Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Little things…..

I was in a meeting today, and got a fairly nice compliment from the folks there, on my work in another project I’d recently finished.

I mention this, because, in my professional experience, it’s a pretty rare event. As a contract programmer, I’m expected to deliver, that’s why I’m there. I’ve grown so very accustomed to not hearing “thank you’s” or compliments in general, that this sort of took me by surprise.

I’ve mentioned before that the team I’m working with on this contract has been great, and my project manager has said many nice things. But this was an entirely different group, and the kind words had been conveyed to them, by a person using an application I’d recently reworked.

I found it more than a little ironic, that, shortly after writing a post about no one noticing our efforts, only the mistakes, that I’d have this experience. (or is that Karma?)

So I’ve been reflecting on it, a bit, this evening. I had to think back to 1993, to think of another project I was on where they felt compliments were as important as critique.

There are some parallels between that environment, and this one, for sure. That contract was for a project where we were developing software for convenience stores. Nearly all the people there were either developers, planners, or a bit of both. The focus was on the application, getting it developed and deployed. They weren’t building a long overdue application for a ‘business need’. Instead, we were building a product.

The organization I’m currently contracted to, while not ‘reselling’ the software it develops, does deploy it for use in an entire industry, and garners a revenue stream from its use. The software is an integral component of their service architecture.

So, in essence, in both situations the software is a product, not a ‘tool’.

The work environments are similar as well. In the 1993 shop, I felt almost like I was on a college campus. We were encouraged to talk, toss ideas around and use the best solutions we could come up with to complete whatever section we were working on.

One of the little things that impressed me immediately at my current gig is the work area configuration. In each ‘quad’ of cubicles, in the middle, is a table large enough for four people to sit and have an impromptu ‘meeting’. They also try to place people near others doing similar, or complimentary jobs. This too encourages interaction, discussion, and in my mind, a better overall result.

I wonder though, is it me? Have I just been unfortunate enough to have only worked in a handful of really well run operations, or are most companies just poorly organized and run by folks who have no clue when it comes to real productivity gains?

There’s a different ‘pace’ to both this place and the 1993 gig as well. There are often tight deadlines, but not one on top of another, in an endless stream of ‘needed it yesterday’ thinking. There’s planning, vision, foresight and a recognition that all plans are flawed and need to remain fluid. The focus then is that we need to be building today, what the clients will need, a year, or further, in the future.

I’m sure there’s a lot more in common as well, but I don’t really want to dwell there.

At this point I’m just fairly amazed, that in 20 plus years, several hundred clients, (over a thousand actually if you count all of the off site ‘spec’ development I’ve done) and a dozen employers, that only two stand out to me as really well run operations.

Maybe I see them as well run because they suit my particular style? I can’t dismiss that as part of it, but I don’t see it as all of it. I’ve been comfortable nearly everywhere, and enjoyed most jobs, or contracts regardless of the corporate culture, as long as I got to do, the voodoo I do, and got paid.

It’s possible, that at this stage in my career I ‘see’ more now, than I did say a decade ago, that the quality of the workplace, and my work, is more important to me now, than just having work. (But don’t think for a moment I wouldn’t work in the worst place I’d ever been, if it came down to it, because I would!)

Or, is it that I’m finally mature enough (dare I say old enough?) to actually appreciate it now?

Honestly, I don’t know. What I do know, is that I’m thankful for the opportunities I’ve had, the experiences, so, that right now, I’m aware that I’m working one of the best gigs I’ve ever had. It’s making the experience that much richer for me. I know for sure, that back in ’93, I did not have this point of reference and as a result didn’t enjoy that one as fully as I could have.

So I guess the point of this ramble is…. Take the time to look at where you are, and if you find yourself in a good spot, appreciate it. If on the other hand, you don’t, take comfort in the fact that there are in fact, better spots down the road and just keep moving forward.


Karyn Lyndon said...

I think companies have gotten smarter on what motivates people and spend the time and money to train their managers to use these skills. The undesirable places to work now haven't moved forward. They're still in the time-clock and work-them-to-death for no thanks and few benefits mentality.

I've seen a huge change in the company I work for over the years (I've been there 17 years.) We have a new CEO whose main goal is to make our company one of the top places to work. I say bring on the 4 day work week so I'll have more time to write!!!

Anyway, congrats on the high praise. Sometimes that's better than money.

seeingdouble said...

That really should be the driving force for everyone. I can appreciate the things in the here and now (and try to remember to say it!!), and even when the "defecation hits the oscillating air re-circulator" I can honestly say I know there are better times ahead. Then again, I only know that because I can look back on the horrible situations I've survived.

Anyway, all companies in this country seem to be going to hell in a handbasket, customer/clients be damned. I'm glad you had the pleasure of working with a rare gem, and that they appreciated your efforts.

Jay said...

You have much knowledge.

People have no idea how important a few sincere words here and there could really be.

Spirit Of Owl said...

LOL This is a subject I've been doodling a post on for a while now, but I think my take on it is much angrier... :p

I can't abide that anybody should have to work in an environment where they are not made to feel comfortable and appreciated. It's a JOB after all. Why the hell do people think they can control anybody's life just because they pay them a wage, or a fee?

I know that there are good companies and good attitudes out there. It's great to find them, and with luck market forces will dictate that more and more will follow suit in the pursuit of competitiveness and staff retention.

It is something that makes me furious though, so I think I'll go have a cup of coffee... LOL

Trevor Record said...

I think my job's pretty good, but the thing is I lack any other significant jobs to compare it to.

Beth said...

1993 was a great year due to the fact that my daughter was born. =)

I try to always take time to notice the little things because sometimes the big things can be a bit overwhelming!

Bill said...

Karyn - Thanks.. I'm glad you've seen change.. most of what I've seen has been of the "time-clock and work-them-to-death for no thanks and few benefits mentality" you mentioned. Maybe there is hope!

SeeingDouble - "I only know that because I can look back on the horrible situations I've survived"... well there ya have it! Perspective can be everything if you use it wisely!

Jay - I actually think most of us do know, which is one of the very reasnos I find it surprising that it's so rarely done!

Spirit - "It's a JOB after all" ... now that's a perspective we should all never lose sight of! ... I work for a living these days, I no longer live for work!

Trevor - the key is in your own perception... if you're happy, and feel good about the job, the work, that's all that really matters... everything else will come in time.

Knitter - I've actually been playing with a post about breaking down the overwhelming, into smaller, less intimidating pieces.... You're very right though, seems if we pay attention to the little things, the big ones have a way of taking care of themselves... and a happy 12th b'day to your daughter!!