The weather pattern has quickly changed from winter into summer. We had snow in some parts of New England last week and this week we have the dreaded triple-H weather — hazy, hot and humid. The triple-H pattern appears in software development projects too. In fact, it’s not unusual at all.
Let’s explore what triple-H weather patterns and triple-H projects have in common. Once we understand the pattern, we can determine what development teams can do to minimize the problems it creates.
Hazy – In weather terms, hazy simply means limited visibility. In software terms, it means business requirements are not well-defined. The business stakeholders ask the development team to build a software system but the definition of that ‘system’ is vague and/or overly broad.
Hot – We all know what hot weather is. Hot software projects are those that have an abundance of senior management attention. This is good and bad. Personally, I like working on high-profile projects. It’s exciting. However, if a project gets too hot, managers may get unreasonable and overly demanding. When that happens, there’s too much administrative work and not enough development work.
Humid – Humidity is a measure of moisture content in the air. Humid air makes it harder to breathe. It makes us sweat and generally uncomfortable. When software projects put us under too much pressure, we also get uncomfortable and stressed out. We hurry and we’re prone to making mistakes.
Triple-H projects require special handling.
So if you get assigned to a triple-H project or your current project turns into a triple-H one, what should you do? The specifics will depend upon your situation, but here are some general guidelines.
Hazy – Business requirements need to be specific whether they’re in the form of requirements documentation or user stories. The software team doesn’t need to know every detail for the entire development effort. But at a minimum, they need to know what to do next. The short-term needs have to be clear and detailed. The long-term needs can be refined as they move up the queue. If the requirements for the next release are hazy, push back on the business stakeholders. Ask specific, detailed questions to pin down what features they need in the next release.
Hot – Hot projects can be tough. Lots of management attention can wear a team down. Telling senior managers to back off is not an option. You need to show that the team has the project under control. Start by communicating regularly. Be open about what is being done and why. When you’re asked questions you don’t have answers to, say so. Explain why the answers are unknown and estimate when you’ll have the answers. You need to build confidence in the team and everyone on it.
Humid – Being under a lot of pressure causes plenty of problems. Mental activities are disrupted. Physical functions are stressed. Emotions are maxed out. In these situations, teamwork gives way to combat. It’s important to diffuse the tension. Get everyone focused on the things the team can control. Tune out the noise. Deliver working software and everyone will feel better.