Translated from German

3′

Easy

When we plan development, sooner or later the word easy comes up in conversation. Either as a question, suggestion or promise. Is that easy to do? This should be easy, no? Yes, this is easy.

Easy is misleading. It has the same calming effect on everyone, but its meaning is subjective and changeable. We should assume that we have no idea what exactly someone else imagines by easy. What is easy for you may not be easy for your team. What is easy for you today may not be so tomorrow. And vice versa, people learn. Everyone thinks of something different when they hear this word, and their views on it change over time. Usually, none of this is addressed. We rarely explain what seems easy and thus self-evident, because we tend to assume that others think in a similar way we do.

Easy does not help to clarify, but is a rhetorical figure. It helps to brush aside doubt and signals ambition. “Isn’t this easy?”, is not a harmless question. It is easier to speak the word than to oppose it. You’d have to communicate complexity and uncertainty with the same calm, matter-of-factness and brevity. Not everyone succeeds in doing so, and objections tend to appear as timid complaints. It’s an effective way to put gullible people under pressure to rise above themselves and their opinions. We all tend to underestimate workload and further support this dynamic.

We devalue work when we call it easy. We’re also not helping anyone when we describe a task of our own as easy. We may be admired at first for the promise we make, but soon the wind turns and all our efforts are just about a debt that must be repaid. To others, the job is basically done, while we’re running behind. Our team will not be rewarded for their performance after a possible marathon. Finally, the easy thing has been resolved, what took them so long? Are they incompetent?

Easy is a bad advisor when it comes to whether or not something should be done. We like to fill supposed gaps with easy stuff, but end up eliminating any free time and mental reserves. We need those to stay agile and respond to challenges later on. Few things seem easy to overworked people. If something is critical to a product, you tackle it. Feasibility plays a role, but we can do a lot more than easy. This word is a warning signal to listen more closely and investigate, because it usually covers something up. It’s not only possible, but also helpful to avoid this word during planning.

Easy is a useless word, can we do without it? As children we can’t wait to proclaim that something is for babies, adults say child’s play. Easy describes a feeling dear to us all – no fear, no problems, look ma no hands. Easy is a warm blanket, close your eyes. If we want to have conversations that go beyond that, we need to look for better words. Next time you want to use it, think on it. Same, if you witness a conversation that goes like “Is that easy? – Yes, it’s easy. – Great!”

 

September, 2022