Monday, January 21, 2008

Maverick Software Development Model

(April 1, 2004)


The Maverick Development Model is concerned with identifying the best practices for a given situation. A model development process is one that produces the correct development process for the current situation and constraints.

A model of development differs from development methodologies (such as Waterfall, Spiral, or Agile) in that the goal or desired outcome is the driving force, ever present, and never forgotten. Methodologies are approaches to achieving goals, but to often the reason for the steps of the methodology have been forgotten and no one knows the reason things are done except that the method requires it.

There are many good practices that have been accepted over the years and some of them will be presented as well as personal insights and philosophies concerning the software development process and the roles that make it up.

It is time for software developers to become computer scientists. The computer scientist is a role that encompasses all of the responsibilities necessary to complete the tasks of software development.

It is time for managers to become leaders and to forgo the methods of management that do not improve the development process. The process exists to help the workers and not the other way around were the workers are there to satisfy the process. The tail should not wag the dog.


Since 1987 I have been participating in software development. I have watched the struggle between the programmers and product marketing, where the later sets the features and the delivery date and then complain about the quality, missed dates, or missing features. This struggle still exists and remains basically unchanged to this day.

I have witnessed the introduction of management to the software development process. This management consisted of processes with the idea of making the software development predictable, traceable, controllable, and manageable.

Several times over my career my various employers have trained me to perform formal reviews and in all of the roles of a review session. At each company, after the training and within a few short weeks, the review process ceased and the programmers went back to their old ways.

I have witnessed the acceptance and use of waterfall methodologies and their many variants. I have watched management follow the methodology with only the rigor that a true manager can attain. The requirements were gathered by product marketing and from that a design was made. This design became a hard and fast contract. However the design seemed to be used more as a defense exhibit (CYA) because every product date was always missed and development dragged on with no apparent end.

I have watched the release dates for the product set by the next occurrence of COMDEX and not by anything that actually pertains to the development of quality software. I have personally asked for requirements to be updated while in the development stage of the life cycle only to have management say that the waterfall method did not allow you to go back and change anything. I was flabbergasted! "The method doesn't allow" is a statement that just doesn't make sense. A method is not alive and does not make choices or demands. Management didn't allow the change because they didn't understand the goals the method was trying to reach. Management didn't allow the change because they can't change the process because they didn't understand the development process in the first place. As hard as I tried to indicate that changes were needed it was like talking to the wall. Where are we today? I feel we have made some evolutionary improvements that place us at a point to achieve revolutionary improvements. The idea is to recognize goals and create custom processes to achieve those goals for the current situation. One shoe does not fit all.

While working for the Department of Energy I struggled with the lack of contact the developers had with the customer. As a developer I felt completely out of touch. I had a written description of what they wanted. The description captured the letter of the law, but I had no feel for the spirit of the law. In 1992 I presented this analogy to my colleagues.

"Once there was a famous painter who was retained by the head of a European State. His time was so valuable that there was an assistant assigned to the artist. This assistant was to go out and find work for the artist and to gather the description of the desired painting. The assistant met with a wealthy merchant and convinced the merchant to commission a painting of his son. The assistant promised the painting finished in three weeks and returned to the artist. The assistant described the merchant's son to the artist and the artist painted a young boy in a silken blue suit holding in his hand a hat with beautiful plumage. The assistant took the painting to the merchant who agreed that the painting was exceptional but in reality it did not look anything like his son and that he wanted his son painted with is brother standing in a lane by a tree outside of their home. Needless to say the artist never delivered exactly what the merchant wanted. Each version became closer to the desired outcome but never just right."

My argument was that computer programming is only one small piece of the training received at the University. I hoped that we could be more than just a programmer; I hoped we could be a computer scientist. I wanted to apply what I had learned in requirements gathering, systems analysis, effort estimation, and design as well as write the code. However, my skills in writing code were expensive to acquire and my employer deemed my time too precious to be spent doing non-programming tasks that could be delegated to less expensive employees.

Also I have dealt with another extreme where managers that thought the developers where "prima donnas" that did not work hard, that waited until the project was well beyond the point of no return and then asked for raises and stock options and held the company hostage. Also the managers thought the engineers padded their dates so they could take it easy. There where managers that said they were sick of the attitudes of the developers and that if they were not happy then they should just leave because they are easy to replace.

If it wasn't enough to have managers without any real understanding of how to develop software I have watched developers dup management into believing heroics are required to develop software. Duped into believing that there is only a few that can develop the product and the rest of the developers are to take supportive roles. I have watched these clever developers build empires to protect themselves and become the very prima donnas that management complained about.

I have seen excellent developers black balled by these empire builders because the empire builders realized that this person was skilled enough to replace them. I have watched these empire builders wait for a power vacuum to occur and rush in and fill the gap. I have seen them target other developer's features that are late and secretly criticize the developer. Then, while the developer's reputation is in doubt, the hero works many late hours and rewrites the feature and presents it to management who in turn praises their effort and commitment to the company. The other developer is then regulated to a subservient position and is basically layoff fodder for the next round.

I have watched managers closely and found that very few managers excel at their task. Why? Leadership was the original goal, and management somehow was adopted. If a manager does not write code then what does he bring to the development effort? I have noticed that most managers consider their job to be reporting state in meetings. Therefore, they are only working when they are generating reports that capture the state of development and when they are in meetings presenting their reports. Managers are rewarded on their reporting skills and thus the amount of reporting grows beyond their ability to control. Then they assign the developers to help by making intermediate reports that will be used as sections in their master reports. Soon developers are spending one or two hours a day generating reports of the current state of the development effort. That state of the project has changed before the report is finished and the report captures only a ghostly representation.

In 1997 a friend gave me a copy of "Maverick: The success story behind the world's most unusual workplace. Ricardo Semler. Warner Books. 1993." I never read books on other people's success stories because I always figured that the revenue from their book was their success story. I reluctantly began to read the book and soon found a kindred spirit in Mr. Semler. Everything he said made sense to me, even though his business was in manufacturing. I could see benefits for software development. Eagerly I summarized his book and presented it to management. They laughed at the idea of publicly known salaries. When designing a new workspace for development I suggested that they give the developers a budget and let them pick their desk and chair. They responded that the furniture was an asset of the company and that the developers would pick a hodge podge arrangement that would look terrible. Wow, it was almost word for word from Semler's book when they were trying to select uniforms for their workers. I name my development model after his book, the Maverick Development Model. Mr. Semler has never met me, and the name does not mean to suggest he has supported this effort or endorses it in any way. It is my way of giving credit to one that has inspired and reinforced my ideas.

After being formally mocked for presenting the Maverick concept I went about my work trying to inject those ideas into the environment whenever the possibility presented itself. Needless to say, I was more often labeled radical, a loose cannon, and someone that had no idea of how real business works. After several years of frustration I decided it is easier to be quite and draw my paycheck. I lost all love for the software development process and kept my head low to avoid the laser-targeting sights of the layoff assassins.

Since I was unhappy with anything to do with the process I focused solely on object-oriented development and how to model systems in a way that the code was easy to maintain and be bug free. Before agile methodologies required unit test I had a personal policy of testing each piece of my code before introducing it in the system. My rationale was, if you don't have any confidence in you own code then how can you determine where a bug lies when you integrate your code with someone else's? I felt each piece of code had to be solid so that you can build upon it. You had to have confidence in some piece of the system; otherwise you will never know if you fixed a bug in the right place. For example, if the compiler is suspect, the third party libraries are suspect, the code from the rest of the team is suspect, and your code does not have some proven level of quality, then when the system fails where do you look for the problem? I have heard "compiler bug" cried probably a hundred times. In all of those, I have seen it to be the case only twice. Why do I share this? Because the evolutionary path that has led us to Agile process and Test Driven Development has be trodden by many of us.

This rationale of building on a solid foundation came from a few years of porting code. I have seen the memory manager rewritten too many times. You remember the guys that said, "You can't use alloc, it is inefficient. I read somewhere that you have to write your own to get any kind of performance from dynamic memory allocation." Always the reason was to improve performance. This piece of code then became a roadblock in the porting effort. Also, the code required the complete attention of a developer. I would say, "We are not in the operating system services business. We shouldn't be rewriting what the OS should provide. If the OS is not working, then develop to a better platform and quit supporting this garbage." They dismissed my comments as to hard-line. But I learned that we did not have a solid foundation because of all of the in-house developed services. The core service of memory management was now always a suspect. Many bugs were found in the memory manager. When something didn't work, were did you look for the problem? You had to go to the lowest layers and verify that the memory manager was not the source of the problem. Ironically the memory manager became the bane of the main platform as well. The system was taken to Intel to profile the product and suggest improvements. They pointed out that one of the trouble spots was the proprietary memory manager. It did not perform as well as the standard memory manager provided by the current version of the OS on the current hardware. The reason was that the OS people continued to develop and improve their services and to optimize their services for new hardware. The proprietary version, once debugged, was left "as is" and in a few short years become obsolete for the advances in hardware and operating systems. I relate this story because it is necessary to recognize the facets and subtle interplay in software development that the development process must recognize and support. If the memory manager would have had regression tests then it would not have been a suspect with every bug. If the developers would have delivered on the core business instead of optimizations of OS functionality they would have been better off in the long run. Agile has concisely described this as building the functionality that delivers value first, do it with the simpliest implemenation that meets the requirements, and use a test first design technique.

Since those times of which I described there have been some events that have occurred and set the stage for Maverick Development. One is the development of Java. The other is the acceptance of what is now termed Agile Methods.

