Wojtek Ryrych
creative writer & web developer

Managing little cogs or human beings?

You enter the office. However, you have to check in using your ID card first. The door opens, and a big shot is crossing your path.

– Good morning sir, my kid got sick, and I need to take a week off.

– It’s impossible!–the Boss starts shouting. Next Monday is our deadline, and we’re behind the schedule! We cannot lose this client!

Can you motivate workers by using your authority?Can you motivate workers by using your authority?

Shaking and trembling you’re heading to your cubicle, totally pissed off. You know that you have to work overtime because, you know, we are little cogs designed to work like a Swiss watch. Sounds familiar? If your managers are avid fans of the yesteryear management, read on to learn what management 3.0 is, and how it could transform the company you work for.

Call for a management paradigm shift

In this short article, I’m scratching the surface of management 3.0, which is not a framework or set of strict rules one has to follow but rather a ‘more human’ approach to people management. Please note that I’m covering the topic from a software developer standpoint.

We are not cogs!

We are human beings. Treating staff like cogs, resources supposed to work for 8 hours on end under pressure ain’t gonna work. Monitoring, checking ID cards, introducing rigid rules, setting blocked sites, avoiding transparency are just a few issues that make you surprise. What’s going on in the company? The directors, their directors, and their supervisors are only interested in finding who’s to blame.

Don’t you think that the most valuable company’s ‘assets’ are people?

Letting people do their best will unleash their potentialLetting people do their best will unleash their potential

The company can change the address, buy new devices, or reach new markets, but what is going to happen when you take all the people out of the building? The company ceases to exist.

You feel at home and can also not feel like home in a house. It does not matter how many investors the company has or if it fits Forbes 500.

Little cog in the universe

To unleash people’s potential the toxic culture has to be weeded out and replaced with the culture of honesty, integrity, trust and transparency. A healthy culture is a ripple effect, making the whole company thrive. Once combined talents harness synergy, the proverbial dent in the universe will be made.

You will be surprised to see the distance the ripple wave reaches. New talents will be attracted and new ideas will emerge. By giving something back, be it meetups, open workshops, or coder dojo meetings, you reach the local community. Some folks can benefit from participating in the events. Let alone creating new jobs by the sheer act of money flow.

Giving back starts the law or reciprocityGiving back starts the law or reciprocity

You’re a new developer, and you’ve got a mentor, a guide to make your ‘on-boarding’ process smooth. He will help you with developing your technical skills and also will share his unique insight into soft skills.

Two years later, with your skills matured, you are ready to become a mentor yourself. Would it be possible if two years ago your supervisor had been ignorant or harsh? Ask yourself.

Let’s change the culture!

Do you remember the big shot from the beginning? Let me conduct another experiment and ask you which scenario you would like to be in.

It’s Friday 3 p.m, and you feel sick. The cold you caught three days ago gets into your productivity. To put it short: you’re not productive enough, and you feel that it’d be better if you went home, straight to bed with more chance to get well soon. Yet, you can’t. You work from 9 to 5. You’re supposed to fit the daily schedule, so you’re still sitting in the office trying to fake your productivity. Who cares, right?

Now the second scenario.

– Guys, I feel terrible, I need to go home and if possible, I’ll finish the task tomorrow.

– Sure. It’s Friday. There’s no deadline now, and we could deliver even more in this sprint. Take care!

Can productivity in creative jobs be forced? Can you turn on the problem-solver mode like a flick? Don’t you think that giving more freedom to people would unleash their untapped potential? What is culture? Is it a set of written rules in some company’s mission statement or is it rather a natural process, now the final destination?

Human approach

Close your eyes and imagine a company. You enter the room and you are greeted by your colleagues rushing straight to the kitchen. They’re laughing, joking and trying to get a slice of delicious cheesecake as fast as possible. 5 minutes ago they read on HipChat:

Guys, I’ve been here for a year now. The cake is waiting for you in the kitchen. The faster, the better!

Before you greet with other colleagues spruces in other rooms, another two dudes are rushing for the cake humming ‘om nom nom nom’ on the way. Good start, right?

Celebrate small successes on the wayCelebrate small successes on the way

Follow me to another room where a team has a meeting. They got stuck. Some nasty bugs can drive you mad, you know? Their morale has dropped. If you cannot solve something for many days in a row, it burns you out. You just cannot get in the zone. It is frustrating both for the team and the client.

Let’s go home, sleep on it, and try to fix it with a fresh mind

A team leader suggests.

They go. The team is a self-managing unit where most of decisions do not have to be reported to Mr Director of Importance. Instead, replicable units of developers, acting like special forces know better what to do. The distributed system of small teams, though seemingly chaotic, can act proactively to the unexpected. Do you remember that the more the mass, the harder it is to change direction?

Replicable agile units can respond to the unexpectedReplicable agile units can respond to the unexpected

Do not underestimate chit-chat

Dinner time. The room fills up. You can hear small talks, discussions about big ideas, news from science, interesting facts about string theory, or whatever comes to your mind. A brief moment of joy boosts your productivity, sharpens your focus, and prepares you for the next task to be done.

Some things cannot be measured. For sure you know what GDP per capita is. Let me surprise you.

Our Gross National Product […] counts air pollution and cigarette advertising and ambulances to clear our highways of carnage. It counts special locks for our doors and the jails for the people who break them. It counts the destruction of the redwoods and the loss of our natural wonder in a chaotic sprawl. It counts napalm and it counts nuclear warheads, and armored cars for the police to fight riots in our cities. Yet, the Gross National Product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education, or the joy of their play. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages, the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials. It measures neither our wit nor our courage, neither our wisdom nor our learning, neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country; it measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile. –Robert F. Kennedy

Some things cannot be measured. Guess which of the scenarios show what management 3.0 is all about.