Winning Marathons Before Getting New Shoes

I am a big fan of the Rands Leadership Slack, and I learn something multiple times per day. Today, of course, is no different. Because of the Chatham house Rules, I can’t link to exactly what was said, but I’ll share it with you here.

The conversation itself was around “building trust”. If you build software, you’ve inevitably heard this phrase uttered:

“We need to build trust with <stakeholders> that we <can deliver valuable software> in <timeframe stakeholders wanted it>”.

I’ve heard that (or a variation on the theme) more often than I can count.

Inevitably that comes up when the team wants to focus on ‘Paying down technical debt’, as it did in this conversation today. As developers, we know that technical debt is basically never going to get addressed, and if it does it won’t get addressed in the timeframe to actually be useful to us, and so incurring technical debt may as well be like incurring national debt: We’re never gonna pay it off, so we may as well ignore it.

Anyways, the whole reason I brought this up was a singular quote from this conversation that cleverly encapsulates the problem with the dynamic between ‘building trust by delivering what we want when we want it’ and ‘paying down technical debt’:

“We need you to start winning marathons before we buy you new shoes.”


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