Unfortunately, when I was there, there wasn't a lot of protection from the conflict created by your snippets, so if you wrote "tried again to convince team X to let me fix their code, they brought up objection a, b, c. Still no clarity from them on what they really want." In your snippet it would make Team X look bad, and at some point it could come back to them that you were bitching about them in your snippets (even if you were doing what you were told to do) and then they would counter-attack in their snippets, and a little sub-surface adhominem would go on for a while. Moderating your snippets made you look non-productive. It was an epic failure in leadership.
But my experience is that this sort of thing (as you observe) really rewards those who are good at writing and navigating the social waters... rather than really reflecting work. If a manager is reviewing snippets, you just need to say what he wants to hear.
Even if it should be "Was kind of blah today, didn't get any work done, talked to Y about it for a while but still didn't do much", you'd of course write "Faced several challenges with X, but made progress; had meeting with Y and got useful feedback".
It's sort of an art, especially when it comes to full performance reviews. I used to be something of a savant on the subject.
I have yet to see ANY system which comes close to measuring programmer productivity, even in a relative way, that isn't prone to huge errors or gaming.
Same problem with interviewing, really; often social adeptness is what's being measured.
It brings to mind what I do when I am having problems with my focus. I keep something like a "ship's log" of my time. I just note the time of day when I start doing something and then the time when my concentration breaks. Next to it I write what I was doing. Now I have a record of what I did, something like
1543-1555 fooled around on Hacker News
1602-1619 worked on presentation
1620-1643 worked on presentation
I think when we wear many hats we're susceptible to unproductive states of mind, and this little hack helps me a lot.
But I don't think it would be a good idea for public display. Depending on the boss, maybe it would be ok if s/he looked at it, but I dunno. I've never had a boss I didn't completely trust, but I think I'm pretty lucky that way.
Maybe snippets would work if they were just between a manager and his or her reports.
It's a pretty basic strategy - if everyone else is fluffing up their reports, you sure don't want to be the one who isn't.
Occasionally I will run it for a day, or even up to a week, check the breakdown, and pick goals to improve on, run it another week etc.
Running it all the time is too time consuming in itself, but occasional "checkpoints" help ensuring I maintain good habits etc.
Would never show it to my boss though - I feel confidentiality for those kinds of things are necessary to ensure you're absolutely honest with yourself. I'd happily recommend people working for me do the same, including withholding it from me.
Automates it all and self-games so you can set your own targets to beat.
The best part is that you actually think twice about going to that non-productive site because you know it's going to be staring back at you at the end of week report. Of course it takes discipline but sometimes little tools help.
I'm dabbling with quantified self strategies. I want to cover everything.
Health (BP, glucose, etc), food, pills, github commits, potty breaks, phone/chat/email, exercise, and most importantly sleep.
I want the data collection done passively (I will never journal).
I even want the total self app to periodically ask me what my mental state is. "Are you happy?" "Do you have a head ache?" "How does your tummy feel?"
I find it very useful for stuff like reminding myself what I was working on yesterday, last week, etc, what I was doing on it and why, and that sort of thing. Being able to search for class names, bug IDs, and changeset IDs is pretty handy too for getting more insight into why I did something, even if it was a while ago. I think it helps keep me more productive too, since I don't want to have to look back on what I did yesterday and only see a couple of sentences.
At another customer's there was a time reporting software. But instead of reporting real time, we were instructed to report normalized times over an 8-hour work day.
That's to say if you do it personally for the purpose of self-improvement, it's fine, when there's a social aspect of trying to determine who is pulling their weight it's going to more dishonest.
Exactly. If hundreds of thousands of salary and tens of thousands of bonus dollars are tied to it, there is no doubt judging, gaming and justifying will be going on.
I see it as a pretty common thing to do though... either on annual basis (as a performance review) or a daily one (as a standup). Granted the theory of the standup is nothing to do with measuring productivity, but it gets noticed.
There is no hiding from a pair.
That way you aren't evaluated so much on when/how you work, but on what you accomplish.
(I should also include a note here about how you are evaluated by your peers at Google, which has its own set of benefits and downsides, but OKRs are meant to be a somewhat objective measure of output)
From what I've seen, many organizations that try to formalize evaluations this way are easier to game, because the very idea that there are somewhat reliable metrics makes it easier to justify not following up as closely.
(I'm not saying it will happen, but I've seen it far more often than I care to; including once having a manager that didn't even inquire about what my team had done lately for three years - I didn't mind, I delivered what I should to other parts of the business, but he should have: he had no effective oversight over a team officially reporting to him that handled tens of millions in revenue; if I had messed up, his head would've been on the chopping block next to mine)
Maybe he trusted you?
> Google tried to avoid this scenario with 'snippets'
My point is that OKRs are meant to be used for tracking performance (such as what the article was talking about) and snippets are more for personal use or casually for information among teammates or other curious people who want to know what you work on.
My first thought when reading this was that I would have nodded in agreement 90% of the time no matter what the remaining content of the parent had been.
This unfortunately has never worked. I don't if it worked at Google. But as far as I remember 'Setting goals' by and large works like premature optimization or at most in the theme of water fall model.
When we used that approach we found half way down the goal timeline, our priorities as dictated by the business totally changed. We discovered better ways of doing things which altered goals. Some times we found we were simply measuring the wrong things. Some higher priority stuff just preempts the existing business goals and tend to get abandoned etc etc.
I can see how it may work for business folks. Having targets like 'Increase revenue by $100 million', or 'Hire 10 new team members'. But in the grass root level day to day life can hardly be lived in the scopes of rigid goals.
I can't imagine a manager who helped you set quarterly goals with objective completion measurements and then penalized you if the goals changed partway through.
There would probably be some discussion as to why the goals needed to change. If they were not set appropriately to begin with that might be an issues between you and your manager or might be an issue between him and his manager (maybe priorities weren't communicated effectively from higher up the chain) or it might truly be a case of changed priorities in the company (changing markets, change financial outlook, whatever).
So I wrote a small CLI tool that would let me write a short note and append it to a file. The note would be time-stamped, and the file name (or something) would reflect my current working directory.
I forget exactly the details (I should go find this code if I can) but the idea was to be able to record quick observations about what I was doing so that later I could go back and get a more nuanced picture than basic time-tracking might offer.
For example, I could do this:
james:~/dev/BigProject$@ gem docs for stupid-easy-attachment gem do not match reality
I'd then have a record of my trouble getting some gem to work.
If nothing else it was therapeutic. Sometimes just writing something out spurred a useful idea, too.
My time-tracking tool (JotBot) did allow for adding notes to recorded time but being able to record quick thoughts with little interruption to my work flow was a big win.
Adding a hostname and putting the log in a Dropbox directory means you can keep track across PCs easily.
Helps to alias it to something shorter. I use "t".
Ultimately, at Google, the results are what matter: Did you implement a system to do something? Are people using it?
