Another interesting blog post brought to you a SO profile link:

War Time

It's easy to know when you're at war. There is a constant feeling of subtle panic every time you sit down. You leave the office drained, tired and quite often angry.

Here are some specific symptoms I've noticed from my career:

  1. You have several outstanding production issues that are non-trivial.
  2. You have abandoned quality in favor of quantity. (No unit tests, code review, etc.)
  3. Stakeholders are running amok. You are strongly encouraged to say "yes" to everyone.
  4. You are missing management to help shield you. You have to make managerial decisions, sit in meetings and develop politics.
  5. You are working extra hours to keep up.

There are of course more symptoms. Let's look at peace time to help emphasize the divide between the two:

Peace Time

  1. You have time to read articles about your industry – without feeling guilty.
  2. You have time to write unit tests.
  3. You have time to re-factor code per (2).
  4. You have time to think about names for objects, classes, etc.
  5. You have periods of focus that go longer than one hour. It's normal to have four interrupted hours of time.

After sitting back and remarking "how true" this is (though don't be fooled by #5 on his "peace" list; that doesn't mean you're not at DEFCON 2), it's more interesting to take home Ryan's main point: "The point is that as an organization, you need to know what state you're in."

That is important. Don't pretend you're 110% about quality when you're at DEFCON 2. Admit that you're cutting corners to make dates, and your team will be able to deliberately adjust. And if your company likes to live at DEFCON 2 all the time, don't give applicants the expectation and impression that your nuclear readiness oscillates. I've had jobs where the peacetime activities, for all practical purposes, never happened, unless you had #5 going from the list above (working extra hours).

I will say that I've noticed that a job description with the phrase, "Must be able to multitask well," means, "Must be willing to live at DEFCON 2 at all times." It's just a shame how often folks are at Ryan's "war" time not because they have to be, but because that's the culture management has Stockholmed themselves into.