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Software isn’t resentful. 

You have technical debt when your software works but doesn’t work well. It takes hours to run when it should take minutes. Or, there are hundreds of lines of code that no one really understands because the requirements kept changing.  Or, everything is fine as long as Joe doing a certain special dance at 3PM every Thursday. 

Technical debt accumulates when projects get jammed in too aggressively.  Or when requirements change at the last minutes. Or when you realize that the consultant you so valued didn’t exactly know what he was doing. 

Fixing technical debt is hard because organizations don’t often want to spend time fixing things that are already working.  However, when you do fix things, you don’t have to worry about the software harboring bitter feelings about how badly it ran when it was first released.  Once fixed, things are better. 

Human debt is a lot harder to fix. 

Human debt accumulates when we push people too hard for too long.  When we take on deadlines that are way to aggressive.  When we thank them for all their hard work to make ourselves feel better for our lack of proper planning.  For most folks, no thank you is worth weeks of crazy. 

And unlike that software you eventually fixed, people remember.  They may not talk about it.  But they’ll be wary the next time a big project comes along.   Some will quit.  But worse, some will work just enough to get paid.    

Watch how hard you push your people.   And how many crazy hours they expect.   Because while you can catch up on your human debt, it’s much harder to pay down your human debt. 

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