In order to create a feeling of esprit de corps, business managers employ a variety of different techniques. I can remember attending a session of MacHack, the Macintosh Programmer Retreat at a motel in Michigan many years ago where I attended a session held by one of the Project Managers for OS X (or was it OS 9?) regarding how they achieved the management of such a complex and important software project. The bouncy woman wearing jeans and a T‑Shirt offered reminiscences like: “I remember that next we did ‘Peanut Butter Sandwich Day’ on that Thursday, followed by “Hot Fudge Sundae Day” on the following Friday…” The rest of the talk was much like this, with all sorts of cute and eccentric activities that were added to the grueling work schedule to add some breaks, loosen up the workforce, and keep things playful and light-hearted, even as tempers were growing short (and deadlines were growing near). Her talk was far more about an approach to human psychology than business theory or resource management.
At this IBM office, the visiting manager for the current project I’m working on has a military background. Her idea of ‘rallying the troops’ (or in civilian terms, motivate employees in the face of an important deadline) are three words: “Co-location, co-location and co-location”. What this means, is that she thinks the best way to get a project done faster (or better) is to literally put everyone in the same room, or nearly everyone, at any rate. For the most part, the people working on my end of the project, the ‘Information Architects’ haven’t had the same requirements to work in the crowded (yet curiously, extremely cold) cafeteria. The result may have been some more efficient communications and knowledge-sharing (as she explained), but with it came the high rate of absenteeism from colds and flu, which ran through the building as fast as a kindergarten. This co-location (think co-habitation but just for work) has now, with the upcoming holiday season, translated to ‘Everybody’s working on the weekend.’ Yes, on Dec 1st and 2nd , the entire project team (all 200 or so of us) will be here at the office. That includes the Information Architects, along with all of the Business Analysts, Programmers, HTML Programmers, Database Administrators, Testers and various other people on the project. Never mind that for us Information Architects, there’s very little for us to do. After all, our major role in drawing up the wireframes of the user interface for the project was months ago. It would be like a building architect being asked to hang around while the contractors work on the electrical wiring, or perhaps even the carpeting of the building. But that’s the way things work in her manual, so that’s what we must do. Aye aye, captain.
So, I’ll be here on the weekend. Will I sit at my desk, waiting for a call from the programmers in the cafeteria about what default value a field should have, or how a particular button is enabled or disabled depending on the value of some other drop-down menu…? Or, will I be writing in this blog? We’ll just have to see.