In that case, both teams demonstrated look fine: people are able to provision analog and digital channels. If the digital team is doing the same work with a smaller team, then that just makes the team look like they might be working at a higher level, which is good at promotion time.
We've all heard about the stereotypical manager-perception of "effort invested will be proportional to results delivered!", like the article laments. But this analogy breaks down really quickly.
Let's use an example that's not from software to illustrate the point -- in fact, let's use the author's own example, laying bricks. Who would you rather hire?
-- Bricklayer A: Takes 2 weeks to finish a wall, stays late every day to finish the job, finally builds a brick wall of passable quality.
-- Bricklayer B: Finishes your wall in two hours because he realizes there's a better way to lay your bricks, and builds a wall of excellent quality.
I feel like most people, even managers of non-software folks, would rather hire B. At least, I certainly would.
So I think the premise of the article is wrong. There's something deeper going on, and dismissing it with "managers want to reward hard work, and creatives don't look like they're working hard" is an explanation that is "neat, simple, and wrong" .
"Unless you can afford to have two or more competing teams solving the same problem, and c’mon, who would do that, you will never know."
So, the above metaphor is almost always impractical, and it's hard to tell what the alternative is to the one bricklayer you have.
The mythical man month never mentioned that. It mentioned multiple implementations of one architecture, but that was for hardware IIRC.
A better example is if A now comes back and says "yes, my wall's not as good, and I take longer, but now I'm only going to charge $4000", then you've got a bigger question - is it worth $1000 to you to get a higher quality wall that's done quicker? Or would you rather save the money and lose the time and build quality?
This more easily converts to a software example - do you pay a senior developer to develop your product quickly and well? Or do you save money by hiring a developer of lower skill, who will likely take longer and deliver a lower-quality product?
What if you have no background in software? If the lower-skill developer convinces you his work is better (even if it's not) you're going to go with him.
I'm more inclined to think that people would try to bargain hard with the Bricklayer B - "$500 in two hours is a good price for you, pal". After all the thought goes that even for that price B can erect a lot of walls in two weeks (which is A's single wall building time-span), and that's... only fair, right?
(in addition) Don't foul yourself that we live only under market-like laws of supply and demand, we're also social creatures that supposedly have to obey social norms. And the norms can be dictated.
There's pretty easy proof of this. You would spend weeks of time, $8000 in recruiting expenses, trying to get a web marketing manager who can increase your conversion rate.
But if there is a web site that you could allow to A/B test some change to your layout - that its operator somehow comes up with very quickly or even programmatically - you would not give them $5000 for a few minutes of work. It doesn't matter what the 'results' are, or if it's in escrow or tied to the results: you just wouldn't. You would prefer to spend weeks of time and double the money on a web marketer who doesn't work as well.
And for that reason, such sites just don't exist.
There is no place on the Internet you can pay someone $10K for 20 minutes of work, even if those 20 minutes are objectively quantifiably better than the results you would otherwise spend 6 months and $100K trying to achieve.
Human psychology just doesn't operate like that.
If you go to a web site that does A/B testing, you're going to get a set of instructions about how to install it on your site, and then it's up to you to figure out what changes you should try. You now how more work to do, and no better idea about what you should be trying.
If you really do have a way to replace a full-time marketing person with an automated web site, build it. It will be a gold mine.
Think through the pricing model of the hypothetical web site you propose in the last sentence - that is my point.
If a web site charged $500 and was very easy to implement, I could do it as an experiment and not lose much if it failed. If it succeeded, that web site could charge me again and again to keep doing it, and I would be happy to pay.
But if I have to spend $8000 and several weeks up front, I'm going to be very cautious. It doesn't matter if that money and time are spent hiring someone or purchasing and installing an automated tool.
"I'm not saying that there isn't a person out there who can revolutionize my marketing in 20 minutes" - I'm saying you wouldn't pay them to do so in line with what doing so would/should be 'worth' to you. There is no market to pay to revolutionize your marketing in 20 minutes, at a pricing that is based on what it should be worth for you to do so. Doesn't exist. You wouldn't pay it. Imagine what "revolutionaizing your marketing" means, image what "revolutionizing your marketing" would be worth to you - do you have that figure in mind? Now imagine paying that to someone for 20 minutes of their time. You wouldn't. Neither would anyone else. That market doesn't exist.
Markets can remain irrational longer than B can remain solvent.
I've experienced management that could only evaluate your productivity based on hours in the office. Now, I generally did pretty well at that one, because I was doing a lot of hours, but if I had to come in late because my apartment flooded he was all grumpy, because the one tool in his toolbelt wasn't working.
Who said that being a good manager was easy? Managers also need to work hard to deserve their high salaries. Lazy managers who can't be bothered to do their jobs properly should be fired.
If he doesn't, then he's probably using some silly and lazy metric like "hours in the office" or "lines of code written per day". If he does, he probably took the time to learn about your job and make a more accurate assesment of your work.
Really, as a programmer you are supposed to know lots of things, learn some more and work hard; but the guy above you cannot be bothered to learn some useful skills in order to asses your work? What kind of logic is that?
A decent manager should make themselves available to the team, but not interfere with the team unless something's going wrong, or appears to be going down the path of 'going wrong'. They should measure the team by their output, and use that to determine whether things are going wrong, or are about to go wrong.
Attempting to measure a team by their process makes the assumption that the manager is capable of understanding both the current process, and the maximally optimal process against which to compare the current process. It's far safer for both the manager and the team for the manager to avoid such endeavours, and instead measure the output itself against the optimal version of the output, because the output should meet business/product goals against which it can be assessed.
"Bricklayer A" was constantly rewarded for working hard. I was constantly reprimanded for wasting my time since I was deemed to have a much larger "potential," despite producing more output and with a higher quality than most others on my team.
This ended up with my leaving that team. So I can't agree that "bricklayer B" is always preferred, but I would say that a good manager would usually prefer that choice. Good managers are not easy to find.
With software, it's hard for people to tell that the finished product for Team B is as good as (or better than) that made by Team A, and therefore all they can look at is often effort. They see team A responding to alerts, alarms, production issues, etc, all night and weekend, and then see you cruise out at 5.
Sometimes comparing one piece of software to another piece of software is like comparing a garden shed to a skyscraper.
The wall example is similar to "Write a simple calculator capable of doing addition, substraction, division and multiplication". Anyone can tell if that software works as expected or not and have some idea if it's well done or not.
A similar comparison would be a team designing and building a fully functional house on a budget. In that example it's not easy at all to assert how well they are working, as happens in software development.
 only because I got the boards for wholesale price.
Does the software solve your problem? Then it's good software. If not, then what are you paying the programmers for, anyway?
I had a VP once who decreed that the "Productivity" rating on our annual review was to based on the average hours/week spent at work. To be deemed "Productive", a developer had to average 45+ hours/week. This had the effect of screwing over two subsets of developers:
1 - Those that were very efficient and got their work done in a reasonable amount of time.
