by Cesare Rocchi

Don't blame the tools

tags: tools

In the past I have been involved in big projects, managed via tools like JIRA or Redmine. It wasn’t heaven. Convoluted processes, tons of emails, walls of text that nobody read. I used to blame the tools. I am changing my mind.

Clearly a tool in itself can’t be responsible for a situation. It’s the usage that people make of it that generates happiness or frustration. Now there’s an argument to be made. Tools with many features might lead to convoluted and over-engineered processes.

For some reason, we are prone to think that if a feature is there, we have to use it. Much like when there’s food on the table, we have to eat it, even if we are not hungry. Somebody implemented mail notifications in this tool, so why should we keep it off? And next thing you know, your employees are flooded by so many irrelevant emails that they ignore even the relevant ones.

You can use feature-rich tools in a simple way, much like you can be on a diet and keep ice cream in the fridge. I think it’s just a matter of aim. My father, after he quit smoking, kept a packet of cigarettes on the dashboard of his car for two years. When you are resolute nothing can distract you.

My approach lately is to avoid anything complicated. Although I feel that my aim is strong, I am trying to make it easy on myself. So no ice cream in the fridge, because I know I’d be tempted to grab a spoon. And no feature-rich tools, because I know I’d be tempted to play with some features. Radical? Probably. Although I prefer to say “extremely focused by design”.