When you find a bad habit, look for the gap
*** A quick plug: Jacob Oppenheim has started writing some really great posts on Medium and you should all check it out. (If you know anyone else whose writing I should promote here, send me an email or contact me on BiB Slack.)***
One of the core themes of the Reciprocal Development Principles is that you need to evolve your organization’s process along with the tooling. But I think it’s worth digging a little deeper into why that is, from the perspective of habits.
A lot of the processes that define a Biotech organization are informal. They’re essentially habits that team members have developed to navigate the circumstances that they’ve faced in the past, and may continue to face. So even if some of these habits are problematic, or seem so from your data team’s perspective, they’re probably justified by some legitimate concern. (See: Deliberate Empathy). In other words, these bad habits are often coping mechanisms for dealing with gaps in other areas, particularly gaps in tooling.
Two that I’ve encountered recently are 1) using email to document decisions because there isn’t another reliable source of truth and 2) stuffing all the metadata into experiment names because the only way to look them up is by name search.
The problem is that while you can address these kinds of habits by introducing the tooling that fills the gap, the habit that’s still there can often block the tools from being effective. For example, until users trust the shared docs to be the source of truth for decisions, they’ll keep relying on email and the docs will always be out of date. So how will users learn to trust the docs if they’re consistently wrong?
There’s no silver bullet to fix this problem. But that doesn’t mean it’s hopeless. It just means that you need to be deliberate in how you assess the situation (with the help of deliberate empathy) and how you incrementally address it.
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