The next anti-pattern we look at is the golden hammer.  It is another situation that seems to come up often.  Thus, it is one we need to keep an eye out for in order to avoid it.

Defining the Golden Hammer Anti-Pattern

This time we steal the definition from Investopedia to help highlight how pervasive this anti-pattern is.  Note that software is not even implied in the definition. [Click Here to See The Page]

“Golden hammer is excessive dependence on a specific tool to perform many different functions. In investing it is when a trader depends on one particular analysis tool or viewpoint to make all decisions. Golden hammers also happen in the business world when a company uses a single demographic or analytics to make strategic decisions. For example, give a corporation’s management team a hammer, and everything around them appears to be a nail.

While the label Golden Hammer is colorful, I often see this referred to as Maslow’s hammer as well.    When you consider his specialty was psychology, this anti-pattern seems more global in application.

Good Vs. Golden

This pattern is considered a bad habit because of the application and not the tool.  That is important to remember when correcting a situation where this anti-pattern exists.  A hammer can be the best tool for several problems.  However, there are also many where it is less useful or even destructive.  The critical point to consider in examining this anti-pattern is whether a different tool is better for the job.  There will be a cost to learning or acquiring that other tool.  Nevertheless, it will be a worthwhile investment.

We Always Did It That Way

There are many red flags that a golden hammer exists but none more so than the quote “we have always done it that way.”  When you are not sure why a tool is used other than “just because” then you should stop and review using it.  The cure for this ailment is, of course, expanding the tools at your disposal.  That is why we focus on building better developers by pushing an expanding number of skills.  When you have more options readily available, you are more likely to choose the best one.

Rob Broadhead

Rob is a founder of, and frequent contributor to, Develpreneur. This includes the Building Better Developers podcast. He is also a longtime student of technology as a developer, designer, and manager of software solutions. Rob is a founder and principle of RB Consulting and has managed to author a book about his family experiences. In his free time, he stays busy raising five children (although a few have grown into adults). When he has a chance to breathe, he is on the ice playing hockey to relax.

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