Red Echo

August 19, 2008

Fascinating report by Alistair Cockburn: Characterizing people as non-linear, first-order components in software development. Some highlights:

I finally concluded that there is something there, in front of us all the time, which we are not seeing: people. People’s characteristics are a first-order success driver, not a second-order one. In fact, I have reversed the order, and now consider process factors to be second-order issues.

Most of my experiences can be accounted for from just a few characteristics of people. Applying these on recent projects, I have had much greater success at predicting results and making successful recommendations. I believe the time has come to, formally and officially, put a research emphasis on “what are the characteristics of people that affect software development, and what are their implications on methodology design?”

Being good at communicating and looking around counter inconsistency, leading to the prediction that methodologies can make good use of low-precision artifacts whose gaps are covered by personal communication. Project histories also support this prediction, subject to the normalization of an adequately skilled staff, including management.