In the standard issue lunch time conversations amongst coworkers, where all the problems of the world get solved… if they would listen to us lowly engineers; and much disappointment was shared because a simple problem could be mitigated by slow incremental changes over time, instead of the typical “let’s boil the ocean” solutions typically sought.
“Boiling the Ocean” refers to trying to solve the entirety of a large, complicate problem in one fell swoop on the first pass. Let’s use inventorying for a corner case and fixing it as an example. Due to a weird bug, you need to adjust the PoE config on a few switch stacks that have nics from Binford Networking. Easy enough. But someone with a higher pay grade gets a harebrained idea that you now need to leverage your need to find your Binford nics, and use that to also inventory all the endpoints, switches, routers, and firewalls. Provided you don’t have the tooling, we’re now looking at a Boil the Ocean problem. Its easy to get caught up in these problems, and then try to solve it all at once. This results in one of three outcomes.
- Most likely the project suffers a slow and languishing death. No one wants to tackle it, other high priorities comes along, it gets forgotten. Never to leave the recesses of your Jira backlog ever again.
- Things fail, there’s a smoldering crater from the blast. Teeth are gnawed, hangs are wring. People remember this, and others become gun shy about new tools and methodologies.
- You succeed. This is the worse fate. You become a victim of your own success. And just like the sequel to last summers blockbuster super hero flick… You find yourself saddled with a bigger, over scoped problem to defeat.
No good come from boiling the ocean. Last time the oceans started to boil, it was because a meteor struck the earth… The dinosaurs died off. Things got a wee bit chilly. It was not good.
A better approach is to follow the old adage of eating an elephant. How you eat an elephant… One bite at a time. Break the problem in to smaller chucks. Tackle the small chunks one at a time. Sure your successes will be small and low overall all value per success. But they’ll also provide consistent success and value that grows like a savings account. You’ll also gain momentum and inertia with that success. Those wins will start to stack up, making way for more wins and confidence in the methods you used. To use a baseball term, play small ball instead of swinging for the fences on every pitch.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re inventorying your DMZ’s or building an automation solution, steady, small wins consistently add up. Its how you winch sports ball match and not kill off all the dinosaurs. Save the T-Rex