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.NET and general software development tips and articles I've written.

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It's the people, stupid

Lance's Whiteboard contains a recent post about how the success of a project is ultimately determined by the habits, attitude and style of the team members and project members, rather than the project methodology.

Oh, how true.

Back when I worked at SRM there were a number of projects that went badly. This occurred during the IT boom, when there was so much IT work everywhere and consulting organizations were just trying to keep up. We hired tons of people, some experienced and some fresh out of school with little or no experience. 

When things went badly, we decided we weren't managing things very well, and that we needed to add more process to our approach. So, a group of individuals got together and developed a Project Consulting Framework (PCF). It was supposed to guide us through a project from sales to final sign-off. The organization spent a ton of resources building the framework, developing a curriculum and training the staff. It was seen as a worthwhile investment, because it would help us prevent bad projects that hurt our bottom line and our reputation. And they tried to make it part of the culture - we had company parties where we played PCF Bowl, and we had PCF awards.

I don't really know if PCF made a difference. I learned a lot of interesting things during the training, so I'm sure it had some effect.


After a while, I realized that not everyone followed the framework. And some people followed it in a way that was counter-productive. They used PCF as a way to justify the goofy thing they were trying to do.

Even one of the persons principally involved in developing PCF wasn't as good at following through with communication. Apparently, he was a lot better at telling other people about the importance of effective communication than he was at effectively communicating on a project.

Which brings me back to Lance's Whiteboard. In the end, we can use all the tools and methodologies and frameworks that we want to, but it really doesn't matter as much as the people involved. If you are hire talented individuals, who care about the craft and the business and each other and the customer, there is hope of success. If instead, you just trying to set-up a bunch of rules and processes and hope that it will make up for the limitations of your team, you are in for a rude awakening.