The Van Halen Software Development Test

Van Halen is responsible for the ingenious brown M&M's clause in their contract rider.
"the band developed the M&M's demand as a means of checking whether the venue was properly honoring the terms of the contract to their satisfaction. Subsequently, if the bowl was missing, or if there were brown M&M's present, the band members would have reason to suspect that the venue might have cut corners or not properly honored legitimate technical and safety concerns listed within the contract." wikipedia (David Lee Roth tells the story here)
Van Halen's brown M&M's test is applicable to software development groups, from programmers through to the rest of the Development Abstraction Layer. But instead of brown M&M's, the fitness of conference room presentations will be our barometer.

Take any random presentation, preferably a demo of a software product. Is the presentation fraught with technical problems and foreseeable distractions, such as projectors not working, sound not working, sound being too low, projection images being too dim or washed out, missing cables, incompatible technology, screens not working, and most glaringly of all, consistently failing or poor connectivity? If so, you've flunked the test. If you can't pull it together enough to deliver a basic demonstration how can you be trusted to make anything more sophisticated, such as software?

It's like a fitness trainer; You don't look to an overweight trainer to help get you into shape. Or a pilot; You don't want the guy who continually crashes during basic maneuvers on a flight simulator to fly you around in a real plane.

But, I think an even simpler M&M's test, before we even enter the conference room, is the fitness of your connectivity itself. Do you have stable and sufficient connectivity, or does your solution hinder you? If it hinders you in doing and presenting your work, then you have just failed your brown M&M's test. The bowl is full of brown M&M's and Van Halen is disappointed in you.

Why be a roady when you can be Van Halen? Now's the best time for your team to become rock stars, not wanna-be roadies who can't even weed out the brown M&M's.

Note: I don't need to state the obvious, but I will anyway - this M&M's test doesn't mean you fail for unforeseen glitches and problems - these are bound to happen no matter what - but I am saying that there are obvious, easily foreseen, fixable problems that are considered total failures unless they're dealt with. A mature team sees them and fixes them. Less mature or less capable teams will fail to see the problems, or just look past them and not care, like bad roadies setting up for a concert disaster.
Todd Hopkinson