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Codermetrics by Jonathan Alexander

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Timeout for An Example: A Tale of Two Teams

Paraphrasing Dickens, one was the best of teams, one was the worst of teams. I was part of both. Two similar-sized teams, in two generally similar situations, each tasked with developing a new product for a target niche in about one year. Both products had modest goals. One software team exceeded almost every expectation, and the other failed in almost every way. The question was, which one was which, and why.

One team appeared built for success. Seven coders, every one of them with excellent training and experience, three of them graduates from renowned computer science programs. They were considered the cream of the engineering department, brought together to build an exciting new product. Most of the team had worked together for multiple years, some were personal friends, and the team often did things together outside of work. The company was in one of the hotbeds of US software development, and there were excellent design resources, testers, and an extremely nice working environment—pretty much anything the coders needed, they got. The schedule for initial release of the product was reasonable and flexible.

The other team was a mish-mash, thrown together more by circumstance than plan. Six coders, all with good experience, one of them a graduate of a renowned computer science program, the others with solid although unspectacular backgrounds. None of them had ever worked together before, and their personalities were very different. They ...

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