Expectation Maintenance

When software projects fail, we grow the divide between business and development.

Let’s analyze a bit, shall we?

Why is the divide growing? The divide is basically a metaphor for trust. Mostly, the two sides don’t trust, or sometimes understand, each other. Their goals don’t coincide, and  are not communicated correctly. Add to that some human nature, and we’ve got ourselves some fine mess.

Agile was supposed to be cure. By collaborating and showing results, it’s supposed to narrow the gap. Trust grows on each side, and everyone is happy.

Trust is gained from success. Does mistrust grow from failures?

Not exactly.

Mistrust comes from crushed expectations. The business people believed them what the developers told them about the delivery date. The developers believed the business people will not change the requirements, or would incur the needed cost. When that didn’t happen the expectations of both sides were crushed.

(by the way, don’t think that the same didn’t happen when we had a successful project. Only then, we had the bitter taste of crushed expectations replaced by the sweet taste of a released project).

So we like success better. Big surprise.

Unfortunately even agile doesn’t promise success every time. And so, at some point, regardless which side you’re on, you’ll end up with some expectation shattered.

How do you narrow the divide after it’s grown?

The funny thing is, agile has that answer too.

Agile project success depends on discipline. Continue writing tests, even under pressure. Continue doing the stand ups, even if it’s known exactly what the plan is for today. Continue doing retrospectives, even if it’s not convenient to gather all the team together on one day on site.

That’s what we need to do: pick up all the fragments of expectations from the floor, then continue doing the same things that help us be successful the next time.

Because they will. And the divide will shrink.


This post may seem like it belongs in the self-help section. While this is true, remember that the writer is a cynical bastard, and if he writes this stuff, at least he believes it.


If you want to hear more from the cynical bastard, find him at the “Software Passion Summit” next week in Goteborg, Sweden talking about this stuff.

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