Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Hypothesis: Too Many Men Spoil the IT Project

Gentle reader,

Men are the reason that many corporate IT project fail. I wish I could back this up with real data but this hypothesis is based on personal observation alone. I would be interested in hearing from others about this, I wonder if my thoughts are way off base compared to what others have seen.

In my experience, men are more willing to "fudge" and tell their boss what they think they want to hear than women are. So, they are overly optimistic about their estimates and how complete a task is. The root cause of a major project failure is often that nobody is willing to point out that the emperor has no clothes to their boss. So, things appear to be going smoothly until the end where it becomes too obvious to hide that things are really going very badly. At that point you have a big failure not a small one and it's too late to correct the problem. Women, on the other hand, tend to tell the truth.

Men are also more likely to over-complicate things - they are often fond of shiny objects, which in IT translates to the latest, greatest technology. Using such technology can be risky. Men are also more prone to working in some fancy code that's really not needed, just to show off. That code is often harder to read and maintain than its simpler alternative. Men tend to fret about performance and optimize prematurely. Women, on the other hand, tend to want to get the thing done in a straightforward way and move on. They don't need to strut their stuff nearly as much.

In their defense, and while I am making sweeping generalizations that are not backed up by any real data, men tend to be tinkerers and so are useful at performing proof of concepts and getting some of the tricky parts to work. Witness all of the men who work on open source projects on their own time and those who spend time tinkering with cars or riding lawn mowers. Men are born tinkerers.

Therefore, if I had to pick an ideal team, it would be one made up of a few men, and a lot of women.

Time for today's quote:

I have yet to see any problem, however complicated,
which, when you looked at it in the right way,
did not become still more complicated.
-Poul Anderson (1926-2001)

Until the next time, gentle reader, I remain,

Your friend,

Buford Twain

P.S. Am I the only one who is getting really tired of hearing about Randy Pausch?