Monday, March 05, 2007

Traffic Jams and Software Development

I was sitting in construction-induced gridlock a few days ago when I had an epiphany. In retrospect, I can't believe I made the same mistake that everyone else makes. I can't believe I considered traffic jams a bad thing. Traffic jams are awesome!

On the surface, this isn't obvious. But once you begin applying best practices of software project management, it becomes clear that a traffic jam is a sign of a healthy freeway. Let me explain.

First of all, I noticed that the freeway was fully utilized, a situation I have rarely seen in my driving history. As anyone who knows anything about cost accounting can tell you, when your resources are not fully utilized, the cost per unit processed goes up. It really seems irresponsible of the government to build as many freeways as they do, considering that most of the time they are underutilized. What a waste of taxpayer money! Why build a 4-lane highway that generally only ends up half full of cars? They could have built a 2-lane highway instead and saved half the money! (The traffic jam I was in when I realized this occurred when 2 lanes were closed for construction; luckily I didn't miss this opportunity for insight.)

Not only that, I also realized all the drivers were working really hard. I could tell we were working hard because we had been there so long. We all know how important it is to have a hard-working team, and obviously time spent at work is the best measurement of how hard we're working. (Otherwise, why would managers be insisting on 80-hour work weeks at crunch time?) Knowing this, it was really uplifting to realize I was surrounded by such a committed commute-force.

If only I was surrounded with such committed individuals at work, and we managed to keep all the resources fully utilized, I'm sure we'd be much more successful. It's a shame.

There's just one thing bothering me. I still can't figure out why I used to find traffic jams so much more frustrating than software development. Strange.