Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Businesses Google Yahoo! Technology

'Goofing Off' To Get Ahead? 141

Posted by timothy
from the sounds-like-a-good-movie-title dept.
theodp writes "His old day job at Gawker entailed calling BS on tech's high-and-mighty, but Ryan Tate still found things to like about Silicon Valley. In The 20% Doctrine, Tate explores how tinkering, goofing off, and breaking the rules at work can drive success in business. If you're lucky, your boss may someday find Tate's book in his or her conference schwag bag and be inspired enough by the tales of skunkworks projects at both tech (Google, Flickr, pre-Scott Thompson Yahoo) and non-tech (Bronx Academy of Letters, Huffington Post, Thomas Keller Restaurant Group) organizations to officially condone some form of 20% time at your place of work. In the meantime, how do you manage to find time to goof off to get ahead?"
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

'Goofing Off' To Get Ahead?

Comments Filter:
  • by GeneralTurgidson (2464452) on Sunday May 13, 2012 @04:42PM (#39989099)
    The business owners I've worked with don't have a lot of patience for people who aren't being productive on their dime. In today's business climate, in most professions goofing off means overstaffed. Our current MBAs don't realize the future benefits of personnel enrichment.
    • by jhoegl (638955) on Sunday May 13, 2012 @04:46PM (#39989131)
      Ain't that the truth.
      But then there is a balance to be made as well. You cannot overwork your workers, burning them out either.
      otherwise you lose good people.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by wisnoskij (1206448)

        Cheaper to burn out the old ones can get some new one for less then keep giving raises to your current employees.

        • by jhoegl (638955) on Sunday May 13, 2012 @07:40PM (#39990323)
          That is ignorant thinking.
          What if the new people you bring in fuck up more than the cost of the old?
          This is more than likely and more apt to happen, also your security prevention has just taken a dump as well as projects, known issues, preventative... everything
          So... enjoy your pat on the back while it happens, you just fucked the company.
          •     I'm pretty sure his statement was sarcasm.

                Unfortunately, I have seen businesses who believe it to be true. They don't live by the ideas of equal pay for the same position, and appropriately adjusted yearly increases. They'll keep an employee at their starting pay, and give token increases if the employee isn't completely burnt out but threatens to move on.

                I watched at one place, where a 5 year employee was still making his starting salary (approx $40k/yr), although he had increased responsibility significantly. New hires for the same role were being brought in much higher (approx $75k/yr). There was a contractual obligation to not discuss salaries, although it did happen.

                They worked him til he burnt out, then terminated him on fictional grounds. My state allows termination of an employee for anything, or as joked, you can be fired because the boss doesn't like your shoes.

                The new hires in that situation won't last long. I didn't keep up with them, so I don't know if they're still working with that company. I know their 40 hour week became a minimum 60 hours, and on a whim senior management would demand people work "until it's done", even if it resulted in people sleepily typing the wrong things and making bigger mistakes. Like, "oops, I meant fsck, not mkfs".

                Most likely, the new hires at $75k will be laid off for another fictional reason, when they find some others willing to do the job for less money.

            • by operagost (62405)
              If you take on new responsibilities but don't ask for a raise and promotion-- or head for the door-- it's your fault.

              Most likely, the new hires at $75k will be laid off for another fictional reason, when they find some others willing to do the job for less money.

              But that's the opposite of what they did with the first guy... they abused an experienced employee while hiring newbies for nearly twice the pay. That's foolish.

              • by JWSmythe (446288)

                But that's the opposite of what they did with the first guy...

                    I never claimed they ever did anything that made a lot of sense, nor were they consistent other than in screwing up.

                   

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Agreed. Im a nurse and generally pull 12s that turn into 13s or 14s. If I find time for a lunch break and I'm able to pee before dinnertime it's a mellow day.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        more on medical mal practice news at 11

    • by Kneo24 (688412) on Sunday May 13, 2012 @04:49PM (#39989163) Homepage
      What if you were paying someone by a set rate to get a project done. Would you want to pay them for that 20% of the time that they would be using to do nothing towards your project? Personnel enrichment is fine as long as its focused. I have experience managing people. You can't trust everyone to do something that would ultimately benefit the company without some supervision.
      • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 13, 2012 @05:12PM (#39989327)

        You also can't expect the company to keep moving forward past the current projects if you're not willing to consistently take risks in letting employees try out something that may not work. That's what R&D is: investing in things that may not pay off, but are also the only way to advance the long-term prospects of the company using in-house resources. Unfortunately, American companies have redefined the research part of R&D to mean "go read up on what you need to do to get this project done."

