A$$hole Driven Development and Other Anti-Patterns

During a project management meeting today, I was driven to look for a reference to “Document Driven Development”, a great anti-pattern developed a few years ago by the Agile crowd, in order to emphasise the importance of working solutions, not documents, as the goal of IT projects. I was in for a few surprises…

Oddly, although the wonderful “Waterfall 2006” web site still exists, I couldn’t find DDD on it. So I checked with Google and found a couple of references to non-ironic (as far as I can tell) papers on the subject. Yes, some people seem to think that document-driven development is a good idea! Now I might be prepared to concede this for applications where documents are themselves the key business objects (some legal processes, for example), but as far as I can see this isn’t what those papers were referring to. If that’s the case, they really haven’t understood…

What I did find, however, was a wonderful blog post from a few years ago with the excellent title “Asshole Driven Development”, in which Scott Berkun has collected a wide variety of development and project management anti-patterns. It takes a while to read through all the comments, but doing so is quite rewarding, if mainly as a form of therapy. At least you know you’re not alone.

The list is pretty comprehensive, but despite over 300 contributions, I couldn’t see my own bête noir. A lot of large corporate organisations now seem to follow a governance methodology I term IAKOM (the “It’s A Knock Out Method”), known on the continent as la Methode Jeux Sans Frontieres (MJSF). Those of a certain age will remember a series of hilarious television games in which relatively simple tasks (such as carrying a bucket of water) were rendered impossible by the imposition of progressive handicaps and obstacles (such as carrying the bucket up a greased slope against a rubber bungy while wearing clown shoes and being pelted with wet sponges).

Some IT governance is like that. Just when you think you might have a fair run at doing something, a new governance hurdle or document check is inserted into the process. It wouldn’t be so bad if it all made sense, but sometimes it feels almost capricious. Some organisations are more enlightened than others, but as a general industry trend it’s inescapable.

I don’t know what the answer is. If you do, let me know!

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