I recently had a heated argument with a couple of our developers. They were creating a new module in one of our systems, and were building the UI based on a screenshot from a designer.
Developer: “Here is what was auto-deployed to the development server last night. As you can see it is a somewhat working prototype.”
Me (After picking on several aspects of the design): “..so I guess we’re pretty far away from anything I can show the customer.”
Developer (groans): “As you can see, it’s perfect and doesn’t need any tweaks..”
Me: “Well, were you looking for feedback, or did you just want me to compliment you on your CSS skills?”
Developer: “I was after feedback, but I am allowed to be grumpy when I get it. So, if we change the stuff you mentioned, can we move on to the admin part after that?”
Me: “If we present it like this, we’ll be thrown under the bus. I need it to be as close to the design screenshot as possible. Now that I’m looking at it again, I’m actually worried even that won’t be good enough.”
Developer: “Seriously?! Well, God. I need a timeout. Give me two minutes to grab another coffee..”
After a lengthy discussion while looking at some state of the art, jaw dropping design templates online, we all realize that we haven’t been aiming high enough with the new design. I’ve been giving them a hard time for maybe thirty minutes, even though I know their job isn’t easy. We’re hard pressed for time, and I know I’ve said the functionality is more important. But I also know that the current design simply won’t cut it. I try to calm things down.
Me: “I know I’m being harsh here, but I needed to get the message across.”
Developer: “So, if we don’t even think the design from the designer is good enough, why do we spend time implementing it? I don’t even want to do it anymore after seeing how much better it can be done.”
Me (pointing at one of the crazy designs we checked out online): “I hear you, but can we even do anything remotely like that?”
Developer (looking straight at me): “We can do anything!”
“Most people fail in life not because they aim too high and miss,
but because they aim too low and hit.”
So, what’s it all about, this software business? Making money? Isn’t any business? Figure out how to bleed the customer of as much money as humanly possible, while doing as little as you can get away with. It’s a bit of an art, really.
It doesn’t matter if you’re buying software services for your company, or a carpenter to remodel your house. They strip you naked and hang you out to dry. That’s just the way modern business works, I guess.
Or is it?
At Revio we have a set of core values. One of them is Proud. By the end of the day, we need to be able to stand up straight, and be proud. Proud of who we are. Proud of what we accomplished.
Proud of how we have treated others, and proud of what we have delivered to you.
As much as we would like to be flawless, we are not. There are times when we look at the result of a project, a system update or some other deliverable, and must admit that it falls short. We ask ourselves if we can be proud of that delivery, and the answer is No, we can not.
I hold both myself and the rest of the team to high standards, so when that happens I feel really, really bad. Then our COO looks at me and says:
“Meanwhile in Africa..”
What he means is that sure, our server is down, our customer is furious, and it sucks. But while the customer may very well be furious, he’s not dead. He is not being killed in front of his wife and children in Libya, and luckily – neither are we.
When we’ve reminded ourselves that no matter how bad we screw up, most of the planet is still doing quite a bit worse than we are, it’s time to get back to work. Whatever was wrong must be put right, and whatever the customer is expecting, we must try to achieve.
Our way of conducting business may not be saving lives. However, by being honest, dependable and proud of what we do – we hope we are able to make yours at least a little bit better.
I’ve been around my fair share of useless people, I’m sure you have as well.
I don’t know about you, but I hate it.
I can handle people who are genuinely useless, but useless people who are actually intelligent and could have been competent, those guys I really hate. I hate it when people do a crap job even though I know they could do so much better. It’s amazing how much you can’t get done when you’re armed with a lack of motivation combined with a healthy dose of ignorance.
I hate leaders and managers who think they are doing a great job, but actually suck at it, and blame their employees for their own shortcomings.
When I started out as a manager (and to a certain extent even today), I always took the blame for anything my employees did wrong. When you made an error, so did I. Why is that? Because I hate it when we suck. I try to do my very best, every day, all day. I seldom succeed, but at least I try. I want you to try too. Hard.
So when I take the blame for your mistake, that isn’t right, is it? I don’t want to take responsibility for your mistakes, I want you to take responsibility. Own up, move on, do better next time.
You’re at the office doing whatever it is you do most of your waking hours anyway, so you might as well be passionate about it, right? It wouldn’t kill you, would it? If it did, at least you’d die doing something you were passionate about. It sure beats being bored to death.
The next time someone gives you feedback (that’s a nice word for someone shouting at you and telling you that you suck), hold back on that excuse for just a minute. Because they already know the specification wasn’t perfect. They know the customer is a jerk. They know you have a cold. And deep down you both know that you are capable of doing a better job. That’s probably why the guy is shouting at you in the first place. It’s no use shouting at an idiot, but he knows you can do better. So why the hell didn’t you?
I’d love for us to just get rid of all the terrible excuses and blame games (even though I still catch myself participating in them from time to time). And just. Get. Better.
So whenever you get yelled at, tell them that yes sir, you are exactly right. It was my responsibility to identify that the specification was incomplete. It was my responsiblity to figure out what the customer really wanted. It was my responsibility to make sure this new feature didn’t break anything else. I will go out of my way to do better.
I for one, will love you for it. And I will do my best to follow your lead.