      • by ATMAvatar (648864) on Sunday May 13, 2012 @05:16PM (#39989347) Journal

        With technical workers, the management's job is to run interference against external distractions and help remove roadblocks. Your team should be largely self-organizing and self-motivating, such that you don't have to watch over them. Deviation from this is generally a failure in hiring, a failure in management, or both.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Stiletto (12066)

          Where do the magical unicorns come in? I suppose that might be true if you're one of those few companies that hires only the brightest 2% of technical workers out there. In most companies, however, your team is made up of one, maybe two really talented people, a few hard workers, and the rest just productive enough to not get fired.

          Management's job is often to tell people what to do, make sure they are doing their jobs, make sure they follow through, ferret out incompetence, and watch everyone like a hawk.

          • by Belial6 (794905) on Sunday May 13, 2012 @08:05PM (#39990469)
            Those are the words of incompetent management. Don't feel bad. Middle management in America is massively loaded with incompetent managers. Of course, incompetent middle management is ultimately upper managements fault.
            • I wish I had points to mod this up.
            • by Stiletto (12066)

              Ok, smart guys, I give up... Exactly who's job is it "to tell people what to do, make sure they are doing their jobs, make sure they follow through, ferret out incompetence" if not management?

              • Like what's already been said, hiring the right people is key. Besides that, you assume that everyone needs to be told what to do and monitored constantly--and perhaps more importantly, you assume that micromanaging these people will actually solve this "problem."

                Perhaps if management didn't assume the majority of their employees are completely irresponsible and child-like in nature, things would be better.

                On the other hand, if one took a reasonable approach, the majority of management positions would
                • by Compaqt (1758360)

                  Hiring the right people? As in the top 2%, right?

                  Well, what about the other 98%?

                  That's what the guy is talking about. It should be quite obvious that not all companies can hire "the right people" (meaning the top 2%).

                  And it's not necessarily "assuming your workers are childlike". Much of the time, workers are crying out for some management interaction where they can find out how a given feature is supposed to be implemented as opposed to just winging it.

              • by Belial6 (794905)
                If you have to "and watch everyone like a hawk." then you are incompetent at "tell people what to do, make sure they are doing their jobs, make sure they follow through, ferret out incompetence"
              • by oatworm (969674) on Monday May 14, 2012 @02:09AM (#39992253) Homepage
                Short answer: Supervisors, which, contrary to popular belief, is not management.

                Long answer: If you're operating within the same time span as your employees, meaning your deadlines are their deadlines and vice-versa, you're not management or, worse yet, you're not managing.

                A supervisor has the job you're describing. They usually are a former veteran in the field, someone with sufficient domain knowledge in the industry to know when an employee is doing their job, when an employee that's capable of doing the job is sluffing off, or when an employee is simply incapable of doing the job regardless of how much you incentivize them. A supervisor isn't formally trained on how to supervise - chances are, they've been supervised long enough where they've seen what works from their predecessors, what doesn't, and guide their approach accordingly. In military terms, they'd be an NCO (Corporal, Sergeant, etc.). How much latitude they have, and how they motivate or monitor the employees, is defined by management, depending on business needs and corporate culture.

                Management, meanwhile, is a formally defined skill with lots and lots of science behind it. Management's job is to provide differing levels of strategic direction for the company, depending on time span and objectives. The purpose of management is to make sure that each assignment provided to staff is part of a larger goal dictated by business needs and that each assignment is broken down and compartmentalized into appropriate-sized units, as dictated by the capabilities of each staff member or group. So, for example, a software architect might be assigned a multi-year software design project, while a starting coder would receive something fairly simple, like "Implement function X within the parameters Y specified here," with a deadline (implicit or explicit) of at most a week. To accomplish this, systems must be created, maintained, and monitored to ensure that there is consistent, positive output from the start of a project (or set of projects) to the end of one. When management does its job well, predictable, sensible output is the result (see recent iterations of Ubuntu and Windows, at least post-Vista). When management does its job poorly, the systems break down (see Longhorn, Apple in the '90s before Jobs reclaimed the throne, pretty much anything GM has done in the past 40 years). In military terms, management would be your officers (Lieutenants to Generals, depending on branch, of course).

