Thursday, October 28, 2010

Bonus Blog: The Hot Tub Hypothesis

The Hot Tub Hypothesis is a method of contemplating new and valuable resources or options and their cultivation.

First, the Hot Tub Hypothesis: imagine a scenario where everyone wants something awesome and cool (or access to it), but no one wants to maintain or be responsible for said cool thing.

You know, like a hot tub.

Imagine the hot tub. It's bubbling. Maybe it's made of wood. It smells like chlorine. Steam slowly rises off the top of it. It feels sensational on your limbs as the heat relaxes you. When you rise from the tub and towel off before going inside, you don't think twice about the tub, sitting there, bubbling happily. Except, of course, if the tub is yours. Then you might check the chemistry of the water, or verify the heater is turned off before you go in. When you aren't using it--say when it's over 80 degrees outside--you're still having to fish bugs and leaves out of it, or you have to empty it (over the course of a couple of hours), clean it, and then seal it, only to open it and clean it, just before you fill it up and start the whole thing again.

Basically, hot tubs are awesome...if they belong to your friends. Then you can visit that sweet, sweet haven and leave, and not think twice about it. Except you probably ought to, just a little; help your friends wipe up, for example, or turn off the heater for them. They'll still do all the truly ucky maintenance, but you want to stay in their good graces so you can use the hot tub again, so you should probably be willing to do a few "guest" chores, right?

Now, substitute "Hot Tub" for "Valuable inhouse resource" and lose the soothing water metaphor in order to stay out of the realm of HR's telepathy. In most jobs, there are resources--people or devices--that take a ton of upkeep.

You want to think carefully about the new server farm coming in, whether or not your dev team lives with them and loves them, or if you give up some of that awesome control so that the Information Technology specialists at your place of employment are prepared to sweep the bugs, poop, and leaves out of the proverbial project. You can volunteer to do things like monitor the servers during business hours or other tricks or options to make the immediate job of upkeep easier for your IT team, but you may not want to actually OWN the hot tub/server farm.

Thinking about any new resources in terms of both upkeep, maintenance, scheduling, and overall referee abilities (eg: how many people can be in the hot tub at once, who is using it exclusively at which times, etc.) is usually a really good idea when you are a manager. Hoarding all the resources is often a temptation, and does make you important in the way that those spikey things that will puncture your tires if you go backwards over them are important, except without the appropriate respect (I respect pointy things, not necessarily people who act like pointy things). Sometimes, letting go is the best way to truly enjoy a new resource.

However you do it the end lesson is don't romanticize new resources or options if you can avoid it, or you'll end up fishing bird pooh (or it's technological equivalent) out of the hot tub while your friends wait in line to use it. Examine the maintenance, the politics AND the utility of new resources or options as well as the resource or option itself.

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