2 - Those that didn't spend hours/week on timetracking, and just stuck on 40/week by default
And rewarded those who were inefficient and took 50 hours to do 40 hours worth of work.
That is the problem. They can't see it that clearly. Everyone can see a brick wall. "Seeing" good code and from bad is not easy. So another proxy is used -- "apparent effort and time put into it".
So in reality when it comes to software, bricklayer A wins quite often.
Like the article said:
People huddled over screen debugging dangling pointer == GOOD.
Staying Friday night debugging deadlocks in threaded code == GOOD.
Lots of lines of code written == GOOD.
Get stuff done quicker, and then going home on time == BAD.
This is a failure of management, having not insight or understanding into how programming or product works and judging complex machinery and structure by the color of its blinking lights on the console or by the length of haircut of it creator.
Then I got a panicked call from the builders:
Apparently the previous owner (most like, based on some other horrors) had taking out all the brickwork, without putting in a steel joist to hold the hundreds of kilos of brick of the wall on the floor above in place.
The person who had done that work in the first place might very well have seemed very efficient to someone who didn't know the details. To someone who did understood fully what the job entailed, and knew what to look for, once it was out in the open again, the job was obviously not done in a safe manner at all.
But once the stud wall was in place, it was not apparent that there was a problem. First when it was gone and the builders stared up at brick where they expected a steel joist was it obvious the job was violating regulations and was inherently unsafe.
In software, we do the equivalent of leaving hundreds of kilos of brick unsupported all the time, and cover it up with other layers of code, to the point where it is often extremely hard for anyone to determine quality without going back and auditing every line of code and running every little piece through extensive QA.
It might be a failure of management. But often this is because of woefully lacking resources - clients, whether internal or external, often don't understand the importance and refuses to pay for proper management as well as proper testing, qa and documentation. And this is allowed to continue because often it is "good enough" - just like my wall didn't wall down until the new builders had gotten a steel joist in, so often software projects survive horrific decisions or lack of attention to detail.
They may well have been paid in part already for work and you're left with nothing to show for it. In many cases they'll leave and find a new "victim" to work for.
I always thought "if this software thing doesn't work out, I'm gonna go be an electrician". I've now met lots of them making way more money than I am (and I'm well paid). Most of them basically have two or three customers, all of which are GC's. They've shown that they are:
- responsible (show up on time and in the right place)
- dependable (they get the work done on time and on budget)
- knowledgeable (they keep up to date with changes to code)
- respectful (they keep the job-site clean and work well with other subs)
In short, they're professionals in every sense of the word. In exchange they charge 3x what other tradesman charge. People are happy to pay it.
A friend of mine is an electrician. He did his apprenticeship with a guy who worked a lot with high end residential clients (i.e. stately homes — this was in England). He says the one of the most important things that he learned was to clean up after himself — which talks to your respectful point. It made him stand out amongst his peers, and is one of the factors that goes a long way towards repeat business and referrals.
1. Physically appearing at job site.
Being a software developer who just completed a substantial project (200 metres squared house on a difficult site) this was the most powerful thing I learned on the job. And now I apply it to my own code related problems. Who's in my crew? Where can I get new good crew? How do I manage dealing with cognitive overload by delegating back to other team members etc. I find the similarities/differences between software and construction crews fascinating.
I totally wouldn't have a problem paying top dollar for someone who is reliable and respectful of my time.
The more likely scenario in software is you get to day 45 with 90% of the wall built and the client asks you to hand over your key to the job site and stops taking your calls.
There's where most of the "half built walls" in my industry come.
Bricklaying machines where bricks go into a bucket and out the other end comes a horizontal wall. You could prefab this on the floor and then just put it up ... maybe, I don't know, I'm not a bricklayer.
Seems automated from the article.
Edit: As mentioned below, reading is fundamental, I should learn to do it sometime.
So it is a more ergonomic way of laying bricks; you're doing it upright, not crouched down. But you still have to lay them. You can't just throw a pile of bricks into it and get a road out without workers doing anything.
One thing that is hard to work around is where the interviewee must demonstrate their skill first hand (e.g. implement FizzBuzz followed by strcpy and a binary search.)
Many common interview questions are too indirect (Show me a certificate; Answer this trivia question about a Java API from 1997) or misguided attempts at personality tests (How many sewing machines are there in West Virginia) all of which one can prepare for without having the actual ability to do the job.
These kinds of questions can still work, as long as they have not yet made it into "How to succeed at interviews" type books. Or when the applicants you want to filter out cannot resist outing themselves even with training (e.g. "Tell me about a time when you have been wrong / publicly changed your opinion" will probably always be a useful filter.)
I think the big difference is that people know that pouring six flutes of champaign perfectly is hard. They've poured champaign before and they know they couldn't do it. The same goes for laying a wall. Shit, I don't know any management types that would even do thier own drywall. They know they'd screw it up. But, these same people just assume that software is easy. I just had an interview where the CEO asked me to figure out how to scrape an ugly website. I was given an hour to determine which toolkit to use, learn how to use it, and deliver a solution.
In software, it is very hard to measure productivity. Lines of code doesn't work. Function points? Nah.... Who is building whose contributions? Many of the nice things (reliability, ease of maintenance, flexibility, ease of testing) that require design expertise take years to see. Add to this that it is very hard to deeply understand complexity of problems, and if the source is the problem itself or the environment.
In the end, maybe the immediate manager knows all that's required, but if you get several layers up in the management chain, eventually you hit a non-technical boss. Unless you're at a software firm with a programmer-CEO. This is why it is important for technical folks to also be good communicators, and to "Work up" well.
Contrary to whatever you may think, you will not be able to build the next Microsoft, send a probe to mars, invent the next cancer drug, build a formula one car, or build the Pyramid of Giza or anything of such class working 2 hours a day, while relaxing away your time at a beach.
The world is full of examples of a Bill Gates sleeping below his office desk, Michelangelo falling from painting his way to exhaustion, or a John Carmack spending his time hacking in some isolated hotel.
The stories super successful people who work exceptionally hard and very real and are a common place in our culture.
I agree about quality and all that, but none of that will be sufficient for great tasks with meagerly efforts. Great things demand great effort.
I'm yet to hear of successful people who have become what they are by working just 2 hrs a day. Unless they just had a wild date with luck.
I have by the way directly witnessed such a huge A vs. B difference in software development. It was in fact two months to two hours ratio. And yet, the A team or the management did not realize this, or even accept this after the fact.
I am not sure why such people even remain programmers all their life. If you can achieve in hours what people take months to achieve, you should be doing very special things. Chase some really big goals. Because after all by the same logic you can achieve in an year what many people may take many lifetimes to achieve.
Why are such people stuck doing some small time programming tasks.
In the actual case, the team Months could not connect the dots to see that the specific problem at hand, that involved two complex things, somehow had a much simpler solution. Their code, development time, etc. looked perfectly normal from an outsider's point of view. The code was taking 40 minutes per run. I was unaware of their work and coded the same thing independently. My code was five lines core in Matlab plus overheads, or about hundred lines total. It also ran in two minutes.
