The Mysterious Case Of Analysis Paralysis

You know a book is nearly done when you're suddenly told you have to write an Introduction and get it back to the publisher within 24 hours. So I've been batting some ideas back and forth with my co-author Doug Rosenberg; in particular about how we should introduce the subject of analysis paralysis. Suddenly (a few minutes ago) Doug sent me this. This is definitely going in the Introduction!

The Mysterious Case Of Analysis Paralysis

It was a blustery cold rainy night at our flat on Baker Street. The howl of the wind whipping raindrops against the glass could be heard over Holmes' violin as I read the paper in front of the fireplace. Mrs. Hudson had just cleared away the dishes from our late supper of pork pie and beans, when Holmes suddenly paused in the aria he was playing, sat bolt upright in his chair, and exclaimed "Watson, the game's afoot!".

A few moments later, our good friend, Inspector Lestrade from Scotland Yard, clattered up the stairs and burst in the doorway, exclaiming "Thank goodness you're home, Mister Holmes, you've got to come quickly!". "Come in, Lestrade, pray take a seat by the fire and tell us every detail" said Holmes. "They're all dead, Mister Holmes, every one of them - the whole project's dead! And no signs of violence, not a mark on any of them!" said Lestrade. "Who's dead?" said I? "The entire staff of Scotland Yard's new automated fingerprint recognition system." said Lestrade. "The whole technical staff - sitting dead right in the conference room - as if they'd been frozen to their chairs!" said Lestrade.

"Has anything been touched?" asked Holmes. "No, I've left the strict instructions that the conference room be completely sealed off until you could inspect it." said Lestrade. "Most excellent" murmured Holmes. "You are learning, Lestrade. Come along, Watson" said he, and, grabbing our coats and hats, we hastened down to Lestrade's waiting hansom cab.

We shortly arrived at Scotland Yard and were escorted to the conference room, where we were confronted by a bizarre and grisly death scene. Still in their seats, but struck down by some mysterious assasin, was the entire staff of the new automated fingerprint recognition project. Holmes walked around the room excitedly, his highly trained senses alert for any sort of clue. He paused at the whiteboard, and again at a stack of UML books on the table. "You see, Mister Holmes, they're all dead, and not a mark on any of them. How could a whole project just die like that?", said Lestrade. "Elementary, my dear Lestrade...a clear case of that obscure poison from the Amazon jungle known as analysisparalysis. Perhaps you've seen my monograph on the topic? No? Tut, tut." murmured Holmes.

"But Holmes, how can you be sure?" I queried. "All I can see is these UML books scattered around the table. Here's one called 'Fully Dressed Use Cases, the Hallway Closet Approach' by a Professor Moriarty. It suggests you should stuff everything you can think of into your use cases, just like you do with the hallway closet", said I.

"You see Watson, but you do not observe...notice the three-day growth of beard on all the corpses, and the scrawls of <<includes>> and <<extends>> on the whiteboards?" said Holmes.

"Sure enough Mister Holmes, even the women have grown beards!" said Lestrade. "Great Scott!" said I, "Gives me the shivers."

"Analysis Paralysis, Watson" said Holmes. "The second fastest killer of software projects, after doingthesimplestthingthatcanpossiblywork, and nearly as dangerous. It's caused by a lethal overdose of formality and strict adherence to the UML semantics documentation. Moriarty's been up to his evil tricks again. You see the hollow expressions on the victims faces, caused by interminable meetings spent debating topics of marginal uselessness. The despair and the anguish. The feverish search for a practical approach instead of highbrow theories." said Holmes. "And all so easily avoidable", he sighed. "Come along, Watson, we have arrived too late." said he, and we headed homeward towards Baker Street and the fireplace.

About the Author

Matt Stephens is a senior architect, programmer and project leader based in Central London. He co-wrote Agile Development with ICONIX Process, Extreme Programming Refactored, and Use Case Driven Object Modeling with UML - Theory and Practice.