Easy is subjective

Communicating clearly is a learned skilled in my opinion. I say this because I am still learning it and failing most days! I’ve been challenging myself to speak more clearly regarding task quantificiation - i.e. how complex is an ask.

“This is easy” is my perception of the problem. It’s not quantifiable and therefore transferrable to another person. Easy for me (due to years of experience, context, or any other type of prior knowledge) doesn’t mean it’s easy for someone picking it up for the first time.

Finding objective ways to describe tasks is necessary as engineers grow (or honestly anyone). “Shouldn’t take long”, “It’s an easy fix”, or “I can finish that today” are all unhelpful quantifiers for tasks. Objective statements around tasks act as stronger quantifiers.

Experiences and context differ between people and there is no one formula that allows transferring quanitifiying tasks from one universal person to another universal person. Bill might do the task in a day and would call that “easy”. Tricia might do that same task in an hour and call it “hard”!

We should stop using subjective qualifiers and start using objective language. “The complexity is low”, “I’ve done this before, so I know a few pitfulls - last time it took me 2 days”, “I will only need to create one migration”. Quantifying the work to be done has more power than saying “it’ll be easy”.

“It’s easy” is a cop-out and should be avoided at all costs. What’s easy for you isn’t easy for another person. Sharing the story of a past experience or where exactly the change is creates a shared experience for everyone to draw upon.

Written on November 11, 2019