Java has helped by reinforcing my idea that you shouldn't develop services that the OS should provide. This may be termed "don't reinvent the wheel" but it is much more than that. It is about letting others have their core business and trusting that they might be just as smart as you. It is amazing that the developers that were so concerned about performance and writing their own memory manager would ever accept Java.

Java was slow compared to anything we had seen for years. So, why did the same engineers that wrote their own memory manager embrace Java? Because, it was time to rewrite the system again or they wouldn't have a job! They had to sell management on another version of the product. They dropped the old buzzwords of web services, n-tier, peer-to-peer, and all the others. Regardless of the reasons the acceptance of Java has opened the door for me to try again to change the way software is developed. I have been quite for too many years. I love software development and it is time to present ideas and hopefully start meaningful discussions that lead to a revolutionary change in software development.

Agile methods have really helped in motivating me to gather my ideas and write this document. Honestly I am really shocked that agile methods have been accepted. The agile methods are addressing the same issues I have been concerned with for years. One of which is that of "the process doesn't allow us to go back and change the requirements." Finally in the name of agility you can go back and fix things that are wrong and work in a reasonable manner. But alas, as soon as you specify your ideas as a methodology, and there is some missing step for a specific situation, some manager that only knows the letter of the law will still say, "you can't do that, the process/methodology doesn't allow it." I have been doing research on XP for large teams and XP with Integration Testing. I have found many statements like, "XP doesn't do that" or "XP only does unit testing and Integration testing has to be added in a Waterfall fashion." Why do these managers "lock" XP down? I feel they lock it down because they do not understand the real problems and the appropriate solutions.

It reminds me of a 300 level fine arts class I had in college. Being a CS major and having artistic skills are not common and the application of logic to art is probably not something the Art Department was accustomed to. I remember learning of the masters, the great artists that had created a new style and had altered a norm and had become famous for their unique perspective and talent. Then in art class the instructor teaches you how to hold the brush in your hand, how to make the strokes, how to portray depth, how to do each and everything and then grade you on your conformance. If I painted just like Picasso then I would never be famous. I would be another painter that painted like Picasso. I had been taught what made a great artist and then told not to do the very things that made them great. I had been exposed to the model but taught to follow the method.

Why do I go into these past experiences? They form the foundation of my reasoning. I have always said, "It takes a village to make a village idiot." Without the foundation of understanding then methods are followed for the wrong reasons. I heard this story once.

A woman was cooking a ham. Her daughter-in-law notices that she cuts the ends off of the ham before baking it. She asks why. "Because it makes it taste better." Does it really make it taste better? After some investigation it was learned that the reason why she cut the ends off of the ham is because her mother did the same. The reason her mother did it was because she had seen it done by her mother. The reason the grandmother did it was because her baking pan was too small to hold the ham unless she cut off the ends.

Why do software development methodologies have the steps that they do? In the beginning the reason for the method was known. The key is that reason must not be lost and must be understood.

As computer scientists, instead of just developers, we have been trained to act in all the roles of software development. If your software process falls short in some area, we can fix it. We can have emergent processes if managers will get out of the way and if developers can wake up and become computer scientists and if we will work towards a goal and take whichever road gets us there. Life may be a journey and the road taken important, but software development is a destination. We have to lay down the pride, we have to give up the heroics, and work as a team. I guess this means we have to understand what work is. We have to understand why methods exist and what goals they are trying to achieve. We have to wake up and be thinking individuals that question everything and that do not want fame for anything.

Maverick Development is about goals and understanding. It is about accomplishing the goal the best way possible at that time. It is about changing anything and everything including the way you work, the way you think, and the way you interact with others. It is about removing dead end jobs. It is about real rewards. It is about trust and selflessness.


Work is something that we all know when we are doing it and we also know when we are not. However, to give a firm explanation of one's work is difficult. Work is physically described as a force applied through a distance. In creative processes there is no physical object to be moved. That is why effort is used to describe creative work. Distance is also a non-physical attribute of creative work. Progress is used to describe this aspect. So, with effort and progress we work.

In a methodology, work is anything that progresses from the current step to the next. In a model, work is anything that finishes some attribute or artifact of the goal. Thus said, work on a method is very different than work performed on a model.

Traditionally one of the tasks of management is to measure work. The measurement of work is an intrusive inspection that interferes with the work that is being measured. The benefits of measurement should out way the costs of acquiring the measurement. If measurement activities are not worth the effort to perform then why continue to measure in the same way? Think and change it. Make it worth the effort. I often wonder at what point thinking was disallowed. It sure seems like it has been disallowed.

Developers are smart and once they learn the rules of a game they try to win. When developers are monitored and their performance measured, they learn to perform by what is measured. If lines of code are measured, you will get lines of code. If number of bugs found is the measurement, they will find bugs. The problem is we have forgotten why methods measure these things. Management wanted to measure quality and then they created a process. Somewhere down the road we ran amuck.

The measurement process uses terms like defect discovery rate and whether or not it is decreasing. It was anticipated that if the defect discovery rate is decreasing then the quality of the product was increasing. There are a lot of assumptions here, especially that all bugs are created equal. If one thousand bugs where found and eliminated and the product ships with just one bug and that bug manifests itself you have a problem, especially if that one bug happens to loose and corrupt data.

Even algile processes are not perfect. Agile and iterative processes have the expectation of seeing the additions of new code into the product to be rather constant over the iteration. Instead we see that the last three days of the iteration the number of new or modified files in the system increase dramatically. Why? It could mean many things. Managers readily accept conclusions from journals and well-known experts instead learning the current reason behind the problem for themselves. Without the understanding of reasons the ability to correctly apply the lessons of these experts rarely happens. Simply said, "You can't rely on books, papers, and publications to solve your problems. You have to get in there and figure things out for your specific situation and this requires understanding of the process and how work gets done."

In reality the check-in rate could be the symptom of any number of problems. Maybe the iteration is to long or the build process is too painful. Maybe integration is too painful. It could be that the Use Cases where unclear and too much time was needed to design the code. Maybe it was dependencies on other modules such that coupling became a bottleneck. This list could go on and on. Most likely the reason is not simple, but is complex and there are many reasons that differ from each team and each person. There is no simple fix and there might not be a complex fix. It might be the fact that this is the way it is.

My point is that it takes more than methods and management to understand the development process and to identify when progress is being made and when work has been done.

In Maverick Development work is defined to be any task that moves things forward to the ultimate goal. Most processes do not measure time spent helping other team members. Traditionally if help has been given to a team member it is not unusual to label the person that needed help as a weak link. Being labeled a weak link is like putting strawberry jam in your pockets because in the next layoff you are toast. So, people will not ask for help. Is that what management wanted? I doubt it. This is what they get and often they cannot recognize the environment they have created. In Maverick Development helping another developer get work done is work. Helping the team move forward is work. It does not affect the person's task list in a negative way. If the person does not finish their tasks for the iteration yet they worked hard on unforeseen tasks then the person is still successful and considered a great worker.

When helping others is not rewarded you will see symptoms of it. You will hear developers say things like, "I didn't get anything done today because of interruptions" or the person that needs help will passively say "I hate to bother you right now for some help but I am stuck" or they will only ask for help through non-intrusive manners such as e-mail.

Work together and be concerned for others success. If managers are counting and measuring, then developers will only work on what is being counted. If there is no metric on how many others you helped to be successful today, then no one will help others. Maverick Development demands less measurement OR it demands management to truly measure work, which would be a very difficult task that most managers are not up to. Maverick development raises the bar on management.

Computer Scientist

The developer has to be more than just a code writer. The bar is raised on the developer. For lack of a better term I say the developer must become a computer scientist. I chose the term computer scientist because during my formal education as a computer science student I learned all the aspects of developing software. I learned about programming languages, algorithms, requirements gathering, quality assurance, effort estimation, software cost, motivating programmers, ...

The computer scientist is a leader in the area of software development. The computer scientist understands that heroic efforts can destroy teams and skew business perspectives into believing heroics are necessary. The computer scientist understands when to use multiple inheritance. A computer scientist understands runtime behavior as compared to static behavior. A computer scientist understands the costs of coupling and poor cohesion. The computer scientist understands activities that improve productivity and activities that slow things down.


First I need to define the type of manager to which I will refer. Historically developers have been promoted to team lead, then manager, then director, and on up the ladder. I have also noted there are two paths to manager. The other path comes from the business side of the company instead of the technical side. In the organizations I have experienced often the manager has a technical role. The manager reviews and approves designs and architectures. Also the manager choses the development methodology, the amount of reporting, the format for meetings and documents, coding styles, and other things that directly relate to the development process. In addition to these responsibilities these managers also perform reviews, do budgets, and report status. The manager often uses the position to inject their desire in one situation and delegate when they have no opinion. This inconsistent use of position is not helpful.

Management has to come to its own in the Maverick Development Model. What does this mean? They have to have clear understanding of all of the aspects of development. First they have to understand each individual. Why, because they are managing people, they are not managing skill sets and resources. Everyone communicates in different ways. Everyone expresses concern in different ways. Everyone is motivated in their own way. I would imagine that a good manager , like a good poker player, can read a person as well as listen to a person.

Managers have to understand why different methods and practices are available and know which practice to apply to a situation. Managers are too often like the ship's captain that knows nothing about sailing. As long as the wind blows the ship along the right course everything is fine. However, as soon as there is a problem that requires knowing how to control a ship the so-called captain is in trouble.

