Today, I’m going to try to tie various strands of my life together into one lanyard of efficiency. I haven’t done a reader question for a while, so I’ll change that today. In this post, I’ll offer a terminology nod to dead seas, a now-defunct term that became one of my favorites. The best context I can now offer lies here, in a post of mine, summarizing it.
A few months back, I made a post on NDepend called, “What to do When Your Colleague Creates Spaghetti Code.” In this post, I described a caricature that I randomly named Bill, who you might recognize as sort of a quintessential expert beginner. I subsequently received a reader question about this subject.
How can I tell if the company interviewing me has a “Bill?” (i.e. “How can I preemptively identify expert beginners?”)
Well, I’ll take a crack at that.
Expert Beginner Primordial Soup
I think that a meaningful examination of this question requires us to look at the conditions that give rise to such archetypes. In the original series/book, I cover part of it. The organization must draw sort of a neat little box around the techie group and then put an advanced beginner in charge. From there, the concoction needs to simmer in a nicely insular environment, in which the budding expert beginner receives no real negative feedback, second guessing, or industry exposure.
But this assessment focuses entirely on the software development organization. An ensconced expert beginner reigning over some miserable, backward fiefdom requires “the business” as an accomplice. Simply put, it requires the operational laziness to allow your business to be ruled by an unaccountable “expert” operating with utter opacity.
Expert Beginner Hut
Imagine you started a pizza shop and hired a pizza chef to run the kitchen. Then imagine that you completely delegated the cooking to the chef, as you should. Life treats all of you well for a while and you develop some business.
But now complaints from customers start to come in about the taste and presentation of the pizza. “My pizza was incredibly salty and all of the pepperoni was isolated to three slices!” When you bring this problem to the chef, he tells you that such is life when it comes to making pizza—and, also, get out of the kitchen. You don’t taste the pizzas coming out or look at them or launch any sort of investigation when his pizza chef assistants serially quit, muttering about his incompetence. You just count the inbound trickles of revenue and assume that’s as good as it gets.