In short, no one was cheating. Nothing was amiss. Just that I could connect the dots and they could not. Had I not worked on the problem, I would not have figured either.
The issue is that in the normal course of lives, two people or teams are not asked to work on the same problem in isolation. So the difference in performance does not become evident at least in the short run. This is in spite of the amount of duplication of effort that often exists.
Now this does not imply that I could do this for every task, though I do have more examples just as profound. I can often understand complex problems better and faster than other people, and then can work through them faster. But if both sides understand the problem+solution equally well, I may actually be slower in implementing at least in the initial rounds. (This is because my breadth of knowledge across technology domains is often five-ten times broader than normal engineers, which also implies that I have less practice in each domain).
And yes, I am chasing some really big goals.
I would dispute the 'relatively accurate' assumption. My father works in construction and it's often the case that what me (as a non-construction worker) sees as a beautiful kitchen, he'll see as a nice-looking kitchen that's been cheaply made with quality and craftsmanship problems.
I would imagine that a bricklayer has a better chance of telling you whether a wall is likely to start cracking within five years than your average person off the street would, for example. You're assuming that non-bricklayers would know what to look for to assess the quality of the wall properly or that brick walls are so simple that any untrained person off the street could figure out what all those hidden factors are.
I think this is actually the exact same thinking mistake that people make when they assume that programming must be easy. It's seeing only what's on the surface and not realising there are deeper things (a previous poster mentioned 'hidden processes' when talking about laying down a hardwood floor, which is exactly what I mean here).
Brick walls have a very high level of observability. A non-bricklayer can look at a wall and tell if it fills the space it is supposed to fill, if the wall is obviously crooked or warped, if bricks are missing, and if mortar is missing between bricks. They can do all of this with very little expertise because they can physically inspect the wall and they have also seen many walls before and have internalized some norms for walls.
Compare this with a non-programmer's experience with software. All they see is the user interface, which is usually a very small part of the whole. Software has a very low level of observability.
Brick walls - typically - are also very simple systems when compared to software such as what is described in the original article. Lower complexity combined with a high level of visibility and broadly shared expectations means that lay people can make many more accurate judgements about a wall, the progress of a wall, the quality of work being done on a wall, etc. without being experts on wall building or brick laying.
This is not to take away from expert tradespeople or diminish their value. It's just a completely different situation which I believe was the intent of the original analogy.
I can think of few businesses where workers don't need downtime.
Bricklayer B has an idea that his ideas are better, but they aren't really.
Brick layer B is really bricklayer A.
Sure it isn't simple.
-- Bricklayer C: Tells you that you don't really need a brick wall, and should just stop heckling the people who go by.
There's even less observable work, and even more savings.
Once upon a time, early in my career, I spent half a day automating and error-proofing a 15 minute task. My boss, at the time, was slightly annoyed, and slightly amused. Fast forward two months from that point, and that same task needs to be done not once, but several thousand times. My boss wanted to go get coffee before we got started, so while he was grabbing his wallet, I fired up my automated process. By the time we got back, the task was done, and the boss was annoyed at himself for being annoyed earlier, and never again questioned why I built the systems I did. I, unfortunately, was too young and too inexperienced to realize that he was an excellent boss, and left a couple years later for "greener pastures", where I encountered many "productivity is measured entirely by the time you sit at your desk" bosses.
TL;DR: I work hard to look this lazy, had a boss that recognized it, and was too dumb to realize how good I had it.
That being said, based on the numbers given, the optimization would make sense as long as you knew the task would be needed to be done at least 16 more times, which I imagine was the case. That also assumes there wasn't anything more pressing that needed to be worked on.
Of course, it leaves off a benefits of the particular type of optimizing that is automation, such as (1) reducing errors in task performance, and, admittedly a little more abstractly, (2) the ability to produce new efficiencies you may not have anticipated until you started automating. Kind of like writing a function only to discover that it's re-usable.
He's been getting us all to follow this, and it has paid off many times. It's not just about whether it pays off for an individual task — it's a mentality you develop as you go into future tasks.
Productivity is measured by both building such systems, and how many such systems you build everyday.
I figured out the system mostly independently, because the senior developers were always under fire due to the over-large workload for our team. So while other interns would need help for an hour or two every few days, I'd ask something about the data type of a certain value in a function and be on my way. My mentor was especially impressed, but he was the only one because nobody else saw how much code I was writing or its quality. They would just see me getting up to pace about when the problem was very difficult, or opening up hn when I needed to give my brain a break.
Long story short, my manager said that they weren't going to hire me full time, which came as a shock because I thought that producing quality code to the deadline was the important part. He cited early mistakes in writing documentation (I'd never written a functional spec before the internship, but I posit what I eventually produced was of the highest quality) and my perceived lack of motivation. This despite me working as well and energetically as I ever had. I decided to look at it through a lens of another article I'd read on HN: Any company that doesn't want to hire me is a company I probably don't want to work for.
So while I'm dismayed that this pattern will continue, it's nice to know that there are some people who know the difference between a good programmer and one who puts in overlong hours.
Even if you can churn out more quality output in 4 hours than your peers can in 8, you better make sure you're seen to be working hard for those entire 8 hours, and make sure to continually mention to everyone possible just how hard you are working at all times.
Part of the issue with the perception of developer effort seems to be the fact that the developers aren't communicating their success to the manager. The manager sees the failures (admittedly he fails to recognise them as failures), because they're working late and looking stressed. The manager doesn't see the successes, because he fails to understand what success looks like.
The solution isn't to emulate a failure, the solution is to educate the manager (through gentle notifications of work done) as to what success looks like.
I'm by no means an incredible engineer, but I've spent a couple hours a day over the past few months building basic Ruby/RoR apps, and it makes an enormous difference. Of course, I still have a long way to go before I'm able to really estimate anything, but if nothing else I understand why my co-founder would just sit there for hours with a whiteboard and model data. I know that "burnout" is a real thing, especially when you're not overcoming little bugs you've had for a long time. I know the value of getting a second pair of eyeballs on some code. etc.
It's just impossible to understand what you don't understand the technical aspects of what you're trying to do.
If a manager's only metric about how well his line of business is functioning is how much overtime his employees work, then learning to code will not make him any more competent. It's more likely that if the manager learns a little bit about coding, he'll think that everything his team does is easy (since he never tried to implement anything complex). Also he'll be more likely to be an annoying micromanager, since he'll think that he actually understands the complex issues that his team is grappling with.
Yes, in the long term, the shortcut taking programmer's shortcuts will catch up to him (code will break, you can't add more people to work on his code, etc.), but it could be too late for the manager.
The manager that spent a month "learning to code" but never worked on a big project will think he knows the difference, but probably doesn't either.
