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A tale of 2 masons

Updated: Aug 1, 2022

I read this story on the corporate intranet at MindTree while working as a Business Analyst, way back in 2003. This story has had a profound impact on the way I have worked with technology teams over the last 19 years.


If you would rather read than watch, a lightly edited transcript below the video.



Back in 2003 I had joined MindTree as a Business Analyst. At the time, the role of the Business Analyst at an IT Services organisation such as MindTree, was to

  1. Interact with key stakeholders at the customer organisation to understand the problem they were trying to solve

  2. Work with the stakeholders to define and document the scope of the solution to be developed

  3. Explain the context and scope of the solution to the development team

  4. Make sure it was developed as agreed with the customer

MindTree had a fantastic environment with a lot of senior business analysts to learn from. There was a thriving Business Analyst community with tons of great content on the intranet.


There was this story I read on the MindTree intranet back in 2003, which had a profound impact on me. So much so, that I still remember it and often quote it.

The Story

There were 2 people laying bricks. One person from out of town was passing by and he was curious about what was going on. So the passer-by stops and asks one of them what they were up to.


The first mason said he was laying bricks.


Not satisfied with that answer, the passer-by asked the second mason what he was doing.


The second mason paused what he was doing and explained with a sense of pride "We are building a cathedral. Once finished this is going to be the largest cathedral in this part of the country. When you enter the cathedral, you will see this really tall wall with a stained glass mural which is going to be beautiful."


Then he went on to add, “This wall that I’m laying now, is going to be that wall!"


Which mason would you want on your team?

I’m guessing you would want the second mason because he has better context using which he can make better decisions. For example if they are short on time and need to cut corners, the mason who has the context would never compromise on the main wall with the stained glass mural.


What can Leaders do?

While there are aspects of a person’s personality that we will not get into, the question really is, As founders and leaders what can we do to create an environment where people know what they are building?


While frequent conversations are absolutely necessary, in my experience, I have found 2 tools that are great to communicate and drive alignment around:

  1. The organisational vision and strategy

  2. Specific initiatives that the teams are working on

We will explore these 2 tools in detail in next weeks post.


I will leave you with this meme about solution development from the days before memes were a thing 😃


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