· 3 min read

In theory, theory and practice are the same. In practice, they are not.

Except when they are.

You read books, posts, watch videos, whatever, and that’s cool. But the true power comes from matching these learnings with personal experiences.

Recently, I experienced a match between theory1 and reality. And oh, you bet it felt good.

So, fear. This was about fear. We experience fear when we face uncertainty (I’m by no means a psychologist, but I read a couple articles on Wikipedia so you can call me an expert).

And uncertainty comes in many forms when developing software. It’s at its core.

Fear-inducing gaps

Uncertainty and fear appear when there’s a gap between reality and our expectations.

Let me share with you three of these gaps.

The gap between what you’d like to know and what you actually know

What do we do to mitigate this fear? Well, we request more detailed information.

We want to be on top of everything.

We confuse understanding with information.

The gap between what you want people to do and what they actually do

We tend to overcome this fear by providing more detailed instructions. We tell people exactly what to do.

We move from agreeing on “why”, or “what”, to suggesting or enforcing “how”.

We confuse clarity and alignment with detail.

The gap between the expected results of actions and what they actually achieve

When this happens, we tend to ask for more reporting. What have you been doing? How are you going to organize today? What are you spending your time with?

We confuse outcomes with outputs.

Closing the gaps

Did you notice the trend here? We attempt to close gaps by taking a step back. By seizing power and control. We sacrifice autonomy, trust, and empowerment.

Yeah, sure. It is obvious that we need to close the gaps. Mostly because otherwise information is lost, and more coordination is required. Overhead emerges.

If there’s a gap, you’ll need to build a bridge.

But… to sacrifice trust, quality, and all we agreed upon only to close a gap, feels like a high price to pay.

From the outside, it may look like you’ve never believed in these things in the first place.

It may look like they are replaceable. Something not worth standing up for. A nice to have.

Feel related yet?

I’m afraid (pun intended) there’s no silver bullet to finish this post with. I wish there was!

All I can tell is that these gaps are quite common once you start thinking about them.

My bet is that you, fellow reader, have been through the same thing.

My only suggestion is to identify which gap you are trying to close. And, more importantly, to identify how are you trying to “build the bridge” to shut down fear.

Here’s an idea, though. “When things derail, you might want to go back to basics“.

1: I’m talking about Escaping the Build Trap and The Art of Action.