I’ve come to realise that one of the most underrated skills for anyone to grown well to a senior position in a company – “Growing with chaos”. By growing with chaos, I mean the ability to understand the state of chaos, being ok with increasing chaos in the systems, managing the chaos at the right time and ability to imagine the system without the chaos. I initially wanted to call it ‘working with chaos’, or ‘fixing the chaos’, but realized that chaos is something which can never be fixed. Once you solve a problem, you have another bigger problem to deal with (hopefully because the team/company has grown big)
This is something I can see when developers manage technical debt (like say code quality, documentation or test case coverage). When developers (usually in the junior position) doesn’t understand the full picture of engineering, product and customers, the recommendation comes up as ‘Let’s rewrite everything’. While the developers have all the good intentions, the lack of full picture and looking the problem only from the engineering lens ends up with bad recommendations.
The set of folks who can’t grow with chaos usually end up with a solution “Let’s stop all work and focus on this one problem.”. Except for very very few success cases, this is rarely the customer friendly solution.
While the above examples are from product & engineering, this can happen in any other team as well. For example, the sales team taking weeks away from “actual” sales to cleanup data in sales force, HR team pausing hiring for weeks to ensure the ATS is updated and so on.
As an airplane enthusiast , the best equivalent I can come up with when dealing with these problems is to imagine the pilot of a flight facing some issues mid-flight (say a simple light not working). If the pilot comes up with a solution saying forget about the engine/altitude/airspeed, let me focus all my time and energy on this light and solve this light issue, then your flight will crash. You do need to focus on the core things (this is always always your users/customers).
For the record, the above hypothetical story actually happened in one of the aircraft. Here is the short version of the entire story.
This is the detailed version of the story.