Thursday, October 6, 2016


You all think you know what I'm talking about, but you don't. Sorry. You think I mean this.

But I don't.

I mean a paradigm where you gather all the requirements, figure out what's going to get done, which might or might not have any relationship to the requirements, then build it such that the finished product might or might not have any relationship to the plans, then test it at least a little to say you did, then deliver it to the customer. Hopefully they haven't gone broke while you go through this process, and you get paid.

That's software oriented, and explains why nobody really does software that way anymore. It sounds good, but the problem is that world changes faster than such a process can keep up. Going back to revisit the requirements when you discover a bug in testing is a super way of wasting time. The slightest glitch in communication can have a huge impact on the outcomes, and usually not in a good way.

But that's how government does things. They love to get out to consult the voters. More accurately, they've already been told by the powers that be (people with money) what the outcome is going to be. Then some of their friends get to help build frameworks and paradigms to engage the voters and subtly sell them on the plan. There is no real interest in finding out what's actually wanted, let alone needed, but there's a very specific process to go through to make it look like that.

All too often people get trapped in that way of thinking. Figure out what you need to do, figure out what you're going to do, do it, make sure it got done, tidy up. Next. Plan your work, work your plan. You can't change the plan because it's a plan. Doesn't matter if the task is putting up Christmas lights, trimming the hedge, or packing for a trip.  If you are working on something where the results are critical, like say, stepping outside the airlock to repair the space station, you do want to go through a checklist and have a very clear idea of exactly what is going to get done. But most of the time it's overkill.

At the other end of the spectrum is the 'make it up as you go along' camp. I do this in writing, and it sometimes leaves me in a bit of a corner wondering how things are going to work out and the characters aren't talking to me anymore. This approach can be lots of fun if you have an open mind, and you're likely to discover something you didn't know along the way. Or you can end up out of gas in Pense, SK, at suppertime.

Somewhere in the middle is about right for most things. Some overall structure and a sense of the goal, but with the flexibility to change things on the fly. I've seen workout plans that are specific down to the number of seconds to take for each of many intervals during a swim workout. Some of the plans you nearly need to be a mathematician to parse out how many times you have to do a particular thing. I can't do that. My swim workouts are often made up after I've started the first lap.

If I'm given a new database, I don't sit down to do a scholarly analysis of it. I dive in and mess around, figure out how things are related, what the data looks like. I'm taking lots of photos with the new camera, trying to internalize how to get a good shot.

Many athletes talk about being in the zone. You don't have to plan or think. You just do, and if you've done your training properly, your doing is probably superlative. Life should be in the zone. A bit of planning so you aren't making a terrible mistake, then get out there and do it.


  1. I like to think I'm in the zone all the time, like I can figure it out organically. But it's how I get injured. I'm a little more regimented or at least more aware what you say is pretty much right.

  2. This post really resonates with me on so many levels. I can see examples all around me of where people in my life it into this paradigm or on the spectrum. I like to have just enough of an idea of what I need to do and how to prioritize it but like to jump in and do it and allow the plant to evolve along the way. This post gives me insight into how you think and I love how you can take something as complicated as swimming and break it down into little pieces that I can absorb and digest and work on to improve. Thanks for sharing Keith.


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