Swizec Teller - a geek with a hatswizec.com

    HOW great engineers hack The Process

    Earlier this week we talked about why engineers hack the process. Today I wanna talk about how.

    95teOop

    The Process is like an organization's immune system against the incompetent, the lazy, and the too busy to pay attention. Safety rails to make sure everyone does at least sort of good work no matter what.

    We can't trust you to run tests? Fine, no merging without a green test suite.

    We can't trust you to dev test your code? Fine, not done without independent sign-off.

    Can't trust you to think through your solution before coding? Fine, no starting without an engineering kickoff.

    Can't even trust you to read the spec? Fine, no coding without a detailed time estimate verified and agreed upon by five independent parties.

    groan giphy

    But you're a great engineer. Never incompetent, rarely lazy, and always too busy to pay attention ... wait a minute 🤔

    Hacking The Process

    So how do you hack The Process when it gets in the way?

    trust

    First you have to build trust. Without trust you won't have the leeway to hack the process.

    Trust is best built by not fucking up.

    Think of trust like karma points on Reddit. Say something useful, get a point. Say something dumb, lose a point.

    Deliver a project on time. +2 points. Find an edge case in the spec and talk to the PM. +5 points. Refactor a tricky piece of code and improve everyone's lives. +10 points.

    Kill production because of a typo. -20 points.

    Take ownership, fix the typo, and explain how you'll ensure a typo never gets into production again. +10 points.

    Oh and you just added to The Process. oops.

    karma giphy

    responsibility

    Second, you need to take responsibility.

    When something goes wrong and you followed The Process, your ass is covered. Process is the ultimate cover-your-ass strategy.

    "Oh but I was just following the process. You should fix that if you want to fix this sort of mistake"

    Weak move my friend. -5 trust points, but I get it.

    /me throws another step onto The Process

    When you hack the process, it's all on you. Everything works out? You're a hero.

    Production goes down, customer gets double-charged, investor sees a blank page instead of an app demo 👉 your ass is grass.

    And you gotta own it. Take full responsibility. You hacked the process and it didn't work out. Own it, apologize, fix the mistake, explain the incentives, move on.

    But without ownership, you'll never be trusted to hack the process ever again.

    judgement

    The last step is good judgement.

    You're about to hack The Process. Is it worth the risk?

    Think of risk like jumping over a canyon. You have to balance probability and consequence.

    Let me explain with a crude comic of a stick figure jumping over a canyon 👇

    95teOop

    Good judgement means you can tell the difference between these situations.

    Hacking The Process when probability of failure is low and consequences are nil? Go for it.

    Hacking The Process when probability of failure is high and consequences are dire? Please reconsider.

    So how

    Ok so you've got the trust, responsibility, and judgement to hack The Process. Now what?

    Now you find opportunities to hack the process, my friend.

    Start simple like disabling a merge check or two when it gets in the way of deploying a well-tested branch to production in a timely manner. Re-enable after you're done.

    Drop a step or five from the feature development checklist when it feels unnecessary. Does your feature actually benefit from QA or will automated tests do a better job? Does what you're doing even need automated tests? Do you need a detailed checklist estimate to think through a feature?

    Just don't be late. "Multiply your gut estimate by 3.14" is a rule of thumb I've heard a lot.

    You can graduate from there to completely subverting The Process.

    Something broken? Just fix it. Don't wait for a spec.

    Glaring hole in the spec? Propose a solution, tell the PM, let them add to the spec.

    Better yet, implement the solution and show your PM a screenshot. They'll be happy as heck.

    Everyone loves it when you have their back.

    As long as implementing a quick solution doesn't take you 5 days and blows your estimate to shreds. Make that the next project instead :)

    And most of all: use your hacks to improve The Process

    Every improvement starts as an experiment. YOU can make life better for everyone my friend.

    Happy hacking.

    ~Swizec

    Did you enjoy this article?

    Published on March 6th, 2020 in Opinions, Personal,

    Want to become a true senior engineer?

    Getting that senior title is easy. Just stick around. Being a true senior takes a new way of thinking. Do you have it?

    Leave your email and get the Senior Mindset series - a series of curated essays on the mindset of a senior software engineer. What it takes to get there, what should you do when you're there, how to change the way you think.

    The Senior Mindset series

    Get a series of curated essays on the mindset of a senior software engineer. What it takes to get there, what should you do when you're there, how to change the way you think.

    it describes my days in a way I have not read before.

    This was a very enlightening article about being a senior engineer.

    Join 15,883+ engineers learning lessons from my "raw and honest from the heart" emails.

    ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️✨
    4.5 stars average rating

    Have a burning question that you think I can answer? Hit me up on twitter and I'll do my best.

    Who am I and who do I help? I'm Swizec Teller and I turn coders into engineers with "Raw and honest from the heart!" writing. No bullshit. Real insights into the career and skills of a modern software engineer.

    Want to become a true senior engineer? Take ownership, have autonomy, and be a force multiplier on your team. The Senior Engineer Mindset ebook can help 👉 swizec.com/senior-mindset. These are the shifts in mindset that unlocked my career.

    Curious about Serverless and the modern backend? Check out Serverless Handbook, for frontend engineers 👉 ServerlessHandbook.dev

    Want to Stop copy pasting D3 examples and create data visualizations of your own? Learn how to build scalable dataviz React components your whole team can understand with React for Data Visualization

    Want to get my best emails on JavaScript, React, Serverless, Fullstack Web, or Indie Hacking? Check out swizec.com/collections

    Want to brush up on modern JavaScript syntax? Check out my interactive cheatsheet: es6cheatsheet.com

    Did someone amazing share this letter with you? Wonderful! You can sign up for my weekly letters for software engineers on their path to greatness, here: swizec.com/blog

    Want to brush up on your modern JavaScript syntax? Check out my interactive cheatsheet: es6cheatsheet.com

    By the way, just in case no one has told you it yet today: I love and appreciate you for who you are ❤️

    Created by Swizec with ❤️