Better Never Than Late?

Thursday, June 08, 2017

A software developer writes of what he calls negative work, in the process of reminding me of a complaint about lateness I once discussed here. Here is that complaint, once again:

10 people kept waiting in a meeting for 20 minutes, while some selfish [sic] prat who idles his way via the coffee shop, is actually 20 minutes times 10, which is 200 minutes wasted -- while you keep us waiting because you did not catch the earlier bus. That is over 3 hours wasted. By you! How much has that cost the business? Shall I send you an invoice? [minor edits]
If you think that's bad -- and it is -- one Professor Beekums will make you think again:
I once worked at a company where we were investigating a new way to integrate the work different developers had completed. The method we were using was taking us hours every time we needed to do it. At the time we did this twice a week. We were convinced the new method would have brought it down to minutes. However, one influential developer didn't like any kind of change and they were allowed to veto any forward progress. It took 6 months to finally go through with it at which point that developer had to be largely ignored.

4 hours * 2 times a week * 26 weeks = 208 hours wasted over 6 months

Ouch. That is 5 weeks [sic] worth of working hours for a single person.

Can you imagine if you just did nothing for 5 weeks? If those weeks were just a waste of your life? [bold in original]
Beekums is discussing the amount of time, not all his own, that an inefficient or obstinate worker can cost an employer, but he's not done:
That leads into the human cost of developers who do negative work. Most people want to feel a sense of accomplishment when going to work. They want to feel like their time was spent on something worthwhile. For developers that means delivering software that brings value. Wasted time prevents that. [bold added]
That makes those three hours really look like small potatoes, and that's a shame.

It can be useful to consider whether there are analogs to this phenomenon in one's own life outside of work. Is there something you do -- or someone who does something that affects you -- that you keep finding yourself having to recover from? Stopping the behavior, avoiding such a person, or finding ways to reduce the impact on your life can pay great dividends, as this example shows.

-- CAV

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