Heard in the Aisle

Over the last few weeks I have overheard a couple of things that really tickled me, because of their brutal portrayal of some business truism, and because of the skill of the speaker in articulating:

Heard in reference to a cowboy-ish developer struggling to learn a new paradigm:



“I can’t tell whether he is shooting from the hip or spinning his wheels or both at the same time, but if he’s not careful, he’ll shoot himself in the wheel”


I have watched developers “spin their wheels” for years especially when doing unfamiliar work, I have also known cowboys, who just make stuff up; usually that stuff has to get unwound by others because it is off pattern, off kilter, or off the reservation. In this case, his teammates had become acutely aware of both situations.


Heard in reference to a management consulting engagement that was recently ended:





“They showed up with a micrometer to measure our manhood, trying to figure out how much we would pay to sleep with the prom queen.”



I have worked with management consultancies before. It seems like about half of the energy they expend is looking for opportunities to expand or extend their engagement. They usually do this by measuring the executive’s ability to tolerate risk on the way towards achieving some critical goal. When you engage a consultancy to help you figure out how to accomplish a goal that is not already well understood, the first question they ask (although not quite so directly) is “How much is it worth to ya?”

Heard in our own leadership conversation:


“You can’t work in parallel until you can work in sequence. You can’t go fast until you can go slow. You can’t get two things done until you learn how to get one thing done!”


Sometimes a team will bite off more than it can chew, by trying to look too far ahead. They can’t finish the current thing, because they have tried to implement half of the next thing. You can’t build the current feature until you slow down and understand all of its aspects. Sometimes teams run off and start building things, without a rational design (even a thin one). Sometimes trying to do more than one things at a time, causes us to clobber each other, or to get our thoughts tangled between things, so that neither are clearly understood.

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