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Why don’t software development methodologies work?

My long standing thesis that you cannot apply assembly line theory to software development, it is the people that make it succeed or fail not the process.

People all too often look to a tool or a process to fix their problem, but what typically happens is that all these things serve to do is divert attention away from the problem and distract people with process and tools.

Kind of like buying gym memberships or exercise equipment expecting them to make you healthy.  The thing is, if someone isn’t already exercising on their own (jogging, doing push-ups and sit-ups), then no amount of equipment or tools will solve their problem.  Instead, if a person is already in the right mindset and demonstrating the right behavior, then tools can help leverage performance to the next level — basically do the right thing, better.

My experiences and conclusions mirror those of the author of the article linked to below:

Why don’t software development methodologies work?

[Excerpt] It’s common now for me to get involved in a project that seems to have no adult supervision. Surprisingly, left to themselves programmers don’t revert to cowboy coding—they adopt or create methodologies stricter and more filled with ritual than anything I experienced in 1980. In fact programmers today can be much more rigid and religious about their methodologies than they imagine a 1970s-era COBOL shop was. I now routinely get involved with projects developed by one or two people burdened with so much process and “best practices” that almost nothing of real value is produced.