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LabVIEW Life Lessons #9 - People

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Article 99!!

Here we are at the cusp of article 100, if you've endured all of them I thank you!

I've finished Peopleware and a damn good read it was too, I highly recommend it for programmers and managers, in fact anyone involved with a team.

As seems to be common practice these days I will now pick all the bits that align with my world view and ignore everything else!

One of the most important life lessons is that Software is a People-Oriented activity. There are many aspects to this and I'll skip through the ones that interest me.

Everyone is different (and that's a good thing)

This revelation has actually come from the discussions on this blog, so it's worth the admission price just for that.

The trouble with methodologies and processes is that they are designed by people who inherently like working in that fashion. This is then sold as the "best" way to work, well what's best for me is not necessarily good for you. Here's some 50/50s

Some people like comments in their code. Some hate it.

Some people like LabVIEW. Some hate it.

Some people like starting. Some like finishing.

Some like working to standards. Some find it restrictive.

Some like Unit Testing. Some don't.

Us noisy people loudly say one way of doing something is the correct way, it only really means that it works for us and people similar to us.

One absolute rule I have observed is that there are people who moan and people who do, the venn diagram of moaners and doers never seems to cross!

Be Nice

Google spent a lot of time and energy and came to the conclusion that team members that look out for each other work better, This simple cost-effective concept seems to elude groups of clever people in a fair proportion of businesses I deal with.

For people who watch The Apprentice the classic macho-manager stomping about bullying people into submission seems to be desirable. Nice people are weak and in business you need to be STRONG!!! Sigh! This way of working is idiotic, destructive, old-fashioned and childish!

Here's the thing I am really unproductive if I feel annoyed or irritated. One simple way to improve productivity is to treat me nice!

Here's another secret, people do business with people they trust and like, especially where intellect and experience is the commodity being traded

Behavior is Influential

One poisonous individual can destroy a team and damage related teams and these people who only see bad in others, the gossipers, the spreaders of discontent, the vampires of ego need isolating or removing. Sacking these people is horrible, but not as horrible as keeping them on!

If they bubble to the top of a company they affect the mentality of the whole organization, sadly this happens more often than it should.

Here's the kicker, the work we do should be fun. The things that stop it being fun are people related. Spend effort on this and good things happen.

See you for my century!

Be nice to each other

Steve

Comments
Knight of NI

I can speak from experience in this year how important it is to have good relations with those you work with.  At my last company, we all got along very well and were productive and generally happy...until the president/owner walked in the door or communicated with one of us in some way (text, phone, email).  Then you sudenly feel this toxicity in the air and nothing got done (mostly because we were all complaining about him).  My productivity was next to nothing just because I was constantly mad.  So when you state how one poisonous individual can destroy a team, well, almost everybody there is curently searching for a new job.

Ok, enough of my ranting...


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Getting into the state where you are productive at programming is closely related to happiness and comfort I find. This is why I'm constantly astounded at how much attention companies spend on furnishings and how little attention on their employees..

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swatts wrote:


                       

Getting into the state where you are productive at programming is closely related to happiness and comfort I find. This is why I'm constantly astounded at how much attention companies spend on furnishings and how little attention on their employees..


                   

It's a balance. Give me a bad office environment but be nice to me will never suffice. Alternatively, if the office is super modern and I have my own PA but I'm treated with disrespect then I'll be no more effective.
One of the attractions to working for yourself is "no boss" - ie no worrying about him/her being an ar*e and ruining your day. Plus, you get to pick and choose your office environment and are empowered to deal with matters - so if that keyboard is too noisy when you type and that really matters to you, you can decide to replace it. It's a better all round balance.

Thoric (CLA, CLED, CTD and LabVIEW Champion)


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The important thing is to be able to design your own environment, both Adrian and I have come from factories. We both find offices too quiet and therefore surround ourselves with music etc. This definitely would not suit everyone.

There's absolutely no business reason why a team could design their own environment. It's just a matter of management divesting a little bit of perceived power.

Maverick - Ricardo Semler <-- this is a good book on management styles, it's influenced my thinking on business a great deal.

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I couldn't agree more - nice article Steve. 

Diverse skills and personalities is a good thing within a business, I suspect the blend resulting in working environment utopia, will always allude us.

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I'm lucky in that I can influence it to a greater degree than many.

The diversity thing also comes with maturity I think. There was a time that I walked around in a constant state of frustration that people couldn't do what I did and in the way I did it (without considering that actually the inverse was just as true).

The best teams I have worked in have been multi-disciplinary too, so people bring different things to the party. I've always found that design by committee is great if you have a good committee.

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The hardest conflict is when one person's requirement directly opposes another's. Your radios would drive me insane unless I liked the music. Sometimes I need to concentrate and music distracts me - for that I have noise cancelling headphones. But these can visually isolate me from the team so I try to minimise their use. You might argue the needs of the music-driven should result in them wearing the headphones so as not to disturb others who prefer quiet. It's often the hierarchically superior staff who win the debate, rather than logic or equal consideration.

It's certainly unusual to find a group of more than two or three who all gel well together. Obviously having like-minded folk helps, but just one difference of opinion is all it takes to create tensions. I find as I get older I'm more tolerant to others and their preferences, so long as they're not being inconsiderate.

Give us all sound-proofed offices with glass walls!!

Thoric (CLA, CLED, CTD and LabVIEW Champion)


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That's where the being nice part comes in.

Member

Not sure  I need everyone to be nice to each other (although if we are going for utopia).  I would settle for professional respect and working towards the team goal(s), rather than remaining on transmit and persuing personal agendas.

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By nice I mean those things, the google conclusions were essentially that teams worked best if they trusted each other, looked out for each other etc etc. For an engineering team this should be fairly easy to achieve, the end goal is fairly simple to define, in my experience politics should be less fun than building stuff so all should be well.......

A friend of mine got my dream job working for Lego, doing animatronics. Sadly it was rubbish, because the people made it so.

I like the part of Peopleware that talked about self-picking teams. i.e. a team of people that primarily liked to work together would be given projects. I think small businesses inherently run such schemes, but once again there's no real reason why larger organisations shouldn't work in a similar fashion. Allow teams to self-organise and chuck work at them.

It is utopian to a point, but without looking inward at the situation the muscle that is the human condition adapts and crap becomes normal.