Sympathy for the Devil

  • Dilbert:  We still have too many software faults.  We’ll miss our ship date.
  • Pointy:  Move the list of faults to the “Future Development” column and ship it.
  • Pointy (thinking):  90% of this job is figuring out what to call stuff.

It’s not often I feel sympathy for Scott Adams’ idiot Pointy Haired Boss, so yesterday’s edition deserves a comment.

Every non-trivial project, including many which don’t involve programming in any sense, eventually reaches this point.  Rands talks about the issue; so does Joe Bork. (Edit 11/6/07: Here’s Eric Nehrlich of Fog Creek making the same point.) Of course we’d prefer to build a perfect process, but there are competing concerns.  Eventually, you must move the loose ends to Phase II, or you’ll never complete the project.  One of the manager’s jobs is to recognize the necessities/ expectations/ intentions driving the project, and to find the balance point.  The resulting conversation (more likely, meeting) will sound pretty much like the May 4 strip.

The last panel’s right, too.  Applying appropriate labels is a fair part of the job.  Pointy’s usual problem is that he gets this wrong.

Three panels just aren’t enough to carry the argument–you have to already know about Pointy for the joke to make sense.  If Adams had been building to this strip for a week–showing that the project really had spun out of control, and that Pointy really doesn’t know how to balance this stuff–I’d like it a lot better. 

Or perhaps I just don’t understand.

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