                Now, getting to what you were discussing, yes, it's true that Slashdot has more than its fair share of self-entitled 2%ers (or people that wish they were 2%ers and want to be treated accordingly) that think they should be given a six-figure paycheck, a well stocked lab, and a fridge full of caffeine so they can change the world, and view any failure to accommodate that vision as "poor management". In reality, that might be the start of an effective system of production, or it might not - depends on who's working for you and what you're doing. However, as GM learned the hard way in the '60s and '70s (and Toyota learned by studying Deming, who knew better as far back as the '30s), even "unskilled" labor benefits from frequent job reassignments, variety in work, and occasional moments to stop and think about the bigger picture. This doesn't mean letting the employees turn the company into a re-enactment of the "Lord of the Flies" (or whatever you want to call the excesses of the now-legendary Dot Com bubble 'companies'), but it does mean treating them as stakeholders that should be interested in the success of the company and whose opinions should be respected and rewarded when they lead to improvement and growth.

                From a management (or even supervisory) standpoint, this means that, if your system calls on lots of yelling, screaming, and berating to get employees to do something they don't want to do, your system is going to only return just enough to avoid further yelling, screaming, and
                • by Stiletto (12066)

                  Wow, that was... actually a great reply. I agree that now that you mention it, I'm conflating managers and supervisors. My only response to that oversight would be that in many companies, those two roles are played by the same person or groups of people.

                  The point I was trying to make was not the difference between those roles, but the fact that SOMEBODY has to herd the cats and make sure they're all running in the right direction. And these cats are NOT all going to be from the top 2%. Too many Slashdotters

              • by Hyppy (74366) on Monday May 14, 2012 @02:57AM (#39992459)
                I have a few too many business degrees and miscellaneous related credentials, so I have some clue what I'm talking about.

                The GP is right on this one. Technical and other professional workers are generally to be left to their own devices. Micromanagement is only to be used on those with little experience and job knowledge, or specific cases of a problem employee. This has been thoroughly studied and well-known in the (educated) business community for decades.
              • by sjames (1099)

                Hire smart people. Pay them well. Show them what needs doing. They will do it. They will tell you who the boat anchor is.

                It is then your job to work with said anchor to see if you can get them onboard or if they truly need to go. Remember, if someone has to be fired, it's because his manager failed miserably.

          • by LingNoi (1066278)

            Totally wrong, it's a failure in management and company culture if this is true for your business.

          • by sjames (1099)

            and the rest just productive enough to not get fired.

            Start by not training employees to be just productive enough to not get fired, perhaps by not paying them just barely enough to keep them from leaving.

            In other words, why do you damn them for practicing what every single corporation out there practices against them and everyone else?

        • by Kneo24 (688412)

          I'm a bit curious as to what your work experience is. The reason I ask is that most people only work hard enough to keep a job. Many people who post here will even claim as much. This really means that they rarely give it their all at any point in the week. After all, they're just doing the bare minimum. Anyone who has managed more than themselves will see this at some point in their career. Your whole position is either a deluded dream, or you work at a top tier company with top tier talent, something the

          • And for those of us who work our asses off it breeds resentment, eventually (hopefully and with help of a wise greybeard) followed by enlightenment, which begets cynicism, then acceptance.

            I have a good job. It is bursty in nature, which gives my manager fits, as when I'm busy I am so busy that I ignore people and make him run interference for me. When it's slow, I dilly dally around and read /., stack overflow, some open courseware from MIT, etc.

            My peers range from genuinely brilliant, one with a bad stre

      • by JaredOfEuropa (526365) on Sunday May 13, 2012 @05:16PM (#39989351) Journal
        I think the whole point is that it doesn't have to be particularly focused. The 20% might be spent on something innovative, on personal study of no direct benefit to the company, or it might be spent on catching up on some background tasks, beneficial to the company even though it doesn't contribute directly to the bottom line or move the little bars in some Gantt chart along. The time should be spent on something more or less related to the business, but the employee gets to decide how that time is spent, without supervision. Even if nothing of value gets produced by that employee in that one day a week, it can still make him a better motivated, smarter, more effective and less burnt-out employee.

        It wouldn't work for everyone but I have seen it work for a lot more people than you'd think. At the end of the day you might find the benefits to the employees for whom it does work far outweigh the loss in productivity for those few who will really do nothing of any value whatsoever. If you find yourself at that stage, for gods sake do not try and optimize the scheme by introducing some supervision, detailed reporting, or a list of "acceptable" was to spend that time. Instead of killing the whole scheme that way, accept the loss in view of the larger gains.
      • by Auroch (1403671) on Sunday May 13, 2012 @05:45PM (#39989567)

        Would you want to pay them for that 20% of the time that they would be using to do nothing towards your project?

