Law as a project written with use of the extreme programming methods

In 2009 there was 253 labour days. In the same year Polish parliament approved 233 laws (latest update - 232 in 2010; source: Podstawowe dane statystyczne dotyczące prac Sejmu ). Let's ignore motions etc. - it's still about one law every labour day. The sheer number of these laws is enough to be afraid, but what really freaks me out is their quality and that no one really controls its' execution...ever. No one checks if the law returned expected results. No one estimate gains and losses from the introduction of law once it's approved.

Let's think a little bit how laws should be written if we follow just some basic rules of project management. PMI for instance defines 5 process groups of project management. We have:

  1. Project initiating
  2. Project planning
  3. Project executing
  4. Project monitoring and controlling
  5. Project closing

First we need to have a someone to start a project and develop the project charter. Project sponsor needs to define what should be expected result of the project. This result must be verifiable. He needs to identify also all stakeholders (anyone affected by the project) and select a project manager.

Next we plan how to write a law. I will not list all twenty-something tasks done during project planning. Let's keep it simple and let just say that during planning we define the team, resources and time. We analyse risks and close the project scope. Anyone interested in project management can read something on PMI site or on the Prince2 site

We can use also some extreme programming techniques or rules by writing of law. We define tests for every result we want to obtain. For example if we want to increase penalties for any not allowed activity to discourage lawbreakers from doing it, a test needs to check if number of breaking of this law really decreased. Of course the easiest to check are all things which can be represented by numbers, like e.g. money invested in some region by given incentives. But there is nothing worth being printed as a law, which cannot be tested. Even if we want to commemorate something from our history by establishing for example a new national day, we need to test if awareness of this event in history really increased.

The writing itself can be done by some law specialists working together through CVS system. We can also use a next rule of extreme programming called „pair programming” which consist in writing of code by teams of 2 persons from which one is writing and the other one is at the same time checking everything. Finally we can split the law text into smaller parts and then define one person to integrate it.

One of the most difficult task in writing of law is to select the correct, easily understandable wording. If the courts itself have problems with interpretation of laws, it means the wording used is not clear enough. That's why every law should have it's own dictionary. When dictionaries were still bought instead of being checked on internet, I had bought English-English Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary. At the very end there was a list of all words used to define all other words definitions. This very simple idea was incredibly helpful. I don't understand why politicians couldn't learn something from linguists. Creating one common dictionary for every law would be so much easier for everyone.

Last but not least, every project should include information about expected cost and proposed way of financing it. This data should be not only written into law but should be also verified afterwords. We are not done yet with our project. A project never stops at execution – we still have one more process group.

Project does not stop when president sign the law. Neither it ends when administration announce specific rules based on this law. Monitoring and controlling of the project should be done by few more years. The project closure itself should be written clearly into law. This closure must include complete evaluation of all test and costs. If in the defined time-frame the law suspended some tests or costed more than expected, the new voting should decide it the law should be maintained or abolished.