The Third Time Often is the Charm

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The Third Time Often is the Charm

Zone Leader John Vester examines the often used phrase "third time's the charm" to understand if there is more to the story.

· Agile Zone ·
Free Resource

The expression “the third time’s the charm” references the concept of eventually reaching the *right* solution after a some unsuccessful attempts.  Believe it or not, the neurons in the decision-maker’s brain could be influencing the decision more than one might expect.

As an example, let’s assume that upon analyzing the current state of an application, you architect/design enhancements to resolve issues that either a) currently exist, b) may surface down the road, or c) both.  However, after presenting your ideas, the decision-maker decides to forgo implementing your recommendation.

Now, let’s assume that over time the decision-maker receives similar (if not the exact same) recommendations by other individuals experienced with the application.  Often times this happens after the original architect/designer (“you” in the example above) has moved on to other tasks and responsibilities.  In more cases than not, the decision-maker accepts the recommendation after hearing the same suggestion multiple times.

Initially, I planned to focus on how often I have witnessed this scenario during my career. (Keep in mind, the majority of times that I have seen this happen I have merely been a casual observer.)  My goal was to relay the message that this situation still exists.  Instead, I decided to take things a step further — to try to see if I could figure out why this pattern has continued to repeat itself over the years.

A few years ago, Tübingen neuroscientists concluded that decision-making processes are influenced by neurons in our brain.  They cited the simple of example of how the brain reacts when seeing someone on the other side of the street who resembles an old friend.    The neurons in our brain often use the memories of the relationship from the look-a-like friend to determine how we will react when our paths cross with the individual on the other side of the street.

In our example, when the decision-maker realizes that the same information is being presented, it brings up memories of the prior recommendations that were suggested.  These memories eventually alter the decision in favor of implementing the design enhancements.  As a result, your long overdue recommendation is finally about to be put into place.

During the course of my career, I have experienced being the person making the recommendation and also the person repeating past recommendations which were eventually accepted.  Interestingly enough, it seems like the original architect/designer often receives the label as being “on the bleeding edge” or maybe even “too aggressive.”  While, the individual delivering the recommendation on the time that it is accepted by the decision-maker seems to always receive the label of “hero.”

It is common to focus on the lost time and additional efforts required to convince the decision-maker to finally accept your recommendations.  However, stepping back and looking at things from a higher level, everyone involved should feel proud that the needed enhancements were eventually accepted.

agile adoption, devlife, devops, neurology, neuroscience

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