Lesson 2 from the apocalypse – expertise

This article is a translation from the original French post on Arolla‘s blog.

Pluto Krath closed his laptop. He was done with his meeting, and he was about to go and get his daughter at school. He was 20 minutes early, no need to hurry.

— “I told you so”. It was too easy to say that now.

He rubbed his nose.

— She’s such a pain. But she was right again.
— She’s such a pain *and* she’s right. It’s your problem if you only listen to what you want.

Pluto verified that Tara Reid was missing in his sharknado poster, and headed out of the kitchen.

— You see, today I’m ready to listen to your lesson. The sun is shining, I won’t work extra time, and I’ll have a good time with my kids.
— Good for you, I’m happy to see you learn to balance your life. But if I’m here, it’s because you’re still thinking about your genius.
— A genius? A prophet of doom, you mean. I need the tech lead, but Nadia keeps announcing disasters, said Pluto while putting his shoes and his mask on.
— Do you remember when you asked me how to detect exponential growth? Well that’s easy: listen to the elderly.

As he was walking into the elevator, Pluto stressed out a little bit. He could bump into a neighbor, now.

— Is that all? I was expecting a method, not some folk remedy.
— If you don’t like the summary, let’s rewind. What’s your exponential disaster?

Before going out on the street, he plugged his headset on. It wouldn’t be the first time some weirdo talked to himself.

— Nadia warned me we wouldn’t be able to adapt the code. And after working around the workarounds, we are stuck. As soon as we touch a line of code, everything falls apart. Development takes forever. We can’t even find time to fix bugs. We came to a point where we think about stopping for a year and rewriting everything.
— 1 year? You’re too old to be so naive. But that’s not the topic, we were rewinding. At the time Nadia started to warn you, had you already experienced destroying your product’s architecture?
— Well… no?
— All right, so you didn’t know. Did you know someone who had experienced destroying your product’s architecture?
— Of course not! Hello, Mr. Cheng, said Pluto with his eyes smiling when he saw his neighbor.
— So you couldn’t analyze the situation through the expertise of an elder.
— OK let’s stop here. You’re going through cynefin questions. Now you know we weren’t in the simple or the complicated domains, so you’ll ask me whether I could formulate a hypothesis. We could, and Nadia did. We were in the complex domain. So what should I do? Iterate to see whether the hypothesis was valid? It’s done, and I still don’t know what to do.
— I wouldn’t call that iterating. You didn’t even consider the hypothesis. Otherwise you would have paid attention. You could have measured trends, had you found the right metric. For example, smiles in the team, or rate of delivering useful things.
— You’re right, we could have been quicker.
— Once again, try to remember the beginning of the epidemics, before the disease officially escaped from China. Experts warned us that a pandemics *might* have started, even though they didn’t know anything about this virus. They could have been wrong, and the disease could have ended like MERS. Still, we paid attention, we measured, and facts made us take the measures we all know. And these measures helped us stop the exponential growth.
— We also saw quite quickly that all experts weren’t on the same page about the future of the epidemics, wearing masks, and so on. How can I recognize reliable experts? It’s not only a matter of experience.
— You’re right. A 6 year old can master the patterns of a Rubik’s cube, and a Nobel candidate can publicly say blunder after outrage. You can’t count experience in years, and expertise is not immune to insanity. Recognizing truth is hard. Listening to expert communities seems to be a good strategy, when you can do it. If you can’t, well, it’s up to you to recognize friends and foes.
— Instinct. Is that what you’re saying?
— That’s what instinct is: experience, compiled by dreams into patterns. They help you identify what’s possible, impossible, or likely. That’s what epidemiologists had: patterns.

As he walked in front of the baker shop, Pluto shut up and let it sink in.

— Anyway it’s too late.
— It’s late, but it’s never too late. A Chinese proverb says: the best moment to plant a tree is 20 years ago, the 2nd best moment is now. Let the team take the right decisions. They know how to stop the bleeding. You will learn how to listen next time.
— In the mean time, I will try to find the data that could have helped me validate the exponential hypothesis. If I can find it, I could prove we are dampening the trend.

In a black cloud of smoke, Tara took off. Pluto now doubted that fitting her robot legs with jets was a good idea. Expert climatologists had warned us of the exponential risk for decades, after all.

He was arriving to his daughter school. He had a few minutes to sharpen his joy before kissing his daughter. He was also her elder, and she would also not listen to him before a couple of decades.

One comment

  1. Pingback: Lesson 3 from the apocalypse – practice | AAAgile

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