Friday, January 21, 2011


Enterprise Architecture, Project Management and Artificial Deadlines (Part One of Two)

The tactic of using artificial deadlines has been in existence since the birth of IT. Sadly, this practice is about as good as a one trick pony...

Part of the theory of using artificial deadlines is another fallacy in believing that people think faster under pressure. People can be more productive for a short term when under pressure because they:However, this is not sustainable because tight focus leads to burn out and when combined with ignoring low-urgency tasks (distinct from low-importance) such as refactoring code, cleaning the kitchen, etc) a lot of things just don't get done.

An important time-management and stress-management technique is to set priorities, and then address each task in a focused-but-unhurried manner. You can never do everything you want/should, so focus on the tasks that have the biggest payoff. Trying to "work harder" doesn't pay off.

The one important but often missed fact is that people do not think faster under pressure but they do think differently under pressure. They may be more focused, but they're not necessarily focusing on everything that needs to be done. Pressure places people in a specific mindset, and that can have massive repercussions. This is why stupid bugs can get introduced during peak development times, because folks are in that anxious, sharp-minded time when they're focusing on specific things, but not necessarily all the important things.

Did you know that the human body allocates resources away from the brain while under pressure? Both adrenaline and cortisol allocate more resources to muscles, and away from immune system, digestion and your brain. So under stress you're also more likely to become ill, or have digestion problems.

Adrenaline dumps resources into the bloodstream, shoves your heart and lungs into overdrive, overrides safeties on muscles, kills the safeties on the immune system, and on your brain too. Increased blood-pressure might have you "seeing red", overpower in your muscles might have you trembling and you may notice a distinct decrease in your ability to reason logically. Hopefully you won't need much adrenaline in your job.

Cortisol works by modifying your physiological pathways on the long term so that you will react more properly to physical problems in the future, including making adrenaline bursts more effective. Cortisol production goes up if you are experiencing psychological or physiological stress in your work.

Since IT is about developing high quality valuable working software and not the manufacturing of cortisol, what can we do to get focus on less stress as a way of creating more productivity?

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