Saturday, February 09, 2008 

Do Less

In many software projects lies some dreaded piece of code. Legacy code nobody wants to touch, dealing with a problem nobody wants to look at. In the past few days, I've been involved in a (mostly unpleasant :-) meeting, at the end of which I learnt that some "new" code was actually dealing with a dreaded problem by calling into legacy code. Dealing with that problem inside the "new" code was deemed risky, dirty, hard work.

Now, as I mentioned in my Work Smarter, Not Harder post, I don't believe in hard work. I believe in smart work.

After thinking for a while about the problem, I formulated an alternative solution. It didn't come out of nowhere: I could see the problem frame, and that was a language compiler/interpreter frame, although most of the participants didn't agree when I said that.
They had to agree, however, that my proposed solution was simple, effective, risk-free, and could be actually implemented in a few days of light :-) work. Which I take as an implicit confirmation that the problem frame was right.
I also had to mix some creativity, but not too much. So I guess the dreaded problem can now be solved by doing much less than expected.

This could explain the title of this post, but actually, it doesn't. More than 20 years ago, good ol' Gerald Weinberg wrote:
Question: How do you tell an old consultant from a new consultant?
Answer: The new consultant complains, "I need more business." The old consultant complains, "I need more time."

I guess I'm getting old :-), and I should probably take Seth Godin's advice. Seth is best known for "Purple Cow", a wonderful book that ought to be a mandatory reading for everyone involved in creating a new product. The advice I'm thinking of, though, comes from Do Less, a short free pamphlet he wrote a few years ago. There he writes:
What would happen if you fired half of your clients?

Well, the last few days really got me thinking :-)).

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Fare meno e farlo meglio.

Anche perché non abbiamo a disposizione un tempo infinito e quindi vale la pena d'impiegare bene il nostro tempo (parafrasando Seneca).

Per non ritrovarsi poi a guardare indietro con un certo grado d'insoddisfazione per il nostro lavoro e constatare che abbiamo sacrificato un affetto (o più di uno) e tutto sommato non ne valeva la pena.

Non è sempre così, ma in caso vale la pena pensarci prima. Magari a trent'anni piuttosto che a quaranta oppure cinquanta...
Do Less it's my mantra back since high school :)). It has some drawbacks, as people become envious because they've worked a lot more and it's very hard to make them understand that *maybe* they could work more efficiently.

It's really simple if you are a respected consultant, but i'm only a student :)
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