It Depends

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This editorial was originally published on Mar 25, 2009, and is being re-run as Steve is on vacation.

No, it's not a comment on Andy Warren's blog (which used to be called It Depends), but rather a note that the title of this editorial, which DBAs are famous for uttering in response to most any question, also applies to much of life.

I was reading one of Joel Spolsky's columns Inc. Magazine article, and it struck me that "it depends" applies here very well.  He was talking about management and the decision of when to implement middle management for his company, Fog Creek Software. They had been a small company, primarily being run by Joel and his partner, Michael Pryor, as co-CEOs. They made joint decisions and tried to keep an open door policy and encourage people to come talk to them.

It didn't work out so well, and I can certainly understand that. Even when I've had a good relationship with management, I've found that there are times you're hesitant to talk to them about something. After all they don't really mean they have an "open door policy" all the time.

We all think that we have hard and fast rules, and we do, but we don't have as many as we'd like to think we have.  Often what we really have are hard-like rules, that we try to enforce as fast as we can, but sometimes bend or break in response to some situation.

In other words, what we do "depends" on what situation. And that's how it should be. We need some rules, we need to enforce them, but we also need exceptions to those rules. We need flexibility in how to apply them, recognizing that the rule exists to handle one, or many situations, but not all of them.

Steve Jones

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