Software Nightmares

I promised to write about the analogy between running a restaurant and running a software project, which is my conclusion in my contribution to Derrick G. Kourie’s festschrift. So here goes.

I am a frequent watcher of the show called “Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares”, where Gordon Ramsay helps failing restaurants to get back on the map. You either love him or hate him, but I must admit that I’m a big a fan.

In each episode of Kitchen Nightmares, Ramsay takes kind of the same approach. He enters a restaurant and starts with an investigation to see what’s wrong. As you would expect, the first thing he does is to order a few dishes from the menu to check out the quality of the food — and thus the chef. After that he will inspect the kitchen and he checks out the staff. He then tries to turn those things around that seem to be the bottlenecks for the restaurant to be successful — in his own style: unabashed to tell the truth, wearing his heart on his sleeve, and using the f-word multiple times in almost every sentence.

If you listen carefully, you will notice that in between all the swearing, he actually knows what he is doing and that he is genuinely committed to help improve an establishment. His power lies in three things: 1) He is an outsider, he can take a step back and investigate things from a distance. 2) He wears his heart on his sleeve and he has the courage to tell the truth even if it might hurt somebody. 3) He keeps things simple — this way he can achieve higher quality and customers will be happier. On top of that, he employs his strengths to achieve but one crystal clear goal: getting clientèle and give them the best possible evening that will make them return or bring in more guests.

Back to the software world, where we’ve got our own “Software Nightmares” so to say. Unfortunately software development isn’t sexy enough for television, however, I believe a passionate person like Gordon Ramsay, with that kind of drive, could be successful in the software world too. I know nobody will watch “Software Nightmares” for fun, but I do hope we have enough of our own Gordon Ramsay’s in our field out there to turn around failing software projects.