by Leon Rosenshein

One Step At A Time

You've probably heard of The Phoenix Project. Considered as a novel it's boringly one-dimensional to almost OK. Considered as allegory though, it's got a lot going for it. Archetypes, broad statements, and simply worded lessons.

One of the simplest of those lessons is Kaizen, or continuous improvement. The idea that most efficient things you can do is the thing that makes your daily work more efficient. That's kind of circular, and deserves to be unpacked. At its core Kaizen takes the long view. Do the right thing now to make things work better in the future. The challenge is how to balance the present and the future.

As an infrastructure team we could take all the lessons we've learned over the years and interactions and do a green-field build of the perfect system for our needs. Toil away in the back room for a couple of years and then emerge with a fully functional system that scales to meet all of today's current and expected needs. The big bang approach. You can probably guess what the result of that would be. By the time it was released the world would have changed enough that it didn't meet the actual needs and we'd spend more time trying to get it right. At best we'd eventually get there. And over the preceding 2+ years would have delivered no value.

Or, kaizen. Make it better every day. Work towards the end goal of a system that does exactly what we need the way we want it. Take feedback along the way, adjusting the goal to meet customer needs. And add a little value every week or so. And it doesn't have to be a big thing. Even the smallest step along the way will help. Automate something. Make it easier to mark a task as done. 

Unlike technical  debt, where compound interest hurts, adding value early lets it compound over time, and ends up making a big difference. So take that small step when you see it.