It is important to understand the value of experiences that have occurred in the past. Of course, this is not limited to Information Technology (IT), but every aspect of our lives. In the course of my 25+ year career in IT, I have obtained a great deal of experiences to draw upon — both good and not-so-good. Sometimes, the not-so-good experiences can impact us and our ability to recover and move forward. The key is finding a delicate balance between understanding and learning from the experience and making forward-looking decisions.
It Happened; Learn from It and Move On
Years ago, I was working as a consultant on a Scrum team as the idea of Agile started to gain momentum. As part of the project, the team made the decision for a particular approach to solving a need by the business. The framework we decided upon felt like a strong fit and early prototyping of the concept backed up our decision. Things were going great.
However, as more and more functionality was introduced into the design, we realized that our choice wasn't as favorable as originally expected. Without the vision of hindsight, we continued to push forward until it was clear to everyone that our approach needed to be revisited.
We definitely spent far too much time trying to maintain the investment made into the selected approach. What would have been a better decision was to follow our instincts and consider alternatives earlier in the process.
After getting management on board with the decision to move in a different direction, we were constantly under their view, making sure the same situation did not happen a second time. I am sure more of us than would like to admit have been put in this position, where a layer of unneeded anxiety is introduced and has an impact on the entire team.
In the end, the team became better as a result of this situation. We were all focused on making sure the new solution did not maintain the same shortcomings of the prior decision. We were learning from our experiences.
However, being constantly reminded by our management team was the one thing that wasn't helpful. What would have been the preferred approach would be for management to allow our team to thrive on our own, like we had been doing prior to the one decision that did not work out as expected.
Making Forward-Looking Decisions
In order to emerge from decisions that do not work out, the biggest challenge is to get past the subconscious layer of doubt that emerges when something doesn't go as expected. I believe everyone on our team went through a period where we doubted ourselves, asking, "Do I really know what I am doing?"
It is at that point that our minds can let the one decision that didn't work out override the tens, hundreds, or even thousands of decisions that worked out without any issues. In life, we can be our toughest critic — and this certainly applies to day-to-day life as an IT professional.
In our case, we pushed the pressure from management (to avoid making the same mistake) onto the Scrum Master and participated in a team redesign session. We worked through the current needs and looked at the backlog for future needs that emerged after the original design was in place. Working together, we began to see the energy and drive that the team had prior to failed decision, pushing out the doubt that started to live in our minds.
Soon, we were able to prototype a replacement solution, which not only met the needs of the current and planned state but was still in place long after our team finished the project. As a team, we were able to learn from our mistakes, regain our confidence, and provide a solution that met the needs of our customer.
Learning from and understanding past experiences is key for a seasoned professional, especially when the results are not favorable. Moving forward, one has to make sure to keep those learning points in mind and not let doubt (either imposed internally or via an outside influence) have an impact on being able to move forward.