When others suffer for your mistakes

What we geeks need to realize is that delivering a fix is insufficient

Hobvias Sudoneighm, via Flickr (Creative Commons BY or BY-SA)

Have you ever felt as if you were being punished for someone else’s mistake? Maybe your project sponsors “remembered” some requirements at the last minute and insisted that the schedule couldn’t change. So you had to stay late or work all weekend. You suffered. The consequences to them? Nil. Maybe you discovered a product bug and the vendor told you that everything was OK because it had a workaround. Great. You were stuck with all the manual work to get around the vendor’s bad code. You suffered. The vendor? Not so much.

How did you feel in those situations? Hold on to that feeling for a moment.

Now, let’s be honest. Sometimes the shoe is on the other foot. We make mistakes, and our users and sponsors suffer. Maybe the accounting system goes down for a day during the year-end close, and once you fix it, the folks in accounting are stuck working overtime to meet their regulatory deadlines. Maybe your automated backup system stops working and you don’t notice for a few weeks. Then, when someone needs a critical file restored and it isn’t there, he has to re-create it from scratch. Or maybe an invoicing input screen has a bug and it takes a week to fix. Once it’s working, the accounts receivable people have an entire week of backlog that they have to dig through. They probably will suffer mightily. You, only a little embarrassment.

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