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Learning from Failure, or There Goes My Golden Week Vacation

As a systems architect, I must concern myself with project management issues. Every now and then, I like to check my head and reread a wonderful blog post from Reg Braithwaite on What I've learned from failure. I printed up a copy and keep it in my notebook so that I can pull it out and read it on my train ride.

This is a timely topic for me as I now find myself only a week away from the big Japanese Golden Week holidays facing the ugly and imminent possibility that I will have to drag my carcass into the office during the holidays to assist another project team that are in the unenviable position of being smack dab in a "project out of control".

This project is rather high-profile and very important for my current employer. Being an outsider to this project, I don't know anything about how it got to this state. Only three weeks before going public, with a large string of national holidays right at the end... Doesn't that sound like project management wasn't working properly? And it always just slays me when I see that the only solution upper management can come up with is to toss more people at the problem by asking them to come in over the vacation. Urgh, I am having flashbacks of Lumbergh in Office Space: "m' yeah, I'm gonna need you to come in on Saturday..."

Close your eyes, take a deep breath, and repeat this mantra after me: Adding manpower to a late software project makes it later. Fred Brooks is spot on there. I feel like I should bring my copy of The Mythical Man Month in to the office and start whacking people across their faces with it.

So here's the punchline for today... what have I learned from failure?
People just never learn, that's what.

Closing note: It just so happens that there was a recent thread on /. on project management. Great comments, especially from myvirtualid.

Originally posted on my other blog post here.

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Comment by Daniel Leuck on April 22, 2009 at 9:56pm
Absolutely. We did the same thing (in Japan.) I doubt many people stateside get married on Friday the 13th.

What made it so funny was the email to Lotus's engineers, who had no context, carrying the subject line, "Urgent request for Japanese superstition support."
Comment by Brooke Fujita on April 22, 2009 at 9:37pm
LOL, man, I have been in-country way too long to not have seen that one! All of my calendars at home list rokuyo, of course, and so I am quite used to seeing them as perfectly normal.

But then again, Kyoko and I purposefully chose our wedding day to fall on taian. And the kanji names of both my children were chosen for their fortuitous number of character strokes. Can't just pick any day for a wedding, and ditto for your name.

Just keepin' my bets hedged, y'know?
Comment by Daniel Leuck on April 22, 2009 at 9:19pm
It was rokuyo support in Lotus calendar. If you don't know what days are lucky, how could you ever hold an important meeting or do a merger? :-) Clearly Lotus had crappy localization guys!
Comment by Brooke Fujita on April 22, 2009 at 8:14pm
> "Japanese Superstition Support"

Don't tell me it was blood-type???
Comment by Daniel Leuck on April 22, 2009 at 8:10pm
Work through golden week?! I'm sure that will go over big with your wife. Sounds like its time for a new gig!

Funny story from a friend who used to work for Lotus in Japan: The first tag line for Lotus Notes in Japan was something like "Lotus Notes: It will make your people more efficient". When this pitch seemed to fall flat it was quickly changed to "Lotus Notes: It will help you ensure your people work hard". Next time I see you remind me to tell you about the enhancement request he was forced to deliver to the US development team titled "Japanese Superstition Support". Care to guess as to the content?

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