Print Story Get Up in that Business
Working life
By Gedvondur (Wed Mar 09, 2016 at 06:42:42 PM EST) (all tags)
Every company goes through management trends. I have some horrible, horrible employee habits for ducking them. 

I’ve got a terrible, non-team-player mullish streak in me when it comes to company directives, new employee engagement plans, and reporting.

You see, I see every one of these things for what they are. Tools to control the employees more, even if that's not what they start out as.

Recently, we were told that we had a new system to engage with management. Oh, goody. This was dropped out of the sky, with not even a mention in a meeting. We were to take an assessment and then follow the directions from there.

Here’s my Rule 1 in dealing with corporate directives that don’t have a criminal-legal component: Don’t do anything until they tell you to do it at least once, preferably twice. I don’t mean automated reminders either. A manager has to get up off his ass and call you, send you an email, or something. Something that indicates they are *actually* serious about it.

The assessment was this asinine 10 minute online questionnaire that supposedly used “real world” situations and was to gauge our response, based on a multiple choice answer. You had 30 seconds to make your choice so they would get your “best quick answer.” Sorry folks, you can get a quick answer in five seconds, not thirty.

The so-called real world situations were….well extensively not detailed enough. I declined to answer enough questions that the fucking thing actually warned me that it would invalidate my response unless I answered the rest of them. Fine. Whatever. As a result, I’m labled a “Provider/Teacher” or some shit. I don’t remember.

The second part of this is that we are supposed to log into this site and fill out five priorities we have every week. EVERY FUCKING WEEK.

This is on top of the “hot sheet” form we have to fill out EVERY FUCKING WEEK.

The idea, apparently, is that somehow my ultra-busy director will find some kind of time to look these over and communicate with me somehow. This would be on top of the bi-weekly 1:1 meetings we always have. BTW, these meetings are meant to be a half hour, they rarely last 10 minutes, he cancels them ALL the time and it’s clear to me that he’s just going through the motions because he’s SUPPOSED to have 1:1 meetings with me every other week.

I know damn well he prefers the model where we meet when we need to and he just trusts me to call him if shit is going down that needs his attention. I do need a *little* more attention than that to function properly, but fuck me, once a week on top of the stupid up-licking Hot Sheet?

This brings me to the topic of Metrics. You know, the Holy Grail that they teach every little dim-witted MBA they stamp out of anonymous for-profit and low-end state schools all over the country. You know the ones, MBA mills because people think an MBA is a ticket to management and success, like “knowing how to use a computer” was twenty fucking years ago.

You know who hires MBAs? Other MBAs. Everyone else thinks they are MASSIVE pains in the ass. You know why? Because MBAs have been taught everything on a manufacturing paradigm. That’s great if you work in manufacturing, but it sucks donkey balls if you work anywhere else. For instance in a knowledge or communications trade. Why?

Because they want to metric everything. Measure everything. All so they can report up to management and show Progress and Improvement. This, at face value, is not a bad thing. But the very Devil is in the details, because EVERY FUCKING TIME, metrics and measurements are tweaked NOT to show the real state of the business, but to show GOOD NUMBERS to upper management. Because you know what happens if you show bad numbers to upper management? They are compelled to DO SOMETHING (™) even if the problem is out of everyone’s control.

So we fuck around with metrics and measurements, tweaking them to suit political agendas and make sure that upper management asses are THOROUGHLY and WARMLY slobbered to the point where they don’t worry their little heads. This is done by changing what we measure until it doesn’t measure anything that matters at all.

I resist these things with both feet. They are inevitably used my middle management to deliver whacks to employees and feed upper management egos who are “too busy” to actually question any of the methodology.

I’m one of those career limiting assholes who speaks truth to power. I *try* and do it as diplomatically as I can. I’m getting better at it. But I still speak truth. It’s why I was a good analyst. It’s why I will never be a political success at any company I work at. The bigger the company the more true that will be.

