Learning in the heat of battle

I was having a discussion recently with a cow-orker about how the Lean Development Book was looking at the process of development using very military type terms.
In particular, the teams were very much like SAS, Special Forces teams. Highly skilled, highly trained and highly motivated. This can also be applied to sporting teams with similar characteristics (and less guns).
Great, that sounds like a good analogy, software developers tend to display similar characteristics. However, when looking at this analogy a little further, one really startling revelation came to light. The military and sporting teams spend 90% (or more) of their time training, and only 10% (or less) of their time performing their duties. All the training is done to set up their skills and techniques so that when the time comes and the heat is on, they will react appropriately, with good cohesion.
They’re not learning on the job, or in the heat of combat. They’ve done all their learning, and they are adjusting, using their knowledge to make good decisions, reacting the changes in the flow of the situation and working out new plans. I want to make it clear that it’s not an automatic response, but rely on good judgement and good decision making. However, the bulk of the knowledge,skills and techniques gained is during training where making mistakes and exploring the problem domain is a safe experience.
Now, contrast that with software development. We learn primarily on the job. I mean, how many people have organisations that allow for “project simulations” where you run a project and can explore what happens when you change parameters ? If so, tell me about it.
How can out industry sustain itself when the majority of the skilled workforce is not only trying to extend the total knowledge base of the practice, but do it within the confines of during project work where delivery of product (or service) is paramount, and mistakes and exploration will tend to lead to costly delays.
Does Open Source projects have a place to play in this arena ? Are these projects the training that is needed to do our best work for paying customers ?
I’m not sure I know the answer, but it’s an interesting question.


2 thoughts on “Learning in the heat of battle

  1. That’s so stupid, it’s not even wrong…

    During the same SyXPAC meeting, I learned that my colleague Jon Eaves blogged about a conversation we had .
    Another post of his is very Weinbergesque in the way the point is made.

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