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Dr. Dobb's Agile Newsletter


In This Issue

  • The Green Shift Anti-Pattern
  • Book Review: Agility and Discipline Made Easy
  • Hot Links

The Green Shift Anti-Pattern

In astronomy there is the concept of red-shifting and blue-shifting: red shifting occurs when a body is moving away from you (the wavelength of the light increases) and blue-shifting occurs when a body is moving towards you (the wavelength of the light decreases). This is useful input for determining the speed and direction of something. In software development we have green shifting which occurs when people rework the information contained in status reports to make them more politically palatable to their manager.

A few years ago I was involved with a seriously challenged project. In my weekly status report to the project manager I would very bluntly list all of the problems we were experiencing. Strangely, even though myself and several others were clearly documenting the problems, all of which were out of our control, nothing ever seemed to happen. After a few weeks of this I ran into the CIO and she congratulated me on how well the project was going. I was surprised, and told her that the project was in serious trouble and summarized the critical issues for her. It was news to her.

After a bit of investigation we discovered that although myself and team members had been reporting the serious political challenges that the project team faced, when our project manager summarized our reports he decided to put a better spin on it and reported that the team found the project challenging. His manager in turn reworked it in his report that the team enjoyed the challenges it faced. This was the report which the CIO received.

The problem is that the project status "green shifted" as it rose through the various levels of management. The people on the ground were very clearly reporting a red project status, our project manager wanted to play it safe so reported yellow status, and his manager was more political yet and reported green status.


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