        Because productivity goes up when your workers feel appreciated, valued and cared for. Otherwise, why bother giving them sick days when they're sick? They're not being paid to be sick. Most companies have a wellness program (or employee assistance program) to prevent workers from becoming less productive DUE to all those other non-related-to-the-project issues.

        Because no one works for a solid 8 hours on a high-level project without having peaks and valleys in their productivity. The 20% rule would help those peaks last longer when on-task. No one, no matter what you believe, works at their best for the entire day, every day, day after day. Sure, you pay them for work - do you measure quality or quantity? Don't you want your employees to be more productive? And if it cost you an hour of pay each day to make the other 7 extremely productive, don't you think that's a good trade-off?

        • Otherwise, why bother giving them sick days when they're sick?

          Because you hope that it will keep them from coming in and making everybody else sick also.

          We get 5 "sick days" where I work and I've asked folks who were absolutely obviously miserably sick why they didn't stay home and heard the reply "used up my sick days" so often that I stopped counting.

          • by Auroch (1403671)

            Otherwise, why bother giving them sick days when they're sick?

            Because you hope that it will keep them from coming in and making everybody else sick also. We get 5 "sick days" where I work and I've asked folks who were absolutely obviously miserably sick why they didn't stay home and heard the reply "used up my sick days" so often that I stopped counting.

            I'm glad that we agree that letting employees do things that directly and/or indirectly increase (or prevent a decrease) in productivity. I'm still not sure why you're reinforcing my argument with additional points, though - we're already on the same page.

      • What if you were paying someone by a set rate to get a project done. Would you want to pay them for that 20% of the time that they would be using to do nothing towards your project?

        If you are paying a set rate, then technically you aren't paying for ANYTHING beyond the delivery of your project. You aren't paying for time, you are paying for performance. It doesn't matter if they spend 10 hours a week or 100 hours a week on your project if they meet the deadline.

        • by Kneo24 (688412)
          While I could have worded that better, I think you're missing my point. The person paying you wants their project done is as quickly as possible with as few hassles as possible. Paying you to do a lot of nothing is infuriating. You're expected to be productive, whether it's directly to that project or indirectly. And no, doing a crossword puzzle on my dime is not indirect productivity.
          • While I could have worded that better, I think you're missing my point.

            Your point is apparently not related to what you wrote.

            What if you were paying someone by a set rate to get a project done.

            An example of this is you take your car down to the garage to get a tune up. The mechanic says it will be $100 and it'll be ready at the end of the day. Now if he spends the next 4 hours doing crossword puzzles, it's no concern of yours as long as your car is ready at the end of the day. You're paying a set amou

            • by Kneo24 (688412)

              What if you hire a contractor to do some work to your house, a house that you currently live in. They promise they will be done in one week. Sure, they get done in that one week, but for three of the hours a day that they're there they actually aren't doing any work. You're telling me that what they're doing is none of my business. I call bullshit on that idea.

              You would be infuriated that this person wasn't working. In that 5 day work week, that's an extra 15 hours sooner the job would have been done and t

    • If you company is kucky enough to have full time R&D staff i think most of the goofing off can be found there.
      • by Nerdfest (867930)

        Contrary to the current twisted MBA view of things. "making money" does not necessarily only mean "in this quarter". It is precisely that attitude that has off-shored the western nations lead in technology.

    • by grcumb (781340) on Sunday May 13, 2012 @04:57PM (#39989225) Homepage Journal

      The business owners I've worked with don't have a lot of patience for people who aren't being productive on their dime. In today's business climate, in most professions goofing off means overstaffed. Our current MBAs don't realize the future benefits of personnel enrichment.

      First off, this problem has existed since forever. It was only formalised into doctrine, though, with the time-and-motion studies of the early 20th Century, and the introduction of business schools in the US. That was the point where people could talk about productivity in pseudo-scientific terms, making it okay to forget all other considerations, and to trust 20-something MBAs instead of experienced managers who'd worked their way up through the ranks and who actually knew the business.

      There has always been a minority of bosses and business owners who recognise the limitations of an straight-up efficiency --> profit approach. In my professional life, I've stuck with those who realised that the best way to invest in the company was to invest in me, and not with those to whom I was only a cog in the wheel.

      In my current job, I negotiated a 'Google' day. It actually took some explaining to make people realise that this wasn't a day off. It was a day in which nobody got to tell me what to do. In other words, for 4 days of the week, I work to other people's priorities, but on the 5th day, I decide what the priority is. Some of the time, it's work on outside projects (last week, it was an editorial for the local newspaper), but most of the time, it's work stuff that wouldn't otherwise get enough time from me - website refinements, code cleanup, automation scripts and other things that add value to the company, but not in a directly linear way.