I believe that managers, directors, vice-presidents, COOs, CIOs, CFOs, CEOs and Chairmen of the Board are just like you and me. People. They don’t have a magic grand plan, they put on their pants one leg at a time. We are peers, regardless of your corporate rank. You, me, the janitor, the CEO, and the lunchroom cashier, we are all peers. We just have different jobs.

So, no, I don’t believe your new I-just-read-a-great-management-book scheme to make us happier and more productive will do either of those things. No, I don’t think I’ll participate any more than I absolutely have to. No, I will not “be a team player and be a cheerleader” for a process that in 6-24 months we will never speak of again because no management anywhere ever acknowledges failures unless they accidentally kill more than 10 people and maybe even not then.

I want my workplace to succeed. I want my company to succeed. But saddling me with your programs and micromanagement is not the way to do it. It’s never the way to do it. I am trying to make things better. I’m trying to help. But people are political animals. I know what I need to do succeed in corporate politics. I just can’t stomach to do more than the minimum. So I’m that guy. That guy who speaks up when they roll out a plan that’s stupid on its face. I’m the guy who asks hard questions. I’m the pain in the ass.

I wish I wasn’t, but I don’t seem to be able to do anything else. It’d be a lot easier to just go along with it. But that’s not what’s right and I just won’t. Well fuck me.
< We could have been anything that we wanted to be | Philosophical Question >
Get Up in that Business | 21 comments (21 topical, 0 hidden)
Pants by ana (4.00 / 6) #1 Wed Mar 09, 2016 at 06:56:24 PM EST
I'm not sure what mission this actually happened on, but I'm pretty sure the attribution to Tom Stafford would be right; could be Apollo 10. There's enough room to rattle around a bit in the apollo, once you fold up the seats. He'd been on sleep shift in his long-johns, and it was time to wake up, so he flipped his trousers out into the space in front of him and put them on, both legs at once, what with being weightless and all.

And then he laughed.

"?" said one of the crewmates (or words to that effect).

"We really are different," said Stafford. "We put our pants on two legs at a time."

Or get rabies. Also don't do that. --scrymarch

Heh by Gedvondur (2.00 / 0) #6 Thu Mar 10, 2016 at 11:18:31 AM EST
That's just flat-out awesome.

[ Parent ]
+1 FP by Herring (4.00 / 4) #2 Wed Mar 09, 2016 at 07:08:46 PM EST
I would modify the bit about MBAs wanting to measure everything. Even these fuckwads, when they but up against the real world, realise that you can't measure everything. You can't measure "code readability" or "user satisfaction" in a simple Excel spreadsheet.

So they measure what they can. They measure how long you spend in the office, how many hours you book to specific tasks on specific projects. They will NEVER measure how long you spend farting around filling in timesheets or "hot sheets". Because that might reveal that they are doing more harm than good.

I'm old enough to remember when developing software was "programming people meet with user people and work something up that will do the job". This scared the shit out of managers and MBA types as it left no place for them. In the last decade or so we've seen the rise of the brand new and revolutionary ideas like Agile/Scrum/XP where users and programmers meet regularly and you have no fixed project plan. IME, this is a bit like a religion in that many people claim to follow it, but very few really embrace the fundamental concepts.

You can't inspire people with facts
- Small Gods

I hear you by Gedvondur (2.00 / 0) #7 Thu Mar 10, 2016 at 11:22:08 AM EST
I was probably a bit too hard on MBAa and metrics in general, but I'm *really* tired of it.  It doesn't help that I work with two baby-MBAs who are in our "leadership program."  They are both nice folks, but their first instinct is to slobber knob in an upwards direction.

The thing that really gets me isn't the sucking up. It's the fact they they will advocate a course of action that makes our department look better, over a course of action that is better for the company as a whole.  That, I cannot abide.

You are right about agile and methods like that as well.  DevOps is another trend that is beginning to be mandated rather than home grown and if it's not organic, it's a nightmare.

