Andy Crouch - Code, Technology & Obfuscation ...

The Word Just

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Photo: Annie Spratt - Unsplash

I hear the word “just” a lot.

Throughout my career, everyone has used it. “We just need to upgrade this library to get feature x”. Or “we just need to make this change to fundamentally alter a feature”. Or my personal favourite “we just need to do this massive task by tomorrow 9 am”. This one is always said at around 5 o’clock in the evening.

This is by no means a moaning post. It is a natural thing to try and reduce any task to it’s smallest form. Doing so though can have a negative effect on the person “just” doing the task. I know that early in my career when I was told to “just” do x and x took me 3 days it made me feel stupid. I felt like I was failing in some way. On one occasion the solution to the task I was “just” to do took a senior engineer 4 days (and I suspect most of the night). It was not a straightforward change. Nor was it really fair to just give it to the team junior.

I notice that business stakeholders use the word a lot. I suspect it is because the technical team have given them a longer time frame than they would have liked. “Two weeks, oh I think you are wrong. All you just have to do is create this new feature”. In this instance, the business stakeholder should listen to the technical team. They might be equally offended if their knowledge of finance or sales was questioned. Can you imagine the response if a technical person said: “Oh all you have to do is just raise £1m by next Friday at 5 pm”. I can and they wouldn’t appreciate that approach either.

This is one of those age-old problems of domain ignorance. Development makes this matter worse by being largely invisible to the outside world. A new feature appears in the application and sales and the CEO love it. Do they have a realistic appreciation of the effort it took? No. Neither does the technical team on the effort the accounts team took to publish the accounts. A clear case for better communication for sure.

It has taken 20 years for me to realise this situation and there is no easy fix. Patience and education between teams is key. Having faith your teams as well is key. Believe what they say and don’t just try and force a quicker solution.

Is this something you have considered or addressed on your team? Please share your thoughts with me via twitter or email.