      • by Kjella (173770)

        In my current job, I negotiated a 'Google' day. (...) most of the time, it's work stuff that wouldn't otherwise get enough time from me - website refinements, code cleanup, automation scripts and other things that add value to the company, but not in a directly linear way.

        I don't think having some self-directed time to do your regular job is really what the article was talking about. That's more "I'm the one in the middle of it and see what needs fixing better than you do" rather than any kind of permission to do pet projects or experiments. That's great but I wouldn't call it any real freedom anymore than an agile team that says "This sprint we need to refactor, we won't be making any external deliverables". Anything like a skunkworks means something that'll actually end up

        • by rwa2 (4391) *

          I don't think having some self-directed time to do your regular job is really what the article was talking about. That's more "I'm the one in the middle of it and see what needs fixing better than you do"

          Hey, even that I'd really appreciate. I'm always being pulled over by some management or other saying "hey, we've got deliverables you need to be working on" while I'm working on some process automation that would knock off huge chunks of time-intensive error-prone manual labor from our workflow.

          But I guess whatever helps them complain about being understaffed helps them grow their org :-P

      • by Kneo24 (688412)

        Regardless of what your company is currently allowing you to do, why do you feel it's acceptable to get paid to do something that's entirely not related to work? This is what they're paying you to do. It's one thing to do indirect items that still assist the company, but it's another to do something that is entirely unrelated. Would you pay someone to do something completely unrelated? I highly doubt you would. The reason I say this is that I find most people only find it okay when they do certain things, b

        • by khallow (566160)

          Regardless of what your company is currently allowing you to do, why do you feel it's acceptable to get paid to do something that's entirely not related to work?

          By virtue of a contract, I wager.

      • Sometimes there's a fine line there, where you can't boldly tell management "you can't tell me what to do" because that risks emotional tones later. I've made a little progress by dividing work into "types of priorities" which I add a splash a bit of humor on by color coding. Example: Today you are given This Emergency To Get Out The Door. Code Yellow, right? But then This Bigger Emergency shows up and now That Needs To Get Out The Door. Code Red. Okay, so far so good. But now it gets silly. This Even Bigg

    • Why should they? Things that that has benefits in the way future won't effect the quarterly numbers on which their bonus is measured on.

      Things are different in family run businesses. Long term investment might mean a generation or two....

    • The business owners I've worked with don't have a lot of patience for people who aren't being productive on their dime. In today's business climate, in most professions goofing off means overstaffed. Our current MBAs don't realize the future benefits of personnel enrichment.

      "Our current MBAs"? "Our" as in at this point in history or your particular company?

      I'm a recent MBA grad and I would say that MBAs are taught the value of, and possibly necessity of, research and development. However there is a world of difference between allowing someone to spend 20% of their time on any project and 20% of their time on a project they think will benefit the company. "Benefit" could take different forms: revenue, public image, training staff, staff morale, etc ...

      There probably shoul

      • I'm a recent MBA grad

        Work for a few more years in hardcore tech, and come back and read what you just wrote. Your approach could work for ultra-conservative companies. You should look at 20% projects more as something that keeps the really smart and enthusiastic engineering folks from leaving your company.

        The biggest end result of side projects are motivated people, not new technology.

        • by perpenso (1613749)

          I'm a recent MBA grad

          Work for a few more years in hardcore tech, and come back and read what you just wrote.

          I had over 20 years of hardcore software development experience (embedded, scientific, video games, ...) before going to business school. Much of that time was in startups or other very "progressive" work environments. I have not worked in the ultra-conservative sort of environment you mention.

          Your approach could work for ultra-conservative companies. You should look at 20% projects more as something that keeps the really smart and enthusiastic engineering folks from leaving your company.

          Morale was only one of various justifications that I offered. My focus was actually on the 20%-projects being incubators for new ideas for projects and internal processes.

          The biggest end result of side projects are motivated people, not new technology.

          20%-projects are merely one way of keeping mor

      • Progress and tracking?

        Yep, you certainly sound like a recent MBA grad...

        • by perpenso (1613749)

          Progress and tracking? Yep, you certainly sound like a recent MBA grad...

          "Progress and tracking" in that everyone describes their projects and how they are coming along to their fellow engineers. No TPS reports, just a group meeting where everyone talks for a few minutes, maybe some ideas get bounced around, etc.

