free html hit counter
Posted on: Thursday, 27 August 2009 by Rajiv Popat

Why You Cannot Please Everyone.

At Multiplitaxion Inc; we had a truck-load of serious issues. Starting from the BDUF model for software development to a complicated hierarchal organizational chart where your manager could probably screw you really badly for no particular rhyme or reason; if he felt like doing so. Everywhere you looked; there were issues and problems.

Quite a bit of builders I knew personally had complained initially and had then moved into hibernation.

Even some of the super-heroes were down; lost and tired of trying.

Then something happened.

Random people --- including the whiners --- started quitting.

Loads of them.

New people started joining in.

A couple of us started working without a truck-load of  documentation and started using light-weight processes scrum to produce results which; compared to the results that were being produced by a couple of other teams; were --- lets just say --- noticeable.

People higher up in the organization took notice; listened and helped us spread the culture across the organization.

Multiplitaxion Inc was about to take a new form; shape and a completely new makeover.

In the days to come:

  1. We moved from Rational Unified Process to Scrum.
  2. We moved from doing ad-hoc random consultancy to developing products which made small dents in niche markets.
  3. We moved from 'control' and 'rules' to 'maturity'.
  4. We moved from 'ties' to T-shirts.
  5. We moved from half-baked-multi-layered-official-email-based-announcements to transparency within the corridors of the organization.

When we were on the path where we always wanted to be --- we patted ourselves on the back. The world was going to be a great place to live in; the sky was going to be blue and the birds were going to hum sweet songs now.

We Just Rubbed Someone The Wrong Way.

We had just about started patting ourselves on our backs. It was then that; running in the corridors of Multiplitaxion Inc I heard a builder; who  for the purposes of this post we shall refer to as Jack; whining about the fact that we had gone way too transparent and he did not like the transparency. Jack felt we had lost the 'sophistication' that we once had.

Turns out; Jack actually liked the notion of wearing ties to office and genuinely believed in deadline driven development.

Of all the things here a few things about this feedback that would make you feel completely and totally --- weird:

  1. The feedback was not a direct candid feedback. For days it floated around the corridors of Multiplitaxion Inc much the moans of whiners float around for days; spreading dissatisfaction and lowering the general happiness.
  2. The feedback was not objective about things that could be changed. It involved random criticism about the organization; the management; the marketing and every other department this person could lay his hands on.
  3. The person made a full-time job out of spreading his very own personal dissatisfaction within the corridors of the organization.

What was even more disappointing about the whole episode was the feedback was coming from a genuine builder who was decently good at what he did.

To top off all of this what made the whole episode even more worse; as I observed it unfold; was the fact that the same individual had actually complained and whined about the excessive use of BDUF processes and lack of transparency a couple of years ago.

Love It Or Leave It.

If you are running an organization; and if there is one thing you need to be very careful about; this poster describes it rather articulately.

While Jeff Atwood at Coding-horror proposes the love-it-or-leave-it idea for programming in general; the same idea; dear reader; also holds true within your organization.

Genuine builders; will have gripes about things that they do not like in the overall environment. Genuine builders will also be usually fairly vocal in expressing their concerns; but genuine builders do not make it their full time job to whine; bitch and passionately hate their organizations. They begin by expressing their concerns; becoming vocal; hibernating; getting disconnect and then if things still do not change --- they leave.

The primary rule of blogging or building anything interesting is that you listen to constructive criticism; you discuss things candidly and openly; but when it comes to Bozos throwing random flames on you or your project; you turn a deaf ear and you continue with whatever-it-is that you are doing. If they feel so strongly against what you are doing; they are free to punish you by ignoring you and leaving you alone.

The same rule; dear reader; holds true for work environments.

When you have an isolated team member; whining and making a full time job out of spreading his unhappiness it is time to cut straight through the bone; look at the gentleman in the eye; confront the issue instead of ignoring it and present him with a love-it-or-leave-it option.

Remember; you cannot please everyone and every now and then you are bound to come across some whiners you can never please irrespective of what you or your organization does. The sooner your organization presents the love-us-or-leave-us option to these whiners the better off you work environment will be.

How many whiners who passionately hate their organizations have you met or worked with?

How many of them; instead of having a spine to bring up the problem; hibernating or leaving; continued to bitch; whine and moan in hush-hush mode within the corridors of the organization?

Have you ever presented a whiner with love-it-or-leave-it option in clear terms; 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.