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Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Destaffed projects: short term wins, long term losses

Staffing levels are a funny thing. They can both save and destroy a project.

Let's say there's a project, tool, or service which you really like. It looks good, it works well, and it makes you happy. Then you find out your company is crumbling from the inside-out. Lots of things start being uprooted for no good reason. The user interfaces you knew and loved are killed right in front of you without mercy.

You start worrying about your favorite project. Then you find out it's been destaffed. All of the people who were on that project have been yanked away to the latest Emperor's New Clothes project. They're off creating new things to meet the latest executive decree.

At first, you realize this is great! Since nobody's working on that service, there's nobody in any position to screw it up. As long as it doesn't break through the usual bit rot of software, it should keep doing its thing. You keep using it and all is well.

However, all the while, you know in the back of your head that the other shoe will drop eventually. They will discover this project and will absorb it into the great sucking void which is taking over the company. It will cease to exist as you knew it and will become something you barely recognize, assuming they let it live at all.

People who are yelling about Google Reader being gutted this week weren't privy to the internal details of what was coming. Anyone who was privy to those details knew this was just a matter of time.

You can't destaff a project without having some kind of fallout sooner or later. The kind of irresponsible mismanagement and mishandling which allows a social project like Reader to go unstaffed will eventually lead to it being thrown into a wood chipper.

Their message is clear: you will do social the way they want you to do it, or you won't do it at all. You will be assimilated.

March 13, 2013: This post has an update.