It always worked like that

There is a story about a fisherman who goes out to the sea every day with the same boat and the same net and the same relaxed state of mind. He maintains his positive outlook no matter how many times he takes that boat out and returns empty.

One day a young boy, watching the old man return from sea yet again with an empty net, decides to ask the old man about it. The old man replies that his net and his boat always served him well in the past and the time would come again when the harvest of the sea improved.

The boy was helping the old man bring his boat and net in from the water and while folding the net to dry noticed that it had a great big hole in in it. Well, replied the old man, my equipment always served me well in the past, never a slip or frey in the netting, I neglected my net because it had always worked so well in the past.

Empiricism: Knowing it’s right

Had the old man continued to inspect his net he would have discovered much sooner that it was no longer fit for purpose. As he became accustomed to the dependability of the net he reduced his previous rigorous inspection routine because it began to feel like a waste of time. Inspecting a net does require investing time. Eventually the best practice habit began to feel like a pointless burden. When things started to go wrong he missed them because he had lost the habit of inspection. He just went on assuming the net would continue to work as it always had, because it always had.

Retrospectives for success

Always inspect your tools and processes at the end of an iteration and at the end of a project. This is the best time because the problems that you encountered throughout are still fresh in your mind.

  • Do not assume something is fit for purpose just because it was in the past
  • Pay especial attention to those outcomes you expected but that didn’t materialize –
    • Not seeing expected performance
    • Component integration failures
    • etc…
  • Keep looking for problems

Do not be the old many who fails to bring in a catch just because you trusted too much that things would work as they always did.

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