The Fallacy of Repeatability


—Andy Hunt

02/23/2003
Published in Andy's Blog

We are so good at chasing phantoms.

Take “process repeatability”. Please.

The CMM and ISO folks are completely hung up on the idea that a development process must be repeatable. Like a PlayDoh machine, just throw programmers and ideas in, turn the crank, and out pops a well-formed, repeatable product, time after time.

Folks, it just doesn’t work that way.

We write software. Are writers repeatable? How about Hollywood movies? Okay, you can turn out the same movie with a different title time and again (c.f. “Rocky N”, where N is a monotonically increasing number, or Grisham’s The Lawyer|Client|Judge|Juror|etc), but repeatable success in these industries is pretty rare. When it does happen, it’s because of the talented people involved in the project—not the studio or publisher’s process.

The raw ingredient in software development is people. And people aren’t very repeatable. Teams of people, otherwise known as small “social systems”, are even less repeatable.

If we want repeatable success, then, perhaps we should more closely at talent, and forget about the mythical process-PlayDoh machine.

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