Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Seriously. The Devil Made me do It!

Just as eternal as the cosmic struggle between good and evil is the challenge between our two natures. Religion aside, we have two natures, the part of us that:
  • thinks things through; makes good or ethical decisions a.k.a. our angelic nature
  • reacts immediately; makes quick but often wrong decisions a.k.a. our devil nature
Guess the powers that be left a bug in our brains so that it emphasizes fast decisions over good / ethical decisions.

Quite often we make sub-optimal or ethically ambiguous decisions under pressure

You decide...

Situation: Your manager comes to you and says that something urgent needs to be fixed right away. Turns out the steaming pile of @#$%$ that you inherited from Bob is malfunctioning again. 

Of course Bob created the mess and then conveniently left the company; in fact, the code is so bad that the work-arounds have work-arounds.

Bite the bullet, start re-factoring the program when things goes wrong.  It will take more time up front, but over time the program will become stable.  Start code inspections on the critical sections to proactively reduce defects (see Inspections are not Optional)

Find another fast workaround and defer the problem to the future.  Find a good reason why the junior member of the team should inherit this problem.

Situation: You've got a challenging section of code to write and not much time to write it.

Get away from the computer, think things through.  Get input from your peers, maybe they have seen this problem before. 

Then plan the pathways out and write the code once cleanly. Taking time to plan seems counter intuitive, but it will save time. (see Not Planning is for Losers)

Naw, just sit at the keyboard and bang it out already.  How difficult can it be?

Situation: The project is late and you know that your piece is behind schedule. However, you also know that several other pieces are late as well.

Admit that you are late and that the project can't finish by the deadline.  Give the project manager and senior managers a chance to make a course correction.

Say that you are on schedule but you are not sure that other people (be vague here) will have their pieces ready on time and it could cause you to become late.

This situation is also known as Schedule Chicken...

Situation: You have been asked to estimate how long a critical project will take. You are only been given a short time to come up with the estimate.

Tell the project manager that getting a proper estimate takes longer than a few hours. Without proper estimates the project is likely to be severely underestimated and this will come back to bite you and the project manager in the @$$.  (See Who needs Formal Measurement?)

Tell the project manager exactly the date that senior management wants the project to be finished by.  You know this is what they want to hear, why deal with the problem now? This will become the project manager's problem when the project is late.

The statistics show that we often don't listen to our better (angelic?) natures very often.

So when push comes to shove and you have to make a sub-optimal or less than ethical decision, just remember:
The devil made you do it!
Run into other common situations? email me