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Zombie Bugs

Zombie Bugs

by Frank Roche on April 27, 2010

in KnowHR

Tech Tuesday

There’s a concept in computer science known as “zombie bugs.” Calling it a concept might be a stretch. It’s really just a phrase describing a common occurrence. Very common. It starts with a regular bug, something not working quite right in your application.

More often than not, it’s something small. If it were big, you’d fix it the right way. But, because it’s small, maybe you take a shortcut. Fix it quickly, rather than properly. After all, it’s only a small thing. So it’s done. But then a few weeks later, someone notices that it’s back. You take a look, and sure enough, it’s there. Trying to figure out why, you see that the error happens in another spot. Another easy fix and you’re done. Definitely won’t happen again. Until it does two weeks later. Now your client thinks you’re just lying when you say you fix it…meanwhile, you’re pulling your hair out as you try to figure out why it keeps coming back.

That’s it, let’s find out what’s really going on here. Finally, 5 weeks after you first noticed it, you spend the time to fix it the right way. And it turns out it’s not just an easy fix. There’s much more going on. And it would keep coming back over and over until you fix the systemic problem. Once you finally do that, the zombie bug is dead. And you can feel better knowing that it was done the right way and won’t be coming back from the grave.

But wait, isn’t this supposed to be an HR Communication blog? What does this have to do with anything? Think of it this way: How often do you have a difficult message to communicate? Whether it’s bad news or some other large change, there’s an easy way to do it, and there’s a proper way to do it. The easy way is to bury the message and hope no one notices. But then what happens? The message leaks. Or there’s misinformation. Or there’s a million other things that could happen that you’ll need to deal with again and again. The issue just won’t die. You could have just done it the proper way the first time, but since you didn’t, it turned into a communication zombie bug.

The quick way usually ends up taking a lot more time in the end. Do it right the first time.

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