Cassandra Syndrome: Knowing that failure is inevitable, but nobody is listening

August 23, 2010 | 2 Minute Read
This post was originally posted on my old blog.

Cassandra's doom was to predict what others refused to believe.
While Cassandra foresaw the destruction of Troy, she was unable to do anything to forestall these tragedies since no one believed her.

crystalball_468x317.jpg In death-march projects the developers are often suffering from the cassandra syndrome: They know that the project is doomed to fail, but they gave up on trying to change anything long ago.

In several big enterprise projects I have been in, developers just stopped caring, they gave up on craftmaship.

This is the typical No pigs, just chicken antipattern. The courageous pigs left, the coward pigs broke, the chicken remained ...

A typical pattern for dysfunctional projects I have come across is that there are several layers of hierarchies between the stakeholders of the project and the developers.
These intermediate layers have absolutely no interest in communicating any problems to the stakeholders above. And the stakeholders are completely content with being lulled in the comfort of getting smilies or green traffic lights in their high-level status meetings.
Usually at the point when the smilies stop smiling or the traffic lights get yellow it is too late. The project has gone completely off track and is doomed to fail badly...

Recently I came across another name for this symptom:

The Green Effect:
The higher a status-report goes in the organzational hierarchy the greener it becomes.

The following Dilbert strip illustrates this brilliantly:

When I voiced my Cassandra analogy on twitter, Scott Ambler replied to me:

@jbandi if developers learn to communicate effectively with the business they don't need to be Cassandras
- Scott Ambler, on twitter

Well, in my experience it's not that simple. I consider me as a developer that can communicate (more or less) effectively with the business. But I find me repeatedly on projects where there is absolutely no process established for effective communication between the developers in the trenches and the stakeholders. And establishing such a process is not feasible because of several organizational layers between the trenches and the stakeholders. follow me on twitter, I need some friends :-)