The skill set of a manager has to be greater than the average developer on the team. A manager in Maverick Development must become a leader. A leader is much more than a manager.

Patton was a military leader. He did not care if politicians were pleased with him. He did not care if people did not like him. The Vietnam conflict was managed. It was not lead. The difference is clear. The "feeling" about the situation is almost tangible. Vietnam was managed and the methods were political and had nothing to do with winning a war or fighting for values. The managers of the Vietnam War talked in statistics. How many shots fired. How many casualties. How many sorties. How much money had been spent and are we within our budget.

From Mr. Semler's book I paraphrase and quote a section concerning management.

"...Fernando was convinced that the Hobart plant lacked organization, ambition, and the necessary controls. He would arrive at 7:30 a.m., to find himself alone in the office until about 9:00 a.m. At 5:30 p.m. people would leave for home and Fernando would stay until 9, 10, and sometimes 11 p.m. This didn't please him and everyone knew it.

Many others worked long hours too, and their families were beginning to complain. They were convinced that the hours were temporary, until the company had digested its acquisitions. 'It took us almost a decade to learn that our stress was internally generated, the result of an immature organization and infantile goals.'

Fernando was firing people and changing things constantly.

'At the Hobart plant, and all over the new Semco, we could track with great precision virtually every aspect of our business, from sales quotes to.welding machines. We could generate all sorts of reports almost instantly with dazzling charts and graphs.. (I)t took us a while to realize that all those numbers weren't doing us much good. We thought we were more organized, more professional, more disciplined, more efficient. So,.how come our deliveries were constantly late.'

Work hard or get fired was the new motto. Everyone was being pushed forward instead of being self-propelled.

'During this time I often thought of a business parable. Three stone cutters were asked about their jobs. The first said he was paid to cut stones. The second replied that he used special techniques to shape stones in an exceptional way, and proceeded to demonstrate his skills. The third stone cutter just smiled and said: "I build cathedrals.'"


Maverick Development is based on leadership. Leadership is something above management. All leaders have management skills. The converse is not true. The bar has to be raised on managers. They have to be leaders.

Agile methodologies depend upon emergent processes. Managers cannot control this type of process because of its very nature. Maverick Development goes where ever is necessary to get the work done. When an unexpected situation arises we do not plod along the same path just because the directions say to go that way. Instead, in Maverick, we say, "Hmm, an unforeseen problem. What should we do? Go on? Go back? Go around? ... "

Leadership cannot be taught. Quoting Dr. Huge Nibley,

"At the present time, Captain Grace Hoper, that grand old lady of the Navy, is calling our attention to the contrasting and conflicting natures of management and leadership. No one, she says, ever managed men into battle, and she wants more emphasis on teaching leadership. But leadership can no more be taught than creativity or how to be a genius. The Generalstab tried desperately for a hundred years to train up a generation of leaders for the German army, but it never worked, because the men who delighted their superiors (the managers) got the high commands, while the men who delighted the lower ranks (the leaders) got reprimands. Leaders are movers and shakers, original, inventive, unpredictable, imaginative, full of surprises that discomfit the enemy in war and the main office in peace. Managers, on the other hand, are safe, conservative, predictable, conforming organizational men and team players, dedicated to the establishment.

The leader, for example, has a passion for equality. We think of great generals from David and Alexander on down, sharing their beans or maza with their men, calling them by their first names, marching along with them in the heat, sleeping on the ground and being first over the wall. A famous ode by a long-suffering Greek soldier named Archilochus, reminds us that the men in the ranks are not fooled for an instant by the executive type who thinks he is a leader.

For the manager, on the other hand, the idea of equality is repugnant and indeed counterproductive. Where promotion, perks, privilege and power are the name of the game, awe and reverence for rank is everything and becomes the inspiration and motivation of all good men. Where would management be without the inflexible paper processing, dress standards, attention to proper social, political and religious affiliation, vigilant watch over habits and attitudes, etc., that gratify the stockholders and satisfy security? ... Managers do not promote individuals whose competence might threaten their own position, and so as the power of management spreads ever wider, the quality deteriorates, if that is possible. In short, while management shuns equality, if feeds on mediocrity... For the qualities of leadership are the same in all fields, the leader being simply the one who sets the highest example; and to do that and open the way to greater light and knowledge, the leader must break the mold. " A ship in port is safe," says Captain Hopper, speaking of management, 'but that is not what ships were built for," she adds, calling for leadership... True leaders are inspiring because they are inspired, caught up in a higher purpose, devoid of personal ambition, idealistic and incorruptible... So vast is the discrepancy between management and leadership that only a blind man would get them backwards... "

It is a common known practice when hiring and retaining software engineers to retain what is referred to as the 10x performers. Maverick Development requires the same from its Leadership. Managers that are leaders will be 10x performers.

Trust is the key and here is what Mr. Semler had to say,

"We simply do not believe our employees have an interest in coming in late, leaving early, and doing as little as possible for as much money as their union can wheedle out of us. After all, these are the same people that raise children, join the PTA, elect mayors, governors, senators, and presidents. They are adults. At Semco, we treat them like adults. We trust them. We don't make our employees ask permission to go to the bathroom, nor have security guards search them as they leave for the day. We get out of their way and let them do their jobs."

Performance Reviews

Maverick Development changes the traditional performance review process. The goal is to truly review the performance of the team and the individual. Each person's performance is reviewed by each member of the team and this includes the team leader. There is no protection because of hierarchy, title, or rank.

For more information read Maverick Reviews.


In Maverick Development, compensation is public knowledge within the company. Mr. Semler points out executives with high salaries should be proud of their salary and confident that they are worth it. If they are not confident they are worth their salary then they will be inclined to hide it.

For more information on compensation please read the section entitled "Compensation" in Maverick Hiring.


In Maverick Development all meetings are to have an agenda that is known before hand by all attendees. The agenda should be concise and if the meeting is to be one of discovery then state that fact.

I have attended to many meetings where some important and complex idea is briefly presented and management unexpectedly asks for opinions and if there aren't any they will move to the next topic. This unfair tactic does not produce the proposed desire of gathering more information. Prior to the presentation, management has taken as much time as they saw fit to discuss the matter and formulate their solution. Then they come to a meeting and blind side the entire team with a topic that is usually nontrivial. Do they really expect valid input? It is like they are saying, "Okay you have five minutes, be creative starting now!" Or is it a paternalistic approach and they are satisfied with the stupid looks and blank stares? This approach does not meet any goal and is not part of Maverick Development. Present a decision as just that, a decision. Present a proposal as that and give people time to prepare for suggestions.

In Maverick Development there is never a lunch meeting. Lunch meetings are rarely necessary. Downtime is essential, and if you want to have a lively mind for the afternoon then you may want to take a break at lunch. Do you ever feel that lunch meetings are used to squeeze and extra hour out of the day? How often have you attended a lunch meeting and then afterward you still take a lunch break? Any manager that calls a lunch meeting is to be gibbeted in an iron cage outside of the conference room for all to see just like what happened to Captain Kid.

The 15-minute standup from XP is sufficient to relay the current state of development. Details are not necessary. If there is a problem, then the details will be addressed by all those who can provide a solution to the problem. If things are on track, no one cares to hear about each item and how "on track" it is. State is the key, not details.

It seems that some managers only produce two things that are their work products. One is meetings, the other documentation. Maybe three things, the third being carbon dioxide. The documentation becomes the information presented in the meetings. These items include endless spreadsheets and huge step-by-step procedures on how the process is to be maintained. (Remember in the abstract the comment of the tail wagging the dog!) When a manager is in a meeting he is working. A developer is considered to be working when he is writing code. If a developer is in a meeting he is not working. If a developer is filling out some status report for management, he is not working. When they are doing these tasks, they are doing management's work.

The goal for a status meeting should be to determine the state of the project. Not to pour over minute details. The XPM methodology states:

"...meetings with the Product Manager and the Steering persons should be context not content. Have the success expectations changed? Is there any change to the scope/objectives? Have there been any changes in the stakeholders/related projects? Are the benefits and cost assumptions still relevant? Are benefits-realization plans still relevant? Has quality been changed? Are there changes to project risk or risk management issues? In other words, is the project still FOCUSED on the right business outcomes?"

This is a method of achieving the goal of reporting the state of the project. Since Maverick Development is goal oriented, and any method that achieves the goal is fine, then this or any other way to discover the state is within the Maverick model.

If there is not a goal, and there is not an agenda, then there is no meeting.

In Maverick Development meetings that deal with details instead of status are called by those who can do something with those details. Developers call meetings on details to discuss problems in detail with peers and individuals that can create a solution, not with people that conduct meetings. When managers attend these meetings they try to do the tricks of their trade such as injecting comments to stimulate thought and regulating the conversation to facilitate communication. Stimulate, regulate, and facilitate, and managers hate developers that can't produce tangibles. Go figure.

Managers interrogate to find the details of the state of the process. Leaders investigate and recognize on their own. Interrogation is intrusive. It takes to much time. It removes people from their real work.


One reason documentation exists is because someone was trying to meet the goal of communication. Documents are created so that things do not have to be said over and over. Documents state things that are fixed, wrote down, and locked in state, thus the term statement.

When documentation does not meet the goal of communication then the document should not exist. If the document is not read then it clearly has not communicated anything and it should not exist. How many of you have ever put some comment in your weekly report to see if anyone was actually reading them? I have and many times I have not received any response from my manager. Clearly that report was not necessary. When my manager is busy doing what he really thinks is important he is not reading fifty status reports. Since in Maverick Development reviews are not done solely from the top down it cannot be said that status reports are required for the review process.

