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Stand up for Best Practices

I love working with development companies because they share a common desire -- they want their clients to have a great experience with their products and services.

Delivering a great experience requires dedication to following the best practices in every phase of delivery process. So how do dedicated professional teams sometimes end up in situations where these practices aren’t followed?

Groupthink

Great strength comes from working with other professionals on a team or in a meeting. Different points of view can generate better ideas that any one person could do so alone. Having the ability to weigh in also allows the participants to feel more committed to the direction that comes out of meetings.

Unfortunately groups are also susceptible to groupthink which occurs within a group's desire for harmony or conformity results in an irrational outcome. Even if a member does remind the group of a best practice being violated or it's not clear a practice was followed, that point of view gets “lost” in a desire to move the project forward. While no one person would have approved the violation of best practice, the anonymity of group vs. individual responsibility allows the violation to be “approved” by default.

How to Handle: It’s every professional's responsibility to ensure that best practices are followed. In a group setting, raise and continue to raise any violation until the issue is appropriately addressed by the group (either agreement to follow the practice or to escalate to higher management).

Rumor or Impression

Unfortunately teams can sometimes be mislead by rumor or impressions of expectations that have not been clearly set. A client coming onsite, overhearing part of a call with a client, even as simple as an executive appearing to be in a bad mood, can sometimes cause individuals to think they need to rush which may lead to violating best practices.

How to Handle: Verify the rumor/impression with the leader in actual authority for the project. If the rumor/impression turns out to be fact, then escalate the issue to your manager if it requires violation of best practice.

Unclear Direction from Above

Unfortunately it's not always clear to executive leadership what a statement like “It has to be done by end of the month” can lead to. Teams trying to do what the boss wants may make decisions to ignore the best practices thinking the executive’s statement justifies it. In reality, the executive is likely unaware that their general constraint implies short cuts that they wouldn’t approve of.

How to Handle: Inform the executive what tradeoffs are necessary to be made to make their statement a reality. Ask for explicit approval for any short cuts.

Wrap Up

As software professionals we are expected to follow best practices. Be an advocate for following best practices… follow them yourself and point out where others might not be following them. If you find yourself in case where higher management needs to make a tradeoff call... be sure to make the potentials ramifications clear so they can make an informed decision.

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