Over the years, I’ve seen multiple tweets, comics, articles and the like about so called focus needs of developers. I’ve seen and heard Software Developers blame managers, asynchronous communication (i.e Slack, E-Mail) and everything in between for lulls in productivity when they lose focus. And it bothers me more than it should. Here’s why:
Just because we write code, it doesn’t make us special.
This tweet puts it very succinctly as well. All the arguments for so called focus time without interruptions is based on the idea that our work is so complex that it’s impossible to become an useless zombie if someone asks us a question. But in reality, this happens to everyone, not only software developers. It’s very easy to lose focus and have a hard time getting back on track, regardless of what your job is. So why is it that it’s mostly us Software Devs complaining about it all the time?
We’re spoiled. Our industry has made a great job of making us feel special and unique, which helps us forget we’re just people doing their work, like everybody else. The idea that the IT department is full of greatness but management always ruins it is everywhere in pop culture, and we’ve started believing it’s true. It’s not. It never was and it never will be.
Software is a team sport. Teams are filled by different people, with different skillsets that help one another achieve a common goal. In order to be a great team, you have to be ready to work and play for the team and not for yourself inside a team. That means, answering questions, standing up and going to meetings which will provide real value to the team, pairing with someone on an issue they’ve been stuck on for a while, explaining things multiple times to different people, etc. The code we write ourselves is less important that the work that gets done by the team. That means communication, trust and respect are all more important than the code we write. Demanding focus time is not good communication. Nor is it respectful, since you’re placing your own time above everyone else’s. And it will be hard to trust you if you’re constantly away and unavailable to answer any kind of important questions that may arise.
Other roles in our industry understand this better than us. That’s why you rarely see a focus time article written by Scrum Masters who have the importance of communication at the very core of their profession. Like I said a while back, Software doesn’t have Software Problems. It has People Problems. And most people problems are communication issues. What that ends up meaning, is that you can be a technical genius, but if your communication is sub-par, your output as a team member will be equally sub-par, regardless of how elegant your code is.
So, get good at communication. It will pay off, I promise.