I can see how it could get out of hand if I started questioning things I don't understand, beating my chest and saying "Don't tell me that, I know how to code," but now at least I can have a discussion with him without everything going over my head. It's difficult to explain how big of a difference that makes.
We've actually had exactly this problem on a team, where our manager had a rudimentary understanding of database design and became very insistent that the team should do things his way. It eventually got to the point where the team would have to spend 2 hours explaining a design decision to the manager, instead of spending 15 minutes to implement it. It was particularly irksome, because the manager would refuse to read any best practices or take any advice, and became defensive about decisions he didn't understand instead of asking them to be explained more clearly.
That said, I think this issue was caused by 10% technical ineptitude and 90% ego.
I was young and needed money badly at the time so I went along with it, but if I ever found myself in a similar scenario again - where some chest beating bozo is telling me how to do my job - I would explain that I'm not the best fit for their work culture and promptly give my resignation notice.
Unless you're desperate for cash or something, don't ever subject yourself to such blatant disrespect. It's a truly soul crushing experience.
EDIT: Of course, I do agree with you. It's just worth keeping in mind that perfection can be hard to reach, at least in the conventional manager-evaluates-engineer format.
Take the example in the article, where the developer who made a well factored application was "overcomplicating" the code. It's not uncommon for a beginner who understands the means of programming but hasn't been bitten by the results of bad design to make poor decisions for the sake of experience that need to be made up in extra work later.
Having a manager who actively encourages solutions like "Why not just copy the entire method and wrap it in an if statement?", or "Can't we just comment out the existing code that's incompatible with this new feature?" can be demoralizing - if they're in a position to actually make that happen, it's even worse.
Educate founders to entry-level coding skills (or below) and they will have entry-level abilities at estimating project technical scope and difficulty.
This might in part be because the geologist (a) is in our office and doesn't just burst in every two weeks and (b) does at least a little scripting from time to time, while the other one didn't write a line of code in years.
The is one sure-fire antedote to this: data. And the best data is a precise project plan, with every detail, and always up to date.
I lost track long ago of the instances someone "important" accused me or someone on my team of "not working hard enough" or "not appearing to be doing enough". My response is always the same: whip a current hard copy of the project plan out of my back pocket, throw it onto the desk, and ask the same question, "OK, exactly what is the problem?" This shuts them up every time. They may not like it, but they always STFU.
"Bill not moving fast enough for you? He's responsible for ORP560. 2 weeks ahead of schedule."
"Sue not here enough? She's in Wichita this week. Just implemented RESERVES. Already saved us $200,000."
"Don't like how Gary talks to the customer? Here are 14 examples (right here on the page) where the customer was wrong and Gary straightened them out. How would you suggest he handles it?"
I can go on and on. Many of us skinny introverted geeks have had to find a way to counter the slings and arrows of ugly decision-making by perception with a hacker's solution: maintain the data to counter the perception. It's the best thing that I've ever found that actually works.
This is about people trying to throw their weight around to get/maintain respect, and you're not giving it to them. They may have to STFU in the face of data, but they will probably resent you for it.
Management is really really hard.
If you have no idea what you are doing, you run around, look really busy and that justifies your position.
Shitty companies fire the first guy and keep the second.
In the meantime, we lost a really good engineer who was thought to be a slacker because he was a quiet guy and wouldn't expose himself too much.
This sociopathic and pathologic behavior is very common in companies run by "business people with ideas" instead of engineers. It's all based on chest beating, who you know and how much of a smooth talker you are. It's like being in high school all over again. Meritocracy is nowhere to be found.
-- God(?), Futurama
Not every place is like that. But I find it to be the majority.
If the people who put out fires consistently get the best rewards, don't be surprised when a lot of things catch on fire.
The challenge is that you want to reward the most skilled people. However, "skill" isn't easily visible to some managers. Instead, they observe that:
effort = difficulty / skill
If you're going to use effort as a metric for skill, you must have a measure of the intrinsic difficulty of the task. If you can't directly measure your employees' skill or the difficulty of the tasks you've given them, you've got real problems.
This is delightful phrasing. I'm totally going to steal it. :)
Customers/managers value the perception of hard work, even when the result is measurably worse for them. In fact, we all do this.
I guess the question should be, Are your programmers working primarily to serve your need as a business or are they devoting their effort and time on work that is more aligned with their own ideology (choice of technology and approach).
A few months back I was in Philly talking to a startup founder whose company was at death's door because he kept hiring developers who came in and replaced whatever the last person did because it wasn't what they preferred. This phenomenon is a much bigger problem than the question of whether programmers are working hard or not.
I think it really comes down to perspective, once you learn to view programming as a means to an end, not an end in itself, I think you become more tolerant of what looks like shabby code.
Keeping code in good condition, delivers a large amount of business value over the long term. Shabby code delivers business value short term, but reduce it long term.
Going back to my earlier point, the important thing is for managers to know how to recognize when a developer's effort is aligned with business interest as opposed to simply allowing developers do what serves their own ideology.
I think once you do that, it becomes easy to discuss/address things like technical debt.
I would submit that this applies to many "professional" occupations. A lawyer has to produce a draft of a brief or of a contract in time to meet a deadline set by the client's schedule, so the work output just has to get done. But the draft brief or draft contract works best to meet the client's needs if it is developed after thought, and being just-plain-busy isn't the same as thinking. "There is no expedient to which a man will not go to avoid the labor of thinking." So, yes, whether you are a manager of programmers, or a manager of lawyers, or a manager of physicians, or of any other kind of professional, you have to know the professional's craft well enough to know what good work looks like, and you have to make sure that the professional has time to think, and usually time to confer with colleagues to get a reality check on the thinking. (The article kindly submitted here gives the example of the author learning from the original coder of a body of code how the code worked. The code was elegant, but it wasn't easy to see the elegance at first glance.)
Throughout this topic there is a thread of "only [talented] software engineers can rate software engineers". So what is needed is an association of talented software engineers.
 with apology if you prefer programmer or other term.
The IEEE has built what they call a software engineering body of knowledge. I think it's mostly academic bosh. Am I ignorant for not understanding their reasoning? Who builds the first criteria for what a body of knowledge should be? Having read academic SW engineering publications, I'm convinced that academia does not have the total answer.
I'm convinced that, theoretically, there should be a professional organization, and an interview should be a conversation about people skills + a credential check. But I am - today - not sure how to bootstrap such a thing. If something comes along that I think embodies what is really important (both industrial and academic rigor), I will likely leap on that bandwagon and chug the kool-aid.
Just because you have a technical, or ex-technical, person in charge of your team doesn't mean it's going to be well managed. I'm sure that's something we've all seen. Every reason that is true will apply to the guild, in addition to the usual ugly prejudice, artificial supply constriction, and self-destructive conservatism that all real guilds, associations, and unions display.
The top people don't need to join, because they are well known and have reputation. The people that do want to join are those who need the trimmings of an endorsement. So gradually it turns into a grouping of people slightly below average trying to improve themselves. Plus, the people who are attracted to this type of thing work in industries where others are bedazzled by credentialism, like academia and government. A group of people dominated by academics and public servants telling me how good they are? Thanks, I'll pass.
