Sometimes people get fixated on a particular tool to the extent that they relate every topic of discussion to that tool. You’ve probably seen the pattern before.
I was reminded of it recently during a group discussion of metrics we want to use to track progress in a client’s process improvement initiative. One person kept bringing up Mingle, a tool her group uses to create story cards and track progress on software development projects. Her contribution to every subject of discussion was all about how Mingle supports or could support this or that metric.
At times, I felt as if I had taken my car to a garage and, when I asked the mechanic what the problem was and what sort of repair he recommended, all he would talk about was his favorite wrench.
“This is a really great wrench. I use it all the time. I’ve repaired many cars with this wrench.”
“That’s nice. So, what’s the problem with the car?”
“I used this same wrench at the last place I worked, too. I got to be really good at using it.”
“Wonderful. So, what’s the problem with the car?”
“I can do lots of things with this wrench. I can tighten things and I can loosen things, too.”
“I can see that would come in handy at times. So, what’s the problem with the car?”
“Most people know you can tighten things with a wrench, but a lot of people don’t realize you can loosen things, too.”
“Well, everyone isn’t an expert like you. So, what’s the problem with the car?”
“Whatever is wrong with your car, I can probably fix it with this wrench. It’s a good wrench.”
“That’s very reassuring. So, what’s the problem with the car?”
“If this wrench can’t fix your car, then the problem isn’t worth fixing. That’s how good this wrench is.”
“Actually, if that wrench can’t fix my car, then we might want to consider using a tool that can.”
“What? Who are you to come waltzing in here, changing all our tools around? I’ll have you know, I’ve used this wrench successfully at quite a few Fortune 500 garages in my time.”
This time it was Mingle. On other occasions, it’s been some other favorite wrench. Sometimes, it’s a programming language. Sometimes, it’s a webapp framework. Sometimes, it’s a process framework or methodology. Sometimes, it’s a modeling technique. Sometimes, it’s an IDE. Sometimes, it’s a testing tool.
If all you’ve got is a wrench, then everything looks like a nut…and so do you.