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The New Normal: Tempo, Flow, and Maneuverability

Tempo. Most people are familiar with it in the musical sense. It’s the speed, cadence, rhythm that the music is played. It drives the music forward - and pulls it back.

But there’s more to tempo than a musical beat. In life, as author Venkatesh Rao described in his book, “Tempo,” it makes for some of the most memorable moments as it shifts faster or slower. In war, like in business, tempo - the speed at which you can transition from one task to the next - is a critical component for victory.

The New Normal: Failure Domains and Safety

Through this series, we've talked about antifragility, disposable code, high leverage, and team-scale autonomy. Earlier, we looked at the benefits of team-scale autonomy: It breaks dependencies between teams, allowing the average speed of the whole organization to increase. People on the teams will be more fulfilled and productive, too. These are nice benefits you can expect from this style, but it's not all unicorns and rainbows. There is some very real, very hard work that has to be done to get there. It should already be clear that you must challenge assumptions about architecture and development processes. But we also need to talk about critical issues of failure domains and safety.

The New Normal: Minimize Risk by Maximizing Change

I once worked for a startup called "Totality." Our business was outsourced web operations for companies that either didn’t want to invest or lacked the skills to build and staff their own24x7 operations center. We handled all the production management, change management, incident management—essentially the entire ITIL (IT Infrastructure Library) suite of processes.

During my time at Totality, we observed that nearly 50% of all our software outages happened within 24 hours of a software release. Since we were on the hook for uptime, but not new features, our response was obvious: Stop touching things!

The New Normal: No Silver Bullet

No Silver Bullet

In his paper "No Silver Bullet — Essence and Accidents of Software Engineering,” Fred Brooks argues that "there is no single development, in either technology or management technique, which by itself promises even one order of magnitude [tenfold] improvement within a decade in productivity, in reliability, in simplicity." Brooks, a Turing Award winner and the author who also brought us “The Mythical Man-Month: Essays on Software Engineering,” also states that "we cannot expect ever to see two-fold gains every two years" in software development, like there is in hardware development (Moore's law). In other words, there is no silver bullet.

The New Normal: From Resilient to Antifragile

Some things benefit from shocks; they thrive and grow when exposed to volatility, randomness, disorder, and stressors...

We all recognize the traditional approach to risk management: prevent problems from ever occurring. If a process fails one time, institute a review step to make sure it never fails that way again. The next level is resilient systems that can cope with change and survive failures. I propose that the new normal is the exact opposite of preventing problems: survive problems, and if you’re not getting enough problems from the outside, make problems for yourself!  This new approach is still counterintuitive in most organizations.

The New Normal: Failure is a Good Thing

It seems that everyone is talking about microservices as the road to salvation. Why? Why now? The usual explanation is just that it's an architecture style that encourages flexibility and makes a company more competitive. However, like agile development, patterns, and object-oriented development before it, the microservices architecture will not deliver its promises to everyone. If you understand what makes it work, you will know when and how to apply it successfully. Let us look deeper to see what forces really underlie this evolution.