Every Project Needs a Hero!

A study by Standish Group reports 80% of the IT projects fail due to over budget, late, missing functionality or due to combination of these. Worse 30% of software projects are so poorly executed that they are canceled before completion. There are uncountable reasons for a project to fail and enough has been said and talked about it. What we are not talking is about success. Strange isn't it? But its true.

I have been in IT industry for six years now. I have been in more than dozen projects of varying types, size and period. One thing which is common across these projects - every successful project needs a hero (s if the project is big). He is the man/woman who can think, design, code, he/she is super productive and above all he/she can help others. Its because of these heroes those 20% projects see shine of the day. My heroes are same as Bruce Eckel's 20% struggling programmers.

Bruce Eckel's The Mythical 5% people
Let's say that this follows the 80-20 rule. Roughly 80% of programmers don't read books, don't go to conferences, don't continue learning, don't do anything but what they covered in college. Maybe they've gotten a job in a big company where they can do the same thing over and over. The other 20% struggle with their profession: they read, try to learn things, listen to podcasts, go to user group meetings and sometimes a conference. 80% of this 20% are not very successful yet; they're still beginning, still trying. The other 20% of this 20% -- that's about 5% of the whole who are 20x more productive.

Now I am more confident about my theory of "Every project needs a hero". Most of you would say successful projects are more of a team work than few individuals. That is true only in an ideal world where the team members are equal. I am sure most of teams are far from being ideal. Every team has some average, some below average, some idiots and to nullify the effect one or two above average members. I am referring these above average members as heroes. They will bring expertise, confidence and enthusiasm to the team which are required for any kind success.

We don't have enough heroes in the market. We don't even have average workers in the market!!.Worse we don't have a process create them. Years of experience or big college name or hours of training won't help. Only way I see is to get inspired by another hero. All I can say is if you find one hire him for your project. (You want your project to be in 20% right?). And don't forget feed him! He might be a hero but he too needs food!

13 Responses

  1. Tina Russell says:

    I found your blog on google and read a few of your other posts. I just added you to my Google News Reader. Keep up the good work. Look forward to reading more from you in the future.

    Tina Russell

  2. ManojVasanth says:

    Brilliant!! Inspiring one. The day people stop thinking that they work ‘only’ for money; failure rate will surely go down.

    Satisfaction in your work at the end of the day surely inspire you to come tomorrow and work more.

  3. Sunish says:

    Good one thej..projects do need heroes especially considering the way service sector works…with cut throat competition and way estimations are manipulated to fit the needs…

  4. Vinay says:

    True man… Those few are the ones that infuse new ideas and in some cases, breakthroughs into the company. But hard truth says that companies first reward those who are critical I the project and later look at the heroes. So a smart hero is the one who can lead as well as make him/herself indespensible to the project.

  5. Thejesh GN says:

    @ManojVasanth very true
    @Sunish we have seen a lot right ? :)
    @Vinay yup. Its difficult thing to learn “how to convert yourself from hero to indespensible hero”

    A friend and reader sent this one by mail.
    This is so true!! And usually the idiots can be found at managerial positions, doing all they can to demotivate the heroes!!
    Very well-writen and thought-provoking piece.

    @her : yup. Managerial job is the most difficult job according to me. A manager should be a leader but unfortunately most of them are commanders. They force you to work. They lack the charisma to inspire you.

  6. ancientmariner says:

    righto..a team needs a mix of everything…else ego clashes are apparent…haven’t we seen that so many time…;)

  7. Prasanna L.M says:

    Hi Thejesh, Good one. I do agree with you for some extent. But, i feel like a single Hero may not be sufficient all the time to make a project successful one. For eg., lets relate this with our Indian cricket team. What if a team of 10 members with poor or an average cricketing skill’s is given to Dhoni (lets assume him as an hero) to play Against Australia for 10 Matches ? Dou you think still they will be able to perform well under the leadership of the Hero ?.. I think every match may not end like the one in ‘Laagan’. What you say…

  8. sundar says:

    are u hiring? :-)

  9. Harsha says:

    I completely agree on your statement “Every project needs a hero”. He is who makes it happen.

    But i feel years of experience do help if we hadn’t stopped learning in those years..

  10. Thejesh GN says:

    @Harsha you are right. What I meant “just the years of experience doesnt help much”

  11. Srini says:

    Buddy Thej,
    Yes every project needs Hero(es). But then as you said nobody knows how to create them nor do they know to identify them. Heroes are not born and are not hanging a board saying the same. So you never know. A hero could get created in many ways. And nobody has a formula for it. I dont even think a formula will come up ever. Identifying a hero takes time. A person becoming a hero depends quite a lot on circumstances and many of which u cant control. A guy who was a hero in one project may become not so great in another because of other pressures. So the hero could be anybody. It could be the guy I or you thought to be less than average when he/she is put in the right circumstances.

  12. Thejesh GN says:

    @Srini: I am sure we dont know how to create them but for sure we should be able to identify them.
    Agree with other points of you.

  1. April 20, 2008

    […] So, nobody pays the price and the cycle of torture and incompetency repeats over and over again. Thejesh said that every project needs a hero. I say, kill […]