- Posted on August 21, 2007 9:00:AM by Earl Beede to Practicing Earl
- Technique, humor, planning, estimation, Management
I don't like being late. I have never gotten into the habit of arriving well after the party starts (under the euphemism of being "fashionable", like you couldn't get your clothes on) nor sending birthday cards after the fact (though I do admit the belated birthday cards are often funnier). I tend to arrive to meetings a few minutes early, be one of the first guests at a party, and make my trains. (With my recent trip to Switzerland, being on time really helped with the train thing.) Sometimes, if I am running behind, I will just cancel the item I am late for (as if I never really planned to go) and be really early for the next thing.
I, however, appear to be in the minority. Many people appear to enjoy being late. Most of the companies I visit joke about the five (or fifteen!) minute rule for starting meetings late. Not that there are many with me to make the joke at the scheduled start time, just one or two other people who desire to be on time. Most people seem wonder into parties, dinners, movies, plays, etc. whenever the mood strikes them. There are full industries, like furniture deliver staff and plumbers who take being late to a professional level.
Don't get me started on airlines...
With this seemingly mass movement towards lateness, why do people get upset when the software project is late? Should it not be expected, if not desired? Can software be "fashionable"? Maybe there is an "acceptable late" and an "unacceptable late". A five minute late airline departure from the gate is not a big deal; a fifty-five minute late departure typically is. Being an hour late for a birthday party can be OK unless, of course, it is a surprise birthday party and it is your birthday. At that point, everyone is pretty pissed (both UK and US versions of that word).
Maybe it all has to do with expectations. Are there expectations of time that include some degree of lateness as acceptable? (I have heard of places where being on time is NOT expected!) If I set the expectations appropriately, then being late is the right thing to do. If it is expected that meetings start late, that the party really doesn't get going until 2200, that the train will leave no sooner than posted, then perhaps nobody gets upset.
If this thinking about expectations is correct, then we should start setting expectations of lateness when we are asked about when the software will be done. We can say, "Well, here is the target date but it is likely to be late". We can talk about the software's completion being no sooner than 4th quarter 2012. A good way is to say the software is going to be really late then list all the things the person asking the question can do to make it come in sooner. Now it is a shared responsibility and the asker can manage their own expectations.
Perhaps setting late expectations can lower the frustration felt when fully-functional high-quality software development takes the time it needs to be fully-functional and high-quality. As long as they don't turn around and ask me if I expect to get paid for this.