Monday, 11 January 2016

Should you mind your own business?

In a recent Lean Coffee retrospective, each member of our team was asked to raise one question or concern about working environment. For me, my burning question is how much should we mind other business. After voicing out my concern, I got subtle response from the team as people did not feel very comfortable expressing their thought on this controversial topic. Even without the possibility of hiding real opinion to be politically correct, it is quite likely that many of us still do not know which attitude is more desirable in our working environment. Talking about personal preference, I have met people that truly believe on opposite sides of standing. Apparently, if the workplace is mixed with both types of people having opposite mindsets, conflicts tend to happen more often.

However, this topic is rarely being discussed in workplace. Therefore, there is often a lack of consensus in the corporate environment regarding how much should we care about other people works. As a consequence, some people may silently suffer while others may feel frustrated with the lack of communication and cooperation.

So, is there a right mindset that we should adopt in our working environment or should we just let each people to have it their own way and hope that they will slowly adapt to each other? Let discuss if we have any viable solution.

Mind your own business

Micro Management

Usually, the culprits of meddling with other people works are the one who do managing job. It is obvious that no one like to be micro-managed, even the micro manager himself. Being told of what to be done in details would give us limited space for innovation and self learning plus a bitter taste of not being trusted.

In real life, micro management rarely be the optimal solution. Even in best scenario, micro management can only help to deliver the project with average quality and create a bunch of unhappy developers. Following instructions rather than depending on own thinking rarely create excellent works. To be fair, it can help to rescue a project if the progress fall below expectation but it will not help much on achieving excellency. It is even worse that manager, who accomplish the jobs by micro management can be addicted to it and find it harder to place trust on his sub-ordinates in the future.

To avoid misunderstanding

It is even harder to interfere with some one else work if you are not happen to be a senior or the supervisor. In reality, an act of good will can be interpreted as an act of arrogance unless one manage to earn reputation in the work place. Even if the contribution bring obvious outcome, not every working environments encourage heroism or rock star programmer. Moreover, some introvert folks may not feel comfortable with the attention as a side effect.

Similar to above, this heroin act is normally more welcome in crisis time but may not be very well received when the project is already stabled.

Or mind the other people business as well

Reaching team goal

To be fair, no one border to care about someone else work if it is not for the sake of the project. Of course, there are many poisonous managers who want to act busy by creating artificial pressure but in this article, let focus on the people who want to do see the project success. These people sometimes walk out of their role profiles and just do whatever necessary to get job done.

Eventually, because project work is still team work, it may be more beneficial for each member of them team to think and focus on common goal rather than individual mission. It is pretty hard to keep the information flow through and the components to integrate smoothly if each member only focus on fulfilling their role. No matter how good is the plan, there will likely be some missing pieces and that missing pieces need to be addressed as soon as possible to keep project moving forward.

The necessary evil to get job done

Many successful entrepreneurs claimed that the secret of their success is delegating the tasks to capable staffs and place trust on them. It is definitely the best solution when you have capable staffs. However, in reality, most of us are not entrepreneurs and the people working on the project are chosen by available resources rather than best resources. There may be a time when a project is prioritized and granted the best resources available, when it is in a deep crisis. However, we would not want our project to go through that.

Therefore, from my point of view, the necessary evil here is the task oriented attitude over people oriented attitude. We should value people and give everyone chance for self improvement but still, task completion is first priority. If the result of work is not the first priority, it is hard to measure and to improve performance. I fell it even more awkward to hamper performance for the sake of human well-being when the project is failing.

So, what is the best compromise?

I think the best answer is balance. Knowing that meddling with other people works is risky but the project success is the ultimate priority, the best choice should be defining a minimal acceptable performance and be ready to step in if the project is failing. Eventually, we do not work to fulfill our task, we work together to make project success. Personal success provide very little benefit other than your own well-being from the corporate point of view. However, don't let this consume you and be addicted with the feeling of being people's hero. Plus, don't raise the bar too high, otherwise the environment will be stressed and people feel less encouraged.