One of the big challenges about statistics is that they aren’t a guarantee of anything. For example, projects that don’t do unit testing typically have 35 to 50 percent higher defect densities than projects which do unit testing. When that “bad” project gets into into integration testing, things are pretty sure to not go well.
But, there’s something worse than ignoring the statistics in the first place. Sometimes, when bad things come to pass, we reach for cliches like “when the going gets tough, the tough get going.”
It was just the other day that I was discussing one of these projects that had gone south. The QA team has successfully used the data they had to convince the project manager that things weren’t going to play out well. The project manager took that to his manager, who said, effectively, “what have you got against teamwork?” He was saying this like a football coach attempts to pep up his losing team.
We love the pep talk. How many sports movies focus on an underdog who pulls together after a rousing speech from the coach? How many movies show the rousing speech followed by the team losing? None that I can think of. Why? Because nobody writes stories about teamwork failing. That’d be a depressing story. But, in every game, at halftime, you can bet that both coaches are busily trying to pep up their team. And that means, that fifty percent off the time, more or less, teamwork (and heroism) DOESN’T WORK!
We only see the times it works out and we only remember the times it works out. The losers don’t write history.
So, getting back to this project. There is some chance that the team will pull together and that they’ll rescue the project. Then, the manager will forget the data that predicted that they’d be in a mess in the first place, and remember that heroism seemed to solve it. Heroism is a dangerous thing, because either you’re a hero, or you’re the dragon’s dinner. Only one comes home to tell the story; the cautionary tale isn’t alive to tell it.