I would like to share with you a story that I recently read in this post blog.

The woodcutter story

Once upon a time a very strong woodcutter asked for a job with a timber merchant, and he got it. The salary was really good and so were the work conditions. For that reason, the woodcutter was determined to do his best.
His boss gave him an axe and showed him the area where he was supposed to work. The first day, the woodcutter brought 18 trees. “Congratulations,” the boss said. “Go on that way!” Very motivated by the boss’ words, the woodcutter tried harder the next day, but could bring 15 trees only. The third day he tried even harder, but could bring 10 trees only. Day after day he was bringing less and less trees.

“I must be losing my strength”, the woodcutter thought. He went to the boss and apologized, saying that he could not understand what was going on. “When was the last time you sharpened your axe?” the boss asked. “Sharpen? I had no time to sharpen my axe. I have been very busy trying to cut trees…”

Moral of the story : Working hard is not enough; one has to keep on sharpening one’s skills.

It amaze me when I read it the first time. It makes obvious something that normally when building software we forget, sharpening our axe. Some people will argue that it’s not the same, you don’t use and axe to program Zentyal or any other software. That’s right, it’s even worse. Our tools are more complex, and difficult to master, so things like testing, proper coding, estimation, etc. need more time to be studied and correctly used. The good news are that we, as developers, can do a lot more than sharpening an axe.

One philosophy that fits well with this story and that I really love and try to practice it’s the Japanese Kaizen. It means “continuous improvement” and it came from the Toyota Production System. In software and for me it means that we should trying to improve our process, continually. Never getting satisfied with a particular way of doing the things or the quality that we are delivering. It always can be better without a doubt. Perfection it’s not a state it’s a path.

 

A post by Julio José García Martín