Producers In The Middle

The chef, the producer of food, is often the center of attention. of the first steps a project takes in self-understanding is the identification of roles, and in particular, which roles are the ProducerRoles. But it is the information flow among the roles that helps get the work done. 

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In a project, not all roles hear everything. But much of the information communicated has important implications for the product.

Within any software project, there are many activities, roles, and individuals competing for attention. Of course, there are the developers. But project managers have a need to be at the center of everything. They need to have their finger on the pulse of the project; to know everything that is going on. That's their job. In a similar manner, perhaps to a lesser degree, other roles also need to be involved in the project.

But all roles are not equal. Certain roles (developer and a few others) contribute directly to the product; they create it. Most other roles contribute indirectly to the product; they (should) exist only to help the producers do their job. The producer roles need information in order to do their job.


The producer role(s) must be at the center or very near the center of the hive of communication. Make sure the producers are party to all, or nearly all communication about the project.

The role at the center of the project must be a producer role (in fact, it should be the producer role that gets the most done -- like developer.) Consider the developer roles at the center of this healthy organization, an organization that develops financial trading software on tight schedules: 


The role at the center shows the focus of the project. In most cases, it is a role like Developer or Coder. In a few cases, the most central role is a management role (we have seen this, but rarely.) In this case, the focus of the project is not on developing the product, but rather it is on managing the development of the product. 

If you find that your most central role is not a producer, you need to, as a project, sit down and do some soul searching. Why isn't your focus on the product, like it should be? What is getting in the way? For example, are you so preoccupied with something like ISO 9001 certification that you have lost your focus? 

Note that this can be taken to an extreme. If you have too many roles, and they all focus on the Coder, for example, (see picture), the coder will have so much communication that they can't get anything done. So this must be applied together with FewRoles. See also DistributeWorkEvenly

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The natural tendency when this pattern is applied is toward WorkFlowsInward — the developers will tend to get the information they need. This is not always true, as it can get sidetracked by managers who are overly meddlesome. However, left alone, developers will evolve naturally to this pattern, and then to WorkFlowsInward

This pattern is closely related to DeveloperControlsProcess. If the developer — a producer role — controls the process, he or she is likely to be a hub of communication. In fact, allowing the developer to control the process is one way to help make this pattern happen.