There's a persistent “myth” in software development: Great developers are 10× more productive than average developers.
I call it a “myth” in quotation marks because there's disagreement around that statement in the software community. For one thing, it's hard to measure the difference precisely. Is it 2×, 3×, or 5× instead? And second, the adoption of agile management has tended to emphasize the productivity of teams and to downplay the notion of the solo rock star programmer.
However, precision and popularity aside, it's basically true.
The best software developers do have an outsized impact on their organizations.
It's interesting to note that this myth actually got started by Fred Brooks, mentioned in the previous chapter, in his essay “No Silver Bullet.” Although Brooks didn't believe that any one management technique or technology innovation could have a tenfold impact on software, he did believe that great talent could achieve that kind of effect: “The differences are not minor—it is rather like Salieri and Mozart. Study after study shows that the very best designers produce structures that are faster, smaller, simpler, cleaner, and produced with less effort. The difference between the great and the average approach an order of magnitude.”1
Brooks reasoned that organizations would be best served by focusing on finding and nurturing that talent. Indeed, most of the world's best software companies today do just that, as observed in ...