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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

More headcount? How about improving the existing headcount?

I've heard the same old story over and over: we need more people. We need to hire. We need to get some fresh blood in here. Why aren't they hiring? Why aren't they getting us new people? Where are our allocations?

I heard this kind of stuff from the guys who blew two weeks debating on how to do a SELECT by a date their own way. They'd go in front of the local director type and would whine about it. It would come up at quarterly meetings.

I may have even gone along with this for a while. It seemed easy enough. You hop on the bandwagon and get all excited about hiring. I hadn't thought about the population problem inherent in hiring yet. I even helped out by doing interviews.

Finally, I came to the realization that this was garbage. The reason our projects weren't going anywhere isn't because "we need headcount" or "we need new hires". Oh, we had the headcount, all right.

Our problem was that our headcount was filled with people who at best did absolutely nothing to the project. Some of them actually created work and thus set the whole thing back.

So the next time I hear someone complain about "we need more seats", I'm going to reflexively think "maybe the seats just need to be filled differently". Incidentally, this is all before you get into the whole Mythical Man Month thing where throwing people at a late project just makes it later.

I've tried to "spread the good news" from that book in certain circles. It usually doesn't go over too well. There always seem to be some sense of hubris that "oh, we're better than that" or "it won't happen to us". Then time goes by and they create a Second System.

All I know is, when you have SVPs talking about rewriting all of your libraries while also rewriting the very fabric which is your secret sauce, you're playing with fire. You're also trying to disprove several tenets of TMMM at the same time. It might not get you anywhere, but it sure keeps the troops busy.

If I was going to do that, I might name it project "Z", because there would be no worry about needing more letters of the alphabet after it. It would be the last project of any consequence for that gig.