[ Parent ]
Metrics by Herring (4.00 / 1) #14 Thu Mar 10, 2016 at 06:14:34 PM EST
What amuses me. OK, not amuses - terrifies me. Is that the language and measurements of widget manufacturing have been taken and tried to be applied where they have no business to be applied.

I worked in engineering back in the day and did some college stuff as part of that which included "process capability". There's a simple thing on that: if you turn a diameter on a lathe enough times, then you can measure the mean diameter and calculate the standard deviation. You can then say "well, if the standard deviation is 0.01mm and the tolerance is 0.03mm then 99.7% of parts are going to be within tolerance". Assuming a normal distribution and also assuming a bunch of other things including "was the machine set up by a wannabe computer boy with a history of destroying feeler gauges?". You'll spot that this is where "Six Sigma" came from.

Some dumb fucks then took that and assumed that it could be applied to things like software development. It's clearly wrong because you develop software once. You don't develop software to do the same thing 100 times and then compare the results. BS5750, ISO 9001, AQAP 4 all make sense in an engineering environment.

The thing that really gets me isn't the sucking up. It's the fact they they will advocate a course of action that makes our department look better, over a course of action that is better for the company as a whole.  That, I cannot abide.

I really hear you on that one. I am surprised that LCC hasn't (as far as I know) already lost a major contract due entirely to the actions of one head of development.

You can't inspire people with facts
- Small Gods

[ Parent ]
Agile by ucblockhead (4.00 / 1) #11 Thu Mar 10, 2016 at 03:43:33 PM EST
Yeah, basically, it shoves the "planners" and the micromanagement out of the way and actually get crap done.  When tried, it usually works great.  Management sees this, says "Agile is a silver bullet", mandates it corporate-wide, and then says "but of course we need process to make this work corporate-wide, and adds "planners" and micromanagement.

Back to square one.

I am extremely lucky in that my boss is an engineer at heart, and so mostly understands the difference between micromanagement and getting crap done, but unfortunately, he also is Japanese, and has the Japanese conflict-avoidance which means we can't actually push back against the rest of the organization.
[ucblockhead is] useless and subhuman

[ Parent ]
My company is different, but not really better by theboz (2.00 / 0) #21 Wed Mar 16, 2016 at 08:00:55 AM EST
> Management sees this, says "Agile is a silver bullet", mandates it corporate-wide, and then says "but of course we need process to make this work corporate-wide, and adds "planners" and micromanagement.

One of our catch phrases is "we run a lean ship" meaning we have almost no PMs anymore, we have no QA people, and several other roles that you typically find in an I.T. shop despite the fact that we're a ~17k person company (and only have a few hundred I.T. staff.)  As a result, we have bureaucracy like anyone else to a degree, but it's much lighter than most companies of this size.

We're in the process of buying another company with about 6k people and their I.T. department is larger than ours, and they have tons of people in these B.S. jobs.  I have a feeling that our management is licking their lips like wolves staring at an injured caribou.  Most likely they're planning to go in and gut this organization, lay off probably half or two thirds of their organization, and then welcome the survivors to a "lean organization" where the focus is on making money for the company and ignoring the other stuff.  We pretty much never have to deal with most "standards" anymore and all of the metrics we track are automated and designed to make us look good (to be fair, part of my job is helping design the automation of tracking metrics, like how long incident tickets stay open, automated customer satisfaction surveys, etc.)  Other than HR and regulatory related things, management mostly leaves us alone to do our jobs.
- - - - -
That's what I always say about you, boz, you have a good memory for random facts about pussy. -- joh3n

[ Parent ]
Some thoughts by dark nowhere (4.00 / 1) #3 Wed Mar 09, 2016 at 09:08:34 PM EST
We don't have a lot of structure, and luckily our business model lets us keep things fairly flat, with small knots of management at the top of wide parallel pyramids. We often shoot from the hip. With that in mind:

See you, space cowboy.

Not all metrics are bad by Gedvondur (2.00 / 0) #8 Thu Mar 10, 2016 at 11:25:40 AM EST
At bigger companies, they get confused for progress and abused for political reasons.