    • by dexomn (147950)

      I do a lot of dinking off at work, mostly coding utilities we can use in-house. The boss department merely nods and congratulates on these things because of the man-hours I save by investing the companies time I save for taking a 30 minute task an trimming it down to 3 minutes. I do not get paid extra for this, but the time it saves allows us to to do our jobs in less time. I would encourage folks in the SMB market to let the smart guys (that have been there a while) take a few hours to automate some thi

    • I work for a small-ish 100-person "web consulting" firm. About 6 months ago we opened an office in Philadelphia that I manage and I thought it would be funnier than hell to steal the owner's Bob's Big Boy statue (which lived in the break room) and take it up to the new office. So late one night, after a company-wide happy hour and a few drinks, I grabbed one of the janitors and had him help me carry it to my car. I left notes behind (eg. "After 10 years of living in this break room, I decided to explore the
    • by WebCowboy (196209)

      I think that the goofing off discussed in the article is not of the browsing facebook and playing freecell variety. It is the kind of thing that we would otherwise call "research and development" if it were conducted by someone with a PhD.

      Perhaps it is a concept better sold as "Integration of R&D into business operations" rather than "goofing off" or "skunkworks".

    • by Anonymous Coward

      I don't understand this. Why would would any business want to hire people? It's not nearly as profitable as financing and lobbying congress for subsidies and handouts.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    This is just a presentation of the Pareto Principle:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pareto_principle

    It is closely related to Sturgeon's Law, which states that 90% of everything is crap.

  • Goofing off (Score:5, Interesting)

    by girlintraining (1395911) on Sunday May 13, 2012 @04:55PM (#39989211)

    In the meantime, how do you manage to find time to goof off to get ahead?"

    By always looking busy, never telling the manager what I'm working on until it's done, and reporting I'm capable of doing less work than I actually am. Then, when I exceed expectations, my manager loves me, and when I deliver shiny new toys, the rest of the department loves me.

    That said, in many other countries and corporate environments, tinkering would be encouraged... but in most jobs here in the good ol'US of A... you're supposed to be just smart enough to do your job, and not so smart you realize your manager's a moron, your company is unethical, and your coworkers make more than you.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Yeah pretty much this. In my research job, everyone keeps a research 'bank'. You need to control how much you report out to management. Some weeks you get a ton of shit done and you can hold some back. However, you really really need to write it down somewhere. It sucks doing something then forgetting about your effort and nobody ever knows.

    • by bickerdyke (670000) on Sunday May 13, 2012 @05:24PM (#39989415)

      By always looking busy, never telling the manager what I'm working on until it's done, and reporting I'm capable of doing less work than I actually am. Then, when I exceed expectations, my manager loves me, and when I deliver shiny new toys, the rest of the department loves me.

      Don't we all do this shtick?
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t9SVhg6ZENw [youtube.com]

      • by JWSmythe (446288)

        The good ones do. The bad ones promise the product in exactly the estimated time, and come in late when there are any unforeseen circumstances.

        I always set my estimates liberally, and then double them. If it looks like it could be banged out quick and dirty in a week, or properly in 2 weeks, give the estimate of 4 weeks. It will usually be done and tested in 3 weeks. But never, ever, turn it in until the end of the 4th week unless the Klingons are attacking. :)

        • by timeOday (582209)
          I've worked with really good people who consistently under-estimated, and decent but slower guys who sandbag their estimates so they can exceed them. I prefer the former because I really don't care about their estimates. In the end I can tell for myself what each person's productivity is, and guess as well as they can how long a job will probably take them - which, granted, is not all that well. But I do think I can accurately rank order people by productivity.
          • I once had a boss who added 50% to any time estimate I gave him. Always saying, -meh all good engineers are notorious time optimists.
            I often returned the favor by reporting that a project was 80% done, so now only the last 80% remained.
      • by Ryanrule (1657199)
        Of course, one you move up into management...http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yd9ma2UVLHM
    • by mapuche (41699)

      This is a passive-agressive approach, and almost everybody in an organization does the same. The human nature is to find a low energy state because the opposite, doing a good work in less time is rewarded with more work, and never less.

      As a manager it's hard to make your team being more efficient and at the same time make them say: thanks for all the work!

    • by Anonymous Coward

      THIS

  • Well if that's all it takes, I have a former coworker who's about to be elected President of the United States

  • snicker snort (Score:4, Insightful)

    by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Sunday May 13, 2012 @05:21PM (#39989393) Homepage Journal

    "His old day job at Gawker entailed calling BS on tech's high-and-mighty,

    His old day job at Gawker entailed bullshit sensationalist commentary on other people's blog posts. Because that's what gawker does.

