project management

The Silver Lining Of A Lead Balloon

The Heathrow Terminal 5 story is not all bad. Yes it was a bit of a shambles, yes senior management was fired. But today I found some joy in BA’s misery.

A Metaphor

Now don’t get me wrong this isn’t just me deriving pleasure from others misfortune. Although admittedly as a Brit I am innately very good at that. So good in fact that it’s a constant surprise that the Germans managed to invent a word for what is typically a British malaise: schadenfreude.

No, the silver lining of BA’s lead balloon is that T5 has become a common intellectual currency. It’s failure has so clearly underlined the pitfalls of not doing enough testing that I heard T5 being used as an analogy in a recent implementation meeting. A.N.Other said:

“I would not be happy committing to that deadline if we had to cut testing. The last thing I want is for this to become another T5 …”

Nothing gives a better fuzzy feeling than completing a long testing phase. However if testing is getting squeezed out then you have to get management to agree to extending the deadline before you’ve actually reached that deadline. Indeed cutting testing is to invite what Steve Connell has coined as “Wishful Thinking”, and is the 13th classic mistake of software project management:

Wishful thinking isn’t just optimism. It’s closing your eyes and hoping something works when you have no reasonable basis for thinking it will. … It undermines meaningful planning and may be at the root of more software problems than all other causes combined.