Embrace Difficulty



It was an impossible project and I was scared. The fact that the world was ending was the least of my concerns. We have software that is so flexible and configurable that it was impossible to fully test all the combinations of options our customers could run. My leadership at the time asked us to mitigate this by recording everything that happened at a restaurant and playing it back it back internally on prereleased software to make sure everything behaved the same.

I can’t overstate how I felt: this problem scared the crap out of me. So much could go wrong, and so many issues to figure out. How would I get the software started? How would I know when/if the simulation was running correctly? What about all the other automation projects I had heard about over the years that had been cancelled due to lack of results? Would this project (and my career with it) be the next one thrown on the scrap heap when management realizes how impossible it is?

I had to step back, step away from my fear, and think of a good strategy. We were facing a difficult problem. The process we would come up with was likely to fail. A lot. Instead of running away from that failure, we needed to embrace it. We needed to welcome it with open arms. Because if we didn’t face the failure head on, we would never get past it, and we would fail.

So we created a system where we ran any automation we had every day. In fact, this is how we do it today, with over 150 restaurants running in a virtual environment and over 4,000 small scenarios. We do it every night. Do we have to do it every night? Technically no. But we embrace the difficulty of it by doing it every night so we get quick feedback of the problems and keep it on track.

People still argue with me over whether we have to run this every night. I’m fine with that; I know it seems silly at times. But I think it’s key to our success: we embrace the difficulty by doing difficult things all the time, so we can learn how to deal with them and make them not difficult anymore.

Here are a few other examples of embracing the difficulty in a system:

WhenEmbrace Difficulty By
Doing LaundryDoing it every day
BudgetingStarting every month and facing reality
BloggingKeeping a month ahead and posting at a regular pace
Learning to CookCooking a regular meal on a day of a week
Keeping the Family CloseEating dinner together every night

What have you avoided that you need to embrace in order to overcome it?

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