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Jan 2, 2008

New Years Resolution: Can you sleep when the wind blows?

Kent Beck's Call for Accountability in Software Development was for me a call for self-evaluation. Consider the following story he shared:

Once, a farmer interviewed a young man for a job as a farm hand. One thing the young man said particularly puzzled the farmer, “I can sleep when the wind blows.” The farmer didn’t know what this meant, but the young man seemed competent and knowledgeable and so he was hired.

A few months later the farmer was awakened in the middle of the night by a thunderous wind storm. Panicked, he raced to the cot where he found the farm hand fast asleep. Shaking him roughly awake, he demanded, “We have to bring in the animals!” “They are already in.” “We need to fasten the windows.” “They are already fastened.” “We need to tarp the hay.” “It’s done.”

After going down his list of worries and being reassured that they were already taken care of, the farmer finally realized the meaning of the young man’s puzzling statement. By taking care to finish every job and leave the farm safe every night, the farm hand could sleep when the wind blew.

The farmer went back to bed and told his wife what he had just learned. She just smiled knowingly and the two of them went back to sleep, lulled by the music of the storm.

Are you reliable? Are you accountable? Professionally, do you do what you say and say what you mean? Can you sleep when the wind blows?