Peer review aka open source.
1. You have hyperproductive developers (the famous 10x ones). Everybody knows who they are and you can hire or retain them if you provide the correct incentives.
2. Then you have the disaster zones - again they are easily recognisable.
3. With everybody else, _they are going to be as productive as they are going to be_. They will be trying their hardest as much as they can - if they didn't actually want to build software they would be in the disaster zone category. You can improve this via a process of facilitation using well-known approaches to improving the working environment (plenty of info in books like Peopleware for example). As a manager, your biggest problem is stopping them working too hard and burning out because your schedules will become increasingly erratic, and the effect of late hours is always a net loss over the longer term.
If your development team isn't effective, it's a management problem, not a developer one.
Right, but this goes back to a point higher up in this thread.
If Lawyer A writes the contract from scratch every time and takes two days, but Lawyer B has a modular contract-assembly system she optimised earlier and just needs to make a few tweaks -- which will take two hours -- which lawyer will you pick?
That human nature thing again: we'd distrust the person who can get it done too quickly. (Though, we might be able to grok the situation enough to appreciate B's initiative and, especially if we wanted a lot of contracts, might be able to override our instinctive reaction that she hasn't had enough time to think about it properly.)
In IT departments, the ones that seem crazy busy and dealing with all sorts of fires can hint at a deeper issue of low technical ceilings. The IT departments where things seem calm, relaxed, and under control can hint at a higher technical ceiling present.
Similarly, in programming, there are those who are solution based thinkers (assume they understand what the problem is and off they go coding) and are easily caught into a perpetual cycle of refactoring much earlier. There are also developers who take the time to learn the problem from the ground up, by doing the actual work and finding the things that the user is seeking to solve but can't express or imply.
This industrial age thinking of being at a desk for x hours or looking busy is an incredibly poor measuring stick for what is an abstract, and creative pursuit. I find my time away from the keyboard is as important as the time I spend at a keyboard solving problems that need to be thought about.
Going for a walk, helping someone else with their problem before my own all seem to have interesting triggers for creativity -- solving a problem eloquently enough that it requires deep understanding but little programming wizardry.
My favourite part of this article was being open to, and appreciating the value of learning solid processes from someone with more experience of having a relationship with a code base for more than 1-3 years. There are too many times where problems are trivialized, and lessons are re-learnt over and over by new team members, experienced or not.
In the end, I read a quote about the kind of software development environment that I always want to help enable -- avoid wizardry in code, frameworks and technology, and instead focus the creativity and magic on architecture solutions that don't require as much complexity to create the same solution much simpler in the short term and the long run.
1) When someone wants to hire a web developer, I say, make sure they don't just know how to do things limited to a few ways. You will inevitably run into needing to do things that you did not expect and don't want to be beyond the technical skills of who you hire, so hiring someone with barely enough skills to put together a Wordpress site using the admin only will certainly not be able to code/modify much of anything custom you might need.
If you hire someone with a higher technical ceiling, who has more skills than what you need at the moment (knows more/knows that they can learn what they need), they will be better positioned to not only grow with you, but give insights instead of just saying yes to everything.
2) Let's say there was a time where the only way to do Windows Updates was manually, by hand on each computer.
Companies would hire someone to come in, once a month, to perform updates on each computer. Service Providers would spring up, providing windows update servicing, which could be relatively taught to anyone. They might have a minimum of technical skills, but they could follow along to a certain point. The ability of the service provider to grow, now was limited to how many windows update patchers they could hire, train, and retain, which over time, meant, hiring less and less technically skilled people to do the work to grow the business as much as possible.
The result? The IT company's had demand for windows updating, which it wanted to grow, and now you had to find people who could do this, and keep doing it reliably so the business could grow. Windows updates become it's low technical ceiling, and it became integral to their business to keep customers dependant on hiring them every month to do it because it's about the limit of what most of their techs could do. Ask those people to solve something else? Too many will try to fake it till they make it.
A high technical ceiling? The IT company that might do it a few times, recognize it to be a very bad use of their time, instead offer to teach the customer how to do it for themselves, and request that they instead invest the saved money in IT services that might help the business more directly, and be a part of learning things with them.
The tricky part of all this? Realizing how much more skill than you need to hire.
So whenever the boss popped in, he saw me leaning back looking at my scripts doing all my work for me. I was usually the first one to be finished with a new task. I reduced compile time from many hours down to 30 minutes (which all the other programmers were extremely happy with). But all my non-programming boss saw was me leaning back or goofing around, rather than typing really hard (which is what programming is supposed to look like, right?).
Scripts that generated code? As in, code that would be compiled and executed?
I believe I had a word macro that selected what I needed and did some formatting or something, and then probably some regexp replaces to turn it into actual C++ code. It worked very well, and because the project had a number of iterations where we'd implement yet another kind of insurance based on the same kind of FD, I could reuse it quite a lot.
But my first project there was euro-proofing some code. I had to dig through the code and figure out which numbers could represent money amounts. Another programmer was doing this by hand, but I figured it should be possible to automate it (there was a lot of code). After unsuccessfully trying to figure out a regexp to match what I needed, I ended up writing my own not-quite-finite state engine to parse the code and insert comments near all the suspicious numbers.
Were there cases where a bugfix was needed across code that had already been generated? How was that handled?
Generally after generating the big amount of code, I still checked everything manually and added the needed boilerplate. It's just the initial generation of hundreds of if-then blocks to build texts that I automated.
You were given a quota to hit each week. One week I closed a big account and hit my quota for the week by Monday.
When it came time to review your weekly sales numbers, I got grilled by the sales manager for not closing double the quota, since I had closed the week's quota on Monday and had the rest of the week to continue selling.
I was taken aback by this and simply asked, where does that end then? If I closed a full year's quota in a single day, does that mean I should produce the same every day? With a capped commission why would I do that when another rep is producing a 10th of the amount but making the same pay?
It's not about hours worked, it's about production.
This is an issue I struggle with on a regular basis, as we outsource a lot of our development work. We work on a project basis, but work very closely with our partners to help them make good estimates, maximize capacity, and minimize their (and thus our) risk. I don't want people to work overtime, nor do I want them under-committing.
My experience is that watching someone's commits, even from far away, is actually a damn good indicator as to how capacity is being managed on a project. Every project is different, but coders code: if they're not committing frequently and regularly, it's time to check in.
Human beings normally don't have flat productivity, so activity spikes are normal. But low activity in a period means there is not enough work and/or there will be a large spike later, which for me means risk.
I'd rather have a coder spend 3 days thinking and 10 minutes coding with one commit than spend ten minutes thinking and three days coding with 300 commits.
Coder productivity to me is "is the user of the software more effective in their job?"
I'm just saying that in my experience good work actually looks and feels like work, in terms of commits and deliverables. If it looks like nothing is happening, it probably isn't.
