Lessons in Pragmatism

Today my inner idealist took a heavy blow. It’s not dead, but it sustained a nasty headwound and will require days of bedrest and plenty of antibiotics to recover.

I’m involved in a dirty big data migration effort at the moment; dirty being the operative word. Data migrations are never, ever easy. To paraphrase The Princess Bride: “Anyone who tells you differently is selling something.” But when you move something from A to B, you often have to take an outage.

“Anyone who tells you differently is selling something.”

An outage is a great time to fix all the broken stuff that you need an outage to fix, but that isn’t causing major pain to the business owner. Taking an outage on production equipment is really hard to get a business unit to agree to. Their stuff is working, so why should they? The fact that these outages are pretty much mandatory in order to do all this migration stuff has me going “Woohoo! Half the battle won!” Ah, would that it were so.

Because, of course, there are tight, tight timeframes to work to. If you didn’t have an aggressive goal, you wouldn’t get anything done. People would have all the time in the world to get moving, and you’d waste a bunch of money going around in circles for months. See also: Duke Nukem’ Forever. Nothing motivates people quite like a nice, firm deadline.

But all deadlines are not created equal. If you just set one arbitrarily, you have to scramble like a mob of crazed beavers in a coffee lake to get everything done, because you didn’t figure it’d take 18 hours to rebuild the database. And you forgot about all that extra cabling you need. The nights are long, the weekends busy, the heroes far too few. Burnouts happen, nerves are frayed, and tempers boil over. And now you want to add a bunch of extra work to fix things that no one really thinks is a big problem.

So today I bit the bullet and realised that the time is not yet ripe for what must ultimately be done. There will come a time, oh yes, when this work will be done. But that time is not now. I may have lost this battle, but I will win the war.

Because I have a secret plan. Bwahaha.

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