I keep getting told that perception is everything. I don’t know about you, but I’m one of those guys who finds that statement puerile. It’s like telling me “Hypocrisy is OK, live with it”.
Not getting my drift? Let me take an example. “Laziness”. Some people get called lazy because you see them lounging around at work, chatting to people, occasionally even smiling. Dare I mention it, even laughing out loud. Some of these “lazy” people get a lot of “work” done, if you measure work in outcomes rather than in perceived effort.
Don’t believe me? Think about Thierry Henry on a bad day. Head-up footballer, wandering slothfully around with a minimum of effort, looking to all the world as if he wasn’t part of the game. Couldn’t care less. Then suddenly a couple of frenetic bursts, some incredible skill, and it’s 2-0 to his team.
Perception is not everything. Don’t let them kid you. Stay honest, with yourself and with those around you. Don’t get tangled up with the credit-stealers, concentrate on your outputs and outcomes.
That’s how I thought, for many years: There is good laziness and bad laziness. Some people are just lazy, they don’t get anything done. It isn’t just perception, there is actually no output of value, no outcomes that are meaningful.
More recently, over the last five years or so, I’ve learnt something more. Even good laziness comes in different styles and types. It isn’t enough to focus on outcomes, you need to focus on prevention of root cause as well.
So I started looking for a different brand of lazy person now. One who observed and conversed and thought. One who did not act in haste, while appearing to all to be doing very little. One who was more interested in getting the job done right rather than clamouring for the transient glory. One who found the root cause of a problem and then fixed that, rather than faff around looking busily heroic while getting 90% of nothing achieved.
So now that’s what I look for. Lazy people who fix root causes and prevent recurrence.
Why lazy people? This post, in Test Early, is a good place to go if you really need that answered. Headlined Fire Your Best People and Reward The Lazy Ones, here’s a taster:
People like troubleshooters because they can solve a problem when a project is under pressure such as getting that emergency fix out the door immediately. Without question, you need troubleshooters on your project. However, many times the (exclusive) troubleshooters are the ones that cause the problem in the first place, be it a hard-coded value, duplication of code or a large complex method only they can understand.
Before you start thinking that Iâ€™m trying to gather together a group of slackers, Iâ€™m suggesting the complete opposite of this. I just want people to think about the total time involved, not just fixing the symptom. There are people that are both troublepreventors and troubleshooters. These are the people you want to keep and reward. However, on a given team, Iâ€™d opt for more troublepreventors than troubleshooters as they save everyone time, money and headaches.
Troubleshooting per se is not bad; but unless it goes hand in hand with prevention of recurrence, unless it goes hand in hand with removal of the root cause, it has limited value.