Here’s a game. You’ll like this. Listen carefully.
In any organisation there are essentially two groups of people. People who know stuff. People who don’t really know all that much.
In many, many cases the people who don’t know stuff try to find stuff out by getting the people who know stuff to fill in forms or spreadsheets. It makes them feel useful. It makes it look like they are doing work. But in the end, they still don’t know much stuff and they’ve just wasted a lot of time.
“Fill this form in so I can approve…” – does that mean they understand?
So, here’s the game. When you are in work, just walking round the office, or in a meeting maybe, decide which of the two groups people are in. You’ll be surprised by how many people fall into the “gaining information via the medium of forms” gang.
And if you spend all your day getting people to fill in forms then… better not finish that.
Remember this. Write it on a piece of paper if you have to. No one you
work with is independently wealthy and comes into work just because
they love it. And, even if they are, they still do it for more glory,
not relaxation. None of us are charities, we work to earn money, simple
as that. And we spend a lot of our lives doing it.
Therefore, enjoying our work as we go is very important. Sure, it
helps with retention, churn, yada, yada. But you should consider it on
a more human level. If people are, by virtue of necessity, stuck with
working for most of their natural lives, surely everyone has a
resposibility to make it as enjoyable as possible. This is suggesting
that we enter the Brent-ian nightmare of “entertainer first, manager
second”, it is simply to say that it is incumbent on every manager to
create an environment that people want to work in, to get out of bed
Obviously, your standard arse believes that maximum productivity comes
with the intense silence of the monk in a scriptorium. Their fear
forces them to believe that any time not working is wasted time. This
is very far how it should be. There is never a time when a bit of
laughter can’t improve things. A relaxed mind is a clear mind.
A good manager is one that creates the environment in which their
people can work at their best. There is many aspects to this, but
having fun is the central tenet of them all.
Those of you of an older vintage may remember the flip-flop. A simple logic circuit that can be in one state or another. You get people like that too. Having no clue about anything, they tend not to have any definitive opinion of their own. Instead, they carry about with them the opinion of the last person they discussed a given subject with.
This is generally quite irritating as you can usually have two very different conversations with the same person about the same thing.
“But I thought we had agreed yesterday that the sky was blue?”
“Yes, but I had a meeting with marketing this morning and no I see that it is more of an indigo…”
Fundamentally, such people aren’t much use, but there is much to be exploited here. If these people are in decision making positions and you’d like to them to act in your favour, all you have to do is get to them last. Just make them flip to your way of thinking, make sure no one else talks to them before they enter the crucial meeting and the world is yours.
This is an important realisation you have to have. Everything is, to some extent, flawed and everything you do is an attempt to reduce the level of imperfection. Everyone makes mistakes, things generally don’t go to plan so have to find ways of making sure that you find and correct issues before this is too late. Obviously, this is what review/testing and all the standard project stuff is about. But the crucial thing to remember is that it is the people who are flawed and collectively everyone and everything has to act to reduce problems.
The amount that flaws can be eliminated is simply another aspect of the Bermuda Triangle. If you have enough time and money, you can test/fix/control for many years and you’ll get close. This is a space industry thing, very expensive, one shot and it has to work as near to flawlessly as is possible. But even space stuff expects and gets some issues.
Most of us don’t work in that kind of industry and our scope for validation and verification is much less. There isn’t a problem with this. Its just a balance of risk. A website selling shoes can go live with issues. We won’t need a Shuttle mission to repair it.
The key point is, if you accept that things are inevitably flawed then you have to accept that it is your responsibility to organise the process by which collectively the project decides who to handle the flaws.
One obvious characteristic of an arse is that they tend to accept that corners are cut during a project (usually because they are too scared to declare a slip) but then blame people for there being issues at the end. Phrases such as “How did you let this happen?” can be heard. If you accept risk then accept the consequences of the risk not going your way. And, always accept that things are flawed.
Its something that almost all text books won’t mention but is to blame for more mistakes that almost anything else. As we have already established, most people working in IT are not very good at it and, those that know they are out of their depth, are typically either paralysed or hamstrung by fear. Decisions made in the context of fear are almost always bad ones. Conversely, a good way to spot a Good Guy is see that someone has no fear in any situation.
Fear does very strange things to arses. It has a tendency to make them avoid the truth and to concoct and intricate web of nonsense that they believe sounds more plausible. It also makes them very tetchy and have a strong tendency to snap at people for no reason. Almost always this is because people want to avoid a kicking and are not understand the basic rules of damage limitation.
Sometimes the only thing that stops an Arse being a Good Guy is their ability to handle their fear. Often they are intelligent, decent people who, through lack of bottle alone, make an arse of things. If you are not scared, you are thinking clearly, so always take fear out of the equation.