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· 2 min read

"You're playing and you think everything is going fine. Then one thing goes wrong. And then another. And another. You try to fight back, but the harder you fight, the deeper you sink. Until you can't move... you can't breathe... because you're in over your head. Like quicksand."

As a software developer or devops engineer, you need to recognize when you are in quicksand.

Here is how you get out.

Phase 1: Stop sinking

  1. Recognize that you have entered quicksand.
  2. Raise your hand. Ask for help.
  3. Remain calm.

It is easy to start flailing and start chasing anything that comes to mind. You will change things and test things simply because they can be changed and tested. As panic sets in, you work faster and faster and get nowhere.

Phase 2: Fix the problems

Here is a simple process for getting out of quicksand.

  1. State your hypothesis on what you think is the cause of the problem.
  2. State how you will test to prove or disprove your hypothesis.
  3. State the results of your test.
  4. Repeat until stable.

Note that it is often easier to disprove a hypothesis rather than prove it.

Team members can each work in parallel on different hypothesis OR they can work in parallel on proving or disproving the same hypothesis.

Either way, you are working together and not stepping on each others toes.