Why software teams tell lies

The Liars club.

Why software development team members are not always truthful about rework levels and project progress and what you can do about it. A Bioteam's guest spot by Bill Hall of the Australian Centre for Science, Innovation and Society.

Following on from the article Laziness, lies and organizational teams, Ford and Sterman wrote an interesting article in 2003 - "The liar’s club: concealing rework in concurrent development", in Concurrent Engineering: Research and Applications. 11(3):211-219.

The abstract says:



"Successfully implementing concurrent development has proven difficult for many organizations. However, many theories addressing concurrent development treat either technical aspects of the development process (e.g., precedence relationships) or behavioral issues (e.g., creating effective cross-functional teams), but not their linkages.

We argue that much of the complexity of concurrent development—and the implementation failures that plague many organizations—arises from interactions between the technical and behavioral dimensions.

We use a dynamic project model that explicitly represents these interactions to investigate how a ‘‘Liar’s Club’’—concealing known rework requirements from managers and colleagues—can aggravate the ‘‘90% syndrome,’’ a common form of schedule failure, and disproportionately degrade schedule performance and project quality. We discuss the role of the incentives on and behavior of engineers and managers in concurrent development failure and explore policies to improve project performance."



So what can you do to fix it?

The tendency is natural. Defeating it involves both infrastructure and behavior modification. Solutions involve a good tracking infrastructure, focus on projects rather than phases and more involvement with team goals rather than individual goals.

A project manager implementing bioteaming combined with a good supporting infrastructure would be a fierce competitor by comparison to project management companies falling into the default behavior of the Liars Clubs.

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