Laziness can get you so far

Is man destined to choose the quick and dirty road, throwing away long term benefits?

While the answer is probably yes (we’re all lazy like that), two dissimilar events in the last week made me think – maybe that’s not the right question. Maybe we need to check how long term are we talking about.

I was in an army practice last week for my unit. Because it’s top secret (not really, but just in case someone reads this) the task was to report on 50 occurrences of X. When they were at 46, the commander in the practice decided, without permission, to complete the task by reporting 4 Ys. Without going into what are X and Y, and what the cost was of reporting them (high), the point is – the commander went after the number, rather than following the correct parts of the task.

It was fully acceptable to leave it at 46, saying “we can’t do 4 more X in the time we got left”. Hitting the number 50 was more important to the commander than doing the task correctly, because sadly that’s the historic way of looking at results in the unit (thank god, we’re improving).

Then I read Lessons from the Classroom. In his description, students resorted back to not doing unit testing, because they felt it wasn’t worth it – investing in unit testing for something that ends in 6 months, when there’s no real ROI.

In both cases, people get directed (either by other people or their  own understanding) that the shortest route is more beneficial.

And since I know a bit on both areas I can tell you this. We must communicate what’s important. We can’t rely on the perception of success when we’re motivating change. And we need to be persistent. In the final result of the practice, the commander didn’t get his 4 Ys counted. We needed to send the clear message of what’s important.

And with unit testing, it’s the same. As we’re introducing changes into the way our organization works, we need to be persistent on where we’re going. The ROI of unit tests is not so visible, but it is big long term, and we need to over communicate that. And then we improve.

As for the opening question. I’m not that pessimistic. But yeah, we’re mostly lazy.

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