Tell Me You Are Driving to Rome

Posted on Apr 18, 2023

Imagine you are in a car driving from Paris to visit your parents in Rome. You are navigating and there is a driver and two passengers.

You would give the driver turn by turn directions. Turn right at the lights; take the first exit.

You would give the other passengers checkpoints. We’re going to stop in an hour for lunch; we should be there by 7pm.

You would tell your parents waypoints and delays. We’ve just crossed the border; we’ve broken down so we’ll be there on Tuesday instead.

For each group you have an understanding on the level of detail they would be interested in, so you give them that level of detail.

It would make no sense to give your parents a turn by turn account of how you are going - it would be too hard for them to understand from that level of detail where you are in the journey. Similarly it would make no sense to tell your driver that they should drive to Rome - they wouldn’t know which direction to go.

This is exactly the same for communication around technical projects. Understand what level of detail they want and give it to them - the wrong level of detail can be as bad as no communication at all. In the same way that it would be hard for your parents to tell your progress through turn by turn updates, it’s hard for stakeholders to understand your progress through daily accounts of tickets completed.

When you are communicating with your fellow programmers, your team or your stakeholders think through what level of detail they want.

What scale of map do you need?