The Thermostat Story


It's 11am on a hot summer day as a Zemanta developer exits the zone and suddenly realizes that it's blazing hot in his room. Being a master problem solver the solution is evident - turn on the air conditioning. Back in the state of flow everything is fine for some time, but after 20minutes the developer realizes it's still hot so he decreases desired temperature from 24 to 15 degrees Celsius. As conditions become perfect the code just starts flowing, but as the air conditioning really kicks in, the room becomes cold as a fridge. The developer sets the desired temperature to 20 degrees. He waits a bit, nothing changes. He sets the desired temperature to 25 degrees. Oh, it has become hot again... This is an adaptation of the story told by Michael Nygard at his QCon tutorial Systems Thinking and Methods. Unfortunately, such scenario happens very frequently as we are all prone to overreacting to the situation at hand and impatient for remedies to kick in. One caste of people that is particularly susceptible to such behavior are managers. I think we have all experienced managers implementing changes, and after not seeing results quickly enough, they implemented even more changes only to be later overwhelmed by effects once the changes they initiated really kicked in. If you don't want to be an out-of-phase manager yourself, you should realize that your influence is much bigger than you think, but so is the inertia of the system you are dealing with.


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