  • by theodp (442580) on Sunday May 13, 2012 @05:29PM (#39989449)

    Back in the day, Thomas Watson made the case for THINK-ing: [ibm.com] "And we must study through reading, listening, discussing, observing and thinking. We must not neglect any one of those ways of study. The trouble with most of us is that we fall down on the latter -- thinking -- because it's hard work for people to think, And, as Dr. Nicholas Murray Butler said recently, 'all of the problems of the world could be settled easily if men were only willing to think.'"

    • by nedwidek (98930)

      That was the old IBM. Today's IBM is more: "work quickly, like a scared little bunny! You don't want to be the one with your head on the chopping block tomorrow."

    • by timeOday (582209)

      'all of the problems of the world could be settled easily if men were only willing to think.'

      I'm afraid I don't agree with that at all. Unfortunately life is full of intractable problems and people whose best interests inherently conflict. Do you want a really good indicator of shallow or wishful thinking? It is a sentence includes the words "if only..."

  • by bigsexyjoe (581721) on Sunday May 13, 2012 @05:34PM (#39989493)

    ... and probably why google doesn't have this policy anymore...

    If an employee has a great idea not directly related to their work, then they probably won't want to give that idea to their employer. And why should they? Your company makes it's money by underpaying you for your work and ideas. Your company realizes this so they don't give you free time to work on your own ideas. In fact, most employers don't even encourage you to learn things that can't be quickly applied directly to your work. My employer doesn't really want me to bring any new technologies into the codebase.

    I would love to work for an employer who had that policy, but it's a little too kumbaya to be realistic. We are employed in a capitalist system. And capitalism is the war of all against all.

    • by eulernet (1132389) on Sunday May 13, 2012 @07:31PM (#39990273)

      I attended a conference about how Google engineers work.

      You are right about the 20%: it's not encouraged anymore, but it seems that you can ask for it.

      Google manages people with Excel, and managers rate them every year (trying to fire 5% of their employees, aka the underperformers), it's a very tough environment.

      I realized that the 20% was used to buy social peace, because Google's culture is internally very competitive, and not about goofing off at all !
      Given that the 20% are not pushed anymore, the turn-over will probably increase (and it will not be limited to the underperformers, but the brilliant minds who will prefer a less competitive environment).

      I believe that innovation stopped when they closed Google Labs.
      This sent a message to their developers: if you have a good idea, it's better to create your own startup and sell it to Google.
      And I'm sure that's what happens now !

      • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 14, 2012 @06:07AM (#39993087)

        Seriously?

        I'll admit I don't work in Mountain View, and I'm not ignorant enough to assume that my experience in one Google office speaks for the entire company, but this nonsense about Google's work environment, apparently deduced from a fucking conference (did I read that right?), has got to stop.

        First, a few facts. Yes, "Googlers" bitch about things-- but that's to be expected in any work environment. No, it isn't perfect and unicorns don't spring up when ever you're stressed out, but all things considered it is an amazing place to work. Aside from the well documented perks are some other rarely discussed things that make the org special. It is a remarkably flat organization (I work outside of the US, but I can, and have, openly contradicted/disagreed with the head of our country, with no ill effect). With extremely rare exception the senior management are all, at the very least, extremely competent. The aforementioned head of the country has his flaws, but the man knows the company, knows the products, has an amazing attention to detail and not even his worst enemy would claim he isn't damn good at what he does.

        If I need a tool to get a job done-- Google just fucking gives it to me. I wanted a new laptop, I had one in 5 minutes. I wanted a reliable way to get internet while going out for a client meeting, had it in 2 minutes. No one logged this crap-- in fact, the person who gave it to me asked a few weeks later if I could return it at some point. My wife has to compile a business case, call the Prime Minister, and check with the CEO of Lenovo before her org will think of giving her a laptop (which will almost invariably be a piece of shit), I returned mine because I wanted a better GPU (took a week to be delivered).

        Yes it is a group of high achievers (what do you expect?), and yes it can be difficult to get ahead/be noticed in such an environment, but progress in your career is not a given, it depends on your ability and while Google isn't perfect at this, it is as close as I've seen to a "meritocracy".

        Again, I'm not here to shill for the company. It isn't perfect, and they've not mastered a lot of these things (promotion cycles are a bit wonky, politics certainly do exist, etc), but the levels of it are SO marginal compared to anywhere else I've worked, and I genuinely feel that the company cares about my well being. In sum, it's a fantastic place to work-- and your conference is full of shit.

