The presence of tech debt negatively impacts morale. Managing it positively impacts morale.
I think that the main problem boils down to having common understanding what does "managing the tech debt" mean across the dev team. I know some people that are totally overzealous about it and are very debt averse, similar to people who will never take a mortgage. While this approach is better than just accumulating debt, it's also not optimal.
There is a point at which accumulating technical debt might be a result of taking calculated risks and making trade-offs for faster time-to-market, thereby increasing the overall sense of achievement and morale within the team. Personally, I find lack of tech debt to be just another smell and sign of possible premature optimization.
Do you think it’s “tech debt” that saps morale, or an inability to think clearly and cut through complexity? I guess it depends on the definition of “tech debt,” but if you assume that “clear thinking” is constant, and that there is a sliding scale from lots of tech debt (“shipping like mad”) to zero tech debt (“keeping your house in perfect order”), I’m not convinced that morale slides along that same axis. There are times when it’s energizing to just ship like mad and punt on cleanup. And you can have a strong vision of the future while you’re shipping like mad.
Change the words, change the emotional reaction - Interesting perspective on how reframing Technical Debt as 'Friction' could change the conversation because 'Debt' is highly emotive and 'Friction' implies we are still moving forward: https://www.mechanical-orchard.com/post/friction-over-debt
I wonder if this is a question that developers ask at interview, or perhaps should be encouraged to? At the very least to understand what they are walking into. I am not sure it's something that a company would necessarily discuss at interview unless specifically asked?
Excellent piece! You'll forgive me, I hope, for sharing onwards within my organisation via my Cloud & DevOps Guild, and other guilds where I take a "noisy" stance!