Pizza Box Management

A sterotypical “enterprise software” project: a team of 50 consultants imported to do the work of ten, politics everywhere, a series of death marches, unclear requirements for replacement of a legacy system that no one understands, and too many managers all looking for a reason to exist. The top customer suit calls in representatives from the consulting firms doing the work (of course, there’s not just one contractor – that would be too efficient) and delivers a lecture on hard work. If the developers would just work harder, he claims, they could catch up with the (completely unrealistic) schedule. “You can’t be working nights and weekends like you should,” he says. “I don’t see any pizza boxes when I arrive in the morning!”

The story is true, and I was there when it happened. Brits are supposed to be masters of irony, but this chap must have had his detector switched off. I guess he would have been happy to breeze in at 0900, tie immaculately pressed, and get a bleary-eyed “hello” from a group of unkempt developers covered in tomato-sauce stains after an all-nighter – and the contrast was completely lost on him. And that’s not to mention the defects those developers would surely have been creating during their crunch time.

Thankfully, at youDevise we don’t practise pizza-box management. Developers sign up for a reasonable set of tasks in each iteration and leave themselves enough slack for learning new skills or removing productivity drains – for example, some of us are learning Scala and others are trying out Selenium RC.

Some folks do like working in the evenings or from home, but we have a firm policy against checkins after midnight and discourage overtime of any kind. On the occasions where a late-night or weekend task is required, we ensure that the person affected takes comp time to catch up on rest (this affects operations staff particularly).

By the way, back to that consulting project – the next time we did order pizza for an evening session, I took the boxes upstairs to the suit’s desk and piled them on his chair. The pile stretched most of the way to the ceiling and was deeply satisfying. We didn’t get any more lectures about hard work for the rest of the project.

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