Agile software development is partly based on the idea that a series of shorter deadlines is better than a single big crunch. But how short can we go?
The Welsh poet Dylan Thomas was frantically finishing the script to one of his greatest works—the radio play Under Milk Wood—just moments before the voice actors took to the sound stage for its maiden performance. He’d known about the deadline for months, but in the end, Thomas had to be locked in a room by his agent to finally finish the play that had been on his mind in one form or another for much of his life.
If you’re a software developer, this might sound familiar. Even when we have months to complete a project, we often find ourselves struggling as the deadline looms. This isn’t because we’re lazy: it’s because other work gets in the way, or dependencies don’t deliver, or scope changes, or tiny unexpected things bog us down for days. We add developers, or skip tests, or work longer hours. In the last couple of weeks we may even find ourselves locked in a room, as Thomas did, for the final bleary-eyed push.