So many conversations recently seem to be coming down to whether two people can look at the world and at least agree on SOME subset of facts. I’ve taken to calling this The World As It Is — a core set of facts that like them or not, are basically not up for discussion. Having these core set of “truths” (that some might claim should be self-evident) are what enables productive conversation.
I have been over this with my kids. A hits B, parent arrives. Did B deserve it in some way? Did A really hit B or just accidentally swipe by on his way across the room? So we start from first principles. I put my hand on A’s shoulder and ask, “Is my hand on A’s shoulder?” Both agree the answer is yes. Both agree that my hand is NOT on B’s shoulder. And we move on from there.
At work, we like to run weekly demos of active projects. This practice takes incredible discipline because there’s so much that can (and does) go wrong. We basically bring our clients onto the construction site, tell them to put on hard hats, and expect falling rocks. We do this knowing they will see the warts, panic at things that should be ready and aren’t, and hopefully show off a few things we are proud of. But in any real sense, this is The Project As It Is, and it is on display in full glory. Or not, as the case may be.
The jury is out on whether this degree of transparency is net-positive from a business perspective. Do glossy photos and hope, and sometimes even straight-out deception, make for a smoother ride? Why should we show warts that are scheduled to be fixed any day now? Arguably this is potentially bad PR, and we open ourselves up week after week.
My hope is always that this approach lets our clients / business partners steer the ship in a more responsible way. Whether you are sleeping below deck or at the helm, the next challenge may be on the horizon and getting closer. So we share information in the hope that together we can navigate the problems that emerge during any project development cycle, and make difficult decisions at the right time.
While the world runs on polarized politics and uncertain outcomes, we in the software industry have the fortune to live in a world of solvable problems, in which with discipline we can enforce predictability. We should feel an obligation to embrace The Project As it Is, and treat departures from the ideal as a motivation to perhaps try something else, reprioritize, or step up efforts. Sometimes stopping to look at what might seem an insurmountable problem inspires a whole new direction, and it’s only the joint business and technology minds that can properly see and take advantage of those opportunities. See you at next weeks’ demo!