Tue 4 Sep 2012
The most common complaint I hear from developers is that their managers push unrealistic deadlines on them. The managers come and say something must by done by this date – and won’t take “no” for an answer. The developers then work nights to deliver on a promise they didn’t make – usually only to get more features added two weeks before the deadline.
This is a fair complaint, the only problem I have with it is that the developers generally deliver. The managers in the end do get what they asked for – at least it looks so on the surface. No wonder they come again and do the same thing. Their whole experience tells them this is how things work and many of them genuinely believe they act correctly by pushing unrealistic deadlines on their subordinates (known under a number of euphemisms like “challenging workers” or “driving folks hard”). How are they supposed to know this is achieved by degrading quality of the end product? Usually they lack knowledge and time to thoroughly check the product and many ill effects of poor craftsmanship in software take months if not years to become painfully visible (technical debt).
In other words developers just train their managers in dysfunctional behaviors, over and over again confirming their experience that those behaviors will produce desired outcomes.
So, if you are a developer: yes, your boss is probably a moron and yes, he demands stupid things – but it is also you who trained him that way by delivering those things. No wonder he comes for more. It is a vicious cycle. Want to break out of it? You have three options available to you:
- keep on doing the same thing – write poor code, quick hacks upon hacks, with no tests under pressure just to keep unrealistic deadlines and occasionally complain out of your boss’ earshot to other developers or a passing trainer/coach/consultant hoping in wain things will change on their own,
- change jobs in hope of ending up in a better environment
- or try to change the current environment by saying “NO!”.
The only problem is that if you refuse to do stupid things you risk your job. And this is where courage comes into the picture. The rule is: if you want to change anything in your workplace you must be ready and willing to get fired over it. Otherwise you will give in, you will buckle – and things will stay as they were.