It is quite interesting to see how developers are affected by a projects perceived market value and internal company status.
When a new project is started people are usually open for new ideas and most of the involved does things to move the project forward. A direction that is not allways the same for an individual as the group, but at least it’s moving.
When the project has been going for a while and it hasn’t delivered as planned, decisions might be made to rewrite parts of the system, partly to show the market that it is able to adapt and partly to get the staff moving again. At this point those developers that usually are in the lead of getting things done starts looking for other jobs.
The only ones left are those who don’t get things going by them selfs and a few high spirited still believing in the project. So now all those that should bring some forward momentum to the project, managers, architects and so on, are the kind of people that prefer status quo, and the few still inspired has to fight to get anything done and to try to inspire all the rest.
If all of those high spirited people has found other jobs management might bring in external resources to develop the new functionality. This will make the crisis even worse since the employees now will think that all inspiring activities are done by overpaid consultants, which makes them even more resigned and uninspired.
If the perception that the organization will continue to finance the project gets hold the project will also get the staff from other departments that would like to do their eight hours a day without involvement.
This is a mess that it is hard to get out of. It is not easy to hire an inspired commited developer to a stale team like this without tricking him in some way, and that will only make him quit asap. I think management has to create more or less fictive goals so that the staff can see results. Management will also have to convert some of the staff to evangelists within the team so that they can motivate all others.