Don’t pave the paths used by the unhappy cows

July 14th, 2016

Today I had the line “lets not solve cultural problems with technology” attributed to me. That sounds like something I might say. (or more likely I’d say something like, “wheee! let’s solve those cultural problems with technology” and everyone would assume I was being sarcastic, but to the same effect)

The funny thing is interpreted in an unsubtle way this mantra runs exactly counter to one of my other philosophies of team, namely: Be a tool building culture.

I tried to tease out the nuance of these two ideas today, which is to say:

You can’t solve your cultural problems with technology, but you can support your culture with technology.

If your teams don’t respect each other and can’t communicate, a microservices architecture that decouples deploys isn’t going to solve your problem, it’s going to make it worse. Its going to entrench your dysfunction deep into your code where it is harder to fix.

On the flip side if you have a culture that already values transparency and inclusion, than building tools to make it easier for people with different styles, levels of seniority, and in different geographies to participate in conversations reifies that value. And given that culture isn’t a binary, making positive outcomes the easiest and default approach creates positive feedback loops.

Which was succinctly summarized by one of the people I was talking to as: “Pave the cowpaths, just don’t pave the paths used by the unhappy cows.”

Tagged: Uncategorized

Leave a Reply