I’ve been driving donkey-drawn carts for five years or more. The donkeys and I are pretty good at it. Ernest was obstacle-driving champion five years in a row at the Castle Rock Mule and Donkey Show. Ernest and Chester have won several Feed Team races (Mini class).
Recently we upgraded to a wagon. This is a miniature buckboard with a fifth wheel. The wheelbase is about 8 feet, and the tongue another 8 feet. As the driver, I perch WAY up on a seat, far from the donkey team. Look how far away I am.
The first time I took encouraged the donkeys to some speed pulling this wagon, they started to lope, and then I could tell they were not exactly under my control anymore. I flashed back to those runaway stagecoach scenes in old Westerns. Not a good feeling.
Luckily, we have an awesome donkey driving trainer, Tom Mowery. Tom suggested that I sit WAY forward on that seat, leaning over the front of the wagon, taking a short hold on the lines (what would be reins, if we were riding instead of driving). This way, I could react quickly if they got out of control. OH – a short feedback loop!
I practiced getting the donkeys to lope, then bringing them back to a trot – all while in this aggressive position hanging over the front of the cart with short lines. We practiced getting into a lope, and coming right back to a trot. With immediate feedback, the donkeys (they are SO smart) figured out that the wagon wasn’t a scary thing chasing them, that they were actually controlling its speed, and they could slow it down on command.The short feedback loop let them fix the problems right away without any panic.
Short feedback loops work the same way with software teams. If we have a continuous integration process that runs our regression tests on each new version of the code, we know within a few minutes or hours whether new or updated code has broken something. When we know right away, it’s easy to fix. Problems don’t worry us, because we know we can fix them in a timely manner and move on.
Short feedback loops give us confidence. Confidence leads to enjoyment. I love driving my donkeys, and I love working on a software development team that is guided by continual quick feedback! Look how much fun this is!