You can't apply the DRY principle to leadership

During my final year in High School, I took a programming course in which I learned/relearned QBasic and Visual Basic. Both languages introduced me to numerous elements of programming. While I learned a lot of elements, I would learn some underlying principles later. For instance, my final project was a turn based role playing game. To turn the code in, the teacher asked that we print out the program. At 80 pages, my project was by far the largest. I was not blessed with super-speed typing, but I did possess the ability to copy/paste the common elements where ever I needed them.

In these early years, I had not learned the DRY Principle. There are many elements of good software that developers learn throughout their career. One that quickly becomes ingrained is the DRY principle, which is an acronymn for “Don’t Repeat Yourself”.

DRY reminds developers that the best, easiest code to maintain is the code you write once, and not the code that you write or copy/paste repeatedly. It challenges developers to reuse code and castises them for when they copy and paste code.

This principle works well with code, but it doesn’t hold up when working with people. Try as we might, we can’t just tell someone something just once. It often takes several times for a message to be heard, understood, and engrained. Old marketing guidelines state that a person needs to see or hear your content 7 times before a consumer truly hears the message. Those that we serve also need to hear a message several times. A new process, a new business direction, a new vision, stated only once, will never come to fruition. It takes frequent reminders, frequent statements, for anything a leader shares to be heard by all.

Leaders have to operate by different principles than Engineers. Instead of DRY, think of RYE - Repeat Yourself Everyday. Only through repitition of the same message over and over can a leader ensure that a message is heard.