Manual Work Is a Bug: Always Be Automating

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Let me tell you about two systems administrators I know. Both were overloaded, busy IT engineers. Both had many repetitive tasks to do. Both wanted to automate these tasks. After observing these two people for a year, I noticed that one made a lot of progress, while the other one didn’t. It wasn’t a matter of skill—both were very good software engineers. The difference was their approach, or mindset.

I’d say that the successful one had a mindset of always thinking in terms of moving toward the goal of a better automated system. … 

The successful engineer realizes that the earlier he starts collaborating, the sooner others can contribute. Together they can create a culture of documentation that spreads throughout the team. Thus, every project is collaborative and has a “stone soup” feeling, as all are invited to bring their skills and insights. The more people who embody this culture, the more success it has.

This culture can be summarized in two sentences: (1) Every manual action must have a dual purpose of completing a task and improving the system. (2) Manual work should not be tolerated unless it generates an artifact or improves an existing one.

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