One approach that achieves the goal of conveying weekly status is just these three statements: on target, concerned, in trouble.

If the state is anything but on target, managers will then ask the obvious question, "Are you taking the appropriate action to rectify the situation?" How many times have managers pointed out the obvious?

In Maverick development there is one place to report status. There is not a team dashboard, and a textual weekly report, and a management spreadsheet. There is only one of these items, or some other single reporting method. If someone wants to generate a new report including other items, then they are responsible for the format and media difficulties, they cannot make this an assignment to others. The tail can't be allowed to wag the dog.

For more information on documentation please read Maverick Documenation.

Release Dates

Release dates in Maverick Development are based on real goals and supported by development.

In Maverick Development there is no "release date by trade show". How many times have you had a release date for a product set by product marketing to be for the next trade show? Where is the basis on that choice? They will tell you that if you miss that date we will miss our window of opportunity. The ability to market and display a product at a trade show is advantageous. However it is not sufficient to require the release of a product based on date alone. If the original time estimation for the set of features places the release date beyond the trade show then the feature set must be changed to correspond with the shorter development time.

Release dates are based on budget, features, quality, and timing. Product management will always try to set the date for release, the number of features in the release and the quality for that release. Well, everyone knows they can only choose two of the three. The third is always a variable.

Maverick development says that there are only two choices that are variable and that third, quality, is fixed. You can pick the features or the release date, but not both. Quality is always set at high. That never changes. No one will accept low quality. If you relax quality then you have opened the door for your competition to take your market share by merely reproducing the same functionality with improved quality. You have to have high quality so that the purchase decision is based on such things as features and solutions.

In Maverick development a goal can be set to reach a certain point in the production by a certain date. Since Maverick is based on real work, and doing work right, then it really doesn't matter if the date is not met. Work has really occurred and real progress was made. Goals are essential for a target. If the goal is to far out there, it is hard to hit. Should we get down on ourselves if we miss it? No. Why not? Because Maverick Development produces real work every day. In reality software is done when it is done. The scope can be reduced and thus you can be done sooner. Maverick Development supports these simple facts. Motivating development to work hard every day is the responsibility of the leaders of the development team.


Since Maverick Development is goal driven, the goals for the development process are essential. If a goal for development is to respond quickly to changing requirements then an agile development methodology could meet this goal. If you were trying to get awarded a government contract then a process based on SW-CMM could be the means to the end. Now, one would say, Maverick development is really nothing. It doesn't tell me how to do anything. The point is, you should be a computer scientist and you should already know how to do something or have the ability to learn how to do something for your current situation.

Maverick development opens the door for leadership and for understanding why methods exist and the real issues the method addresses. I am currently working on a Maverick Development Methodology for Agile Development. Maverick Development Model means there is a goal to be reached. If the method is not the right one you are not stuck. If you are not progressing, or if there is something missing, or whatever the problem is, Maverick says you must do something about it. You must apply your skills as a computer scientist. You must apply your leadership capabilities. Maverick Development Model addresses the issue of people that live by the letter of the law and not the spirit. It is out of the box thinking, but it shows that you have to have skills, knowledge, and understanding to survive out of the box.

Maverick Development demands that people are worth their salt. Reviews are going to happen and you had better be ready. Managers are not protected and leadership is the goal. Managers cannot promote mediocrity in Maverick Development. Managers cannot protect themselves from the movers and shakers. They cannot create empires. They cannot reward those whom please them and remove those whom do not.

Software Development Methodology for Large Teams


Maverick Methodologies are guided by these steps:

* Understand the current state.
* Identify the areas of concern and set goals.
* Consider all solutions known or available at this time.
* Choose a solution that meets the goal which is best for this situation.
* Act upon the choices and adapt or change solutions when it becomes needed.

This methodology, for large teams, was developed under the following situation:

1. Software and System requirements are not all known in advance.
2. Customer requires high quality in the first public release.
3. Team members are not all co-located.
4. The system is made of many components which are in various layers or tiers thus making integration a concern.
5. The team is made up of over 40 software developers.

The goals are for improvements in these areas:

1. Requirements and Design
2. Testing
3. Build Process
4. Iterations
5. Off-Site Issues
6. Development Platform and Setup


2D requirements.


Interviewing to capture requirements as a one time effort has been shown to be difficult and rarely accurate.

As recommended by most methodologies, having the individuals that know the requirements (the customer) available to development is currently considered ideal. If development is not restricted to one site then consider training individuals to be a customer representative. These representatives are trained by the customer and communicate often with the customer.

Product requirements must be avaible to development. Colocated development can use index cards and tape them to a wall. Distributed teams may choose an electronic medium. Choose a medium that is easily shared and easily updated.

The developer requirements must be considered as well. What are developer requirements? The most obvious is that the product requirements can be implemented in software. Other developer requirements may be that the system is testable or the system run on Unix based systems. These requirements along with the product requirements make up what is termed 2D requirements.
2D Requirements

Suppose the developers are creating an Object Oriented solution. Objects exist to satisfy requirements in two dimensions. The first dimension is that of the real world entity being modeled. The second models the behavior of the object in a computer system.

There will be methods that meet the requirements for both dimensions. For example you have an object that models a Car. There may be methods like get the color or set the color. These are methods that have to do with the real world object. But the Car object exists in the computer world as well. And in the computer world we do things like compare objects. You normally don't think about saying, is this car equal to that car. But in the computer system such comparisons exist. Therefore, Maverick Agile Development uses requirements for the real world and well as the computer world and these are called 2D requirements.

In Maverick Quality Assurance (MQA) three requirements are identified that are of this second dimension.

1. Object factories. Object factories are needed by MQA to allow for the develoment of test harnesses, stubs, and mock objects that are needed to develop complete unit tests.
2. Object Validators are validation facilities that examine an object for comformance with required values. MQA component tests needs object validators to check objects returned from a component call.
3. Object Equivalence Verifier. MQA tests will need to compare two objects to see if the are the equivalent. A test that needs this functionality would be a persistence test. Equivalence can be a difficult problem to solve (e.g. The Record Linkage Problem) and there may be a valid need to relax the definition of quivalence.

Factories, Validators, and Equivalence Verifiers may not be part of the model for the real world object. However, since the object exists in the dimension of a computer system these are necessary requirements that must be met.


I was involved in the development of a large software product with a large team using common agile techniques that had not matured for large teams. The development division was doing unit tests (some developers did test first, some code first) and a team of developers under the Quality Assurance division was developing the integration tests.

It wasn't long before the integration developers fell victim to "down stream" issues. The product developers where changing things so quickly that the integration developers were constantly playing "catch-up". Also, the product developer's code had functionality that allowed for unit testing but was lacking functionality for integration testing. The integration developers could not get product developers to add functionality to help with integration tests. Ideas such as making integration developers into customers so that they could drive product requirements was considered.

The solution I propose is that having those with the domain knowledge perform all white-box tasks instead of an external team. With the requirements continuously being refined, and the design emerging, the transfer of this specific knowledge is too expensive. The product developers don't want to slow down to help or train the integration developers. Therefore, product development is responsible for unit tests and integration tests.

Many unit tests can be reconfigured to be component tests. If stubs of a unit test are replaced with real components then the test is now exercising the integration of multiple "real" components. Because of this, component tests are more of a build/configuration issue than a seperate issue from unit tests.

A system is integrated when no mock objects are used in the build and the system passes all of the component tests.

Continuous Build

During the development of this large system using many developers it became apparent that there were issues with the continuous build process.

The goal of the continuous build is to present a version of the product that is always functioning correct for the features implemented. Another goal of the build process is to eliminate broken builds at the main repository..

This presents a particularly difficult task when the team is large. If a developer updates code from revision control he may only get part of the files of a large "check in" that another is currently submitting.. Transactions are needed to prevent getting only part of the files of a large commit.

Long running tests cause developers to save up their changes inorder to avoid the wait. When one waits to commit changes increase the conflicts with other changes and cause the developer to get caught in a refactoring frenzy. Since files are changing so often it requires the idea of relaxing the constraint of developing from the "head" of the revision control system.

I suggest code is always updated from a good build which is labeled as a specific revision. The negative thought comes to mind that people will be working on "stale" code, but on a large team with many changes the code is stale so fast it doesn't matter when you get it. One reason to get from a revision is if the "head" build is broken and you have made changes and you want to update your local code to do a build and run the tests locally before you commit changes. If you update to a broken build you will have to wait until that build is fixed, or rollback to a good revision, or worse yet you don't notice the build was broken when you updated and you think that your changes have broken the build.

Other processes for updating and committing code can be used. A patch process can be used where the differences of the local files are sent to a build machine and that machine builds the system and if it compiles and passes the tests it is then committed to the "real" build machine (the machine that has the revision control repository). This process can take a long time to perform. On large systems the setting up of test data can take several minutes and the running of all of the tests could be a significant amount of time as well. If you are trying to commit a change that another team member is waiting on it could be a few hours before the changes propagate through the process.

The continuous build must be as fast as possible. Distributing the build process can help with a patch process. Each feature team (or some topological division of the developers) has a patch build machine. But that alone is not enough. To improve turn around time the builds themselves have to be changed. The ideal is to have a build for a large project (which includes running tests) be no longer than 15 minutes. Doing a clean build in the continuous build process takes to long. For large teams a clean build is done every fourth build or every hour. Interim builds are not clean builds. In the interim only changes and their dependencies are built.

