Computer systems develop intentionally. Nobody creates a program accidentally. People think about a problem and then write code to solve that problem. If it’s open source, it may have an organic growth track, but it is not unintentional. The people who add to code may make mistakes, those mistakes can be compounded, but they are not made without purpose.
Human systems, on the contrary, very often develop accidentally. There is a problem and someone intuitively solves it. There is no documentation, there is no plan, there is no chart. If it works, it becomes code, but it is still rarely understood. We read psychology, but we do not rigorously apply it to our human systems.
The recurring theme here at the Velocity Conference in NY is that human systems are the most critical systems to design and develop. They require an engineers intentionality, a psychologist’s understanding, and an artist’s flare.
Here are 3 important elements to get right if you want to create a great system,
1 - Transparency
Humans tend to silo themselves even when they are against it. There are closed door meetings, privileged information, and poor communication practices that result in a lack of transparency and an inherent fracture of trust.
Ironically, people do not always need all the info, but they don’t want to be left in the dark either. Find ways to let people in on what is happening in the business. Patrick Collison, from Stripe, had some of the simplest yet most profound ideas I have ever heard and created a hackpad full of them. Email me and I will send you the link.
2 - Responsibility
Github actually runs an open source company by open source practices. Scott Chacon and the folks at github are open to letting their people work on the projects identified at github when they want, where they want, and with whomever they want. The result is efficient business. There is not a lot of waste and there are always plenty of eyes to make sure problems are solved well. Github assumes you will be responsible, and it seems that great people actually are.
This also goes for individuals. Patty McCord reminded us why there are no vacation days at Netflix. Because people don’t abuse it. But all of these are underscored by a critical personnel understanding. People who are self aware and exercise good self judgment are the best hires. Know thyself and it would seem you are always employable.
Tim O’reilly started this whole theme off by talking about the way he has failed. The deep thinking about his own failures is certainly a reason for his many successes. His original post is here.
3 - Efficiency
While no system is completely perfect, the best ones create very little waste in the system. rands talked about the waste of time meetings often are and why you should only ever have 3 types of meetings, 1 on 1’s, Staff Meetings, and Tapestry Meetings. All others should be abandoned, questioned, or given an expiration date.
And while the idea that efficiency would be a core of a DevOps conference, it was profound to see this theme echoed about people and the profound importance of caring for people by respecting their time, their work, and their lives as complete people.
There are many more posts to come from this conference, but great job katemats and Eli Goodman and the entire O’Reilly team for a great Cultivate and Velocity Conference.
When you share something on instagram or vine or twitter people have the opportunity to respond, to connect, and to help. When they do everyone wins.
Today, I did a major plumbing job only to make a small mistake that could haunt me in the long run. That is the nature of DIY. You can do most things, but there are little things that pros are trained to not miss.
This is where Social Media comes in. I posted a short video of my project. A guy I don’t know from Connecticut saw it because of the hashtag and caught the mistake. He went ahead and mentioned it. No one would ever have seen my plumbing job. No one would ever have caught that miss. I would have fallen prey to the same things thousands of DIY folks miss every year. Thanks to social media and kindness from a stranger, my project will be completed right.