Manual Work is a Bug

My own personal story:  A long time ago, I was a farm kid on my grandfather’s farm.  The neighboring town decided to outlaw the carbide noise makers (like this one) that we used to keep crows off the corn…at peak harvest.  Understandable, but we would have lost the commercial value of the sweet corn crop for the year.

So 14-year-old me got to be a walking scarecrow for a week, in 100 degree heat and 95+% humidity, with a big straw hat and a gallon jug of water that became disgustingly warm as the day went on.

What I learned from this:

  1. Sometimes you have to take one for the team.
  2. In the long run, there are some tasks that human beings shouldn’t do, that should be automated.  (In this case, I was the stopgap in going *backwards* away from an existing automated solution).  We dropped sweet corn as a crop after that year.
  3. The small family farm is a dead end; the margins are too small to make a decent living, so I was the last of 10 generations of family to work that farm.  It wasn’t practical to aggregate the farm with others, as the state had run two highways through it, but that, as they say, is another story.
  4. Corollary: You have to move on from time to time and refresh your approach if you want to succeed.  This is a good general lesson.

Given this, and my history in software development and IT operations, I wholeheartedly agree with the article below.

Every IT team should have a culture of constant improvement – or movement along the path toward the goal of automating whatever the team feels confident in automating, in ways that are easy to change as conditions change. As the needle moves to the right, the team learns from each other’s experiences, and the system becomes easier to create and safer to operate.

Source: Manual Work is a Bug


How Rogue Techies Armed the Predator, Almost Stopped 911, and Accidentally Invented Remote War

How Rogue Techies Armed the Predator, Almost Stopped 911, and Accidentally Invented Remote War:

On the afternoon of October 7, 2001, the first day of the war in Afghanistan, an Air Force pilot named Scott Swanson made history while sitting in a captain’s chair designed for an RV. His contribution to posterity was to kill someone in a completely novel way.


Commentary (Dak):  Ah, the power of a motivated team focused on solving problems rather than just serving the huge organizational process gods.  Those processes have value in terms of scale and defensibility of acquisitions for well understood technologies (K-rations, anyone?) but they have their downsides.

Why would anyone want to follow you?

In my experience, the key questions for leaders are:

1. “Why would anyone want to follow you?”
2. “How do we know where we are going?”
3. “How will we know when we get there?”

Of these, the most important for actually getting things done is 1. Why would anyone want to follow you? Do you motivate the team to come to work? Do you listen to the team, and make sure that each person feels that the organization respects them? Do they feel that you are fair, that you don’t have favorites, that you care about them as people and professionals? What is your track record? Frankly, what does your team think of you?

2 and 3 are strategically important; your customers and management team care about 2 and 3, and the team should have them in mind…which is what you have to clarify as a leader. But you won’t get ‘where you are going’ unless the team wants to follow you.

What’s your experience?