This article is about appreciation. It may sound a bit out there, but please hang on. It is about my job of being a lead developer.
Roughly two months ago we where confronted with a deadline, where one of the product managers told us he scheduled a demo for a large group of our customers. He included a list of the functionality he needed to demo in order for it to be successful. He also mentioned that some of the functionality currently planned would not be needed.
I immediately started planning towards this demo, to see if it would be manageable to reach the deadline. I ended up with a plan so tight, I felt it was doomed from the start. I discussed this with management and we agreed that in order to get this to work, the whole team would have to make structural overtime for four weeks in order to have a change of making it. All in all I was worried, but figured that working hard and keeping the right focus would actually be crucial in achieving the goal set for us.
The next thing I did was take a week off right after the deadline (including the day of the demo). You might think I’m crazy for doing this, but let me explain. The demo would take place on Tuesday. I needed to make sure that by Friday we would have a working demo. If not we should fall back to a PowerPoint presentation. To force that GO/NO GO moment, I figured simply not being there would be a good way.
After working completely focused on this deadline for six weeks and the whole team doing overtime for at least four of them, we managed to deploy a working demo on Friday late in the afternoon. It was a complex piece of work which integrated our Silverlight application with various services, Excel and Reporting Services using a complex flow of events.
So what’s wrong, then?
So far so good, but as I checked my email after a week of vacation on Sunday night, I missed something. No email reporting on the presentation, no note to the team telling them they did a good job, or a horrible one for that matter. I was disappointed. The whole team worked so hard to achieve something great and managed to do so against the odds and it appears to go unnoticed.
Obviously something must be wrong here. I talked to several people and found out that the product manager became ill the day after the demo. My manager and my managers manager (yes, I know it sounds silly, but it does work) both didn’t consider sending an email. I also found out that the total presentation, of which the demo was only a small part, didn’t go as planned, which greatly reduced the impact of the demo unexpectedly. It makes it understandable that non of the managers involved figured to send out a note as they were disappointed about the presentation, however it doesn’t form an excuse in my book and they should have send out an email.
Why is that important?
So what’s the big deal? We all have to work overtime every now and then? Well, the reason for doing overtime is important. If you failed to deliver on schedule because you misjudged the amount of work, or you messed up something, it’s fine to spend some of your private time fixing that, so you don’t get behind. However, if someone imposes some nearly impossible deadline, things should not be taken for granted.
Sending out a simple email stating your appreciation for the effort and flexibility of a team of people can make all the difference. This is especially true the next time around (yes, there is always a next time), but it also keeps people motivated to keep at it under normal circumstances.
What are your thoughts on this? Let us know by leaving a comment.