A goal of the build process is to eliminate broken builds. Before submitting changes to the build process the developer should get an updated version of the system and build it locally and run the tests. Usually this local build would not be a clean build. If the build process is fast enough this step should be eliminated. In Maverick Development you do whatever moves you down the road, and if there no need for a step you eliminate it. This is built on the idea of being a thinking individual that understands the ramifications of decisions and that the individual is concerned and will not do anything to interfere with another team member's ability to work. So, if the build process is a patch process and it is fast enough the local build is redundant.

Iterations and Increments

The goal of incremental development is to always provide an improving product. Improvements are not limited to added functionality alone. Improvements in quality or performance are valid as well as anything else that is a real improvement.

For large teams iterations are no more than 3 weeks. It is about planning, refocusing, refactoring, and staying on target. Any more than three weeks is too long to readjust. If there is a concern that the iteration planning takes to much time or is too expensive to do every three weeks, then the way the planning is done needs to be improved.

There is some overhead in pulling everyone together. If the Maverick Development Model is followed and meetings have goals reflected by agendas and the meeting will be as optimal as a meeting can be. Maverick development is based on an idea that software is done when it is done and there are at least a certain minimal number tasks that will be performed before the software is done. Since these essential tasks will be done no matter how long the iteration it does not slow the development momentum to have short iterations.


If offshore/offsite teams are used in the development, the iterations are two weeks or less. This increases the communication to a level that is needed for redirection. The problem is that offshore teams suffer from poor communication and may get off target and no one knows until it is late. The method is to use an iterative approach where there is always a working subset of the product until it is developed entirely. With shortened iterations you will be able to use the iteration to quickly see if the offshore team is working as planned and if not to make a course correction. Like other agile methods, this depends on the other processes of the methodology in place. The continuous build is essential for this to work. The offshore team must be working from a shared source base and a patch process will address the build needs for a distributed work force.

Development Platform

One goal for large development teams is to keep developers up and working and to get new employees setup quickly. While working on this large project I quickly noticed that some developers were using Windows based machines and others were using Linux based machines.

I recommend the development machines should be setup the same, using the same OS, same versions of the SDK and such, same versions of Ant, Bash, etc. It becomes an unnecessary burden to manage special shell scripts and suttle differences of each platform and configuration.

There is an argument that if the product is going to be delivered on multiple platforms and configurations it is good to have such platforms and configurations spread about development. This is where Maverick Development comes in and says "Why?" One of the most prevalent arguments for having the various machines is to detect any problems with the product running on the different configurations. That is a valid goal, but the solution of having developers with different platforms and configurations is not satisfactory for large teams.

With large teams the different development platforms typically find problems with the build process, not the product under development, across the various platforms. The problems with the build become the predominant issue with the different platforms instead of finding issues with the product deployed on various machines.

The configuration of each development build should be the same. The location of items on each machine should be the same. The environment variables and paths should be the same.

If the product is to be deployed on differing systems then the continuous build process should build the product on each varied system. The various platforms that will host the product will be maintained by those in charge of deployment tasks. They will keep the various platforms configured and working. Problems that have to do with code will be brought to the attention of the developers. Problems that have to do with configuration and deployment will be handled by the deployment team. The build will be run continuously on all the platforms and any broken tests will be addressed by development. If a particular platform is becoming problematic then maybe it is good that it was discovered early and you can eliminate that platform from the list of supported systems.

Having an exact setup of the desired deployment environment is not usually possible early on in the development of the product. Bringing the various systems on line is dictated by driving forces such as budget, schedule, hosting facilities, and other important decision factors.

If the configuration is standard then new employees can receive an "image" that can be easily installed. If a developer's machine experiences hardware trouble the machine can be restored very quickly to a usable state. With the same setup on each machine it is easier to do pair development. The difficulties for large teams are enough and we do not need to add unnecessary difficulties with various configurations.

Note if the development is in a language like C++ and there are multiple target platforms development will need to have access to these platforms continuously. Languages that have compiler directives and the ability to conditionally specify code for compilation (#ifdef comes to mind) require that the tests be ran on each target platform in order to catch compile time errors. The continuous build process becomes more complicated as well. An important aspect of this methodology is that there is no porting team. The developers are responsible for their code to run on every supported platform. This will give many benefits. One is that they will not write the code in an optimized fashion for their preferred platform. Another is that you do not have two different individuals working on the same code that might interpret the requirements in subtly different ways. When organizing the teams and if continuous pair programming is used, then wisely pair people with experience on different platforms.


Using incremental development and iterations for large teams pose specific issues. Working in such a situation I observed that requirements, integration testing, continuous builds, iteration duration, and machine configuration needed specific recommendations.

Developer requirements must be considered just as customer/product requirements. Making the system verifiable is a developer requirement. Using object factories, object validators, and equivalance verifiers are part of developer requirements. These developer requirements are another dimension of requirement and are referred to as 2D requirements.

All white-box testing should be done by the product developers. This includes component and integrations testing.

Continuous builds become more complex with a large number of developers checking in many changes across many files. The "head" of the revision control system may not be "working" at any given instance. Patch processes and lables are used to help alleviate developers from getting a broken build.

Iteration length should be no more than three weeks and if parts of the team are off-site then two weeks is recommended as the maximum duration.

Developer machine configuration becomes an issue with large teams. Each developer should use the same configuration and directory layout. This allows others to easily pair or use someone elses machine. It also allows for the use of an image of the development setup which can be used to setup new developers or restore machines if there is a crash.

Hiring and Firing


Hiring a developer is a complex task. To hire the best person for the job you must understand what job there is to be done, which level of computer scientist is needed for the job, and what level of compensation is fair for doing the job.

Understanding the Job to be Done

A clear understanding of the job is essential. This means that the requirements are known and specified as far as possible. This has little to do with the development methodology. I am not talking about big upfront design versus iterative or agile approaches. This has to do with a level of understanding of what is to be built.

Level 1 Understanding

This is an idea by a non-computer savvy person. This is when someone says, "I have this idea about a computer program that I want developed." If you ask them, "What platform does this program need to run on?" and they say something like "Windows", did they really mean Windows or did the mean in a Web Browser. This person has no idea of how long it takes to write software and what the expense can be.

Level 1 understanding requires an Architect level computer scientist. One that understands desktop versus web based solutions. One that can gather requirements, use cases, user scenarios, and design the software and select the development environment and the deployment environment. The correct computer scientist for this job will also understand cost estimation, effort estimation, strategic planning, testing, and all of the other aspects of delivering quality software.

Level 2 Understanding

This is a person that is computer literate and has an idea for a software product. They are aware of which computer platform on which they want the software developed. They do not understand the cost of software development. They do not know about development platforms, computer languages, open-source solutions versus major vendor solutions. They have no idea that runtime licenses can be hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Level 2 understanding also requires a Senior Developer or an Architect. This computer scientist is a specialist on the platform that is required. The computer scientist understands the current solutions, tools, and resources available on the specified platform.

Level 3 Understanding

This is a person that is familiar with software development and has experience in the area. A Product Manager is typically at this level. They are aware of customer needs so the requirements will be specified. They have experience with developers and are aware that estimated dates are rarely accurate and that costs often overrun. They know of these difficulties in software development but they do not fully understand why they occur. They know of the levels of computer scientists and are capable of deciding on which level is appropriate for the task at hand. They are familiar with the capabilities of junior developers, senior developers, architects, and the other roles of software development.

Level 4 Understanding

This is a person that understands the product to be developed and the details of software development. A Project Manager is typically at this level. This person maybe a former software engineer that has taken a management path in their career. This person could be very current in issues even at the level of writing code themselves, or they maybe a few years removed from the cutting edge development practices but still are in touch enough to walk the walk and talk the talk.

They know what the job is and what type of person they need to perform the task.

Level 5 Understanding

This is a person that could do the job. They are typically team leads and senior developers. They are hiring because they do not have the time to do the task themselves. They know exactly what they want. They could do it themselves if they just had the time.

Knowing your level of understanding is the first step. It is crucial. Those that deny the facts of their understanding will soon learn from the school of hard knocks. Ignoring your level of understanding is the first step that can lead to failure.

A word to the wise computer scientist comes to mind concerning the point of the employer recognizing their level of understanding. If you find yourself working for someone that you thought was at level 3 or higher and you find them at level 2 or lower you are in for a rough ride. They will not understand why you make requests for resources. They will make decisions purely on rules of budget even if you know the decisions will lead to complete failure. You will have to do something and do it quick. What is that something? You have to educate your employer in software development. Most likely it will not be possible. The employer will view your tactics as a means for you to lengthen your task to take the pressure off of your self. All I can say is good luck. Maybe luck will be with you and your employer will know another computer scientist that they trust which will back you up. I use the word trust here because in Maverick development you will find trust is the key to success. The lack of trust leads to many of the problems in business.

Hiring within your Level of Understanding

If you are not at a level 3 understanding then you are at greater risk of not knowing a good programmer from a bad one. Even if you are a level 3 or higher the risk is still there, it is just lessened. As Dirty Harry said, "A man has got to know his limitations." Once you understand this you can then work better. If you don't understand software development then you have to apply your resources and common sense. What are some of the "common sense" things to do?

Allow someone else to make the hiring decision for you.

Find someone that is at level 3 or higher. Do you know anyone that has hired successfully in a software development situation? Go through a staffing agency. Use a head-hunter to find someone for you. Hire a consultant to gather the requirements for the task and from these requirements then you can create an accurate job description.

