Posts Tagged ‘work ethic’


Thursday, January 6th, 2011

It’s that time of year again.  Have you made your New Year’s resolution?   The practice gets a lot of attention – but it’s always in the context of the individual.   Can’t companies make resolutions?  Yes, I’m aware that business entities operate differently than individuals but surely they can join in on the fun.  Not all changes need to come from upper management.  Generally speaking, the smaller your company the easier it is to affect change in your workplace.  But even those working in large corporations can take it upon themselves to make improvements.

I’ve collected some of the most popular resolutions to see how they can be applied to companies in ways that do not require a massive company wide reorganization or even managerial responsibilities.

Lose Weight

Ah, perhaps the most popular resolution of all-time.  The company equivalent: trim the fat, that which serves no purpose.  Ditch what is rather useless and replace with something new.  It could be a copier, a server, or an outdated version of pre-packaged software.

Manage Stress

Individuals can become stressed, and so can departments.   Is a shortage of developers causing problems?   Are people happy with the furniture, lighting, and seating arrangements?  Does your vacation policy encourage employees to take time off?  There are dozens of ways to reduce stress in the office place, and quite often taking action increases productivity.

Take a Trip

Is there a client you’ve neglected to visit?  Perhaps some off-shore folks would benefit from a trip to the US – or maybe a flight in the other direction for an on-shore resource is in order.  Upper management won’t necessarily know if there’d be benefit in people from different locations coming together.  The employees generally do know (or know first).


Does your company give back to the community in some way?  Perhaps it’s time for another blood drive, a scholarship program, or a community service initiative.  This is most definitely something any employee can drive – it need not come from the top.

Pay off Debt

Take action on paying off technical debt – the obligation that a software organization incurs when it chooses a design or approach that’s expedient in the short term but increases complexity and is more costly in the long term.  Every software organization has it.  You can pay now, or pay later.  Pay now.  While large endeavors do require budget, it can be tackled in ways that allow employees to slowly refactor that which they understand well.

Get a Better Education

Does your workforce know what it needs to know?  Are you cross-training?  If there’s room in the budget for formal training, encourage employees to apply.  And if there isn’t, having employees conduct training at lunch time costs virtually nothing.  Documentation, while not a complete substitute for formal or informal training, is often lacking.  Stressing its importance and demanding solid write-ups almost always pays off in the long run.

Quit Smoking

More generically, kick a bad habit.  Individuals have bad habits of all sorts, as do workplaces.  What bad habits can you find in your office?  Meetings, in general, are often thought of as time wasters.  Do your meetings start on time or do people stroll in 5 minutes after the designated start times?  Are people dialing into conference calls while driving or from locations where it’s difficult to give undivided attention?  Is there a designated scribe who types up the notes for distribution to the participants and other interested in the topic?  Do people listed as optional consider themselves optional?  There are plenty of ways to make meetings more productive.

Take a look around and you’ll see there is room for improvement everywhere – not just in your personal life, and not just in your own work life, but in the workplace.  Everyone from the CEO down can take the initiative to better an organization.  Are there any resolutions you’d like your company to make this year?

Jim Buckridge



Thursday, May 20th, 2010

Last week I grabbed lunch at a local fast food place.  I knew the drill.  I ordered, paid, and filled my mega-cup with Diet Coke.  Everything went as planned, until I attempted to get a napkin or two.  Napkin dispensers are brilliantly designed to dispense napkins one at a time.  But there is one simple caveat:  the napkins must be placed in the dispenser properly.

When the napkins are placed in the dispenser backwards, upside-down, or backwards and upside-down the customer cannot obtain just one napkin.  The customer is forced to use the brute force method of jamming a hand into the dispenser and to grab a wad of napkins. There are two problems with this.  First, the customer is inconvenienced.  The inconvenience may not lead to a loss of repeat business, but it is an inconvenience nonetheless.  Second, there’s the issue of wasted napkins and its associated cost.  It’s not a huge cost; however, pennies do add up to dollars.

The real question is this – why were the napkins placed in the dispenser improperly in the first place?  It was a simple task.  Did the employee not know how napkin dispensers work?  Was the employee trained properly?  Did the employee not care?  It could be ignorance or apathy, but when your job is to put napkins in a dispenser it should be done correctly.  After all, it’s not that hard.

On the surface it’s easy to criticize something simple like this – a menial straightforward task carried out improperly.  With some additional thought, there’s a lesson here for everyone – for those at the very top of an organization to the minimum wage employees.

What part of my daily routine am I not performing correctly or efficiently?  What am I glancing over that inconveniences my customers in some way?  Is there something I am doing that wastes resources?  Am I unknowingly inconveniencing my coworkers on a regular basis?

I may not be filling the napkins, but I might be glancing over some things without much thought.  With some introspection and honesty, there’s room for improvement.    As an example, why do I wait until the last minute (or beyond) to submit my timesheet?  It doesn’t take much additional effort to submit it daily or at least on time.  I’m generally punctual, but it’s equally important to give someone my undivided attention.  Too often my mind is still focused on what I was looking at two minutes earlier.  Both result in inconveniences and ineffective use of resources – specifically others’ time.

So what are your napkins?

Jim Buckridge