“Overcoming Momentum” – laws of physics applied to software development…

November 20, 2011

Week #5 of the SEP Blog Battle.

Follow us on twitter.

Ever find yourself in a rut?  You just can’t crank anything notable out this week.  It’s so obvious that even your teammates start placing bets on the over/under of you meeting an estimate.  (No seriously, it’s that obvious, and it is happening right now, for me.)

Okay, maybe your team handles it differently than my team.  We’ve all been there, though – more refactoring than normal (sometimes all on the same blocks of code); less functional changes; and ultimately, less value added.

It sucks.  It’s a tough place to be, and you feel like you aren’t pulling your own weight on the team.

The longer you stay in your rut, the harder it is to get out.  These ruts are a dangerous place.  A rut can drain your energy and hinder your performance.  If you don’t find a way out of your rut in a timely manner, you can dig yourself so deep that it seems impossible to get out. We’ve all heard it – “I’m stuck doing [blank], even though I’m not interested in [blank].”

So, to get out of your rut, you need to build up momentum.  Let’s look at what momentum is…

p = m * v

Well, mass is negligible, right?  It’s the knowledge you’re dumping into your IDE, or the weight of the paper you’re doing some discovery on, or conversations/emails you’re having with other people.  Effectively, we are left with…

p = 1 * v

With that, we know that velocity isn’t just your speed, or how fast you’re typing.  It is a vector…it has to have a direction.  If you aren’t moving in a direction towards the end goal, then you’re not moving forward.

This means that momentum, in our world, is essentially how well you can move towards your goal – whether your goal is developing a feature, fixing a bug, writing an email, or something else.

And according to the law of conservation of momentum, once an object has momentum it will continue to have momentum.  Or in more laymen’s terms – once you get the ball rollin’, it’ll keep rollin’.  So to get the ball rolling, you have to continue making strides towards your end goal.  If you run into a road block, pivot on what you’re doing, and try not to let that wall stop your momentum.

If you take into account Newton’s Third Law of motion, each action has an equal and opposite reaction.  So if you find yourself running into road blocks, you have to change directions.  If you don’t constantly change directions with each road block, you’ll stop having velocity, and effectively stop having momentum.

So the key to overcoming challenges with momentum is to remember your laws of physics – pivot when you are presented with road blocks.