Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Breathing Room

One of the fun parts about the end of the year is how many big initiatives tend to pile up. The culmination of a big project - whether that's a new website, a major refactoring, a release, or something else -  often results in a release. In many ways this makes sense. It is, after all, the end of the year, which is arbitrary but a really common breakpoint and time to assess accomplishments. It's also a relatively quiet time, with many people on vacations, so usage tends to be relatively light (except if you're retail!).

But.

(Ha! I always say "but".)

There's a catch. Big projects are fine, and putting them out at the end of the year makes sense in many settings. The risk is in trying to put out too many too quickly. Any big project comes with risk. When you do many of them at once, you compound your risk, and make it harder to figure out what broke when you're troubleshooting.

If at all possible, give your big projects some breathing room. Push them out and then go work on something small for a brief period. It doesn't have to be long - a few hours or so - but it'll make life a lot easier. Use the breathing period to:

  • get a new baseline of system behavior and identify behaviors and patterns caused by your large change
  • reflect on what you've done and tie up any loose ends
  • review the next big change in light of the new system behavior, configuration, etc.; does anything need to change?
Breathing room is good for humans and good for systems. Take it, if you can.

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