As to MBAs, they get installed because sometime people think "HEY WE NEED BUSINESS PERSONS TO DO BUSINESS SO LETS GET A DEGREED PERSON WITH BUSINESS IN THE DEGREE NAME".  Or more likely it comes from accidentally hiring one MBA or getting someone who gets their MBA while employed hiring more of the same.

Not all MBAs are bad.  One of our senior vice presidents told me that she got her MBA (from Harvard) 10 years after joining the company and that while interesting, it did *nothing* to help her run or grow the business.  Only experience did that.  That was a powerful statement.

[ Parent ]
I was talking about this to a coworker today. by dark nowhere (2.00 / 0) #15 Thu Mar 10, 2016 at 08:10:14 PM EST
The MBA thing. I think you put it well in your comment here.

I hear you on metrics. In an extreme example, I knew a guy who was fired for having no 'billable hours.' All the billable work ground nearly to a halt immediately following it. That was at a small company trying to run itself like a large one, where they didn't have the buffer to do the BS metrics thing, and felt enough financial pressure to try and cut costs. They folded eventually, of course.

See you, space cowboy.

[ Parent ]
VS2FP by ucblockhead (4.00 / 1) #4 Wed Mar 09, 2016 at 11:30:03 PM EST
I have to have weekly 1-on-1s with my reports.  Fortunately, I only have two.  Most of the people I manage are contractors and so I get to skip that bullshit with them.

My boss has one foot in the Japanese side and I think the senior VP is afraid to force him to have weekly 1-on-1s with me, thank Gord.  I do have to have 1-on-1s with said VP, but he's an exec, so they are only quarterly, thus I only have the opportunity to tell him my problems and have him advise that I should therefore fix them immediately every three months.

As far as metrics go, I have been able to passively-aggressively ignore a lot of that because I have an older team with a reputation of success, that handles the stuff that gates every other damn piece of software on the system, so they can hardly question its value.  I do sometimes get whiney requests to "keep things updated" from the POs, which I do in a half-assed way until they stop bugging me.

The last PO quit to help run a sake factory.  They keep apologizing for not replacing her yet.  Fuck that, as it's a perfect excuse to fail to keep things updated.
[ucblockhead is] useless and subhuman

Heh by Gedvondur (2.00 / 0) #9 Thu Mar 10, 2016 at 11:29:47 AM EST
I like your style. 

I wish I had a better attitude about all of this.  I know a lot of these management programs come from an earnest desire to make things better, but I see them go badly all the time.  I just don't understand why everyone else doesn't see it.

[ Parent ]
employee engagement by sasquatchan (4.00 / 1) #5 Thu Mar 10, 2016 at 11:13:43 AM EST
ah, Garlic and I used to have a good laff at the surveys our company put out. Gallup conned them into paying $$$ to survey the rank/file and see where things are. All anonymous of course, but with a whole lot of "fill out the survey" reminds, broadcast and personal.

And then they hammer the bottom line managers. (ie my boss, but not sector/division/branch/VP level bosses) for people not being engaged. We all have to have action plans to address/remediate the red-lines that came up in the survey.

I'm glad I work with a bunch of older, cynical engineers who do the bare minimum to shut up the higherups, because they last maybe 2 years anyway.

Heh, seagull management by Gedvondur (2.00 / 0) #10 Thu Mar 10, 2016 at 11:35:31 AM EST
Fly in squaking, shit all over everything, and fly away. 

I see a lot of this "we got sold a bill of goods" kind of employee management.  I strongly suspect that the program we are now embarking on was some horse-shit sold for a million dollars to us by a consultant who had a stake in the game.  This happens all the god damn time.  People wonder why I fight any purchase orders that go for "consulting".

