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Posted on: Friday, 01 May 2009 by Rajiv Popat

Ok, soul searching time.

Are you a builder?

Are you a story-teller?

If you are neither a builder; nor a story teller --- you are a whiner.

It is really that simple.

You can defend yourself with a piece of paper called your business card and claim that you 'manage projects'; that you are good at 'client interaction'; that you are a 'people person' and that you have fifteen years of experience in building enterprise applications but none of that changes the fact that you are a whiner.

Maybe a very powerful whiner sitting high up on the pecking order of your organization. So high up that you will never be reminded of the fact that you are a whiner and you might have blissfully forgotten it; but you are a whiner none the less.

In the world of software development, there are pretty much only three things you can be doing and I'm going to tell them to you. Ready?

One, you could be helping build stuff, through your skills of a programming language; through your testing skills; creative skills or whatever 'concrete' skills you have. Two, you could be helping people who build stuff in the first place by building remarkable stories.

Three --- you could be whining.

Whiners are interesting individuals though. They are what can be referred to as thermometers in an organization. Seth Godin in his book, the Tribes describes the difference between a thermometer and a thermostat. According to Seth while thermometers; tell you what is wrong; they are use-less primarily because they are incapable of changing things. Thermostats on the other hand, change things, silently --- and almost automatically.

Whiners feel they are in control. They often have 'revolutionary' ideas to change the organization. They indulge in a lot of meetings to that effect. They get very excited when you invite them to meetings and ask them their opinions. Whiners neither connect to story tellers nor do they connect to builders and you will often here them pass remarks on the lines of - 'developers are not very good at communication'.

Whiners love sophisticated tools and systems. Tell them of an organizational problem and they will start talking in terms of systems you are going to need.

Whiners are also hugely insecure about their jobs and will hardly ever take independent decisions or judgment calls. Whiners are notoriously famous for organizing meetings and inviting huge audiences in them; to take everyone's opinion. Having said that you will see no decisions emerging out of those meetings.

If you have heard yourself or someone complain about the lack of process, lack of documentation or lack of discipline in your organization, the individual; in all probabilities, is indulging in the act of --- whining.

Builders don't bitch. They fix things. Sometimes they do it so silently, it's creepy.  

As we move on through the book you will meet a few whiners and learn techniques of avoiding them. Having said that, this is not their book --- so let's keep their introduction as short as possible. Let's just wrap up for the time being by stating a general fact.

Builders make organizations, whiners break them.

How many whiners do you see around you?

Are there interesting, funny stories about whiners that you know of, dear reader?

Discuss.

Note: This article is a part of a Work In Progress Book. To Read connected articles read the Builders At Work category of this blog.