The struggles of building the right thing

Surprises about what to build are the rule, not the exception.

At one of my clients, we had a discussion during the most recent retrospective about some surprises that came up after the developers began implementing a planned feature.

“Do we need more meetings to coordinate between the designers and the developers?” was one suggestion.

“Can we handle this asynchronously with Google Docs, to cut down on meetings?” came another suggestion.

And the discussion went on…

But here’s the thing.

There’s nothing unique about this problem.

Surprises come up all the time when building software. Misunderstandings are normal. Even when the developers talk directly to the customers (which was not the case on this team), the customer’s desires are never communicated perfectly–if they’re even understood properly by the customers themselves. When you put designers and product owners between the customers and developers, the game of telephone can only make this problem worse.

The art of managing a software development project is ultimately managing this very situation.

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