Saturday, July 23, 2016

Go Fever

I have Go Fever.  I get it often and I get it bad. Go Fever is an informal term that was created by NASA by the engineers involved in the Apollo I fire that resulted in the death of all three astronauts involved. It was also used after the Challenger disaster in 1984 and the Columbia disaster in 2003.  It is the frenzy that occurs by individuals and groups when involved in a big project. As go-live approaches, one's ability to see problems are diminished for fear of failure or of dragging your team down. No one wants to be the one to cause a project to miss its go-live date.  The money, the stress and the amount of time put into the project can contribute to the fever. One has a tendency to not see problems in this state of frenzy or to diminish their value.

This is not a failing in personality or character, it is just the residue of stress, just an aspect of being human. The big difference between me and the folks who work for NASA is that no one dies when I get the fever. There might be some money or good will lost , or inconvenienced doctors or patients, but no one is going to die because of my mistakes. I work in medical billing, I don't touch those machine that go beep. The Freakonomics podcast recently interviewed Allan McDonald, one of the engineers on the shuttle. He says that the more successful a person or organization, the worse the fever can get.  Prior to the Challenger disaster in 1984, NASA had never lost anyone is space. The Apollo I accident happened on the test pad and Apollo 13 failed but was ultimately saved due to their innovation and creativity. So you could say, they were going into the space shuttle project quite cockily. You can't learn from you mistakes if you haven't made a lot of them and you feel infallible.

I am blogging about this because I learned from my failures in the past. It is one of the reasons why someone with 20 years experience is better than someone with zero: we've already made our failures and have learned from them. A true failure is one that you haven't learned from. Freakonomics talks about a pre-mortem (as opposed to a post-mortem) on projects where they go over everything that can go wrong.  This is a lot like what I do with my team of testers. They test the code that I write and they get back to me about problems. We try to think of every way the software can be used and test the hell out of it.  I fix the problems reported and we start over again. As Go Fever sets in and gets stronger, my idea of what a problem is gets smaller and smaller. I tend to accept some problems later in a project that I may not have accepted it earlier.  This is why engineers don't test their own code. The testers are a fresh set of eyes that look at a project from a perspective that the coder could never. I have been working the same project for about a year now. My go-live date is the first week of August, a couple of weeks. My Go Fever is quite bad right now, not fatal, but I am looking forward to it being over.

1 comment:

Olga Hebert said...

I shudder to think of a control-freak kind of personality with go fever. But then, I shudder quite a lot lately.