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Confused about how to design a new process (third week into new role) Expand / Collapse
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Posted Friday, August 10, 2012 8:00 AM
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GSquared (8/9/2012)
On the point of "don't lose sight of the big picture", I'll just say that this is one of the biggest mistakes people make, assuming they can't do anything with the details till the big picture has been fully "grocked". This leads to more decision-deadlock than any other factor in management.


Well, the opposite can be just as big of a problem. I've had all sort of headaches caused when a developer would change a piece of functionality in one module, but b/c he had no grasp of the "big picture" he didn't anticipate how this would change things in other areas of the app - then we have to hope that the broken use case isn't to "edgy" to be caught by our regression tests before it gets into production.

So, in my humble opinion, saying that fostering "forest" vision is the "biggest mistake" is an overstatement; but, I would agree that there's no way for a new developer to grasp the forest unless you let him/her build a tree house or two along the way. It's up to the team leads and managers to put the quality controls in place to allow this to happen in a way that ensures the app's integrity.

I'll sometimes pair two developers together: one's a good forest guy, one's better with the trees.

I'd say that the OP needs to, as you suggest, solve small sections of the puzzle to get started, but he should make sure he tests these changes along the whole app cycle.

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Posted Monday, August 13, 2012 6:33 AM


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Steve Thompson-454462 (8/10/2012)
GSquared (8/9/2012)
On the point of "don't lose sight of the big picture", I'll just say that this is one of the biggest mistakes people make, assuming they can't do anything with the details till the big picture has been fully "grocked". This leads to more decision-deadlock than any other factor in management.


Well, the opposite can be just as big of a problem. I've had all sort of headaches caused when a developer would change a piece of functionality in one module, but b/c he had no grasp of the "big picture" he didn't anticipate how this would change things in other areas of the app - then we have to hope that the broken use case isn't to "edgy" to be caught by our regression tests before it gets into production.

So, in my humble opinion, saying that fostering "forest" vision is the "biggest mistake" is an overstatement; but, I would agree that there's no way for a new developer to grasp the forest unless you let him/her build a tree house or two along the way. It's up to the team leads and managers to put the quality controls in place to allow this to happen in a way that ensures the app's integrity.

I'll sometimes pair two developers together: one's a good forest guy, one's better with the trees.

I'd say that the OP needs to, as you suggest, solve small sections of the puzzle to get started, but he should make sure he tests these changes along the whole app cycle.


I'm talking from the viewpoint of organizational analysis.

Before I turned into a DBA (by accident), my education, training, and experience, was in analyzing organizations for management patterns, strengths, weaknesses, etc. There are patterns that groups of people tend to fall into, some complex, some simple, some subtle and some obvious, that tend to create either effective groups or ineffective groups, depending on the complex of patterns.

It's a complex subject.

One of the most common complexes is groups that try to bite off more than the human mind can easily chew. "Big picture" is seen as more important than it actually is. This is a common group-killer, because it has a lot of hype telling people that "the big picture" is what smart, competent, etc., people will see, and everyone wants to see themselves as "smart, competent, etc.". So people will try to convince themselves that they are "big picture people", and will end up operating on an innappropriate decision-scope.

Think of it this way:

Imagine you are trying to decide whether to have chicken or fish for dinner. In the big picture, you need to calculate total annual caloric intake, work out a ballanced diet so you get adequate protein, vitamins, trace nutrients, and don't get too much of anything that might create a health risk (like cholesterol, triglycerides, sugars). You need a balance of the various amino acids that go into protein synthesis, you need a certain amount of fat in your diet to maintain immune and nervous tissues. And so on and so on and so on. Analyzing dinner in this manner is likely to end up taking at least a weak, by which time you're worn out from hunger and thirst and your spouse (who was going to cook for you) has probably left home to find a less obsessive person in his/her life.

Ignoring the big picture in diet will kill you. It can cut decades off your life. So, does every decision about fish or chicken need to be analyzed as a complex, life or death, big-picture decision?

Of course not. You think, briefly, "I haven't had a lot of omega-3 fatty acids recently, so I'll have the fish", or "I could use a more complete protein, so I'll have chicken", or just "chicken tastes better", and you don't spend a ton of time on analysis, calculations, etc.

Nobody would ever do the week-long analysis marathon on that decision about dinner. But "big picture" obsessed organizations will do the equivalent of that on business matters, and end up with "decision paralysis". Long chains of e-mails, multiple meetings, decision-escalation to C-level for day-to-day operations, these are all signs of decision paralysis. It's how big, inefficient bureaucracies are born.

It's a very common situation. Its mirror, which could be called "snap judgement obsession", shows up when tactical levels of management don't want to know about the day-to-day or even week-to-week operations of their areas. They'll rationalize this with "we don't want to micro-manage". Yes, micro-management will kill a business (or other group), but when "not micro-managing" becomes tied to their ego-reflection (asserted self-image), then it's just as destructive, but in a different way.

So, it's a complex subject, there's a lot to it.

That's what I'm talking about when I say obsessing about the big picture is one of the biggest mistakes people make. It's easy to rationalize, it spreads like wildfire in the summer, and it makes people feel good about themselves while they strangle the very organization they think they're helping.

Does that clarify what I meant?


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