How It's Always Been Done

Good programmers know how to code. Great programmers know why. The best programmers question why.

How It's Always Been Done

"That's the way we've always done it, sir."

Those eight words used to make me twitch when I heard them in the Army.  

"OK, sergeant, but why have we always done it that way?"

Some NCO's would reply with a reasonable answer:

  • "That's what Army Regulations require."
  • "That's what the unit SOP calls for."
  • "For safety reasons."
  • "It was a lesson learned from a previous exercise."

But others would just double down:

  • "Don't worry about it, sir."
  • "Does it really matter?"
  • "That's above my pay grade."
  • "That's above your pay grade."

Don't get me wrong.  There are times in the Army where you have to follow orders without second-guessing.  But there is a difference between second-guessing and wanting to understand the intent behind something.  

Understanding the intent--the why--behind what we are doing makes us more effective at whatever that thing is.  This applies to programming as much as it does to the military.

So the next time you write a piece of code, take a moment to think about why you are doing it that way.  Are you doing it that way because it makes sense?  Or just because that's how it's always been done?

Image by Defence-Imagery from Pixabay

All original code samples by Mike Wolfe are licensed under CC BY 4.0