Today I set out on a mission to build a fire pit in my back yard. I used to have one of those stand-alone pits but it rusted out. So I got an oil drum and cut it down to 1/3 it's height and then dug a hole to bury it. Once I had my hole dug I poured 1 1/2 cubic feet of river rock into the hole and leveled it off. I then set the barrel down into the hole.
It looks level, from my knees.
Before I poured rock inside the barrel I had to get the bags off the wheelbarrow behind me, so I stood up and grabbed a bag. Before I plunged my trusty pocket knife into the bag I looked down at the drum sticking out of the hole and noticed it wasn't level.
I had to go get the level.
I know better than to do this project without the right tools, but I had left the level in the garage. So I went and got it and check the drum. Sure enough it was considerably out of level North to South. So I pulled it back out and shifted the rock around. Checked level and it was spot on.
Then I checked East to West.
East to West I was still off, so out comes the drum, more shifting of rock, etc. etc. Eventually I got it close enough. After all, there will be field stone surrounding my fire-pit and you probably won't notice if I'm off a bit.
Why am I telling this story.
So when we are working on a story card at work, sometimes we loose sight of the big picture. We think we are doing the right thing because we don't periodically check in on the larger objective. This manifests itself in all kinds of ways; long draw out quests for perfection on throw away features, over built functionality that handles impossible cases, and so on. And sometimes, we can't tell on our own, we have to talk to someone else (go get the level).
It is important to pause occasionally and check to see that the work we are doing is on target, and when it isn't, correct course. It is also important to check more than one target, because we might be on track in one direction and off in another.
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