Hit by a Bus

The artful management metaphor

Is your work held together by duct tape and fate?

Posted 14th May 2020

You, and you alone managed to birth your solution, despite the ambitious deadlines and resource constraints. The solution works - it’s standing tall on its own, but you know that it is but a gentle gust of wind away from needing your delicate and nuanced maintenance. It works, but it craves the love of its creator… perhaps a bit more than it should.

But, you’re going on holiday soon. And you’ve had this job offer loitering in the background for the last few months. And maybe you’re contemplating taking a sabbatical right around launch date. Whatever it is, you know in your bones that your creation won’t have you around to nurse it indefinitely. So how can you communicate to your team that your creation has a dependency on you, and you may not necessarily be around forever?

In attempting to convey “please let me make this less fragile because it needs me too much”, you could certainly try explain to your peers and superiors the many nuances of your lifestyle, secret side projects, and sabbatical fantasies - but, that won’t be an easy conversation. If you’ve survived the fractal of prodding questions pertaining to your future availability, you’ve at best distracted them from your core point, and at worst become totally derailed by their indifference to your privacy.

But then, from the corner of your eye, you see it. The solution to all your contrived communication problems. The one liner to save you from a world of heart-ache. Slowly at first, then all at once. Barreling towards you - fast, enormous and… bright yellow.

A bright yellow bus of doom

“This solution works most of the time, and it certainly gets the job done but… What if I got hit by a bus?

The ball is no longer in your court. The hypothetical removes you from the scenario. An external, uncontrollable, and (mostly) unforeseeable event can take place at any moment. And if it does… then what? Who will look after your creation? It certainly can’t be you - you’re little more than a splash of crimson on the uncleaned grill of a malevolent school bus.

You have made your point, and by framing it as a thought experiment, you’ve protected yourself from the unintended consequences of peer over-analysis. Your code can finally get the love it deserves, without needing to balance on a bureaucratic tight-rope. And all it took, was the threat of imminent, and inexplicable death… by bus.

You’re welcome.

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