Saturday, July 24, 2010

The "I can leave" culture

I've been observing an interesting culture in my work environment lately. There seems to be an "I can leave" mantra amongst most of the more senior development team. In my previous job, there was no such talk of other opportunities, better environments, etc, simply due to the fear of being fired. Basically, if you are looking elsewhere, you aren't committed and we are going to let you go. More of a fear instilled into the staff really not to talk about such things.

As compared to this, this "I can leave" concept if very different. Number one, there is no fear. People are well trained and are "senior" because they execute well and know a lot. In the event of a release or fire, everyone is well aware that they can land something soon there after. Number two, its common for people to leave our environment, the retention is low and turn over is fast, while at the same time, the demand for resources continuously grows, meaning the company needs the people that are leaving.

While I've become aware of this, I am not sure how or what a company could do about it because it's likely their fault for loosing control of the matter. An excuse I could imagine is a first job syndrome for those leaving, where the mindset is the grass must be greener. That is sometimes true when moving across company sectors, but staying the same, I am sure its not any better. Another might be pay? Or the type of work?

Regardless, I would suggest any company going through this to fix it. Observe your workforce better. Change something. Pay more. Or weed out the "leavers" and instill a different culture in your new crowd. In any case, its not good, because the mantra will simply get passed along as people grow and they realize there is likely something better and at the moment they are invaluable to the current employer because they can't afford to be let go.

When management needs your help

I've recently become weary of when management uses the phrase "we need your help". This phrase is usually a cultural builder if you will, letting the employees know they have a say in the direction of the company, and that the management is interested in their ideas for setting new direction and improvements.

"Needing help" in this context is not, helping because there is so much work. Of course management needs help there. When I say management, I also mean the leaders in your relative work environment. This might be your direct team mangers, or the department mangers, or company mangers. Basically, those in charge of direction and strategy.

I used to like this phrase. It would motivate me to think, share and collaborate. I would pass these things to my management in an effort to help or possible change things for the better. I am not so sure of the value anymore.

My new though is if your management team isn't sure of their direction and strategy, there is a major problem. First, nothing is going to get executed against because of the idea search.  It will be continuous. Unless there is immediate acknowledgment of a change it will likely be never attempted. If you don't feel the fail fast approach, you'll likely see the fail long on the wrong set of over thought objectives. I expect them to utalized me to explore their direction, since I am a executor on the team, and not the manger. If they are asking me for what they should be having the team do, I've begun to step back to assess the abilities of that manger and if I am on the right team.

Second, if they don't know where they want to take the company in terms of an innovate or new change, its again a warning. I imagine most everyone has a preference, or some unsupported reason to try something different. If this is missing in your management team, they lack the drive and inspiration to really set the team in a new direction.

As a counter, if your management team is wildly making changes on edge to see what lands while still conducting the core business strategy in a good direction, I believe this is the best approach for accepting ideas from the staff into the company direction. When they need help, honestly, and aren't afraid to immediately attempt something new, there is faith in the team regardless of the failure that might soon occur. They've realized now short term that something will or will not work. And again, they honestly need help.

If you feel you don't honestly have a say or opportunity in the direction of your team, I would suggest moving on. If you feel your management lacks their own ability to spawn ideas for change. I would again, suggest moving on.

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