…when individual contributors understand how a system currently works, changes make some part of that understanding obsolete. And the obsolescence of that understanding means an initial investment in rebuilding the understanding to restore one’s ability to maintain the system. To restore one’s power on the team.
I went down a Wikipedia rabbit hole recently and found the profile of Sophie Wilson, who somebody should make a movie about. This section on the development of the Acorn Proton is a great story of smart, competent people getting stuff done:
Hauser employed a deception, telling both Wilson and colleague Steve Furber that the other had agreed a prototype could be built within a week. Taking up the challenge, she designed the system including the circuit board and components from Monday to Wednesday, which required fast new DRAM integrated circuits to be sourced directly from Hitachi. By Thursday evening, a prototype had been built, but the software had bugs, requiring her to stay up all night and into Friday debugging. Wilson recalled watching the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer on a small portable television while attempting to debug and re-solder the prototype. It was a success with the BBC, who awarded Acorn the contract. Along with Furber, Wilson was present backstage at the machine’s first airing on television, in case any software fixes were required. She later described the event as “a unique moment in time when the public wanted to know how this stuff works and could be shown and taught how to programme.”