“If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.”

— Henry David Thoreau

The street pictured above will be closed for months.

Looking at the surface of the street there are no real clues as to why. It is in good shape.

However, underneath that road lurks 100-year-old infrastructure that recently failed. The water main broke. They found that it needs significant repair and parts replaced which will take months.

Before I continue on, let’s give accolades to those engineers of 100 years ago. What they created has worked for over 100 years! 

Now consider two questions.

Is what you are building today being created to last?  
Many of the companies I have worked with are pushing constantly for fast turn-around. Sometimes the engineers make comprises to the design and subsequent quality of the product to get it turned around quickly.  Everyone is shocked when 5 years or even 20 years later that same design is still in use and causing all sorts of problems. This is what is known as technical debt.

What lurks beneath the surface of your metaphorical roads?
Too many organizations face the problem of technical debt. This debt can be in their processes, their infrastructure, and yes, in their code base. It is often hidden from direct view. However, the symptoms will become clear as creating new things takes longer and longer.  Eventually, cracks and leaks may appear on the surface.

As leaders, we need to do two critical things. 

Look at what lurks beneath the surface and take care of the problems that are there. 

Even more crucially, respect the pressure of speed, but remember to make plans that include the healthy longevity of the roads being built.

Yours in the calm pursuit of excellence,

Alan Willett
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