“Go Fever” in Software Development

I was reading an interesting article about SpaceX and how it carefully manages its launch schedule. In that article they mention a term I had never heard before: “Go Fever”.

I felt my spidey-sense tingle when they explained the term and immediately started transposing their words onto my work in a development shop. See my “tweaked” version below…

Note: Words like [substitute] are my substitutions.

Best described as the point at which non-technical pressures to launch (cost-saving, internal and external politics, general face-saving) far outweigh the voices of the engineers and technicians responsible for reliably designing, building, and launching [software], “Go fever” is demonstrably one of the worst things that can occur in [technology] oriented organizations, where the consequences of even the tiniest failures can often be amplified into total mission and [application] failures or entire [systems or product-line failures]. It may be unpleasant as an unaffiliated follower or fan and is likely far less pleasant still as an employee or manager, but it is undeniably preferable to succeed after weeks or months of delays than to fail catastrophically while staying on schedule.

Reading that last sentence gave me chills!

Having worked in this industry for over 20 years, I have repeatedly seen this happen. Beyond the customer impact, its often overlooked how badly this type of failure effects the morale, motivation, and culture of software development teams. If repeated long enough the trust between the technical and non-technical can be shattered beyond repair.

“Go Fever” is rampant in our industry along with its counterpoint “Fear of Shipping” which is often the side-effect of failures caused by repeating the former on multiple projects.

Successfully shipping valuable software in a timely manner is the mission. It requires a delicate dance between courageous leadership and technical craftsmanship, and a balance of optimism and pragmatism. For those well versed in the Golden Triangle you know that the area in the middle of the triangle represents Quality and its loss is the result of squeezing scope, time, and resources past the breaking point.

Momentarily you may feel Heroic by hitting a forced deadline, but that feeling is fleeting when the Production environment fails and customers start screaming due to the quality attributes you gave up in order to keep your schedule. Beware of “Go Fever”…

Original SpaceX article: