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Discussion on: Death Marches Aren't Worth It

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Beekey Cheung Author

Thanks for sharing your experiences!

I can understand the need for release windows. Sometimes people need to be on hand at inconvenient times. But these times should always be preceded (and followed up on) with time off so that people can rest.

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Károly Balogh

Actually, this is the point. I'm in a death march now - that's not necessarily the problem itself, but the fact that the managers don't understand that you don't give 200% for 3 days (or longer) in a row to hit a milestone, then you just go back to the normal 100% performance after, but you drop to 10% or so, and if you're not given rest, you'll be there in the office, staring at code, but without much use. So the project slips again, leading up to yet another death march. This is especially true with projects with only a few developers on it who are hard to replace, so if they're not available, the whole project stops. Which is true in our case and it's unacceptable for the management, so they just keep pushing for the impossible, given it's better to push in house, than pushing back on the investor/customer.

And lets not forget, any delayed project just needs more meetings, preferably a few hours long per day, so the developers are reminded repeatedly what they should do. Also, how they should do it, preferably by external consultants, or nontechnical people. That increases productivity and motivation for sure. ...

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Ben Halpern

I knew someone in management consulting whose job was basically to lead death marches. That's the situation companies found themselves in where they would reach for these consultancies in the first place. The devs were 100% H1B Visa-holders who had no option to leave the company without having to leave the USA, so they were treated like absolute garbage. This person also had this job fresh out of college with zero technical training in software and had to figure out things as they went.

Needless to say, nothing good was ever shipped and nobody was happy.