Breaking email and interconnected systems

I broke my rohan at rohanrajiv dot com email over the weekend. I tried making a change around email forwarding on wordpress’ admin panel and that overrode the Google Apps set up that I use. A couple of interesting lessons as I reflect on this –

1. Our gut is often ahead of our brain in spotting issues. Something felt wrong with my email account. I felt it because it is unusual to go 2 straight days without receiving a single email from someone in the ALearningaDay community. Second, I expected some reactions to the post on “Calm” as it is the type of thing I normally get reflections and lessons learnings about from many of you on similar journeys. So, again, I felt something was wrong but did nothing.

Finally, thanks to Philippe Alexis, who tracked me down on LinkedIn to tell me that emails were bouncing. And, no surprise, he shared his reflections on the Calm post along with the heads up. :) Thanks so much, Philippe.

2. Making changes on interconnected systems takes work. This is a nice example of what happens when you change something with interconnected systems without testing it. This is such a simple system – with 2 variables. And, yet, changing one variable affected the other.

The lesson here is around the challenges of driving change in large organizations with many interconnected systems. I’ve been working for a relatively large organization for a year now and I’ve found some of my assumptions around speed to be challenged. Many assume that large companies are slower than small companies due to organizational politics and less driven people. The former is generally, but not always, true (more people) while the latter is definitely not a given.

They generally overlook the fact that the most important driver of slower pace, in my opinion, is due to interconnected systems. When you make a change in a system with 15 other interconnected systems, you need to ensure all of the rest continue to work after you make the change. That takes time. As a result, you can easily build a risk averse culture if you get penalized for breaking things.

That’s also why “move fast, break things” is an intriguing motto. It flies in the face of how large interconnected systems work. But, it is clearly the kind of motto you need to emphasize speed over caution.