@johncutlefish's blog

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Unsuck Days

Published: June 02, 2018

(Dealing with) misery loves company…

Quick post…

Most teams have a list of problems that 1) impact them day to day, but 2) are annoying and/or soul-sucking to fix. The issues aren’t major fires. Rather, they apply a steady (and sometimes increasing) amount of drag on productivity and team happiness. Examples might include: fixing an annoying CI issue, flaky tests, a more production-like staging environment, monitoring/alerts, or making tools more readily available across teams.

Equivalent examples from our personal lives might include… going to the Department of Motor Vehicles, removing cavities, deep cleaning the diaper pail, recabling the home entertainment system, setting up your in-law’s iPad, finally cleaning out that drawer with 50 adapters, or giving your cat a bath.

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These problems often extend beyond individual teams to the “team of teams” level. The cumulative impact is large, but there is not enough of a burning fire for any one particular person to buckle down and just get it done. And in many cases, you need the coordination of multiple people from different teams to actually solve the problem.

So here’s an idea.

Once and a while, hold a big Unsuck Day (or Fix Bullshit Day, or whatever you want to call it). Embrace the fact that you’re going to focus the day on masochistic, mundane, and annoying tasks. Kick off the suckage with a chant. Have a big party at the end of the day. Ring a gong. It’s like a hack day, but for making your day to day less annoying.

I know, I know. Teams should do this stuff naturally as part of their day to day. But sometimes you need a bit more motivation. Knocking this stuff out as a big group can make the suck feel less sucky.

It also attempts to knock out that 10–20% drag caused by annoying, but “not annoying enough to fix” impediments.