Eating your own dog food?

Someone said to me yesterday “we need to eat our own dog food.”  I’ve heard the phrase a hundred times before, but for some reason this time I thought to myself “Ew.  I don’t like the smell of dog food; I’m sure not going to like the taste.”  The origins of “eat your own dog food” are pretty well known.  Alpo food company once advertised that their food was, logically, the food they fed to their own beloved pets.  Somehow that has translated into using our own product or service, while a more appropriate translation might be that we apply our product or service on those close to us.

Symantics you say?  I think not.  Would you crack open a can of dog food and actually (be honest now) eat it yourself?  No, of course not.  It really isn’t human food, but it’s certainly of good enough quality to feed to our pets.  It’s not a bad product, for its purpose.  But software process isn’t something we do to our employees like we serve dog food to our pets.  Or, at least, it shouldn’t be.

A process can’t be just good enough for those who work for us, even if they are the only ones who would use it.  Would we, as leaders of the organization, do it ourselves?  If the answer isn’t resoundingly yes, then the process is just that – dog food.  Meant to be served to someone who we care about, but not quite enough to serve them the exact same thing we want for ourselves.

I understand the sentiment of using the tools and processes that we propose others use.  After all, do as I do is great leadership by example.  But serving your own employees a process you wouldn’t reasonably do yourself day in and day out is not good enough.

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