Overtime as it was mentioned in the article, on the other hand, is a very untrustworthy indicator of quality work. Managers too easily think that it's a sign of aggressiveness, commitment, perfect capacity estimates (cost savings), etc. But it can just as easily be a sign of bad planning, resource issues, inept management, internal politics, etc.
Managers have to answer the question: is my development team being used most effectively? They need some indicators. Looking at the commits and deliverables isn't perfect, but it's much better than looking at the number of hours someone is sitting in their chair, or ensuring they are adequately stressed out.
productivity = effort * efficiency
1) Some people hate mundane work and crave intellectual stimulation. This has both positive and negative effects on productivity.
2) Clever people can afford to be lazy in school and they simply stay lazy.
It's a little sad that pushing for "visibility" is so important, especially in large corporations, but it helps to put yourself in the boss's shoes - how will he/she know you're doing good work unless you blow your own trumpet?
Arguments that a good boss "should just know" certainly have merit, but it's up to each of us to determine whether our own boss fits in that category and emphasize our accomplishments accordingly if we're to be "performance reviwed" with bonus etc depending on that perception.
Explaining that you "wrote a unit test suite that has minimized the long-term impact of bugs" or that you architected an elegant solution to a design issue that will help foster extensibility and testability in the long-term will also likely be met with "this guy is blowing smoke up my rear" because there is no way for the manager to verify those claims.
Anecdotal case, I worked with an individual who was labeled as a "trouble maker" who everyone said constantly raised issues that weren't relevant and that didn't do any real work. The individual ended up quitting because they got sick of the work environment. Next release cycle, all of the projects they were a part of began falling apart. The contribution that this person had been making was identifying shortcomings of the requirements, processes, implementations, and verification steps. Nobody could see past their own bias and lack of understanding about what was happening. They just kept getting frustrated (including management) because from their perspective this individual was just "creating more work".
It's taught me to be wary though and "manage upwards" until I feel confident my own direct manager appreciates and recognises my input.
Raising awareness with my manager's manager is harder: still working on that, I suspect and element of "HELLO HERE I AM FIXING STUFF, IT'S QUITE LATE, BEEN DOING IT FOR A WHILE NOW, OK THEN GLAD WE'VE CONFIRMED WE ALL KNOW THIS" is still needed!
In these organizations the visibility of a team is at least as important as what they do. Managers at these places typically are more interested in playing the political games than attempting to do the "hard" work of managing. One component of those games is to insure that these managers' managers can see their teams working, in the tangible, physical sense. The more "work" being done, the better.
Managers at these places are awful to work for.
Looking around for a new job at the moment, it seems hard to convince people that I am worth double what a junior developer will cost. Half of the interviews seem to have the programming language trivia questions. Even if they did ask me more high level design questions, its not the way I work. When I have to design a database, I don't do it in 20mminutes. I usually come up with two or three alternative designs, with pros and cons. I probably look unproductive staring into space, but I take a day or two for big decisions, and mull over the possible scenarios and which design is better. My code is better than it was a few year back.
Nobody is so smart or so productive that they'll accomplish more on their own than with an efficient team. If you're the best one on the team and aren't devoting a significant amount of your time to helping other people succeed, you're being selfish and entitled.
If you can code more efficiently, then get your work done and find other ways to help other people be more productive -- without being asked. That's guaranteed to be noticed by all but the most incompetent managers. And if not, the reputation you'll gain as the guy-who-is-so-good-the-place-would-fall-apart-without-him will serve you in good stead in your next job.
I think this is really the key sentence. It certainly isn't true in all cases, but it tends to be true more often than you'd think. If you see a lot of people struggling to work really hard... it's a big warning sign that things aren't set up right.
Needless to say I don't work there any more and I have a good question for when interviewers ask for "any questions?"
says Elon Musk
I no longer work these death marches. I've been burned too many times. The last time I did this, the company went out of business a few months later..and I got absolutely nothing to show for it..except for being burned out for 6 months.
Edit: To be fair, my comment relates more to the title than to the body of the post.
The pieces of the puzzle that work to set the balance are when developers are freelancers who can walk away from undesirable situations. It also helps to catalog and share experiences to "warn" other developers of potential problem companies.
The optimal situation, I've found, is working remote when the developer is well-motivated, is being compensated based on weekly milestones they help create, requirements are based on real and realistic business assumptions, and bonuses are paid weekly for meeting the milestone with an extra bonus for exceeding the milestone for that week.
This is how we work at poppup. Everyone seems happy and when we have had developers who are falling behind regularly, it just means that they are not the right fit at that time and both parties can move on soon after the discovery, having learned something valuable in the process. No hard feelings.
By the way, this last bit is an advertisement for this new way of working. Poppup is looking to hire a remote rails developer right now: http://careers.stackoverflow.com/jobs/45288/rails-developer-...
Straight-forward, brute-force approach sometimes works for easy tasks, it seems, while to came up with some optimization or innovative idea one must master hows and whys, which takes long time. But in the long run, of course, those who invests in understanding and knowing of how things works and why, would ultimately win.
The classic story is that people with understanding and knowledge of hows and whys, so-called "mappers", could even design and implement a whole new language based on proper concepts, while so-called "packers" are continuing struggling and sweating with their packing. Never heard of Scala?)
Another nice point is about [re-]structuring the code. Keeping functions small (and interfaces standard and simple) pays in any language, but to know that one needs to learn the fundamental ideas in CS, not "recipes" from some crappy book that end with "in Java".
Putting it another way, studying classic CS (algorithms, data structures, programming paradigms and language design) takes long time, but eventually you will outperform "hard working guys" because you will waste much less time on ignorant guesswork searching in darkness and repeating all the naive old errors.
Only one with knowledge could afford to be lazy, since knowledge is power. It is not actually laziness, it is efficiency in movements.) Choosing appropriate paradigm, right data-structure (and corresponding algorithm) could save man-months, if not man-years.
It's one thing to add a new feature to a brand-new project, especially in terms of how soon you get visible results.
It's another thing to do it with a legacy system. You run up against all manner of edge cases within just the internal ecosystem, never mind the larger one.
I currently have two programmer bosses with less experience than me. They think they are helpful with decision making, but in reality I would get on a lot better without them (I know that because one was hired above me after I started, and my productivity has gone way down).
We took a service-oriented approach to building the software, so in the early days, my boss thought that no progress was being made because he couldn't "see" anything. He also wanted me to work between 40 and 60 hours a week, which I was doing until my overtime pay was taken away for "equity."
I've gone off on a bit of a tangent here, but I'm of the opinion that non-technical founders should learn a thing or two about architecture and the current state of web/mobile development before hiring resources. Otherwise, we end up with silly analogies where people think programming is like typing up a short story in MS Word.
