That Code Is on a Need to Know Basis…

November 21, 1960 was not a great day for NASA. Their first ever unmanned test flight launched a whole four inches off the ground before crashing. In the analysis afterwards, it was discovered that the capsule and the rocket were not integrated correctly.

From the book Team of Teams, it goes into more detail:

The interface failures, however, exposed an inherent problem: independent small groups were very effective at exploratory work, but trouble erupted when the projects of the disparate teams had to be integrated into the vehicle going into orbit.

I often work with organizations that are facing similar challenges. These are teams spread out across the globe, building different products, with separate reporting structures. Essentially, highly efficient silos that work well inside the team, but with little situational awareness of other teams.

So imagine you are gearing up to integrate your new app to a critical API when you get a warning “That code is on a need to know basis”. You may laugh, but that is often how we treat requests for help from other teams and fellow colleagues.

The disruptive power of what we are doing at Stack Overflow is that we are enabling a culture of collaborative sharing across technical teams. We are helping to break down the walls of their silos to allow teams to work together more effectively and solve ever more complex problems. That is critical given that the pace and complexity of technology change getting faster.

We are awash in information but work in environments built with information speed bumps. Every time we interrupt a co-worker, send out a blast email, or trawl wikis and portals, we create a bit more friction in the path of finding an answer. Software may be eating the world, but information speed bumps are eating our productivity.

So let me ask you a very non-Stack Overflow type question, on a scale of 1 to 10, how easily do you share and collaborate across developer teams? Is your engineering culture one of open collaboration and transparency, or is it more “on a need to know basis”?

Thanks for being a fan of the Stack and look forward to chatting soon!

Why are so few foods blue?


I work on the Stack Overflow Enterprise team and help companies solve the challenges of easily sharing tech knowledge internally through a private version of our Q&A technology and our community building implementation expertise.

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