Allowing someone else to make the decision is kind of like the chicken and the egg problem. In this situation it goes something like this. I do not really know what type of computer scientist I need to hire. I will consult with someone that does understand the job. How do I select this consultant? Since I do not understand the problem enough to do the task myself how will I know if the consultant I select really knows what they are doing? So now I need another person that understands how to choose a consultant. You eventually have to trust someone to do their job. Once again you can do some simple things when selecting a consultant. You can talk to their previous clients to ascertain their level of satisfaction.

If you are at level three or higher then you may decide to do the hiring yourself. Many at this level will have trusted relationships with staffing agencies and head-hunters to do some of the initial work.

Even level three's and up can review and improve their hiring process. Maverick development is about getting the job done. Traditional methods are not sacred. Methods that work for the task at hand are more important that organizational policies and former practices.

During the hiring process you must:

1) Define the job requirements

2) Define the employee arrangement (full-time, part-time, contract, on-site, off-site)

3) Interview with the purpose of discovering skills and talent that is relevant and pertinent.

Specify the Job Requirements

At level 3 the defining of the job requirements are at risk of being overly constrained in some areas while being to general in others. For example, the job requirements state that the candidate must have six years Java experience and three years database experience. Many times the language requirement is over constrained. As a senior computer scientist I know that the time it takes to switch from C# to Java is measured in a few days. The time it takes to go from Java to C++ is measured in weeks. So the real job description might say "Six years of object oriented development experience using abstract classes, interfaces, and virtual methods. Java knowledge is a plus." The requirement also says three years database experience. This is typically too general. Database setup and administration varies greatly. Is it an embedded solution? Are stored procedures necessary? Is it an SQL based solution?

Full-time, Part-time, or Contract

When defining the hiring arrangement be accurate and honest. Too often games are played with peoples careers. If you need a contractor for only six months then hire a contractor. Don't hire a developer full-time with the intent of down-sizing the operation when the software is finished. Full-time "types" are not smarter than contractors. There are many of the best talented computer scientists that enjoy the freedom and diversity of contracting. Also, their experience in specifying the entire gamut of issues in software development may make them more valuable to the level 1 and 2 employers.

Also, be accurate and honest by hiring a full-time employee when that is the desired goal. Hiring contractors or converting your full-time staff into contractors in order to re-arrange expense reporting maybe advantageous to a business in the short term it will not be so to your employee base in the near term. If you hire a contractor and treat them as a full-time salaried employee they will not be satisfied. They are hourly or task paid. They will not work 60 hours a week when they are hourly and you pay them for 40. It is not right to even ask them to do so. In the other situation where you take your full-time staff and convert them to contractors you can not expect them to be satisfied. Computer scientist that like full-time employment enjoy the opportunity to grow along career paths specified by the employer. Their benefits and salary are at a rate that justifies working without punching a clock. This means there will be long days and their maybe some short days, but on average every day is a busy day.

When hiring a contractor remind yourself that this is not a hard goods manufacturing process but it is the development of software. There is no parts list or building plans unless you are at level 5. The low bidder will not necessarily be the cheapest path. Every software developer knows that once you have started a task it will cost an extreme amount of money to switch horses mid stream. Suppose you hire a software developer and they have spent one year writing code. You are frustrated because the software does not do what the software developer promised it would do by this time. If you fire the software developer it could take one quarter of the time already elapsed to come to an understanding of what is already developed and how to proceed. In this example that would mean three months of absolutely no progress to the end solution. What if you don't fire the original software developer? Maybe they are about finished. It comes down to a matter of trust. Is this developer in over their head? If you are level 3 or lower how would you know? Maybe they are dishonest and are simply wasting your time and money. Everyone knows in software development the ploy of the lowest bid. They know that the employer will be familiar with the costs associated with switching developers mid-project and that the employer will avoid this choice at nearly all cost. So the unscrupulous contractor will bid eight months knowing full well that their true estimate is one and a half years.

Interviewing with a Purpose

Interviewing with a purpose is so fundamental you would think it wouldn't need to be stated. However, the way companies interview programmers vary so greatly I feel that a little refresher course is needed.
Consider the Person

The first thing you need to consider is the person. That is what you are hiring. The computer scientist is more than just a brain with hands that can type. Finding a person that fits the company culture is extremely important. Consider this analogy of buying a pure-bred show dog. Let's consider one of my favorite breeds the Australian Shepherd. You want a dog to win best in breed and in agility trials. You have a choice of a dog that does not meet the breed standard and is completely trained in the agility course and a dog that is near ideal to the breed standard but has not been trained in the agility course. These are your only two choices. Which dog do you buy? The dog that fits the standard because you can take the chance on training it in the agility course. The other dog can not change its looks. If you have a candidate for employment that is extremely talented but does not fit in or work well with others and you have a candidate that works well with others but lacks experience which do you hire? I would say the one that works well with others. If it is an out-sourced contract position this analogy will not be as pertinent.
Consider the Skill Set

After considering the person you must consider the skills and knowledge. This is where I feel many companies do not give due diligence in the hiring of computer scientists. What would be the ideal way to discover a developer's skills? Have them develop something. You know what task that you want them to do. Devise a thin thread of functionality, or some key part of the system, and have them implement it. Have a development machine setup. Have current books available. Online documentation. Access to the internet. Let them bring their laptop and any books they want. Give them the task to do and leave them to do it. No time constraints. They know to do it as fast as possible. If you have a coding standard, give them an easy 1/2 page abbreviated version of it to follow. Really test them. If there is some IDE or code tool that they prefer to use, allow them to install it, to go home and get it and reschedule for the next day. If you are going to pay this person a professional salary for years to come, what is the worth of the time to let them really show their stuff? Remember, good programmers are not necessarily good interviewers or good speakers or have developed social skills.

The same goes for hiring an architect or designer as it does for a developer. Have them do something associated with the position to be filled. Have them design a system and talk about the deployment issues. Have them role play and you be the customer and let them try to discover requirements and use cases. Maverick development is about understanding what the end goal is of a method. If there are other ways of achieving the end goal then those methods can replace the current method. The end goal in interviewing is to discover the best candidate. Do what ever it takes to discover this.

Have them Present their Results to the Team

After you have narrowed the candidates down to the best of the best have them come in together for a different phase of interviewing. In this phase they will talk about the solution to the development problem you gave them earlier. Have each of them in front of the team and the other candidates present their solution and talk about it. Question them all and let any that want to answer speak up. If someone is quiet then single them out and ask them directly for their comments. Then have the interviewers and the interviewees rank everyone that interviewed. Yes, have them rank their competition. This will reveal a lot about each candidate.

It comes to mind that there may be some issues with each candidate meeting with the other candidates and their discretion. What if two of the candidates are from the same company? What if one of the candidates is personal friends of the manager of another of the candidates. Once again it is a matter of trust and this trust is that these final candidates have and honor professional ethics. If you can't have the ideal situation with them all together then Maverick development says do the best you can. Use your imagination and talents and come up with an alternative approach that meets the goals of discovering a person's talents and skills. I cannot specify all of the possible scenarios that can occur in a paper or even a book. In the end it is up to you to be up to the task.

Preconceived Notions

Preconceived notions or implanted notions are extremely powerful. That is why they play such a significant role in philosophy and reason. If you have a particular notion about a candidate before you interview them it will be nigh impossible to not bias everything concerning the candidate through the affects of that notion.

One example is poisoning the well. If an employee poisons the well for a candidate and this employee would be working with the candidate then you have to step back and think. Remember thinking on your feet is allowed in Maverick. Why would this person not want the candidate to be hired? Are there real professional reasons? Maybe there are. Maybe there are not. Maybe the person has another candidate that they want to be considered and do not realize that their personal agenda is overwhelming their actions. You have to deduce the answer to the old "what's in it for them" question if you do not hire this candidate. If the things that are in it for them are all business aligned then the comments are appropriate, whether they are accurate or not remains to be known. It seems philosophy here comes to play and the lessons in fallacies. Poisoning the well is one of many fallacies that reveal what I think is human nature to try to convince people that your opinion is correct at all cost including throwing out reason.

Sweetening the water. I don't know if this term is reflects what I want to say. It is basically the opposite of poisoning the well. If a recruiter is sweetening the water and saying, "This is the best candidate for the job you will ever find" you have to ask yourself what is in it for the recruiter? Is their a conflict of interest here? The recruiter doesn't get paid unless you hire one of his candidates. It also implies that unless the recruiter gives this glowing testimonial about every candidate that he refers then those without the testimonial must be mediocre.

Preconceived notions seem to be the core of a long used interviewing tactic I refer to as tricky questions.

Tricky Questions

Tricky questions are built upon preconceived notions. I have heard it said about tricky questions, "I like to ask impossible questions. Stupid people will just stare at you." Really. Maybe this stupid person is saying to themselves, that is an impossible question and this interviewer has not shown me any reason not to believe they are an egocentric idiot. Only people that are having their first few interviews in life are surprised by all of the methods and tactics employers use to try to discover talent. If a seasoned professional looks at you like you are crazy for asking an impossible question then maybe you should ask, "Why do you feel this question is inappropriate?" Maybe the candidate is feeling that they have a tremendous set of skills and you haven't even begun to discover them. So, maybe you should ask, "Ok that question is difficult, and you seem impatient about using valuable interview/first impression time on that question. Is there something you would like to say to let me know concerning your skills and problem solving abilities?" There is little need for clever tactics or tricky approaches. Get to the point.

