Monday, 21 December 2015

What is recent is easy to correct

These words, from the Tao Te Ching (verse 64), hit me like a house brick during the recently 'Church: It's all about sound management skills!' blog entry.

What struck me in those seven little words was the truth that they so simply conveyed. Spot someone making a mistake early into its life and it is a fairly simple thing to stop the person and resolve the situation.  This is true when the person under scrutiny is 'Church' - that living body of believers!

I'd like to use the wonderful world of IT to explain my thinking and so will us people coding software workarounds to overcome earlier mistakes caused by others. Perhaps some of those reading will remember Y2K Bug where some software had the potential to do strange things because the person hacking* the original code had used 'nn' to represent the year rather than 'nnnn'  - a simple error many of us have made when writing stuff in a time when years were in 19nn range.

One system I know of calculated a final figure based on the amount to be charged and the VAT in use at the time. To calculate the final figure the programmer had used the VAT rate as a constant rather than a variable (.08 if this was VAT in 1974). The problem was that in 1979 the rate rose to 15% so another programmer, realising that somewhere in the code there was this constant embedded, simply went to a suitable place and multiplied the end number by a new constant (1.875) and that solved the problem.

But then the rate changed to 17.5% and so the end numbers were wrong because of the VAT change. So another coder was given the job of sorting it out and simply added another multiplier (1.1667) somewhere in the lines of code to make it right - and all was once again well with the world. Well it was until (in 2008) VAT dropped to 15% and rather than repeat the errors of the past, they simply binned the programme and created something with variables which was much more effective and more importantly, elegant!

Hopefully it is obvious that the real fix would have been to find the place where the '0.08' constant lived in the code and simply change it to a variable! This would have taken some work (I can only assume laziness or incompetence was the reason) but the fix would had been a 'once and for all' fix.

Now, I hope you followed my (what I think is a) rather neat example.

The immediate can be dealt with but the reality is that it is the legacy issues that make things crash.  This is true whether it is an IT system, a production line in manufacturing, in the office and wherever Church is found together.

I meet people whose churches are on a par with the person who has a Ford Fiesta with knackered mechanics and flash body styling, paint jobs and very LOUD sound systems. I encounter examples in a Church setting where some of the biggest issues are merely due to earlier errors having not been adequately dealt ; congregations and their actions and mindsets run with issues that ingrained and habitual.  

After Christmas I'm going to pick this up, but thought this might serve as an interesting diversion for some and a good place marker for me to leave.

Darth knew but one way to fix problems - But would it work as well with congregations?
* When I began to code we were called 'hackers' because we 'hacked code' - not the breaking into systems types like what we have today :-)

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