Posted On: Friday, 21 August 2009 by Rajiv Popat

The Stupidity Called 'Working Together'

At Multiplitaxion Inc, every time I was close to getting in the flow a monkey would pop his head out of somewhere or a bunch of jokers would giggle over a stupidly funny conversation.

Because of the classical cubical-farm design of the office; I jumped from meeting room to meeting room trying to focus and getting stuff done.

As I hopped from meeting room to meeting room there were three things that I learnt about meeting rooms:

  1. Located next to every meeting room are other meeting rooms.
  2. Other than meetings; these rooms are often occupied by teams of software developments indulging themselves in an insanely stupid act; which they refer to as --- 'working together'.
  3. Human being are social animals and when they 'work together' they tend to talk about their wife and their life much more than they talk about their code.

Every now and then I would have a bunch of developers 'working together' in the meeting room next to the one where I was hiding to get my work done.

By 'working together' in a meeting room; I do not mean the regular five minute standup. I also do not mean the famously stupid three hour meeting. These guys were in an insanely fu@#ked up self-organized meeting; eight hours a day; five days a week conducted under the name of 'working together'.

In this eight hour meeting; multiple things ranging from favorite movies of individuals; to what a variable should be called; could be brought up and discussed at length. Somewhere in the middle when when people were tired of discussions and wanted to take a break; the talking stopped. That is when people tried to write some code.

Of-course this was not a real meeting.

These were a bunch of developers taking the initiative of 'working together' --- so everyone actually liked it and encouraged it.

Of all the discussions that happened; one of the discussion that was brought up every now and then was why their project was slow and how it could be speeded up.

Shut the F@#k up and do some work.

To be honest; and candid; any computer science graduate; fresh out of college would have told him why their project was slow and what they could do to speed it up.

What they had to do to speed it up was something rather simple.

They had to --- shut the f@#ck up and work.

Coming from someone like me; who encourages flocking and a strong bonding in a team; asking developers; who sit in the same room and work; to shut up; go to their cubicles and work in their own cubical might sound like contradictory statement; but it is not.

As developers every single one of us needs two fundamental things from our work environments. On one hand we have a strong urge to 'belong'. Put simply this is what Seth Godin describes as building tribes. On the other hand however; what we also need as developers is quite time where we think; reflect; exercise our brains and try to solve really complicated problems by simplifying them.

If you are building a genuinely remarkable work play environment; it is your responsibility to provide your team both of these. Taking your team out to lunch; project dinners; and having x-boxes in offices is important. I have even gone ahead and suggested the nine-ten rule.

Having said that what is also important is that your team members get quite working environments and are mature enough to realize that while parties; games; chats in cafeteria; brainstorming sessions and whiteboard sessions are important; at times it is also important to shut the f@#k up and do some work alone.

Now; stop the chit-chat; go to your cabin; try to focus in a quite environment and do some real work.



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