Coaching Session – Panic at the Deadline

I had a conversation with a new dev lead today. This lead was recently installed into a project with an upcoming deadline that he was genuinely worried about. As we started the conversation, the worry sort of came out of him in piles. When he was finally able to take a breath, I collected from him that 1) he believes that the code-base is largely un-salvageable (he only recently joined the team) and 2) the deadline is completely rushing at him (about a week and a half before the first delivery.) I had spent a few minutes looking through his project and coached him toward doing the following.

1. Get a CI / CD Pipeline Setup

The first thing to do here is to get a Continuous Integration and Delivery pipeline setup, so you can quickly and reliably deploy in an automated fashion. The fact is, no software comes out as a 100% bug-free product the first time and this software will be no exception. By building up the CI pipeline you’ll be able to fix things quickly and consistently. Every commit should create an artifact, and assuming success that artifact is something can release. If the software isn’t good right now, the product can get good over time.

This was the bulk of the conversation, as it felt like to him that I was recommending that he throw sh*t at a wall and hope that it sticks. The big value comes from the ability to iterate.

2. Code Doesn’t Have to be Perfect.

The fact is, when you have a deadline you have already agreed to, you have to get over the fact that the code is crap, and likely will need a rewrite. Code is a tool used to create a product, nothing more, so worrying that it’s “not good enough” is contra-indicated.

The dirty truth about software is that no code is good enough. Ever. There is always something to do better and cleaner. That is not to disparage the craftsmen out there, but a craftsman does not back out of a commitment. When you make a commitment, you keep it.

3. Keep Your Campground Clean

This one was fairly specific to the project, but in development projects un-merged branches and directories all over the place that are largely empty do not help anyone, and make the project look bigger than it is. If you have a REST API and a daemon, you don’t need a ‘Tests\Python’ folder that has nothing in it. Things that look small, will feel small.


I will check in with him again after a few days to see what progress he has made on those items. If he can get the CI/CD pipeline down, and know HOW to get the code into production boxes quickly, we can move into things like refactoring into patterns that might smooth some sailing here.

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