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While the words in the title were never actually said in Apollo 13 control room, they are now forever interlocked with space travel. Many things can happen and are accepted – except for this one. I’ve seen many managers using the phrase often enough to trivialize it. More often than not, failure turned out to be a very viable option – the sole that realized. Even NASA, with all their hard work and technology, suffered some fatal accidents – usually quite spectacular.

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In a manic world of fitness, there’s a phenomenon called “active couch potato”. It describes a person eagerly engaging in various physical activities, from gym to marathon running – yet, stuck out of shape. As it turns out, for many, even regular trainings are not enough to offset the utterly sedentary lifestyle. Sitting in the car, welded to the desk at work, chilling by the television – running your 5k every Saturday morning won’t make up for it.

I should know well. For quite a few years I was a textbook example. That somewhat overweight guy crossing the half-marathon finish line in the photo above? That would be me, a bit over half a year ago.

And as, with quite a lot of effort and relentless support of few of my best friends, I moved past this limbo, I realized how many teams and organizations behave the same way. They’re capable of heroic achievements every few months (say, just prior to some major product release), then get intoxicated by their epic success, learn nothing, and decay into the world of widespread mediocrity. Several cycles more, they’re surprised by their lack of form, however it’s defined in their business context.

So, is your team an active couch potato or fit and healthy?

A few years back, I was asked to work with a team that has worked on an uneasy task for over a year. They were to outsource maintenance and expansion of business-critical software. Interestingly, they took it over from another supplier which, clearly, had no idea how to work on such a product. While developing new functionalities, they were fixing legacy bugs. Being honest, they did create quite a few of their own. It’s just how it is, when you code, there are bugs. On top of it, there was the client’s product owner, struggling to tie lose ends. All the fun you could have, as I thought.

Then one day, there was a face to face meeting. Read more