Jurrasic Park? Yes, this movie has a great lesson we can learn from and apply to our businesses regardless of whether you’re a startup or an established business.
Cast your mind back to the premise of the movie. A scientific leap has been taken that allows dinosaurs to be cloned from DNA found in mosquitoes frozen in time within Amber. The dinosaur DNA is supplemented with amphibian DNA. Dinosaurs are cloned and brought to life but are created as sterile; however, scientists forget that some amphibians can change sex as needed to produce offspring. Let the carnage ensue. That’s not all there was, and there was the whole idea of the most fantastic theme park anyone had ever imagined. Now ensue carnage and the fall of the Jurrasic Park.
Now in this story, who do you think was the most important person at Jurrasic Park while it was all operating?
Was Dr John Hammon (played by Richard Attenborough, brother of the David Attenborough)?
Or was it Dr Henry Wu, the lead geneticist, who made it all possible?
Or is Dennis Nedry ( Newman from Seinfeld), a computer programmer at Jurrasic Park, responsible for the systems that allowed the park to operate.
While there are two people responsible for the impressive technological feat and the initial idea of bringing Dinosaurs back to life, Dennis Nedry was quite possibly the essential person at Jurrasic Park. He was responsible for the computer systems in operation that ensured everyone’s safety and helped the park operate. There were about two million lines of code that Ray Arnold’s ( Samuel L Jackson) character had to go through to understand what Nedry had done to the systems he was meant to be maintaining. He couldn’t bring the system online without Dennis.
Dennis was the sole person with most of the knowledge of how the systems operate, were built and then what he did to them to sabotage the park. If we ignore the sabotage part, we can draw a parallel from Dennis to most lead programmers and engineers in any small business.
Within most small businesses, one key person is responsible for maintaining or developing your tools or software or working with your clients to ensure they get the solutions they require. Or they’re the most knowledgeable about how your day-to-day operations are performed.
What happens when that person leaves? Hopefully, they don’t try to sabotage and destroy the business like Dennis. Will you have any idea how to keep operating? Will you be unaware of how your systems work or have been developed? Do you know how your solutions are developed for your customers? Do you know the ins and outs of your day-to-day operations?
The answer is most likely NO.
But don’t be scared of that giant T-Rex bearing down on your business. You can do some specific things today in your business to prevent the dinosaurs from breaking loose, causing carnage and laying waste to your dream.
The first thing you need to do to avoid such a catastrophic situation is to have your processes documented. It’s as simple as that. You need to document how your business operates. It doesn’t matter if you have a small team or a solopreneur. You need to document your systems and processes. The knowledge of how your business operates cannot live in your head, or your team leads head only.
If Dennis had documented how the Park systems were operating and the code was structured, then Ray would have been able to reference them. Ray wouldn’t have had the job of trying to find the needle in two million lines of code. He would have been able to find the T-Rex in the code base by knowing where to look.
Documenting your processes is not the final step. The established procedures will only get you so far as there is still domain knowledge that is not written down. If the person who wrote the guidelines is the only person following them, not everything is documented. These people work on auto-pilot as they’re the people who created and established the steps. If this person is the sole person running the day-to-day and following the guidelines they wrote, they won’t be asking the critical questions about “Why?” they do each step or notice that steps are missing and information is not clear.
You need a second person to follow the steps. This allows ambiguity and hidden knowledge to be brought to the surface as the second person won’t have all the domain knowledge and will ask those “stupid questions” that need to be asked, which makes everything clear.
If Ray had been brought in to assist Dennis via following the documented procedures, Jurassic Park might not have needed five sequels as it would have had a successful launch. If Ray had followed the guidelines, he could have caught the missing knowledge that hadn’t been documented. By detecting the missing knowledge, he would have had more background and context for how the systems operate. With this knowledge, Ray would then have been aware of the bullshit story Dennis was telling the team when the virus was turned on and realised that the security gates to the enclosures were being closed when they shouldn’t have.
The third thing you can bring into your business is to ensure quality control steps are in place. The Quality Control step should involve a similar process to a nuclear submarine where two people have to turn the key to launch. This second person should be another team member aware of what is occurring in the day-to-day. This second person is not there to do the work of your lead engineer/developer. This person is there to verify the output. They’re there to sanity check what is occurring and being products.
In Jurassic Park, if Ray had been there to validate and quality control the output of Dennis’s work. Ray would have known how the systems should operate and been aware that a virus had been written. The virus wouldn’t have been able to be put into the system as Ray wouldn’t have turned that second key releasing the code into production.
Once you’ve implemented one of these, you will see a dramatic improvement in your business and its operation. You will be shocked at how your business can operate with all three. When all three are implemented you’re now building a business for scale that will let you grow, and then you can start facing the challenges that arise at the next level of scaling a business.
I’m sure by the 3rd sequel in Jurassic World, where the new park had been operating for ten years without issue, I guarantee these three steps would have been followed. It can’t have lasted that long at scale with so many team members if these steps were not in place.