Tuesday, March 28, 2006

DeMarco and Lister on Standards

Joy Beatty recently posted an entry about standards on the Requirements Defined blog. She wrote, "[D]evelop them as a team, so that the standards are not forced on anyone who is not bought into them."

I agree with the notion of consensus and buy-in that Joy suggests. Whenever someone mentions standards, I like to quote Tom DeMarco and Timothy Lister. Here is what they wrote about standards in Peopleware: Productive Projects and Teams:
"Identifying an ideal practice, or at least a candidate ideal practice, is a useful endeavor. But the programs that mandate such a practice are something else entirely."

"[Big 'M'] Methodologies seek to force convergence through statute. There is an inevitable backlash, the result partly of enforcers' heavy-handedness and partly of thinking workers' strong sense of independence, the cowboy mentality so common to those who populate any new frontier. Better ways to achieve convergence of method are training, tools, and peer review."

"It's only after this kind of gently guided convergence that you may think of publishing a standard. You can't really declare something a standard until it has already become a de facto standard."

"The opposite approach would be one in which every new undertaking is run as a pilot project. To the extent that there was a standard way to carry out the work, that would be the only way you weren't allowed to carry it out. The standard would be for at least one part of the effort to be run in a non-standard way. (This seems to be an informal rule within certain divisions of Fujitsu, for instance.)"
In general, seek standardization through convergence, not by mandate.

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