Hero driven development

Published on 2013-12-06 by John Collins.


Time and again, I find myself exposed to hero-driven cultures in the technology industry. Common tell-tale signs include:

A hero does well in these environments, because they are able to react quicker than those around them, and they don't mind not having a life outside of the project.

Technology projects should be stable and predictable however, allowing for sensible work practices that do not burn people out, while also allowing for planning schedules that actually reflect reality. Working in a hero-driven environment can be fun for a while as the adrenaline kicks in, but a prolonged adrenaline rush will quickly result in frayed nerves.

"remember if you need a hero, something has already gone wrong."

I once knew a senior business analyst who told me early in my career that "many organizations strive to shoot from the hip more effectively". These organizations are perpetually stuck in tactical, reactive mode, and rarely have time for strategic planning as they are just too busy getting things done. Sadly, those things getting done are often the wrongs things, due to a lack of careful planning in the first place. It becomes a vicious circle.

Hero-driven development is an anti-pattern: remember if you need a hero, something has already gone wrong.