Tools Matter. Retooling? Sometimes…

In January, I had not one, but two aging Macbooks in a row fail due to a cooling system design flaw. I reevaluated and reinstalled all of my tools as I usually do. Start-to-end it took over two weeks for me to get back to even. During this ordeal, I thought a lot about the value of tools.

We use tools because they increase one’s ablity to do work. We retool because we hope to further increase productivity or reduce downtime (Or, we are following a mandate – usually driven by optics.) If a change can’t be shown to be likely to increase productivity it should be avoided.

We can evaluate a proposed change by comparing the cost of maintaining the status quo to the cost of the change. There are a few common issues I see teams wrestle with when concerning change. When we fall into these traps, we risk failing the valuation test entirely and end up increasing resistance to change.

Tool Obsession – It’s not the tool. It’s the work the tool does. We can’t get sentimental about shared tools. If we don’t make a decision an executive will make one for us and it probably won’t be one that anyone likes.

Analysis Paralysis – Don’t get stuck in analysis paralysis. Do the analysis, but if the selection is narrowed down to two tools and a decision can’t be made, chances are they are close enough that the differences don’t matter. Flip a coin and move forward.

Tool Churn – Don’t get your head turned by every shiny tool or second guess previous decisions unless you can justify the cost of retooling again. Frequent retooling rarely passes a simple valuation test.

Perfectionism – When it makes sense to retool, be careful not to get lost in solutioning. Quality work is satisfying but if we don’t deliver work in a timely manner, the value of the work is diluted to the point that it eventually becomes meaningless.

Direction is important, but speed is life.

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