I am reading this excellent book called Range, and I just went through an interesting chapter where the author reports some studies that were looking at why some firefighters die trying to outrun a fire while carrying heavy chainsaws, axes and other equipment. Should they have dropped those, they would have survived.
Emotional Attachment to Tools
One possible explanation is that their tools are so intrinsically linked to their identity as firefighters that they become almost like an extra limb on a subconscious level. People don’t realize those tools are not part of their being and can be dropped.
The book mentions one firefighter who noticed what was happening and knew he had to throw away his saw but felt compelled to carefully put it down – while trying to escape a ravaging fire. Still, he pushed the feeling aside, dropped his saw and survived.
The Sunk Cost Fallacy
When reflecting on this, the sunk cost fallacy also came to mind, which is “the phenomenon whereby a person is reluctant to abandon a strategy or course of action because they have invested heavily in it, even when it is clear that abandonment would be more beneficial.”
Letting Go of Past Investments
We can draw some valuable lessons from those examples in software engineering and operations. For instance, many people may feel emotionally attached to the tools, frameworks, and programming languages they have used throughout their careers. This attachment can be so strong that they become resistant to change, even when it’s evident that adopting new and more efficient technologies would yield better results.
Engineers may also hesitate to switch to a new technology or platform, fearing that the time and effort spent learning and working with their current tools would go to waste. However, it’s essential to recognize that technology is constantly evolving, and what was once cutting-edge may now be outdated. In these cases, it’s crucial to let go of past investments and focus on adopting new solutions to deliver better outcomes.
To succeed and keep improving, we need to be adaptable. Just as the firefighter who survived realized he had to drop his chainsaw, software engineers should be open to discarding tools or practices that may be hindering their progress or efficiency. It might be challenging to let go of something integral to your work, but doing so can open up new opportunities for growth and success.
In team management and collaboration, fostering a culture that values continuous learning and improvement is essential. Encourage team members to explore new tools, frameworks, and methodologies to help the team become more efficient and deliver higher-quality software. By creating an environment where individuals feel supported in their pursuit of growth, you’ll be better equipped to handle the ever-changing landscape of software development.
Lastly, communication is vital when applying these lessons to your teams. Make it a point to regularly discuss new technologies, trends, and best practices with your team.
Encourage open conversations about the tools and processes currently in place, and be willing to make adjustments if they no longer serve the team’s best interests. By fostering a culture of transparency and adaptability, you can help your team thrive in an ever-changing industry and drive continued success.