Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Close-Hauling

In sailing, we sometimes find ourselves close-hauling. This is where we want to sail as close to the direction the wind is coming from as possible. We keep our sails in very close to the boat and get as close to the wind as we can. The problem is, if you push it too far and get too close to the wind, your sails start flapping and then you're not going anywhere (plus it's really loud).

So the fastest way to get to a point that's upwind is not to sail directly at the wind, but to sail just off the wind.

I've come to the conclusion that this is true in software development, too. We have a goal: shipping something on X date, or with Y features. And we want to run straight at it. But dropping everything and working on those features or that date - the equivalent of sailing straight into the wind - is actually slower in the end.

You see, much as we like to call them distractions, we need other things, too, to work effectively. There are other things we have to do:
  • planning work for what comes after we hit this goal
  • oversight and calibration that our goal is still a good one and doesn't need to shift a bit
  • water cooler talk and friendly conversation (after all, we are still humans, not software-creation machines)
  • helping support the prior release, if there is one
  • training both new hires and expanding the skills of the current team
Concentration is great, and working toward a goal is a wonderful thing. Just remember that in order to get where you're ultimately going, you have to take care of the past and the future as well as just the goal that's right in front of you.

1 comment:

  1. nice post catherine,

    goals shouls be smart

    s->small
    m->measurable
    a->attainable
    r->realistic
    t->timely

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