Weekends Were Made for What?

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.

12 Replies to “Weekends Were Made for What?”

  1. Two words, David: “Flash games”… they just did a post about that on Uncov.com. The kind with lots of key­board input required make you sound even busier… 🙂

  2. Worse still, if it’s clear that I’m not busy, they will stick me on test­ing. Ugh.

    I am the world’s worst soft­ware tester. I don’t find bugs, because I use the soft­ware the way I designed it. I don’t try and break it, because that is not the way I think. I like when the soft­ware works, and I don’t find it grat­i­fy­ing to find bugs. As far as I’m con­cerned, they could­n’t find a more inap­pro­pri­ate thing to have me do. I’d soon­er man the recep­tion area than test software.

    I’d bet­ter look busy all day Sat­ur­day and Sun­day. Pro­duc­tiv­i­ty in/decrease indeed.

  3. A stu­dent of mine said recent­ly that in Venezuela, work­ers who are asked to work on week­ends are paid triple, plus they take a day off in lieu. Per­haps IBM could adopt that rule.

    Of course, it’s poli­cies like this that have helped put Venezue­la’s econ­o­my into a death spi­ral, but whatever.

  4. It’s par­tic­u­lar­ly annoy­ing that while IBM employ­ees get over­time pay (time and a half, I believe) for doing this, we con­trac­tors get the same rate.

    All which leads me to con­clude that I may try and make up for this by try­ing to take some days off dur­ing the week as com­pen­sa­tion. I don’t get paid for the time I take off, so there’s no guilt there, but then again, the like­li­hood I would miss some meet­ing or have trou­ble meet­ing a dead­line increases.

    Oh well. Hi ho, hi ho, it’s off to Burn­a­by I go.

  5. You guys crack me up. Instead of look­ing at it from the per­spec­tive of you not want­i­ng to be there, why not see what oth­er roles you can play in the team? Why not check to see if there is any­thing you can learn about the prod­uct, or learn from oth­ers… or learn about others?

    You have a role and a title there at work. But first and fore­most your role is as a human being. Don’t let your job title box you in. It does not define what you can and can not do. This is an oppor­tu­ni­ty out of the ordi­nary… don’t sit at your said desk and play flash games, drink vod­ka or fall asleep. Don’t wait for some­thing to land in your lap… take the ini­tia­tive, DO something.

  6. My post was­n’t so much about whin­ing about us need­ing to work, but that it was an arti­fi­cial exer­cise in ‘team build­ing’ that in the end, insult­ed our intel­li­gence more than it chal­lenged us to ‘con­nect with our team’. As for learn­ing from oth­ers about the prod­uct, ask­ing ques­tions of the peo­ple who indeed need­ed to be there this week­end would prob­a­bly have been a bad idea. They were tru­ly under the gun to get the release fin­ished, and get­ting in their hair is not some­thing they would have liked us doing.

    Most of these com­ments, are, I think, main­ly in fun (right, folks?). As for what I actu­al­ly did do this week­end, a lot of it was help­ing to tie up some loose ends (help­ing to fig­ure out the right way for us to account for the most dif­fer­ent kinds of mail­ing address for­mats), as well as con­tin­ue to work on screens for the next release (which is not even on the cur­rent devel­op­ment team’s plate). 

    Point tak­en about avoid­ing a job title from ‘box­ing me in’. BTW, I, um, hope you’re fol­low­ing your own advice on this. 😉

  7. I under­stand that most of these com­ments were main­ly for fun. But still, it’s the approach and the intent which leaves some­thing to be desired. Per­haps that is where we differ.

    As for me, I am cur­rent­ly unem­ployed and look­ing for options, so you need not worry. 🙂

    Take care.

  8. That’s a shame, but I bet it won’t be for long. You look­ing for a head­hunter? I’ve had a few con­tact me off and on. Any­thing in par­tic­u­lar you are look­ing for? Just let me know.

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