You Only Get Credit For What Gets Done

The fun part of being a Big Swinging Developer is thinking about how things should be.  You have a large collection of processes, techniques, and patterns in your head and you get to apply them to your organization carte blanche while thinking about what should be.  Every book, article, and blog post that’s ever made you say, "Wow, I wish I could do that where I work!" migrates from the back of your mind to the very front and all of a sudden you know The Way It Should Be.

There are a few paths at this point.  The more introverted developers will internalize The Way It Should Be and whenever they encounter something that Simply Isn’t Right, they’ll complain and tell others as much.  Sometimes this falls on helpful ears and things get corrected.  More often, the complainer develops a reputation of, well, A Complainer.

A more extroverted developer may take a different path.  Instead of internalizing The Way It Should Be and remaining quiet until counter example appear they’ll start spreading the word.  They’ll tell everyone who will listen and even those who won’t.  The Spreading of The Word will take on many forms from simple water-cooler/coffee chit-chat to full-on email screeds that get sent to inappropriate levels of management.  Once again, this sometimes works but more often results in the trumpeter developing a reputation for being impractical.

The Big Swinging Developer has a more complete approach.  Instead of stopping at dreaming about The Way It Should Be, a BSD will take a very close look at The Way Things Are.  With these end points in hand, the next step will be to develop a plan of action.  This plan can be as simple as deciding the next thing that needs to change or as involved as mapping out steps and dependencies from beginning to end.  The format and level of detail don’t really matter because no one will ever see this plan.  Why will no one ever see the plan?  The plan isn’t a deliverable, the plan only lists the deliverables which are the changes that get you from The Way It Is to The Way It Should Be.  Then the work of getting these changes implemented begins.  None of this is as much fun as the dreaming phase, but as you might imagine it’s A LOT more valuable to your employer.

Judging yourself by what gets done forces you to act pragmatically.  If you give yourself credit for talking, then saying things like, "We should replace our version control system." results in huge points because it’s such a big change.  If you only give yourself credit for what gets done then, "We should replace our version control system." will most likely result in zero (or fewer) points because it’s not something that’s going happen.  Now, if you can make this happen you will get (and deserve) the huge points.

So keep dreaming, but talk about it less and act on it more.  Your organization will be moving on the path to The Way It Should Be and you’ll be on your way to being a Big Swinging Developer.

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