Until today I had no idea what Ferragosto was.  According to Wikipedia it is an Italian holiday where “Close to the entire month of August is taken as vacation and leisure time…”

The project I’m on is know less for it’s velocity than it is known for the stunningly good looks of its team leads.  As I blogged a couple of months back, we’re supposed to be in “Crunch Mode” right now so that we can meet the arbitrary hard deadline that management is imposing.  To tell you the truth, I’ve never seen a “Crunch Mode” quite like this.

Instead of the development team having to bust its collective testicoli to get things done, we’re all just sitting around.  Every day the hard deadline is nearer, yet every day we actually have less and less to do.  This isn’t because we are whittling away the backlog.  Its direct cause is that no work has been handed over to us by the designers and business analysts.

It’s an interesting situation.  There is lots of backlog remaining, but none of it has been prepared for development.  Every week I have a status meeting where, for the last 4 weeks (this week will be the same again), I tell management that we’re falling further and further behind.  I give examples of numerous backlog items that should have been delivered to the development team, but have yet to appear.  I figured that by displaying my concern and vocalizing the point-in-time state of the development effort I would stir up a little bit of anxious urgency.  Nothing.  Instead of the pressure being put on to deliver the backlog, or even just pieces of it, to development the schedule gets revamped so that all the items that are currently late now appear as work sometime in the coming months.

I suppose that this is the easy way to ensure that you’re on schedule, but it has some serious ramifications.  Unbelievably this happened two weeks ago.  No longer was there the pressure for all the late backlog items to be delivered.  Instead they were deliverable in September.  Roll ahead two weeks and now we have the same problem all over again, except with different backlog items.  I’m quite interested in seeing what will happen when that comes out in our status meeting.

What can we, the development team, do?  At this point I think that we have to stay nimble and ready to react.  I can’t fill the down time with refactoring tasks for fear of an avalanche of work arriving while we have the application in a partially refactored state.  Hopefully the last 8 months have allowed us to get the codebase into a state where we can easily add and modify when we do get work.  We need to work on getting and keeping our environments in a state where they will work flawlessly (here that means only going down once a day) when we need them.  We also need to get the new hires up to speed as quickly as possible when they start.  Yes, new hires.  Apparently we need them because we aren’t capable of keeping up with the work load that we have.