> Conversely, what about the guy sitting in the corner who works 9 to 5, and seems to spend a lot of time reading the internet? Is he just very proficient at writing stable reliable code, or is his job just easier than everyone else’s? To the casual observer, the first chap is working really hard, the second one isn’t. Hard work is good, laziness is bad, surely?
If the brilliant developer is spending a lot of time reading the internet, never staying late, and producing the same output (minus bugs) as the weaker team, then maybe he's not providing quite as much comparative value as he thinks he is.
Note: Some discussion on here regarding sys admins. I agree the situation is different in the maintain-working-systems roles vs. the create-new-products roles.
In the systems I've architected, well-structured code, proper tests, good docs, operational goodness -- all that came about through spending time and energy understanding how to do that well. It's come through watching others, learning how others have solved the same problem I've solved, trying new things, keeping my skills current, returning to sharpen skills that may have dulled. I just happen to do it outside the guise of a living, breathing, production system.
I know the article implies this as well, but I just wanted to highlight it in depth. What the article references to laziness, I ascribe to competent and responsible engineering.
A good example of one aspect of this is LinkedIn's technical career track. Beyond sole contributor status, you can be promoted to either a Manager or a Staff Engineer. Managers have direct reports, while Staff Engineers lead teams with a technical responsibility, each with their own progression: Manager < Sr Manager < Director < Sr Director < VP < Sr VP and Staff Engineer < Sr Staff < Principal < Distinguished < Fellow. The Engineering track is more of an accreditation system focusing on freedom as opposed to control (control of things vs people).
Most Silicon Valley companies struggle with retention, because they internally cannot simultaneously offer a "fair" career progression/compensation and compete with the raw efficient risk/reward of the free market (e.g., poaching). In other words, you can't promote engineers with potential over engineers with good track records without consequently discouraging hard work. On the other hand, you absolutely don't want engineers with potential to leave because of an inability to offer opportunity equal to what they can find elsewhere.
Companies will ultimately need to offer choice to engineers: higher vs lower risk/reward. One possibility is a commission based engineering track. Engineers would choose between the stability of traditional progression/salary and a higher reward commission based system with a small base salary. The commission system would require results-based quantitative systems like OKRs (Objectives and Key Results) to quantify both the value of the proposal to the company beforehand, and a quantitative measurement of its success. Switching between tracks could occur each quarter allowing engineers to tap temporary motivation increases. Mixing and matching traditional and commissioned engineers would result in unique balances of high motivation and stability (since the team lead is not their manager), which would highly align with stable vs high risk/growing aspects/departments of the company.
The increasing competition faced from engineers starting their own companies will require companies to adapt new compensation models to more efficiently allocate resources (e.g., autonomy, cash, responsibility, recognition, etc...). I think a commission based system holds a lot of promise for those of greater capability.
Because I wasn't seen to be busting my gut on Sunday/Monday with the others, my managers say I wasn't pulling my weight and therefore scored me very low.
If getting high scores means working Sunday/Monday on a long weekend, I don't want high scores.
Do you think that if you worked nights and weekends (say another 20 hours a week) your total productivity would be diminished vs. your normal week because those extra hours aren't productive?
Yes, but it depends on what type of work is required.
In creative work: if I don't get enough sleep, enough exercise, enough relaxation time, my personal productivity falls to at most a quarter of normal. Total productivity is surely less.
In grunt/repetitive work: my productivity is affected a little but probably not enough to decrease total productivity, and I've noticed my work is appreciated more because I appear to be more 'busy'.
Of course, you could rightfully question whether this is actually increasing the company's productivity or whether they are just so flushed with billions of oil dollars that they can afford to pay their engineers full-time salaries for slightly less than full-time hours.
Source: I worked for one of the majors w/ this policy.
Maybe his case is not normal?
Edit: Granted, I think another reason for this is that, based on his descriptions, there's a remarkable amount of bureaucracy involved in the oil companies. It's a very, very complex industry, and while it moves quite fast on a global scale, it moves very slowly for most individuals involved in it. His training program alone lasts a few years, so he won't really be a highly productive member of the company for quite some time.
Read Peopleware if you haven't already. It covers myths like the 60 hour work week and outlines how to make software projects productive and predictable.
Can have negative productivity. I am all in favor of keeping work loads light, but in real businesses edge cases come up.
We recently just got through a couple of really harrowing sprints because of such an edge case - a lot of hours were worked. Quality remained high. I personally am satisfied with what we delivered - while it could have been done better with more time, the tradeoffs were all understood and accepted.
The flip side of that is that this kind of thing happens to a given team here maybe once or twice a year. The rest of the time is sane, normal working hours and load. If it were like this a significant portion of the time, then you'd start seeing the kind of patterns you're describing.
The programmer I want/to be is the one who gets shit done the whole time without working nights and weekends and actually spends time doing other things that also matter like family, friends. This way, he/she stays sane and more valuable.
It will however put the kibosh on your plans to extract more value from your employees by working them to the bone.
I agree with you, but not on a single task.
If you want to hire someone who can program for a couple of hours, design your marketing material for a few more, work on your IT infrastructure for another couple of hours, and then maybe go off and do some sales work and meet with the rest of your team, you might have something that works.
Of course, if you find someone who can do all those things well, they are probably off working on their own business and couldn't care less about what you are doing.
At least, as a programmer, I know that having to switch into other modes really diminishes my ability to focus on the problem I'm solving (programming).
Your day sounds like a way to turn a 40-hour programming project into a 80+ hour project.
Now in the real world, where people expect you to do just one thing, I often do multiple two, possibly three, hour stints, with context switches in between each. However, I feel a lot better on the days when I'm able to do different tasks on each switch rather than coming back to the same task each time. You, naturally, still have to give that task your undivided focus while you are working on it. Trying to manage everything at the exact same time will definitely lead to what you suggest.
Of course there are no hard rules. If, for example, you're having a good programming day, maybe you'll put in four straight hours before you feel the need to stop. It is not like you have to put your metaphorical pencil down as soon as the clock strikes the two hour mark.
In comparison I got a lot done when I spent two months working on code 4-6 hours a day including weekends.
Are you paying them 50% more than market for working for you an additional 50% hours?
People willing to work a 60+ hour week are relatively rare. If you genuinely need that over the long-term, you have to pay for this rarity: in addition to the extra hours.
Also, there's a fine line sometimes between bug fixes and enhancements. Sometimes it just depends on where you're standing.
To keep the patients busy, they would have 2 groups: One group would be responsible for unloading something from the back of a truck while another group would be responsible for loading it back into the front of the truck.
All of the people appeared to be working.
Are they working effectively?
That last word is the important one. It implies a connection between the work and reality.
Otherwise, people gladly work hard... on irrelevant bullshit that makes them look good but doesn't advance the company.
As just one example: Ideally a person creating great code would benefit from it over the longer term, he wouldn't just put his heart and soul into something that gets handed over to someone who doesn't really appreciate it. And under that approach, he wouldn't stop working just because his assigned task was finished, he'd work on other things, since those too would reap him benefits.