Tuesday, December 20, 2005

"They're people, dammit."

I'm a fairly accomplished director at BigHugeCorp. This makes me some amalgamation of people manager, project manager, service manager, program manager ...

I'm responsible for the bottom line, and BigHugeCorp benefits. And while I'm really good at the logistics and administrivia part of my job, I'm constantly reminding myself -- and people around me -- that these are human beings working here. Not just "resources". Not just "bodies". Not just "headcount".


I mess up sometimes. I fall into the Dilbert-esque trap of tech or corporate or business jargon or process. I do my "resource planning" and "resource forecasting". ButI try to ask myself who I helped today (sometimes I'm lucky if it's just me).

So, where did all this come from?

I guy that used to work for me let me know he was informed by way of an Email that he had been welcomed to a new team and project -- which was news to him. He was semi-laughing about it, and said, "Despite your best efforts, despite what you tried to do -- which I appreciate -- it's back to the [BigHugeCorp] way of doing things."

Despite what I tried to do?

It's the holidays, and this time of year comes with a lot of stress for a lot of folks. A lot of folks are on vacation. A lot of folks don't take change well. A lot of folks at BigHugeCorp are all of the above, and if big changes are made this time of year while they're out of the office, they'll likely feel seriously thrown for a loop.

They're people.

During one of the previous re-organizations or big shared project efforts or something, a peer of mine (maybe more than one) and I were butting heads about how to apply "resources" to a project. I was trying to keep multiple folks from having to do lengthy travel. I was trying to make the travel equitable across employees and management. I was trying to be sensitive to people's planned summer vacations with their kids. I was keeping the budget and deliverables and the deadlines in mind.

I was told I was "overthinking" it.

"Relocate them for 6 weeks, fly them back once or twice, and tell them to put off their vacation."

That's indicative of a lot of the reasoning in staffing a project.

"They're people, dammit," is indicative of the response I give when the pendulum has swung too far, I feel like I'm pushed too far, and/or BigHugeCorp is taking too many liberties with people's lives.

It's time for a correction. It's time for folks to re-read things like the The Cluetrain Manifesto (it's online now, and it's free). It's maybe time for development folks to get familiar with the precepts behind the Agile development methodology (which I'd argue is a philosophy of development, as opposed to a process). It's time to remember the whole is only worthwhile because of the worth of its parts.

Take out the cogs, and clock stops working.

They're people.

No comments: