Generating Work

Accidents happen. No seasoned analyst, admin or engineer I know hasn’t typed ‘reboot’ in the wrong term window, deleted the wrong file, created the odd network loop, etc. These are generally accidents: what was being done was judgmentally sound, however something wasn’t quite right.

When you omit the sound judgment, however, you didn’t have an accident anymore, you have generated work. In the world of geeks, accidents are things everyone laughs about after the fact, generating work will usually result in no one laughing with you ever again. Time is precious, respect doubly so, and making a bad decision that costs others’ cycles consumes both.

For the last few weeks, we’ve had some electrical contractors in our office building replacing our 1970s-vintage fire alarm system with something modern. Observing their group dynamics was fascinating, and reinforced the same principles. Some guy who set off the alarm system twice in one morning because of bad decisions wasn’t invited back after a couple days. Another guy who checkpointed his thoughts with the more seasoned crew before blundering was given more leeway. A third who didn’t seem to know how to do his job, and was constantly requesting help and making bad decisions requiring others to fix his shit, was asked at one point “are you really an electrician?” and generally ostracized by the senior crew.

I am a firm believer in the old adage “there are no stupid questions”. Without hesitation I offer my time to all sorts of people who are interested in learning, check-pointing, advancing or honing their knowledge in an array of topics. I enjoy pedagogy and dialogue: Most seasoned, polydisciplinaries do, especially those who are also autodidacts. Form intelligent questions, ask intelligent questions, save your reputation, expand your knowledge, develop sounder judgment, don’t generate work. Ask.

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