Why do interviewers ask these tricky questions? To determine if you can think. I think it would be fair if the interviewee could ask the interviewer some tricky questions as well. The boss should be as smart as the employee. Isn't it amazing that you can lose a job opportunity because you don't know why man-hole covers are round! My point is the value of the question is not properly weighted. Maybe a better question would be something to do with the programming task at hand, like, "what are the trade-offs of shared memory versus a messaging system?"

Also questions concerning development commodities are of little use. For example a question like, "How would you write a qsort" is not relevant when sorting is an IT commodity. You wouldn't write a qsort unless the one you where using didn't meet some criteria. Then, you would studying an algorithms book for a bit and decide what type of sort was needed, and then if it is a qsort then implement one by applying the collective knowledge of the algorithms text, the internet, etc.


After you have selected a candidate prepare to compensate them in a rewarding way. One of the many things the Boy Scouts of America teaches the volunteer leader is the value of rewards and the motivating effect it has on people. It would definitely add skills to every manager to volunteer as a Scout leader. Maverick development tries to emphasize the difference between management and leadership and the Scouting program is an example of this.

Compensate the new hire well and use your head when doing so. Suppose you have 75K budgeted for the hire. Offer them 70K and a 5K bonus if they will stay on for at least a year. Or, maybe offer them a 3K bonus and then save the other 2K to give to them during the year as they mature into their position. Use your head. Make the most of the rewards. Start the new hire with 1/2 of the annual accrued PTO immediately available. Give them a pay-scale and range of titles and such so they know where they are and how the can strive for more. Actually tell them your expectation of when they should have achieved a promotion.

In the review process don't tell them, "No one gets the 'Exceeds Expectation' status, it is only there to drive you." How will that drive a logical person? If "no-one" ever gets it then I will never get it. What you do say is that last year six people received the exceeds expectation status and here is what they did!

Compensate them with knowledge and training. Let them have $500.00 budget for any books they want. Also, find conferences or user groups or something for them to attend every year. There are so many local area users groups that long distance travel may not be necessary. You don't have to "make them happy" you simply let them be happy. You say, "Why make them happy unless they deliver." If you say that then you have missed the point.

Firing an Employee

And what goes with hiring that is never talked about? Firing. How do you select people from your software development department to be fired, laid off, or what ever term you want to use. (Isn't it amazing how people come up with substitute words to describe undesirable things?)

Three Steps to firing.

1) Make sure the review process is fair and functioning. Maverick Development proposes that reviews are done by every person on the team and they review the others and their managers. The results are posted and are known company-wide. If a person receives a bad review then they have the right to pull all of the reviewers together and discuss the situation. Why? This does many things of which one is that the person doing the review is serious about their statements and another is that misconceptions can be faced openly and the opportunity for improvement is provided.

2) Make sure you address the issues and concerns of the employees. I know a developer that was to be fired. My manager told me that since I was the team lead it was my responsibility to let him go. I said that he is a fine worker and I see no need to fire him. The manager said that this employee never got anything done. I asked the employee what he needed to finish his tasks. He said, "Two weeks left alone without interruptions." The manager said that he could have his two weeks, but that this was a probation period. I watched very carefully during the two weeks. The manager continually interrupted this employee. He gave him side tasks. The manager used him as a sounding board for varied topics (because the employee had a vast amount of experience in many areas). The employee lost on average two hours a day. At the end of the two weeks the employee wasn't finished. The manager said to me, "We have to let him go, we gave him what he asked for and he still did not deliver."

Most of us know what we need to do our job. If you ask us what we need and then you don't give it to us then you might was well fire us because we are going to quit anyway. No one likes to be setup for failure. When you ask an employee what they need to get the job done then you can evaluate and say,"Ok, I can give you what you request, but this is critical and your job is on the line." Or you can say, "What you ask for is not normal or reasonable, I can get Joe Schmoe to do the same task without these additional resources. You are not the right person for this task. I am sorry." But be fair about this, if Joe Schmoe comes in and takes the task and then doesn't deliver you have to let Joe go as well. You can not allow someone to undercut someone else and then not deliver. It is never acceptable.

3) Don't turn on the employee when you have to let them go. Games like, "If you sign this paper that you will not sue us then we will pay out your vacation." Well, I wasn't thinking about suing before, but now I am. Also, when you let someone go you can not expect to dictate to them where they can work. "Sorry we have to let you go. Remember you can not work for any of our competitors for three years." This engineer has worked and developed a very specific set of skills while in your employment. He is not going to have up to date skills in areas other than those that are business related. He has to be able to provide for himself and most likely a family as well. The intellectual property is all that you own. You can't let someone go and then tell them who they can or cannot work for.


Understand the job to be performed and hire the correct person for that job. Don't hire an architect when you need a junior programmer. Understand yourself and your ability to select software developers. If you do not understand software development then you are at risk of being duped by an employment candidate. Allow someone that does understand software development do the hiring.

Before you can interview you must define the job requirements, select the employment type (contract, full-time, etc), and devise an interview plan that will allow you to discover if a candidate is qualified.

During the interview process allow them to perform tasks that are relevant to the job. Allow developers to write code on a computer using the tools of the trade. Allow architects to design something using the current methodologies. Have them perform a representative set of tasks aligned around the job requirements.

Avoid tricky questions like "why man-hole covers are round". Why, because they are loaded with preconceived notions that all programmers that are good know why man-hole covers are round.

Avoid questions concerning IT commodities such as sorting routines. Few developers write sorting routines anymore. If a developer is faced with this task they will definitely use reference materials to come up with a proper solution.

Understand rewards and compensation and how to use it to the company's advantage. If you have $75,000.00 budgeted for the new hire, set back $5000 of it to use for a bonus and make sure you give the bonus for some reason or another. Not giving the bonus is not an option. Use your compensation wisely.

Use an open review policy that allows everyone to review the others in their group and their chain of management. Do not have impossible grades in the review process. If no one every gets the grade "Exceeds Expectations" then why would any logical person strive to earn that grade. Give examples of people that have earned the highest grade and what they did to earn it.

When firing an employee it becomes clearer that the choice to fire is correct if the review process is in place and is working. When someone has to be fired do not treat the person as an enemy of the state. It is amazing how it is one big family when they hired you and now it is business when they fire you. Try to leave a positive impression on the person. Their morale is crushed. This may mean months of unemployment and struggle. Pay them their vacation without strings attached. Don't try to tell them who they can and cannot work for either. You have surely secured your intellectual property and that is sufficient.

Maverick Review Process


The Maverick Review Process is a method in which each person reviews those that affect or are involved with their work. Also an individual evaluates each department of the company. There are no evaluation levels that are unattainable.

The Maverick Review Process is not the same as 360 Degree Reviews; however, as with most review processes there will be similar aspects.


As with any Maverick approach one of the first things you should do is ask yourself, "What are the real goals of the review process?" Maverick Reviews identify the main goal of the process as being the improvement of the team. Another goal of the review process is to recognize an employee's performance.

Maverick approaches include the idea that salaries are known throughout the company. If you do not adopt the "known" salary policy you can still use Maverick Reviews. In justification of the "known" salary policy consider it thusly; simply stated everyone should be proud of their salary and feel they are worth receiving it, if not then they should consider if there is fairness in their workplace.

The Maverick Review process is different than 360 degree reviews. Granted there is no standard for 360 degree reviews, therefore one may exist essentially identical to the Maverick approach. Unlike the Maverick Review Process, 360 processes are typically managed and controlled by HR in a rigorous fashion. 360 reviews are setup and determined by management. Since the 360 review is complex and requires a significant amount of time to perform the process can not be continuously performed. 360 reviews are often driven by a questionnaire and thus being formal and specified can be fed into systems to create reports from the review process. After the score from the 360 review is determined the employee and the manager go over the report and the manager suggests actions, goals, and methods for improvement that I will call an action list. The employee has the opportunity to modify the action list and once agreed upon the action list is then kept so that it can be consulted as the employee is monitored by the manager. Usually in six months the review process is repeated.

In the 360 review process the most difficult task of management is to compile and analyze the data. This is probably true with most review processes. Management has the burden of interpreting the data and making the best business decisions possible. It is estimated that it takes 20 hours of work to analyze and synthesize the data of each reviewed employee. That is why it is suggested that management sets up the review schedule, because it is expensive.

In the 360 process everything is kept confidential. It is assumed that if the reports are not confidential then people will not give honest reviews of other people. Also, a 360 review is not a performance evaluation. It is concerned with how you are perceived by others and how to better work with the team. It is termed a developmental approach instead of an appraisal approach.

The setup of a 360 review has many essential elements to any review process. First you set up the review categories to be aligned with business goals and objectives. In subsequent reviews the categories are built upon the previous review elements and thus the review process is evolutionary.

Finally in 360 processes it is recommended to use software to perform the review and generate the review reports. Since the 360 process is not a performance review and is very costly to perform they are not done continuously or as regular as a performance review. As you improve your 360 process you will increase the throughput of the process.

Maverick Reviews are concerned with the productivity of a group or workers and the individuals that make up such a group. 360 reviews is a general approach that has a wide application. Therefore the Maverick Review process is considered what is known in the industry as a customized instrument for software development organizations.

