Question everything you do

Question everythingI realized that I follow a certain plan of attack when confronted with a task. I ask myself the following questions:

  1. Why am I doing this?
    The first thing I do is to ask myself why I am carrying out the given task. This is mostly about trying to understand the task and the problem it tries to solve.
  2. Am I solving the right problem?
    Once I understand the task and the problem at hand, I think about if the problem is the real issue that needs to be solved or if it’s just a symptom of an underlying issue.
  3. Can I do this a better way?
    When I am convinced that I am working on the right problem I try to come up with a better way of solving it. To answer this question I need to use my (and/or my collegues’) experience from having solved similar problems before.
  4. Can I automate this?
    After solving the problem with the chosen solution and given this is a reoccuring task, I think about how to automate the task as much as reasonable. Determining if (or to what extent) the automation is reasonable includes meassuring up the time it takes to automate the task against

    • the (total and manual labor) time savings by (partially) automating the task
    • the number of times and the frequency the task needs to be carried out
    • the error-proneness of the task
    • the impact of mistakes when carrying out the task

    The higher the values for these items the more likely I am to automate.

Extracting a mantra out of the above steps, my suggestion to you would be: Question everything you do. Never just mindlessly agree, especially if it has always been done ‘this way’. In my experience this is more often an indication that it is done wrong rather than proofing that it is the right way to do something. Never stop challenging the status quo.

But why?

Why, you ask? Good that’s what I am talking about. Questioning what you are doing and how you are doing it is the only way to improve. This is what agile and lean practices like retrospectives, 5 Whys and root cause analysis are based on.

Image by Cyndy
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