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Re^3: Certifications are dumb.

by Your Mother (Bishop)
on Apr 08, 2008 at 21:36 UTC ( #679085=note: print w/replies, xml ) Need Help??

in reply to Re^2: Certifications are dumb.
in thread Certifications are dumb.

I know what you mean but there is a huge amount of HR-marketing-sprak stuck in all that stuff. I have learned to shut my mouth in certain circumstances because team players don't say, "that's a mistake, it's gonna cost us down the road." Not every job but in a few it has been less risky for me to let everyone make mistakes than it is to fight to do a good job. I'm not a lone ranger. I love supporting others and stuff like pair-coding. Love it. But that is not what people mean when they say "team player." They mean committee -- don't ask embarrassing questions, don't make waves, don't be different, don't stick your head out or it's for the chop. This is a huge productivity, talent, and enthusiasm killer. I always think of the scene in the "The Adventures of Baron Munchausen" remake where they execute Sting.

Most people who die in a doctor's care either would die within a year or should have died already.

You are insufficiently jaded. :) E.g., 80 people die every day in the US from bad prescriptions. I'm from a family of medical people. I could tell you toe-curling tales of incompetence like patients waking up in the middle of thoracic surgery because the anesthesiologist was too busy chatting up a cute nurse to do his job right. A *large* majority (was large 20 years ago anyway, one can hope it's not close to 90% anymore) of doctors fall into at least one of these: alcoholic, smoker, overweight; persons who are trained in taking care of people. Lots of surgeons are drunk or high at work. Lots of cops are bullies and racists. Et cetera and so forth. I wanted to pull a punch line out of that but it's not even darkly comedic right now. :( Part of what "team player" means to me is "look the other way for the team." Maybe I'm overly jaded but I find the term hopelessly corrupt.

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Re^4: Certifications are dumb.
by dragonchild (Archbishop) on Apr 08, 2008 at 23:57 UTC
    I don't doubt that many doctors aren't fit for duty and, just like the Blue Wall, they have their own code of silence. Just like IT folk, too. I could tell you toe-curling tales of IT incompetence with mission-critical systems, such as banks. If you don't think a bank's trades processing system has real-world consequences, then I don't know what to say.

    As for teams and teamwork ... it sounds like you're too jaded. Yes, a team can be used to squelch initiative. It can also be used to build said initiative. And, many times, the person with the initiative would have screwed the pooch and it was only due to the team keeping a lid on the loose cannon that the mission-critical system was saved. I know - I've been that loose cannon.

    The key is to encourage creativity and initiative while still maintaining alignment across all team members so that everyone is going in the same direction. Remember - you are paid for a reason. If you don't like it, make your own company.

    My criteria for good software:
    1. Does it work?
    2. Can someone else come in, make a change, and be reasonably certain no bugs were introduced?

      I have two work related stories which display the best and worst. One was a financial mishap where it was discovered that credit card numbers were not being hashed before they went to the data mart (where each of 2,500-ish employees in the company had read access). The minute this was discovered, it was fixed and someone walked down to the archive room, pulled the tapes and took them out back and burned them.

      The other was me trying to talk my team out of doing something, repeatedly. I was the only dissenter and it turned into an opinion poll -- which is what *any* team, group, or committee turns into without good leadership -- instead of a discussion of right and wrong. It cost them a multi-million dollar lawsuit because I'd been right and any individual could have seen it but a group managed to feel bold against a reasonable critique. That team bestowed upon me the lowest -- the only "average" rating I got -- employee review rating of my tenure at that company. A team whose revenue *doubled* the year that I was the only change in staff. Of course, I gave two weeks notice even though it cost me *plenty* money in lost stock options. The point being, and I'm still a little stung by it, I guess, I should not have had to and would not if it had been an atmosphere which valued good work somewhere higher on the the totem than team work. That's not an unimportant distinction. There is a large swath of human psychology which prefers people get along, even at the cost of starving, to having any conflict, no matter what success comes with it. I know you understand this.

      There is a punch line to the stories. Both happened at the same company. The first when it was still in startup mode. The second, years later, when it was in market-leader, team-building, global-reach mode. Top 10 website when I was there.

      I'd argue that you're not even talking about teams. You're talking about talent, leadership, and company environment/culture. To use another mechanical metaphor. Are tires team players on a team with the engine? Sure they need each other but they have no direct knowledge of each other. They have no direct interaction. One can be replaced without the other ever even knowing anything about it. Team building in the business world has more to do with hoops and buzzwords than anything business related. Any examples to the contrary would be shiny exceptions in a sea of muck.

      Side note: I don't think for a moment that what you plan to do with your venture would be anything like the crap I describe. That term just sticks in my craw. I like "collaborator" but that one has its own set of baggage.

        Man(*), do I identify with and empathise with your point of view. To me, the phrase "team player" is right up there with "enterprise software", "proactive", "thinking outside the box". Teams aren't built, they form. Or not. Too often, team player is a euphamism for "won't rock the boat".

        The best example of a team player I have from real life, is a situation where late one night two members of the team were still around when it became obvious that that nights unattended software upgrade to a server in Russia (from a datacenter in Europe), was going to fail badly.

        First thing the following morning, one of the guys arrived early, booked a meeting room. Produced a set of documents detailing the nature of the failures he had seen happening the previous night, the cost of keeping 8x 747 transport aircraft languishing on the tarmac waiting for their manifests, and detailed set of possible causes for the problem and who was responsible for them.

        At 9 prompt, the meeting started and all the key players were in attendance. All except the other guy from the night before.

        When he arrived, at 11 am, he was hauled into the managers office for a dressing down. It was then that he explained that he had not left until 6am. Had spent the night on the phone with an IT lady at the airport in Russia. Waited whilst she had cycled 8 km home, prepared her kids and husbands meals, and then cycled 8 km back. That he had then talked her, despite her minimal English and his non-existant Russian, through the process of restoring the pre-upgrade backup, manually using xcopy, from a dodgy CD that the automated restore couldn't get past the first read error.

        Who were the team players?

        (*) Feels weird addressing you with that epithet :)

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