Maverick Reviews are a type of mulit-rater feedback. Because multi-rater feedback systems can be manipulated it is essential that you have the right people. This is a chicken and egg problem. To find out if you have the right people you need to perform a thorough review. To do a thorough review you must have the right people. If you want to apply a 360 process or Maverick Reviews to an existing team then be very careful. You could easily create a severe problem. Just as you can not dump democracy on a communist state you can not dump Maverick Reviews on a traditional company. However, gaining the benefits of the Maverick Review process make it worth considering how you can introduce Maverick Reviews into your workplace.

Maverick Reviews do not require an HR department to manage and administer the reviews. This eliminates the expense of traditional 360 processes. The reviews are simple enough to be performed regularly. The 20 hours of analysis per review of a 360 process is eliminated. There is no specialized software for tracking the review process. The process is simple and to the point.

The Goal of Maverick Reviews

To improve the employees on an individual, team, and company level.

How Its Done

Each person on the team reviews everyone else on the team, them self, and their management. The review ranking can be one of the following: great job, good job, or poor job. Great job and good job rankings may merit some type of reward. Poor job will mean that the reasons for the rating will be specified and discussed. Realize, a poor job rating will be taken personal because it is personal. Also, a great job rating is personal and when a person receives a great job ranking he/she is glowing and smiling and people congratulate him/her and all that is personal as well. All ratings are personal. Just remember that and work with it. A poor job rating has a concise list of the issues that caused the poor job rating. If a person gets two poor job ratings then they will lose their position on that team and will have to find a new position within the company or in another company.

Teams also rank other teams that have an effect on them directly. If there is a company wide bonus and it is based on product delivery and sales then the development team is responsible to deliver and the sales team is responsible to make the sale. In-depth knowledge of the day to day work of external teams will not be sufficient to allow rankings of individuals. Therefore a team ranking will be performed based on public knowledge of published team performance.

An example may help.

Suppose a team of five software engineers, a software engineer team lead, two software testers, a project manager, a product manager, and a department director. Each person reviews every other person. The reviews are taken and tallied. Suppose that the product manager and one of the software engineers receive a poor job rating, one software engineer and one software tester received a great job rating, and the rest received a good job rating. When the ratings results are posted the two that received the poor ratings are visibly concerned. Their faces become reddened and they scowl at a certain team member as if to say, "I knew you didn't like me." Let's suppose that the product manager actually breaks down in tears and leaves the room.

Now there are several things that must be done. One is the consideration of natural human feelings. Another is the specifying of the reasons for the poor job rating. Also it must be determined if there is a coalition or some kind of attempt to control the outcome.

First there must be some time for emotions to settle. When this has happened bring the review group back together. I would suggest that the review results are presented in the morning and the discussion of the review commences after lunch. Now comes the open discussion of the reasons why the ratings were given. All of the ratings must be reviewed and not just the poor ratings.

Let's suppose that when reviewing the reasons for the poor rating for the software engineer there isn't a clear issue. The engineer had given them self the rank of good. It was the other engineers on his team and the team lead that had given the poor job rating. The reason they give is that the engineer doesn't work well with the team. The engineer doesn't make his code fit within the architecture that the team has adopted. The engineer does deliver the projects and product features on time and with high quality. For this reason the other reviewers gave the good rating. However the other reviewers do not understand the ramifications of not working within the architecture as does the engineers and the team lead.

Now the review of the product manager is considered. The poor rating comes from four of the software engineers and the two software testers. It is stated that the reason is the product manager continually changes features and their priority. The product manager had given them self the rating of great job. The reason the product manager says is that the customer is extremely happy with his responsiveness in adding and prioritizing the features for the product.

Now the other ratings are reviewed. It is discovered that there may be some block voting amongst the engineers in that four of them ranked them self great and had ranked each other as great. This is suspicious because it is typical that truly great people under-rate them self. It is also typical for people below average to continually rank them self higher than their true rank.

Also the team ranks other teams that affect them in some way. In this case they rank the sales team and the executive committee.

What You Do With The Results

Now is the time for edifying. Edify is a great word. While living in Spain and learning Spanish it soon became apparent that the word edify is about building. So, it is time to build the team. It is time to build the team members. Why do a review process if improvements are not expected?

The engineer needs to understand the architecture better. In this mocked example it is discovered that the engineer didn't use the architecture because the team didn't take the time to teach the architecture. This engineer was the last one hired and had been left out because of the urgencies and other factors that detoured the necessary training for the new hire. Since the engineer is very talented he was able to deliver his features independently. Now that the reasons are understood the person is re-rated. Considering the actual work environment the engineer had performed a good job and everyone agrees to change the rating.

The product manager needs to understand the effect of changing priorities and features. In this mock example it is discovered that the customer really wants the changes that the product manager keeps requesting. The customer is very happy with the project manager's effort but disappointed that the company doesn't seem to care. Everyone comes together and they realize the project manager needs to revamp the development process to be more agile. Once again the team rates the product manager and gives a rating of good.

Finally everyone is looking at the four engineers that ranked themselves as great. They realize immediately that they had not been great because they had let down the new hire by not training them properly on the architecture. Also they realize that the were not great because they had been complaining about the flip-flopping product manager and had not kept themselves current in new development processes in which they would have recognized that a change in process was needed. They re-rate themselves to a poor rating of which the group overturns and gives an overall good rating.

The results are used to improve the team. This means that you have intelligent, thoughtful, and considerate team members. Injecting this process into a team that is known for its good old boy networks, heroes, and empires will cause disruption. How do you know if you have a team that will not work well with Maverick Reviews? First, open your eyes and your ears. What do you hear? Do you hear things like, "Don't ever invite so-and-so to a meeting, they drag them out forever over fringe concerns that are not valid" or "I had to work 80 hours a week for the past two months to save this company because no one around here knows how to do anything" or "We need to start an elite team of developers to engineer the next generation product and here is the list of people that qualify." Those are some of the things you may hear. But what about things you may see? Are there certain teams that get all of the perks, all of the ten cent options, or the lion's share of the bonus pool? Are there certain groups that walk on water, than can not be frustrated or disturbed, or that are declared hands-off?

In Maverick Reviews there are no ranks that are used as an enticement. There is no exceeds expectations rank that no one can attain and is continually dangled as a carrot.

The results of the review do not need to be archived or maintained in a database. Any "dirty laundry" from the review stays with those that participated in the review. Talking about someone's performance to other teams and individuals will result in the "informer" getting a poor rating once they are discovered.

How Often Do You Have Reviews?

This will depend on the software development methodology that is being used. The goal would be to review the team members after the team members have met some kind of milestone. In an XP world this could be at the end of each release. In a Waterfall world this could be at the end of the development phase for each feature, component, or whatever your choice is for dividing up the work.

Since the team members perform the review you do not need to schedule HR or any resources other than the team itself. Maverick reviews also include the review of other teams as well as your own. Those reviews would be done when a larger corporate milestone is met such as the completion of a business quarter. Remember, this is a Maverick approach so do the review when it makes sense. When does it makes sense to do one? Probably when there is some data available such as the quarterly numbers, the results of the end of release reflection, or any other event that your company deems important.

A little story to help in deciding how often to review. My example is a basketball game. The scenario is this, there is one 0.2 seconds on the clock, your team is down by one point, and you are at the foul line. You miss both foul shots and the othe team in-bounds the ball and the clock expires. You lose. Everyone looks at you because you lost the game. I call this the last shot at the end of game syndrome. No one seems to remember that in the first half of the game that the Center missed two easy dunks and had the ball stripped from his hands four times.

I hope you get the point of my story. If your company does reviews on a six month or once a year basis then you need to make sure you don't goof anything up in the last few weeks before the review. All of your other activities during the year will be discounted due to human nature.

Review often so that the results are timely with the current state of the company.

OK, Now I Have To Fire Someone

As a guideline the participants of the process that hires someone are the participants in the process that fires someone. When hiring a member of a software development team the entire team participates in the hiring process. Thus the entire team participates in the firing process. When hiring a manager the participants are typically the ones that make up the reporting chain. When firing a manager the participants of the reporting chain will consider the reviews given by each team that works with the particular manager.

Suppose that someone has two successive poor ratings. The person must find a new position. You can feel confident that the review process is accurate. In Maverick Reviews and other multi-rater review process you will have fewer problems with correct ranking. The burden doesn't rest on someone that may be removed from the real work. The burden doesn't rest on one individual. The, what have I done for you lately, the last shot of the game syndrome, the horns and halo description is eliminated or at least greatly reduced.

In Maverick, if someone is "fired" from their team they can apply for any open position within the company. Just because a person doesn't perform well in one circumstance doesn't mean that they will not excel in another. Realistically it would be difficult for the person to find a position unless the team they left has a bad reputation of treating its members unfairly.
Whistle Blowing and Anonymous Complaints

There are other ways to learn information about a team or individual. Sometimes there is a whistle blower that can bring attention to a problem that needs addressing. Sometimes there are simple complaints that are made. These are all tidbits of information that should be taken serious. Listen, watch, and learn. That is the key. Don't delegate the responsibility of knowing your team and your company to the bean counters or soul-less reports, charts, and dash boards. Use their information but don't depend on it solely.


Maverick Reviews are a customized instrument for a multi-rated or 360 degree review process.

Make sure you have a team that is concerned about the welfare of each other before you introduce the review process.

A fundamental piece of information to make the review process work is that of everyone's salary is known. This does not cause civil war unless salaries are unfair. Unreasonable people will be removed through the review process.

The goal of the review process is to improve individuals, teams, and companies. Maverick teams are teams that are made of individuals that want to do a good job. It is the people that make the difference.


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