        One last thing. This is the first org I've worked at that values engineering above all else. Engineers have perks that I don't have (though I can jump through hoops to get them), and in general, are held up as the pinnacle of the company. I've worked for other tech firms where the engineers were treated like absolute garbage, and no one cared at all about what it is they did/do. It's refreshing, even for a non-engineer, to see an emphasis on the people who build the products. If you think that's a terrible environment, well, do tell me where you work and I'll consider applying.

  • by GoodNewsJimDotCom (2244874) on Sunday May 13, 2012 @06:51PM (#39989977)
    Oh the many ways I know how to slack. I knew it'd come in handy some day, or I wouldn't have trained it so much.
  • by spaceyhackerlady (462530) on Sunday May 13, 2012 @07:29PM (#39990255)

    Creative people are curious, and anybody who is any good has toys to play with and side projects on the go. A good manager will encourage a bit of goofing off...sorry, personal research. Good people do so anyway, and if it's on company time, the company may be able to make some money out of it.

    Not every side project will be a winner, but if you don't try, you will never know. One of mine got a security guard fired. Another became a key test tool. Another looked like a good way for the company to make lots of money until our marketing person screwed it up. :-(

    ...laura

  • I'm still confused by the phrase, "Skunkworks," in that context. Clearly, it's not about aerospace engineering. I think that the term has been better applied, elsewhere.

    • by evelo (1786080)
      "Skunkworks" is just as diluted and meaningless and expression as "genius" is anymore. For-profit universities of today do not turn out engineers capable of designing an SR71 with sliderules and graph paper. Greed has made our population so stupid, I doubt we could pool enough brains to design an SR71 *with computer modelling today.
  • A lot depends on your reputation. If you are something like a "god among coders", and the standards of what management considers "god" can vary widely, then they tend to lean on you for a lot of things, and then they will be more inclined give you a significantly free hand to try new things. But you really have to be something like magnitudes better than the most all of the others in your area.
  • Another guy took a step back and invented the wheel.
  • by node159 (636992) on Monday May 14, 2012 @12:55AM (#39991935)

    The problem I see with this as a manager of a reasonably sized team of what should be highly qualified people is that this only really works with the right people, the kind of self motivated, highly competent people who would work for Google and the like. If you try to apply this to your standard run of the mill software developer (as I can attest from experience), the cost/benefit ratio is very low and you end up with mostly goofing off rather than anything useful. From experience it is much more effective to try and empower the team, allow them to give input into what they think is important and enable them to work on the things that have clear or potential benefit, rather than writing a blank check, which with, if you don't have Google type people, tends to just get squandered.

    Love to hear other opinions on this, as I do see the potential benefit, just don't see it happening with your average Joe developer.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I would be happy to have my co worker actually work productively and to spec 20% of the time.

    Do not mod funny :(

  • by operagost (62405) on Monday May 14, 2012 @09:30AM (#39994465) Homepage Journal

    Peter Gibbons: The thing is, Bob, it's not that I'm lazy, it's that I just don't care.
    Bob Porter: Don't... don't care?
    Peter Gibbons: It's a problem of motivation, all right? Now if I work my ass off and Initech ships a few extra units, I don't see another dime, so where's the motivation? And here's something else, Bob: I have eight different bosses right now.
    Bob Slydell: I beg your pardon?
    Peter Gibbons: Eight bosses.
    Bob Slydell: Eight?
    Peter Gibbons: Eight, Bob. So that means that when I make a mistake, I have eight different people coming by to tell me about it. That's my only real motivation is not to be hassled, that and the fear of losing my job. But you know, Bob, that will only make someone work just hard enough not to get fired.

  • Everybody knows that even if management does not allow the 20% goof off time, it is going to happen anyway, unless you are in a call center or something where every action can be tracked. Especially in this industry, most employees CAN and WILL find "creative" of slacking off now and then. Everyone knows that you cannot simply program for 8 hours straight everyday without going batshit insane. Programming is so mentally intensive that most managers could not even micromanage the work without going insane th
  • I see a lot of grumbling here, but in reality many coders are awful at managing up. Somehow I always seem to end up in nearly totally unsupervised positions. This happens for a number of reasons, but really because I know how to look productive and delivery. More technologists need to sell their ideas, and and their accomplishments. Make the boss look good and generally give them what they like, and success will enviably follow. Manage your manager. Don't over engineer, and don't overwork. Do produce

Hackers of the world, unite!

Working...