A Hyperproductive Telecommunications Development Team


This chapter is distilled from a paper prepared in the spring of 1994 shortly after Jim Coplien studied the team in question.
The exact identity of the team is withheld for two reasons. One relates to the propriety of information about the product at the time the study was done. But, furthermore, the team asked not to be identified. They were concerned at the time that if they were identified as having built a better mouse trap, that the world would beat a path to their door asking them for process advice. They didn't want to be in that business; they didn't want to be distracted from doing what they enjoyed doing. But other than omitting the name of the product, we've included many particulars of data that we hope will make the group more tangible, and that will answer questions about the viability of the group's approaches.

The report, as originally written follows:

I had the pleasure of meeting with the entire development team for a small network platform being built by a Network Systems organization in AT&T Bell Laboratories on February 17, 1994. This project is among the most interesting I have studied. The organization has some of the best team dynamics of any I have observed anywhere. The people find their work challenging, stimulating, and rewarding. This organization is likewise productive, with 200 KNCSL to their credit at the hands of six developers over 15 months. That interval includes conceptualization and design. That code count does not include a similar number of lines purchased externally or reused from existing internal projects.

Many of the tenets, practices, and characteristics of this project are eerily reminiscent of Borland's Quattro Pro for Windows (QPW) team, the most highly productive organization I have studied [BibRef-Coplien1994]. he project is unique in many of its own ways, too — unique, perhaps, in the sense that the experience could not be easily reproduced elsewhere. Nonetheless, this project provides another data point in our study of hyperprogramming (very productive) organizations (for a current total of two such data points). We noted that the two organizations resemble each other in many ways, ways that perhaps portend high productivity and quality of work life. These factors are worth exploring.

Might their development process have something to do with all this? Contemporary management thinking holds process to be a dominant factor in quality and productivity. The organization's process and organization are indeed the source of their power, but the process is off the beaten path. Our research was attracted to the organization because of its emphasis on parallelism, taken almost to extremes, with astounding results.