The reality is that most hit games released have missed their original ship date, budget and scope. Detailed planning, bloated budgets, staffing and crunch inflicted on the developers haven’t proven to be a cure. A Better Planning Method, Agile Game Development, Sep 15, 2008.
This is a great quote from a few years ago that summarized my own experience. The key is the product is a “hit” but it wasn’t delivered on time and all attempts to deliver on time (planning, budgeting, staffing, cracking the whip) didn’t help.
This reality, a successful product but not a successful engineering and project effort, is one of the reasons I believe we so easily slip into poor engineering and management practices.
I had been planning a fairly small project to produce a new product. It was considered to be “managed so well” that we took it and expanded it by 300% in products and almost 500% in features and then we pulled in the schedule by two months!
This was the project where I stopped purchasing the discounted company stock since I concluded the company had a long way to go and wasn’t making much progress in smart management. You know what? The products were successful. OK, we delayed our most profitable version and delivered it after the economy version, which means it didn’t make the larger margins we needed, so not perfect.
I found myself conflicted. We totally messed up what could have been a great project, but all was forgotten once the product did well. Because the product was successful, we repeated the flawed process for several more years (typically being 3-6 months late with each product). In these years we also experienced launching a product that literally changed the industry. Ugh. We again did this using the same flawed process (and being late and buggy).
We then went on to try and dominate the market by all but giving away our top selling product. We finally put out our next big product, on time with great quality, but it went out in a time of massive discounting (which we initiated) but at full price … so our product sat on shelves for years (we had produced millions).
So in some ways, success can be a very bad thing and only perpetuate bad practices until they finally eat out the soul of the company.
When have you seen apparent success be an excuse to continue poor management or engineering practices?