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Thought for the Day: Success by Rituals and Ceremonies

"You must do the ceremonies!"  Not a Shabbos Shuva drash, but a constant reminder from my manager.  Software engineering and management has always been challenging.  As the name implies, it's "soft" and easy to change.  There's a problem?  No problem, just retype a few lines of instructions.  So what's the problem?  Big problem.  There are 10s of thousands of lines of instructions; many thousands of which depend on other thousands in lots of hidden way.  On the one hand, any change is likely to have unpredicted side effects, so every change needs thought and planning.  On the other hand, change is imperative.  New features need to be added to keep up, of course.  The system needs to be continually made faster and more efficient.  Oh, and of course, there are those defects.  As computers and the internet becomes faster and cheaper, development needs to keep apace.

The process du jour (I know, that doesn't look correct to me, either; but Merriam Webster says differently)  is known as "Agile".  In brief, the process goes like this.  Two week units of development, known as "sprints".  Each sprint begins with a day of planning the work to be done and ends with a day of showcasing the results accomplished.  Part of planning the coming week is a retrospective on what did and did not go well in the last sprint.  After the showcase, we do a risk analysis for the upcoming week.  We also have daily "stand up" meetings; 15 minutes in which we each report on what we accomplished yesterday, what we plan to accomplish that day, and any roadblocks that could derail our plans.  All told, approximately 25% of our week is taken up by meetings about work and not actually working.  By the way, my company provides an online service to insurance companies (who are not forgiving of downtime) and I work in the "Lights On" team; that is, our work makes sure we provide the services expected, thus keeping us in business (keeping the lights on).  Why in the world does management let us get away with 25% of our time dedicated to "not working"?

Because it works.  We are much more productive than groups who just do all day, every day.  We are more productive because we are goal driven and focused.  We have a demonstrated track record of delivering quality results ahead of schedule.

Why am I telling you about this?  Because suppose I had started by telling you that the M'silas Yesharim, in his first chapter on a Chazal's 10 step program to perfection, begins with this statement:
A person who goes through this world with out contemplation of he is on the right path or not is like a blind man walking on the edge of a river.  The danger is imminent and profound; he is more likely to be badly hurt (or worse) than to be safe.
You would have said, "That is so true!  I wish I had time to do that."  You don't have the time not do it.

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