[Bernardo Heynemann] Dream Team – Part VI – Respect and Fun

Introduction

The last time we met with the Acme INews team I was telling you guys how they came to the conclusion that if you don’t release it, you lose it. Ok, I’m just kidding, but they all agreed that unreleased code is waste and that it was a value for all of them to diligently work on reducing cycle time variation.

This time around we touch a subject that most companies (well at least some of the ones I know of) don’t like to discuss. Respecting your employees as you expect them to respect you, and allowing them to have fun. Yes, that’s right, FUN! Let’s see what the INews team thinks of that.

Respect

Jane – Hey guys. I wanted to talk to you about something since we first met to do this job.

John – Sure Jane, go ahead. I think we must maintain an open channel for communication at all times if we are to succeed as a team.

Jane – Thanks John. Well, sometimes in my previous projects I got the feeling of being an outsider among developers. I heard comments about how I was being picky and annoying. That made me feel very bad and in those projects I feel like I contributed less than I could because I was afraid of that behavior.

Jake – Jane, that’s a very good thing to discuss. As a client-side developer I heard comments in these areas as well. After discussing with the devs and explaining to them my point of view, things worked out quite alright, though.

Jane – Yeah, it might be so. Even so I still think I shouldn’t have to do that. If we are in a team we trust each other and respect each other’s point of view, right?

John – Absolutely right! There can be no better opinion or prevalent point of view. If we are a multidisciplinary team, we should value each other’s opinions above all and treat each other as we want to be treated in return.

Susan – No offense, guys, but sometimes I feel the designers take our opinion for granted as well.

Jane – Hmm… I see… Can you ellaborate, Susan?

Susan – Sure. Sometimes a designer comes up with an user experience that’s great. It really is. I can see myself loving that experience. It just isn’t realistic given our constraints (might be hardware, network, you name it). Usually I approach the designer and explain that. A lot of times I got a “it’s not my problem” look and had to resort to my boss for help. I would say I didn’t get the same respect I was showing for that professional.

Jane – Sure you didn’t. Well, I guess it does go both ways, doesn’t it?

Joseph – I’m pretty sure we can get along if we just try to always see the other person’s point of view and treat them with the same respect we expect them to show towards us,  don’t you agree?

All – Yep.

I keep getting amazed by how simple they make these things look.

Christian – I’d like to discuss a related topic. When I’m contributing to some project or even coding one of my own, usually I have a purpose to fulfill (I need the feature, someone at work does, or I just find it cool). Even though I have a purpose, if it’s not fun, I won’t do it. No matter how much I force myself to do it, I just won’t.

There will be something else that is a lot more fun to do, or I’ll go read something. I was wondering how can we make sure working in our project is fun. How can we enjoy that feeling of “Great!!! I’m going to work today!” when we wake up?

John – I don’t think there’s one right answer for that. I believe it’s a set of things. A great project makes we want to come work on it (the cool tasks as you said). A great environment where we respect each other does that as well. We already have our XBox 360 and our foosball. How do you guys feel of ‘do whatever you want’ friday?

Christian – What do you mean?

John - Every two or three fridays we’ll get a free day. We can code whatever we want, with whomever we want. We can study, experiment or just play a game together. Anything that improves our project in any way whatsoever.

Susan – That’s a very interesting idea. Can we refactor our own product’s code or implement a feature we’d like to see int he product?

John - Sure. Anything we want.

Jane – Could I use that day for discovery and experimenting with different things?

John - Of course! Anything that you think will help!

Jane – Ok, can’t wait till next Friday!!!

Joseph – I really love that idea. I think we are set in two VERY intertwined values. Might be the same value altogether. Respect and Fun with responsibility. Meaning that we’ll respect each other and have fun together, while delivering business value to ACME. Is that about right?

All – YES!!!

Me - Ok, again with time to spare, and it’s about time to go. Anyone for a settlers game?

Conclusion

Several companies (like Yahoo, JotSpot, Atlassian, Facebook, Google, Atom and Technorati), have already found that by letting your employees self-organize and make their own decisions about the product they are working in pays out big time.

Having a fun environment is not only a bonus to productivity. It is a requirement for creative skilled workers to unlock their full potential. Companies that keep trying to control what their employees are doing (via timesheets, task monitoring or metrics) are in fact killing the motivation that could trigger incredible features to their products.

A product team must be kept in a fun, respectful environment where they can decide what they want to do instead of being bossed around. This way, they’ll be working in the product in their free time, because they want to do it.

There’s a very good video by Dan Pink about what motivates us. Basically it’s authonomy, mastery and purpose. You can learn more by watching the video. I VERY DEEPLY recommend it. It really changed my way of seeing some things.