Ambrosian Scripture

Real-world answers to real-world problems.

August 2003 - Posts

Where's the Balance?

I am not old to this business; neither am I new.  Yet I am amazed as I see what is expected of many in our industry, particularly in terms of working hours, which borders on the absurd in many cases. 

Now I realize there will always be emergencies and the like where exceptional circumstances dictate unusually many hours per diem, or even per week.  I am talking about those companies that expect their professionals to sacrifice their lives as a modus operandi, those that expect you to be on-call 24x7, where nothing is sacred--not family, not religion, not leisure--nothing but the all-important project or company.  In essence, they think they own you and your time, and if you do not agree, you are not a 'team player'.  There are even those who have so long been abused by this mentality that they think it is normal, that it 'this is the way this industry is.'

It appears to me that this situation is quite awry.  Being a professional in this industry should not mean that this industry is your life.  There is a methodology that could help rectify the situation.  It works on two principles that work together to perpetuate and improve each other:  1) a good work-life balance produces more effective employees, and 2) good design and good project management result in more efficient work. 

Instead of focusing on rapid application development (RAD), we should focus on good application development (GAD), which is what we shall call the two-principle system just proposed.  GAD actually encompasses RAD in that it results in more efficient work, and so the end product is produced in less actual time, if not also fewer calendar days. 

To elaborate, GAD requires a healthy work-life balance as it works on simple psychological factors that inform us that varying mental activity improves overall performance in each of the varied activities.  Boredom taxes the person, and the need for novel stimulation determines that even an otherwise interesting activity can and will become boring--long hours focusing on the same pursuit reduce overall effectiveness in that pursuit.  GAD also expects that a good developer will be responsible in maintaining health by proper nutrition, exercise, and sleep.

In addition, most individuals resent working long hours.  This too taxes the person through negative emotions, but it also more directly affects effectiveness by producing mental resistance to the pursuit.  And it almost need not be said that fatigue, regardless of its cause, dramatically reduces effectiveness.

GAD, on the other hand, encourages novel stimulation by providing time for the professional to focus on other various persuits.  It provides the time for the individual to get proper nutrition, exercise, and sleep.  Not only does it prevent negative emotions caused by required long hours, it stimulates positive emotions of appreciation, thereby further motivating the individual to produce quality work.

I said earlier that the two principles perpetuate and improve each other.  This can be seen in that good design and management of a project will reduce or, ideally, eliminate wasted hours caused by poor design, poor communication with clients, and the like.  In doing so, time is freed to allow the work-life balance.  At the same time, the work-life balance enables employees to work more efficiently, thereby producing better designs and better managing projects, thereby creating more time for work-life balance &c. &c..

It seems to me that if companies could wrap their management policies around GAD, the world would literally be a better place.  Companies would benefit from happier, more efficient and effective employees, and those that pay overtime (either to employees or contractors) would save thousands, if not millions.  The benefits for employees are obvious.  It is a win-win situation.

As for myself, I refuse to work for a company in the long term that does not allow me to have a healthy work-life balance.  I can do this because I follow GAD on my own, in as much as I can.  I apply myself so that I can be the best during my actual work hours, and I think that because of GAD I can actually accomplish as much as others in a shorter time.  I suppose that if more of us would do this, companies would be enticed to amend their policies on a wider scale, and it would be easier to find work where GAD is policy.  And this too would be self-perpetuating as more companies perceived the benefits of the methodology.

Posted: Aug 11 2003, 12:12 PM by Ambrose | with 1 comment(s)
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