Picking Up Poo

I read a book recently and, like all good books, it made me question my approach to life (it also had pictures and rhyming couplets, which helps with my short attention span… Maybe I should write a blog about that instead…).

Anyway, the book is called “The Dog Poop Initiative” by Kirk A. Weisler and, to cut a short story even shorter, it is about a football match in a park where everyone was keen to point out a dog poo in the middle of the pitch, but nobody thought to remove it.

The line that got me was:

“So far we’ve seen lots of pointers and poopers. But what about initiative? Where are all the leaders and scoopers?”

I’ve always thought that I was a scooper. The boy scout rules about “Leaving the campsite cleaner than you found it” has a special place in my heart. Not because I was a boy scout (I quit after one week), or because I like camping (I hate camping), but because I think it is an important life lesson that things don’t get better through inaction. If all you do is leave things how you find them, it only takes one person to ruin the fun, but if you leave things cleaner than you find them, you would need significantly more party poopers to bring you down.

Reading this book made me look back to see if I had pointed at anything recently. My retrospection was eye opening:

Team member: "We need to make a decision"
Me: "Yeah, we’re just going round in circles here"

Team member: “Our release process seem to be a bottleneck”
Me: “That is because someone (that wasn’t me) chose the wrong Continuous Integration tool”

Team member: “We are being blocked by Team X”
Me: “Can we come up with a solution that doesn’t need Team X”

I was alarmed to find that my natural state was to point and not fix. It turns out I was a guy who witnesses an accident and thinks, I hope someone knows first aid, and I’m pretty sure an ambulance has already been called for.

The change in mindset that I hope the book (and this blog) has, is to move away from “somebody should fix that” to “how can I fix that”. To begin with you will think, “why should I do it, I didn’t create the problem, so I shouldn’t have to fix it”, but now your game of football is less enjoyable because you are constantly avoiding the poo. If you have to design a solution that avoids Team X, you are restricting the solutions available to you. Wouldn't it be nicer to work with Team X and solve the problems together (including the problems that weren’t originally your own).

As the culture of your team/organisation evolves, you might not be the first responder. Things will just work and football fields will be poo free, but that won’t happen without a bit of sacrifice. So next time you see a problem, roll up those sleeves, get stuck in and be part of the solution.

And Ocado do a good deal on poo bags if you find yourself short on your next trip to the park… ;-)

Written by Will Peck, IT Development Manager

george smith