Picture this, you’ve completed 3 years of university delivering a dissertation, a team project and some compulsory management modules, by now you and everyone in your team should surely know how to manage effectively right? Nope. I’ve just completed a team project so badly managed that I actually dreamt about having a new manager coming in and saving us all, here’s how it happened.
Week 1 (October 2011)
So the 10 students comprising of 7 from Computer Science and 3 from Computing and Management are presented with 2 projects, a BAE systems project which is short and nasty and a cricket project. The cricket project is for recording player information on an iPad for the National Cricket Centre in Loughborough, right next to my computer science building, so a nice short walk. Well I went for the cricket project seeing it as the perfect team for me to manage as I know the other computer science students in this group were not interested in management as well as being the more interesting project. Well this sounded reasonable until they said computing and management students have to be team leaders… Bugger, I’m computer science.
The reason this is so annoying is due to the huge disparities between the courses, Computing and Management students basically do all the easiest modules of Computer Science and the few programming modules they do are always group projects where they do no coding. Of course my group had 2 of them which was annoying but still ok, after all it was just an iPad app and we had an existing system to build off. So off we go to learn the iPad API….
Week 2 (October)
The iPad system looks nastily complicated and the iPad is crap for storage and processing, I know we’ll build an online website and database to sort all that out. So I’ve walked in 1 week later and they’ve decided to split the team into 2 with the team leader, the web developer and I constructing the database and website and the other two creating a brand new iPad app. OK wait why didn’t I get this memo or get included in these discussions? because I live far way and they didn’t want me to drive in for a pointless discussion!!! Err, hello, Skype, phone, IM, email any of those ringing a bell? And deciding on the structure, platform and role assignment for team members is pointless?!?
Well I start a civil argument querying this arrangement, team leader turns around and tells me to stop wasting time and get on with it, we have 6 months and you want to decide on the most important parts in 1 week without discussion. Well I’m outvoted 2-1, the iPad guys aren’t voting apparently because its not their concern even though it affects them, still they’re not listening so I might as well just get on with it then.
Its also been decided that we are using PHP and MySQL for the website with web developer setting up the initial system, I ask about the arrangement for coding it and am told we’ll decide when we do it. My vote was for ASP.NET with MS SQL but the university will take 2 weeks to set that up, so what? We can do other things in the meantime but again team leader doesn’t want to waste time.
Week 3 – 6 (November – December)
So I walk in and the basic layout for the website has been completed, we’re using object orientated for no good reason and the team leader decides it’s better to use this than to start again as we would lose a week. This is ‘brilliant’ as I see no reason for it and the team leader can’t make heads or tails of it. In these 4 weeks the web developer codes the site, I create the database and the team leader decides to do the homepage.
Well the database diagram is bull, I’m fed up of not being listened to so I make some changes. These changes actually get noticed and are changed back to the original specification, then if you would believe it they ask me to change it back again because they are having problems on the iPad – the reason I made the changes.
Week 7 – 12 (December – January)
Holiday time, oh wait this is university, students don’t get holidays until the summer so work, work and work. I’m doing a members page for displaying, sorting and searching for players using PHP and jQuery which is a bit of a pain in this system – congrats, you’ve made using jQuery complicated. The web developer has gone skiing and the team is still doing the homepage. The iPad system is still nowhere, though I’m told its ok because iOS 5.0 is out with lots of improvements particularly for SQL.
By now I’ve been saying about doing the write-up which is worth the majority of the marks as we go along, but no, the team think we’ll do that in the two weeks at the end. The hell with that, I’m starting the write-up, future work done first – yes I can already see what isn’t going to be done.
February – march
The iPad team have hit a stumbling block they can’t link to the database, web developer to the rescue. Huge piece of code written where the iPad data is manually broken down and interpreted – oh wait that didn’t work and a month has been wasted. Actually lets just create another database for the iPad and link the 2 databases together allowing them to update each other, that took less than a week – crazy what problems planning can solve. The team leader has made progress too, the home page displays a jQuery table!!! It doesn’t work but 10 minutes of work has now been achieved in a few months.
I’m being tasked with the admin pages, can’t be that hard just like the other pages but with data upload. Hold on you want Ajax, fine I’ll do that, oh wait your system is so complicated I can’t figure it out.
We’re promised the iPad is nearly done but they can’t show us that, team leader is fine with that. I haven’t finished the admin pages, team leader starts a public enquiry on why can’t be like the iPad team who have almost finished. So I ask the web developer to show me how to do it, oh wait he can’t without Ajax, which only he understands and he doesn’t want to do the pages, I suspect he tried and failed before. Suddenly coding it with forms and post without Ajax is fine, funny that, and the team leader is going along with this. Speaking of which the team leader has done more on the homepage, he’s got a SQL procedure breaking the page.
May – the day before presentation day
Last meeting thankfully, team leader giving me a grilling on my progress compared to the web developer and the iPad team, actually all my functionality all works just some testing to do and minor things to fix at home. The team leader has still got the presentation to prepare for and I promptly ask about his progress. It seems him and the web developer have decided that everyone is presenting, I have a long serious argument asking him to name one presentation done by everyone that he rated as good. Of course he couldn’t but insisted that we all needed to show what work we had done, guess what the home page has been taken over by the web developer so the team leader has done nothing!!!!
Just got home and I’m very happy, just some validation and a couple of small bugs to fix. Validation can be done client side in HTML 5, excellent that’s done quickly and works fine. Oh hold on the page just broke, 1 hour later, someone is editing the database without telling me. Web developer decided to add stuff in now and break all my pages, I get him to stop and finally fix all the problems before going to bed late.
May – presentation day – 10am
So we’re meeting at 9am before the presentation at 10am to quickly discuss the order of presentation, all the work is obviously done now right? nope. The iPad team is still coding, they’ve been here all night and so much for smartly dressed they’re wearing t-shirts with beer logos (we agreed the day before to be smart casual). At 9:55am they finish (apparently) and come over to the presentation where the other team is going first thank god or we’d be screwed.
So our presentation starts and the team leader is awful, he’s speaking very unclearly and he’s reading numbers off the slide wrong. Also why are half the team standing behind him like gormless idiots and why won’t the web developer stop butting in. iPad being shown now, its the old version because Dropbox hasn’t synced but he’s showing it on his Macbook which surely has the latest code he just wrote??? Thankfully this isn’t noticed though the iPad team shout out which features they haven’t done in a cringe worthy way.
To the website, the web developer is talking a million miles a minute, slow down please. He gets through the content and nothing breaks unlike the iPad but so far this is the worst presentation i have ever seen. Finally I’m up and I’ve actually prepared, I go though the pages adding The Stig to the England team (get a good chuckle with that), just getting going and the web developer is talking again. STFU.
So overall a huge mess of a project from 5 supposedly experienced students due to shocking management. The Team leader has literally done the write-up now (last 3 weeks, so badly) and the web developer ploughed ahead without thinking causing untold amount of stupid problems e.g. an excel export function that can be done in less than 100 lines of code was instead done using an entire Excel for PHP package (540 files). The iPad team did a decent job but shocking planning meant they literally were working to the last minute and that showed in the presentation. It is because of this precisely that I wanted to be in charge. Still, at least its over now.
Thank you Mitul for an interesting and frank assessment. I would now ask everybody who reads this to comment on your own bad team experiences as I shall follow this up with an article looking more into some of the reasoning.