Monday, 7 March 2011

Cherish the Small Stuff

Confucius say:
 You can stand with your back to the sea and shoot fish in a barrel, but you ignoring the giant shark which eat people and boats.
Okay, Confucius wasn't around at the time when Jaws graced the big screen. But if he was and he worked on technology projects then he would have said something like that. Probably.

What this pearl of wisdom means in real terms is this. If you are working on a big project and you need to reduce timescales, axing the simple stuff is not only ineffectual but will ultimately be to the detriment of whatever you produce.
Going for the easy targets ultimately means that you are losing out on the quick wins which can make a big difference to the finished product. You will still be left with the big, horrible, complicated part of the build that just won't go away and will probably take longer than expected.

Your developers working on the easy stuff will be left twiddling their thumbs having finished early whilst the others struggle to deal with the bigger beasts. Throwing the freed up developers to help out will actually inflate time scales. The book The Mythical Man-Month describes this phenomenon well.

So what to do?

As one TED talk succinctly put it, "Sweat the small stuff". Putting alot of effort and thought into the little things that are easy to do can make a big impact. They are generally the noticeable things like UI polish that end users, clients and other key stakeholders will use to gauge your final deliverable. These are the people you need to please and who will hand over a big juicy pay cheque.

Try grab it with killer Great White on the loose and you could end up losing an arm and a leg. Or worse. Your boat.

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