The Tooling Trap 👀
Aug 05, 2022 1:42 pm
At one of my clients, someone calls me about every six months to go over the same thing. They found a tool that they think will solve all the problems, only it isn't working out the way they think.
This is a really common issue that pops up in most teams and companies. When they are plagued by a problem they search for a tool that is built to solve that problem.
There isn't anything wrong with this on the surface, but the assumption that the tool will solve the problem for you or make it so easy to solve that you'll actually solve it, is usually false. Unless of course it truly is a critical issue, but I'll get there in a moment.
Let's look at diet and exercise, everyone's favorite life change. You don't need an app for it. Yet, if we behaved like most companies, we wouldn't do anything until producing a matrix of apps for diet and exercise, went through a lengthy contract, and purchased the tool. Then there would be meetings about how the adoption of the tool is going because we spent so much on it after all.
The hiccup for companies and teams is the same as for individuals, tools don't often prompt behavior changes. They do direct and shape existing ones.
So if you have a problem with testing software, buying a new testing tool won't create a testing culture. If you have a problem with visibility into roadmaps and execution, a large product management tool won't make people suddenly organized.
Whenever someone wants to adopt a tool to solve a problem I ask, "Who is someone doing this well today?" If there's an answer I direct them to go study and learn from them and pay attention to why it's only them. If the answer is nobody, then we are way too early for a tool purchase or adoption.
Now, I mentioned the critical issue case a little bit ago. This works because when the issue is critical, people are often chaotically solving the issue without the tool. So, a tool can better shape and direct their usage. However, investigating what good looks like and finding examples is still recommended. Otherwise, you'll be adopting a tool in the middle of chaos.
The bottom line when it comes to adopting tools is you need to do it the hard way first, so you can refine your coarse behaviors. Adopting a tool in hopes that the new behavior materializes will never work as you hope.
Here's my weekly update for August 5th, 2022...
It was about three years before I saw a retrospective that didn’t have the basic three-column setup.
You know, the one where you have +, -, Change.
Maybe yours is start, stop, continue.
Let’s talk about a situation that happens in almost every team I see.
After meeting everyone and getting access to things, I will look at whatever tools they use to manage their work.
I do this because while most people are adamant they use the tool, few give it much regard other than it’s a chore to do.