[ Parent ]
I think Scott Adams by wumpus (4.00 / 2) #20 Sat Mar 12, 2016 at 04:23:20 PM EST
of Dilbert fame noted that the "bungee boss" was probably the most famous bit character he ever had, and it was a one off joke that appeared in a single strip in the 90s.


yep. First hit.

[ Parent ]
|My last employer by Herring (4.00 / 1) #16 Fri Mar 11, 2016 at 05:10:58 PM EST
used to address the appalling engagement scores by cascading it down to the employees to address. No, I'm not making that up. The annual bonus level for employees was made up of various targets - one of which was "improve the employee engagement score". Again, not making this up.

As part of my job there, I met with people at all levels up to executive board. One thing that was successfully "cascaded down" was the typical contempt for employees.

(Insert long anecdotes about being asked to develop systems predicated on the assumption that employees are lazy and then being castigated when said systems fail to produce massiv productivity gains)

You can't inspire people with facts
- Small Gods

[ Parent ]
my cynical manager by sasquatchan (4.00 / 1) #19 Sat Mar 12, 2016 at 12:31:17 PM EST
more or less said, fuck the survey and lie, then we don't have to do all the BS..

[ Parent ]
Well, you can have a short one by Herring (4.00 / 1) #22 Thu Mar 17, 2016 at 05:41:09 PM EST
As part of a longer saga that was to do with automated allocation of jobs to technicians. Sorry if this is a repeat.

The powers that be decided that in London, they could get to simple jobs - wheel changes (who can't change their own fucking wheel? Owners of expensive cars it seems) - with a motor scooter. Get through the traffic quicker on 2 wheels. So far, so reasonable.

So they went and recruited a new technician, bought a suitable vehicle and spent a fair wad of cash on kitting it out with the relevant jacks, wheel security keys etc.

I had specified the automated job allocation system. Thinking in terms of flexibility, you could "weight" the resource type depending upon vehicle manufacturer and the problem type (e.g. "mechanical breakdown", "wrong fuel", "puncture"). So we set this up as a new resource type and weighted it heavily for jobs of type "puncture" and $manufacturer. Again, so far so good.

This ran for a couple of weeks before the Manager whose bright idea this was came storming down demanding to know why the automated allocation system "wasn't working". At this point I wasted a load of time going through logs showing example jobs where it proved that it was, in fact, working as designed.

They had budgeted that, to be viable, this guy had to average 4.5 jobs a day. So I did some mangled SQL that spat out the number of jobs of type "puncture" for $manufacturer in Greater London. Actually basically inside the M25 - so a massive area. There were about 30 per week. That's a 168 hour week, not a 48 hour working week. So, even if the tech had been on duty 24x7 and equipped with a magic scooter that could get him from Stratford to Wimbledon in 17 seconds, he still would've missed the target.

Said manager wouldn't have it. I eventually told him that the only way it was going to work was to employ another guy on a moped to go out and slash the tyres on Merthat make of car.

No fucker had thought of running the query before recruiting the guy, spending Ā£20K on customizing a scooter etc. They had assumed that the "lack of efficiency" was entirely down to the employees being crap.

You can't inspire people with facts
- Small Gods

[ Parent ]
Net Promoter Score by jimgon (4.00 / 1) #12 Thu Mar 10, 2016 at 05:44:28 PM EST
NPS is our new one. Supposed to measure customer loyalty. TheCEO mentioned using it internally too.  

Technician - "We can't even get decent physical health care. Mental health is like witchcraft here."
Also, +1 FP by jimgon (4.00 / 1) #13 Thu Mar 10, 2016 at 05:46:02 PM EST

Technician - "We can't even get decent physical health care. Mental health is like witchcraft here."
[ Parent ]
WIPO by anonimouse (4.00 / 1) #18 Sat Mar 12, 2016 at 06:01:14 AM EST
I'm a contractor, so I pay lip service to the rules and keep quiet about how stupid they are until after they've ended the contract and written me a good reference letter. 

Girls come and go but a mortgage is for 25 years -- JtL
Get Up in that Business | 21 comments (21 topical, 0 hidden)