Rules of thumb vs Exercise your judgement
I spent a bit of time working through the first Micro Testing album of the Industrial Logic eLearning suite a few weeks ago and there’s an interesting piece of advice towards the end of the album:
Microtesting is not a formula. It's a technique. When microtesting rigorously, you will be called constantly to make judgments like these, between one set of names and another, and their corresponding approaches. Remember the judgment premise. Don't let any technique or recommendation or rule of thumb become an excuse for not exercising your judgment.
While I think this is good advice I thought it was interesting that it seems to goes against the rules of thumb approach that I described in a blog post towards the end of last year.
It seems like Kerievksy and co are encouraging us to ‘get out of the shu box’, as Alistair Cockburn would put it, and into the reflective ‘Ha’ stage of the ‘Shu Ha Ri’ learning model.
- Shu, the student copies techniques without adapting them.
- Ha, the student reflects on what has been learned and breaks free from traditions.
- Ri, the student is now a practitioner extending the art.
I’ve previously written about my own learning style which seems to favour a strong adherence to practices without too much questioning while I get used to them although I appreciate that others seem to reach the reflection stage quicker than I do.
Talking with a colleague about the value of pair programming he described one team he’d seen that had decided that it was an unnecessary practice to follow even though they hadn’t spent very long using it.
As a result the team had become very siloed with each team member becoming an expert in one area of the code base, eventually leading to a situation where it was impossible to rotate anyone on the team.
From my experience we end up with the same situation if we try to make a judgement call on when and when not to follow a practice without having sufficient experience to work out how we might need to vary its use in different circumstances.
The last paragraph of Rachel Davies’ post also points this out:
Learning new ways of working takes time. As Ron Jeffries once said "They're called practices for a reason".."You have to have done them. Practice makes perfect."
It’s certainly useful to get into the habit of reflecting on what we’re doing but I think we also need to be aware that we may not yet have the experience to make every judgement.