Monday, July 29, 2013

It’s none of the Managers’ Business!

A team is busy refactoring a very large and overly complex several hundred thousands lines of code. This team would hang on the wall this sign and instructions:

We are busy refactoring the product code for the benefit of all of us

It is a highly technical stuff which you will not grasp, even if you tried hard

We need to concentrate. Please do not keep nagging for status and end dates

When we finish, we'll let you know

Thank you for your understanding :)

Yes, this is a joke, but we've met teams doing this spontaneously! Here is the full story:

In a recent review of three companies which tried to refactor large products (hundreds of thousands line of code), we found that decisions were taken in all three companies to suspend the refactoring effort. Two of them decided to go for a full rewrite and the third decided to minimize further development in this particular product.

This appears to be impatient managers' decision. But, analysing the three cases we reached some very interesting reasons behind these costly decisions. The number one reason was the proposition by the technical team that: "it's none of the managers' business"!

Technical teams had this attitude. Managers had almost no involvement in planning refactoring effort, and the technical teams did not spend any effort to involve busy managers or report status to them. This attitude created opposition to further expenditure on refactoring and was one of the main reasons for management wanting to either discontinue the refactoring effort or rewrite the application from scratch.

We reached the following corollary about  how managers manage refactoring effort:
Managers will not sponsor any activity unless they can track and control it!
 Other successful refactoring attempts witnessed more support from managers. The basic difference was that managers used to receive monthly reports about the status of refactoring, and would accordingly decide on whether to accelerate or slow down refactoring.