New Bamboo Web Development

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Chain of Fools

by Laurie Young

What do you do when you have one person who is the repository of knowledge for a critical part of your project, infrastructure or similar.

You need some way to address this situation, otherwise that poor person will go mad dealing with other peoples problems, never feel free to go on holiday, and if they get hit by a bus you really are in trouble.

Steven Williamson at youDevise told me a cool technique they use to fix this problem, they use Horace. Horace in this case referred to a stuffed toy. A woolly mammoth to be precise.

The one guy who knows everything about, for example the CI system, gives Horace to someone. He gives it to someone who does not know anything about the CI system, a "fool", who while intelligent, has no knowledge of this CI system works.

This person is now the only person people can ask for help. When the CI system stops running your tests, you have to to ask whoever has Horace. Of course, they don't know the answer, and so have to ask the guy who gave them Horace. The expert.

After this happens a few times, a change occurs. From time to time, you ask the guy with Horace, and he already knows the answer. Its the same problem he got asked two days ago, and he learnt the answer then. He didn't have to go and ask the original source of all knowledge. He is learning.

Fast forward a bit more, and he is now answering most questions without having to ask the original guy. He has leant most of what he needs to know to fix the CI system. Its time to extend the chain.

He selects a new "fool". Someone new, with no knowledge of how the CI system works, and gives him a present. He gives him Horace. Now the new fool gets asked all the questions. When he doesn't know the answer, he asks the guy who gave him Horace. If he doesn't know, he can ask the expert. A chain is formed. You can only get help from the person who gave you Horace, forcing the knowledge to be passed about the company.

By constantly adding a new link the the chain of fools, you slowly, but surely change it into a chain of experts.