Debug Projects

What if you could debug engineering projects like you debug code?

Dave Cahill
September 2023

We're clearly in a consolidation phase in engineering. Almost all of the product and engineering teams we speak with are scrutinizing their existing tool stack and trying to figure out how to use less. They certainly aren't trying to introduce new ones. The words most often used to describe the internal initiatives related to tooling are streamline, consolidate, and unify.

While it's easy to get caught up debating which tools should win out, the more important question is, what's the end game? No engineering leader we've spoken with has ever said their goal is to use more or less tools. Instead, their objective is some combination of keeping the team focused, moving fast in the right direction, and shipping killer products.

Once a clear business objective is established, a leader's time is best spent surfacing friction across supporting projects and taking action to resolve them. These are things like identifying critical decisions and moving them forward, clearing blockers, and mitigating risks. Said another way, they're debugging projects like developers debug code.

Historically, teams have resorted to some costly combination of tools, people, and meetings to get the project visibility needed to identify friction and take action to alleviate it. This explains why, up till now, we've called it project MANAGEMENT instead of project debugging. The management part was unavoidable. The tool's outputs were only as good as the time and meetings spent to make them useful.

So, for years, Engineering Managers, Product Operations, Project Owners, TPMs, and/or Delivery Managers have deadlifted their way past the shortcomings of the existing solutions. They waste time in check-in meetings, sending status pings, and rummaging through tools to get an indication of how things are going. The pattern repeats itself as many times as necessary to keep projects moving forward. However, in today's business climate, combined with the rapidly evolving nature of how and where work gets done, resource-constrained engineering teams can no longer afford to waste time and money closing an information gap created by tools designed for a different era.

With KATA, we've built an offramp from the project management treadmill. Fast-moving engineering organizations can simultaneously offload the project management burden while equipping leaders and their teams with the insights they need to swiftly debug, take action, and move projects forward faster.

Returning to where we started this post, and given the approach we've taken with KATA, we're all for the discussion about streamlining, consolidating, and unifying tools. As is, the existing options for project management have plenty of attack surface. It gets even wider when you stop for a minute and add up all the time and energy wasted on project management. Think about how it would impact your team to be able to refocus everyone on project execution.

Interested to see what project debugging looks like in action? Check out our KATA interactive demo series.

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