Thursday, August 10, 2006

Supporting ideas and being productive

Hey, that's a great topic and I very much like Zack's article and the responses (thanks Roland, Mats ... did I forget someone?).

Some time before I joined MySQL I worked for a local company (which is the biggest company in the region where I live) and I could perfectly see how it should not be. There were (and still are) very strong hierachies and if you are in the low areas of the hierachy structure, the management only wanted you to "work on something". The last thing they wanted was that employees speak up and shake on the structures of the company. No criticism was appreciated, employees should just do their daily work and even if they do it in a very inefficient way - that's perfectly fine.

The worst thing you could do was to make your work more efficient to get yourself a little time for breaks or for other (even educational) activities. So for example - if you stupidly entered numbers into an Excel spreadsheet for 4 hours, it was perfectly OK. If you found a way to automatically import the same data in half an hour and you allowed yourself a little coffee break so that everything together summed up to let's say 45 minutes - you were labeled lazy (speaking of coffee, cigarette or whatever breaks - I even consider them important to get your head free again and keep a distanced look at your work, so many of the best ideas arise during breaks!). The management just wanted to see you sit in front of your PC and do something that's somehow related to your work, but never do anything else. Needless to say that everyone was frustrated, everybody was working just to get paid and hardly anyone had ambitions to make things better (and those who did soon ended up as candidates to be fired).

Such conservative views are the worst idea killers. Work is done most efficiently if you like what you do and if you can identify with your work and your company. That doesn't even mean that you have to be the best skilled expert on your job. If you like what you do and if you like what your company does, you will look for good solutions and try to give the best you can. By looking for the best solutions, this individual will learn and become better skilled anyway. But if somebody isn't motivated to look for good solutions, there's no chance to learn from finding new ideas.

Being productive doesn't work without a certain amount of freedom and it definitely requires a pleasant atmosphere in your daily working life.

MySQL tries to find new employees who are already dedicated to MySQL's products and databasing in general, providing the best chances that new employees are motivated to create improvement. Most employees work from their home office which gives an employee the possibility to set up the working environment according to personal needs. Working times are more flexible - people work best at different hours, so everyone can find the working times that suit him/her best (e.g., I'm a completely night person, I could not find a company that allows me to work during night somewhere around my place). And being an Open Source company which represents open mindedness by definition makes pretty much sure that ideologies that I found in my former company don't have a chance.

Just see this - no manager from my former company would never have written or said something like Zack in his article.

I have seen two very different ways and it's easy to see which one works much better ;-).


Anonymous said...

It is great that you are so happy at your job. I'm also much happier at my current employer than my past employer. It's not a matter of people -- I miss the people at my old job. But I get to work with open-source technologies and am so much more motivated to do what I'm doing right now.

Markus Popp said...

I also miss some colleagues from this old job and I still have contact to some of them (from where I hear that things have even become worse since I left). Many of the employees are good and intelligent people. It's the head of the fish which starts to stink.