How do Beer Bellies begin?
The panel is fully functional, when you push the button a light turns on and the elevator comes. It is also obviously wrong – the top button is flush with the mount, and the bottom button sticks out.
I found this sad, Beer Belly Elevator Panel, at a high end resort and wondered how it happened.
Certainly whomever installed the mismatched button knew it was wrong. Did the tech not care? Was using the wrong button the only way to get the panel repaired? Was the plan to come back and fix it when the right parts came in?
The hotel maintenance staff had to sign off on it. Did they care about the quality of the repair? Were they only able to give a binary assessment of “working” or “not working”?
Did the hotel manager not care? Were they told to keep costs down? It isn’t broken now, it would be a waste to fix something that wasn’t broken.
Quality vs Letting Your Gut Hang Out
Employees at the hotel see the mismatched panel every day. It is a constant reminder that letting things slide, just a little, is acceptable at this hotel.
When you let consistency and quality slide because something works, you’re creating beer bellies in your codebase.
One small button at a time until everyone sees that this is acceptable here.
So long as a light turns on when you hit the button does it matter if the light is green, red or blue? Does it matter if the light is in the center or on the edge?
But I’m running a SaaS, not a Hotel
Your SaaS may not maintain elevator panels, but your codebase is probably full of beer bellies.
“It works, we’ll clean it up on the next release” bellies.
“This is a hack” bellies.
“This is the legacy version, we’re migrating off of it” bellies.
When you let sad little beer bellies into your codebase, your employees see exactly what you find acceptable.