One of the most amusing anti-patterns is the one known as “make everyone happy.”  The funny thing is that it never does.  Instead, it points us to an old bit of wisdom that you end up pleasing no one when you try to please everyone.  Put more simply; you cannot have more than one master.  If this seems familiar, we have discussed it under the name “design by committee” in prior posts.

Make Everyone Happy Defined

You have heard that two heads are better than one.  Unfortunately, that does not translate to more is always better than less.  In particular, design and related decisions suffer greatly from too many voices.  There is nothing wrong with seeking feedback and input.  However, there needs to be a controlling decision-maker that drives things forward and understands the primary goals.

There are names for this anti-pattern, like gold-plating and adding bells and whistles.  These additions and enhancements are not the problems in themselves.  Nevertheless, they often create a slippery slope of tweaks and minor changes that lead you right over a cliff.  Once we decide to make an allowance for one person or side, then we face the argument that it is fair for other voices to get their desires.  Look at governmental politics for examples of exactly how bad things can become.

The Anti-Pattern In Action

Lack of direction is the best description of this anti-pattern.  The core why of our problem and solution are lost in discussions and requests.  Not only is this an obstacle to success, but it also leads to other anti-patterns.  That includes the one we all fear, the death march.  The project languishes in changes and moving the finish line.  That is demoralizing and costly even while it waters down the solution.


Avoiding The Anti-Pattern

Owners and decision-makers are the cure for this anti-pattern.  That changes the focus from “make everyone happy” to making that person or people happy.  It also cuts down on time spent making decisions and discussing options.  We are not running away from feedback.  Instead, we are keeping feedback focused on the problem and solution that launched this project.

Rob Broadhead

Rob is a founder of, and frequent contributor to, Develpreneur. This includes the Building Better Developers podcast. He is also a lifetime learner as a developer, designer, and manager of software solutions. Rob is the founder of RB Consulting and has managed to author a book about his family experiences and a few about becoming a better developer. In his free time, he stays busy raising five children (although they have grown into adults). When he has a chance to breathe, he is on the ice playing hockey to relax or working on his ballroom dance skills.

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