Saturday, November 14, 2009

Hammer Time by way of Seth Godin

Seth's Blog: Hammer time: "One study found that when confronted with a patient with back pain, surgeons prescribed surgery, physical therapists thought that therapy was indicated and yes, acupuncturists were sure needles were the answer. Across the entire universe of patients, the single largest indicator of treatment wasn't symptoms or patient background, it was the background of the doctor."

This is not only the biggest problem in marketing, it's the same for programmers. Day in and day out I work with programmers that continue to use only the tools they used up until then. Likewise, every new technique or software tool they inevitably compare to the tools they already used. Of course the new ones are found lacking.

Side effects of this are easy to spot:

  • Long delivery times
  • Open programmer frustration
    Poorly built code
  • Falling back strictly on old techniques and tools

I've seen all of these on my current team. Some of this from programmers with years of seniority. It's also been true of consultants I've seen. Color me unforgiving, but someone called into be a code hitman should jump at the chance to learn something new.

Surprisingly, some of these skills are the very things that would improve their marketability. Skills they may consider of limited use will be skills that the next person who submits a resume won't have.

It's not enough to get the team to have an expert on a tool or technique. Joe Expert will become a road block when that tool or technique is the best one for the problem.

Challenge yourself and your team today. Go get your heads around all of the tools you have in your tool bags today and the tools you've only heard of.

You might just see some side benefits of learning new tools and techniques. Your manager might as well.

  • Improved throughput
  • Improved code quality
  • Happier coders
  • Coders that aren't just biding their time to leave