Last night, while watching the
first of the Kerry/Bush debates, I was struck by what a terrible programming project leader President Bush would make.
He kept repeating the importance of staying on the course that was originally set out on, even in the face of things not going as planned: “the way to win this is to be steadfast and resolved and to follow through on the plan.” He also said that changing course would be demoralizing to the troops: “What kind of message does it say to our troops in harm’s way, ‘wrong war, wrong place, wrong time?’”
I certainly know that that approach doesn’t work on programming projects. If there’s one thing that seasoned programmers know, it’s that projects never go as planned, and course correction is critical. Even worse, the programmers in the trenches know how the project is going, and aren’t inspired when things carry on as if nothing is wrong. For a project leader to act as if there are no problems is insulting to those doing the work.
If the war in Iraq was a programming project, Bush would need to be saying, regularly, “I know things aren’t going well, I know that you’ve had a lot of casualties on the team, but I believe we can get through this. Now, here’s what we’re going to do differently to make sure that we come out of this project alive.”
Of course, if the war were a programming project, it’d never have gotten management approval in the first place. What are our requirements? What are our milestones? How are we doing? How do we know when the project is over? What’s the timeframe for completion? What’s the success metric? Is the iRaq project really the best way to beef up the company’s security?
Over a year into the project, having lost over 1,000 employees, Bush The Project Leader would just be pointing at a handful of completed tasks: “We got rid of that old, buggy Hoo-Sane system. The company’s better off without it. We’re still having problems building the replacement, and a lot of programmers are burning out, because it’s a bigger task than I thought, but at least we got rid of the Hoo-Sane system that I’ve always wanted to replace.”
I doubt I’d be a good politician, but I know for sure GWB wouldn’t be any good on any projects I’ve been on.