Analytical 19: Effort

29 September, 2017


Effort put into a team effort can steer the end result. If it’s good, that’s great! But what if it’s not?

Transcript available
[Music] Everything can be improved, iterated and refined. And if you don't think that's true, maybe you haven't analyzed it enough. Calculated choices carefully considered. Absolutely analytical. Analytical is part of the Engineer Network and to support our shows, including this one, head over to our Patreon page and for other great shows visit today. Effort. Effort, effort, effort. Effort put into an endeavor shows commitment. Pretty obvious? Well, yes, no, maybe. I've sometimes watched on as other people, other teams, and other companies have succeeded in their endeavors and I've wondered whether or not it was because they were better, whether they had a better strategy, better technology, a better way of managing their people and resources, better something. Maybe they just read a book, maybe they've been to a TED talk or a lecture, something from a motivational speaker even. I don't know. Maybe they switched to agile development or not. Or maybe, just maybe, was it about and only about their level of commitment. I've observed that the person that puts the most time and effort into something where multiple people contribute, that person usually gets the most traction. Not withstanding the time horizon you're considering, of course, I mean, if you think about a project completion or delivery, if that's your ultimate end goal, even if it's a multiple year long project, then that really is only a short time horizon. Now, if that's different, if you're measuring against something like a long-term success in a market for a product, in which case delivering a bad product at the wrong time looks like a success in the short-term because you delivered in a timely fashion, but in the long-term, it isn't really a win at all. So let's ignore long-term ramifications just for this and focus on just the short-term time horizons for the sake of this discussion. So where were we? Yeah, okay, where were we? Right, so people that put in the most effort are the ones that get the movement forward usually. And that works fine provided that person has the best idea or ideas to contribute to the problem at hand. Again, maybe that's obvious, maybe it's not. People like to think that the best idea has to win, but is it really true that the best idea does win? Because so often it doesn't, why doesn't it? And I think a lot of it is because of this. So it does work fine if they have the best idea, but if they don't have the best idea, what if they don't? Well, if their ideas are bad, they're short-sighted or just plain incorrect and wrong, and they're gonna deliver a bad outcome. Now, those sorts of over-contributors to a project, they can drive bad outcomes, bad results, and cost huge amounts of money, but that's bad enough. But actually, it can be worse than that because motivated and committed, but technically bad over contributors, they'll often ensure that the best ideas not only don't win, simply because the people with the best ideas will get rolled over by the people that have got more time to roll over them and more commitment and more contribution to the project. So I've been involved in project teams where the over contributors drove the best people out of the project and they left because they felt insulted, frustrated, they felt like they weren't being heard because these other people were louder or more committed to seeing their ideas through, the end result was that the whole project suffered directly because of this. Now, if you consider this from the other contributors' point of view, the over-committed person, they feel they're justified in their own mind because they've worked really, really hard and they've been so committed that the project should go better solely because of their commitment when it's not really true. Projects get more complicated the bigger they get because, you know, well, projects that require cooperation to complete them, ultimately, they're an exercise in contributions from a small to a large group of people, either in one or sometimes even more than one organization. And everyone obviously has different and competing priorities as well, and it doesn't make it any easier. But the concept of over-contributing as a method of controlling the outcome, well, that's what I've been yammering on about anyway, was more from the perspective of innocence. But it's not always a subconscious thing or an unintentional thing or an innocent thing. Sometimes it's actually a very real conscious and focused strategy that people or companies employ to great effect. And the scale of these issues, for example, if we look at open source projects in the world in recent years, it provides a couple of good examples of how massive companies can use that to their advantage. First one that comes to mind is Google and the Android project. They over-contributed to Android for a very long time. Despite it being "open source", it effectively wasn't. Admittedly, after several years, they decided to lock down certain key internal APIs and that prevented third parties from utilizing several of the key features embedded in the operating system, but it ultimately put Google in the best possible position. However, if it wasn't for the success of Samsung's branch of Android, they probably wouldn't have done that. Guess we'll never know. WebKit, it also had similar issues. Now that's just two examples that come to mind and there's doubtless many, many, many more. So, what's the answer? Actually, hang on, what was the question? Oh, that's right. Yes. The first question is, and there's two, the first question is, how do you manage those individuals that are over contributing to an endeavor, if they're driving a bad end result. But the other question is on the other foot. What if you have a great idea? Are you committed enough to it to drive a good end result? So to answer that first one, it's not straightforward unfortunately. Because if you're leading a project, or you're just a contributor to that project that's concerned about another over contributor, then you should flag it to the project lead. The problem is though, people, they get drowned out by the over-contributor rather than the over-contributor themselves. Sometimes it's difficult to raise that. Sometimes you're not heard and sometimes the lead, well, the problem is that the value determination is the biggest issue. So you or that lead needs to be able to comprehend the difference between the quality of the contributions from those in the project in order to make a value judgment. So that when an over-contributor does contribute an idea that's not up to scratch, just because they're loud, just because they continue to bang on about it and they keep talking about it and they keep pushing it, that doesn't mean it's the right thing to do. You got to deal with that over-contributor. And the best way is to drive to a team consensus to follow a better path. Failing that, you might have to go dictatorial them and tell them that you're the boss. Hopefully not, but you really do need to keep an eye out for it because if you don't it can destroy projects because people aren't prepared to put the foot down and say no just because this person has all this extra time perhaps to contribute their wrong ideas that does does not mean that they deserve airtime. However, the second question that we're seeking to answer is solely and only about you, dear listener. See, if you're trying to effect change, make improvements, or you have a great idea, you really need to be prepared to be committed to it. Or, just face the reality that other people they have ideas too. And even if their ideas aren't anywhere near as good, but they are more committed than you, they will ultimately get their way and you won't and your idea will not get off the ground. You have to be committed. You have to want to affect that change. You have to want to make it better. And if you've got a lot of ideas, that's great. but considering the number of hours available in your day is finite, you can't buy more, can't grab more, can't ring them out of a calendar, I've tried, doesn't work, then you really need to be careful, really careful about pushing hard on exactly which ideas you wanna push the most. And if you're going to push something, then you need to be fully committed to that. Otherwise, you're probably just wasting your time. If you're enjoying Analytical and want to support the show, you can, like some of our backers, Ivan and Chris Stone. They, and many others are patrons of the show via Patreon, and you can find it at or one word. Patrons can have a named thank you on the website, spoken at the end of episodes, access to the pages of raw show notes for every episode, as well as an ad-free special release of every episode. There's a growing back catalogue of re-edited episodes and a new making an episode tier if you're into that so there's something for everyone and if you'd like to contribute something, anything at all, it's all very much appreciated. Analytical is part of the Engineered Network and you can find it at and you can follow me on Mastodon at [email protected] or for our shows on Twitter at engineered_net. Accept nothing, question everything. It's always a good time to analyse something. I'm John Chiji. Thanks for listening. (upbeat music) [Music]
Duration 11 minutes and 2 seconds Direct Download

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John Chidgey

John Chidgey

John is an Electrical, Instrumentation and Control Systems Engineer, software developer, podcaster, vocal actor and runs TechDistortion and the Engineered Network. John is a Chartered Professional Engineer in both Electrical Engineering and Information, Telecommunications and Electronics Engineering (ITEE) and a semi-regular conference speaker.

John has produced and appeared on many podcasts including Pragmatic and Causality and is available for hire for Vocal Acting or advertising. He has experience and interest in HMI Design, Alarm Management, Cyber-security and Root Cause Analysis.

You can find him on the Fediverse and on Twitter.