Hope is not a strategy

Of all the mantras I use to build high performance cultures and to coach my engineering teams, this is one of the first things they have to learn.


It’s actually pretty simple and self-evident in the software world. Nothing ever works out like you hope or want it to.


As a result, we’re constantly dealing with plan B or plan C or Z. And if you never have given a single thought to a contingency plan, you’ll end up looking pretty foolish when things come rushing at you.

Clients will always change their mind about something.

Clients will always want to expand scope.

Clients will always need something sooner.

Clients will always think it was going to do something else.

These are the things that happen. And so, if you know that, you also ought to have a plan for what happens when these things make an appearance in your project.

Hope is something we all should have. It’s a great thing. Embrace it.

But don’t make it your strategy. Have a set of risks articulated that are reasonable to consider, and then have contingencies for each. That way you won’t have to rely on hope.

In the end, the people who don’t have contingency plans are simply young and immature. Maturity comes from the experience of knowing these things will happen.

But notice that now, since I’ve told you they’ll all happen, you don’t need experience. Just trust me. And create an contingency plan.

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