Nov 15

The complexity of a simple sollution

Magic_RoundaboutI was asked to give a talk at the Unicom seminar in Amsterdam. The people who gathered had experience in the finance sector and I was asked to talk about complexity in the banking and financial sector regarding software development. I haven’t got any real experience in the financial sector apart from trying to balance my checkbook. So I decided to keep it simple. So what was my talk about, well. It’s about the fact that we people have some serious flaws.

We humans are good at coming up with very complex solution for questions we got. We can build elaborate systems that do all sort of things. We are awesome at it. But when things start to get out of our control, and many times this happens, we also try to look for complex solves. It is almost impossible for us to just accept that it is possible to  unravel the tangled threads of our software solutions with a simple solve. Every time when I talk to people en propose a simple framework or method, I get the response that this not possible or not for their company or department because their problem is so complex that… well, you get the picture.

So why do we end up with these complex situation and is it so hard to just accept a simple solve. You have to keep in mind that there are a few factors to be taken into the account. Flaw if you like. First of all, I get a lot that making things complex is in our nature. It is in our genes. I talked to a developer and he said that almost every software developers tries to find solution just beyond the edge of their knowledge. They like to challenge themselves. This is nice and great, but not when it is about your software. I got a resume once from a programmer who stated that he was very good at coming up with complex solutions, sounds great but I would not hire him. So we like to make it difficult for ourselves.

The next flaw is that we are terrible at planning. We try to predict the future but we can’t. It’s like predicting the weather. And even though we have a lot of experience with this, and measure everything we can only predict five days ahead. Everything else is just assumption. So why try to do so with software development.

The third flaw is that we like exceptions. There is not a single software project where there are no exceptions. We like to do this, except when the other thing might occur. We just can’t stick to a simple yes or no. It is always maybe or what if.

And the fourth flaw. Ah yes, communication. We are terrible at it. We just can’t talk with one another. So we have all sort of tools to do it for us. Things like email, texting, documents and so on. But a simple good talk is very hard. I have had people sitting next to each other who talked by using email.

Now you might say that doing thing complex is in our nature. Just like the spider builds a web or a flower grows a mosaic like heart. But they have something that we have lost over time. When we evolved we lost one thing. Instinct. We do not dare to use our gut feeling when doing things and especially when we work with complex situation. We need our tools and plans.

Well at the talk, my message was simple and the same goes for this blog. All I’m saying is, start doing simple. Take small steps. Use an agile framework. Use games to get people to talk. Use special workshop tool break down the barriers in meetings and idea sessions. Just start doing it. But the first step that you have to take is accepting that as a human being you are full of flaws and that it is impossible for us to solve with complexity. We have to solve using simple small steps. It isn’t that hard but you just have to see and found out for yourself.

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