanna Rothman wrote a response to the medieval project management post in which she gives good advice on how businesses can avoid such traps. Here’s an excerpt.

Here’s what I did when I was a manager inside organizations, and what I suggest to clients now: make sure a team works on each project. That means no single-person projects, ever. A team to me contains all the people necessary to release a product. Certainly a developer and a tester. Maybe a writer, maybe a release engineer, maybe an analyst. Maybe a DBA. Whatever it takes to release a product, everyone’s on the team. Everyone participates. If they can automate their work and explain it to other people, great. But it’s not a team unless the team can release the product. (Emphasis added.)

It would be terrific progress if more scientific programming were done this way. In theory, science strives for a higher standard. Not only should your team of colleagues be able to reproduce your work, so should anonymous scientists around the world. But in practice, science often has lower standards than business with regard to software development.

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