Unwarranted faith in the GANTT

Product Management Aug 22, 2022

The biggest tragedy of the one-year feature GANTT chart, together with precise timelines, is not that we will deliver less value by operating as a Feature Factory.

The true disaster is the death spiral of demotivation.

Let me break down what I’ve often seen happen:
• One of the first big items on the GANTT chart turns out to be at least twice bigger than initially estimated
• Aggressive descoping takes place, and everybody works their asses off. Alas, we still do not make it.
• Leadership team is deeply unhappy. We have to step up our game to meet timelines. Hard efforts are not appreciated, and teams decide to produce technical debt to meet crazy timelines out of fear of punishment.
• Compounding delays kick in. Not only are the first things on the roadmap delayed, but we also won’t be able to deliver anything on there per our initial predictions. Everybody realizes no matter how hard we work, we will still not make any of the timelines.
• Technical debt kicks in, making any predictions even more inaccurate.
• Every two weeks, the delusional GANTT chart gets pulled up, and the teams are bullied for not being able to deliver.
• All development team members are miserable and demotivated. They also have to work on a product with an increasing amount of tech debt.
• Developers start leaving. The leadership team does not understand why and believes we should hire new people who are competent enough to deliver on a one-year GANTT chart.

Moral of the story: it is our expectations about adherence to one-year plans that are flawed.

The sad part is that I have seen this same cycle repeat many times at the same company because people were unwilling to change their beliefs based on the evidence in front of their eyes.

It’s easier to blame people than to realize your beliefs about the nature of the work are wrong.