I certainly do not recommend that you play poker or blackjack at work. However, there are situations where both you as an individual and your company as a whole must gamble. And the stakes are often high.
Even if it’s uncomfortable, you sometimes have to choose between different options despite missing important information. The results of your actions may depend on factors outside of your control. Yet, decisions have to be made.
Changing jobs, whether by moving to a different company or just switching projects within the same one, is a gamble. Of course, you try to learn in advance as much as you can about your prospective new employer but you can’t be completely sure whether you are going to like working there until you start.
As a business owner, you keep an eye on the market in which you are active and gather feedback about your products and development plans from your users. Good analysis increases predictability. Still, external factors such as a sudden change of trends or a large competitor entering your market may completely invalidate your plans. Any serious decision should be a matter of calculated risk.
Large projects carry with them increased risks, yet they are often necessary in order for the company to reach new markets or to be able to fend off competitors eating away at its market. When in the nineteen-sixties IBM run their huge project to create System/360, it was called the five-billion-dollar gamble. Had it not succeeded, it would have ruined the company. Yet, management was willing to make the bet and the project secured IBM’s position as a software and hardware giant for many years.
At Allegro, on a much smaller scale, our own Rubikon project is a similar kind of gamble, reflected even in its name. We are rewriting and redesigning a huge and profitable system to a different architecture and a completely different software stack. We believe that the cost of this huge technological change is justified in the long term. Time will show whether we were right.
We are now also going through a large organisational change. All teams in which we used to work, sometimes for years, are being dissolved and new teams are being created. We are trying hard to make sure that no one can go on doing their business as usual. Clearly, this is going to disturb the normal flow of work, and hastily introduced changes bear the risk of missing something important that should have been taken into account. It’s a certain hit to productivity in the short term and it may make some people feel uncomfortable. Hell, some might even quit. But we feel that leaving our comfort zone is necessary for bringing new ideas to light and for making Allegro an awesome place for our customers and for ourselves not only now but also in the future. In the long run, it should help not only the company but also each of us individually (including those who now loathe the change) to be better at what we do. Despite the inconvenience, it’s a wager we want to make.
As Yogi Berra used to say, It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future. Not everything is under our control. I encourage you to make informed decisions, but when necessary, to embrace certain kinds of gambling as well.