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'Goofing Off' To Get Ahead?

timothy posted more than 2 years ago | from the sounds-like-a-good-movie-title dept.

Businesses 141

theodp writes "His old day job at Gawker entailed calling BS on tech's high-and-mighty, but Ryan Tate still found things to like about Silicon Valley. In The 20% Doctrine, Tate explores how tinkering, goofing off, and breaking the rules at work can drive success in business. If you're lucky, your boss may someday find Tate's book in his or her conference schwag bag and be inspired enough by the tales of skunkworks projects at both tech (Google, Flickr, pre-Scott Thompson Yahoo) and non-tech (Bronx Academy of Letters, Huffington Post, Thomas Keller Restaurant Group) organizations to officially condone some form of 20% time at your place of work. In the meantime, how do you manage to find time to goof off to get ahead?"

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141 comments

Not making money = wasting money (5, Insightful)

GeneralTurgidson (2464452) | more than 2 years ago | (#39989099)

The business owners I've worked with don't have a lot of patience for people who aren't being productive on their dime. In today's business climate, in most professions goofing off means overstaffed. Our current MBAs don't realize the future benefits of personnel enrichment.

Re:Not making money = wasting money (4, Insightful)

jhoegl (638955) | more than 2 years ago | (#39989131)

Ain't that the truth.
But then there is a balance to be made as well. You cannot overwork your workers, burning them out either.
otherwise you lose good people.

Re:Not making money = wasting money (2, Informative)

wisnoskij (1206448) | more than 2 years ago | (#39990137)

Cheaper to burn out the old ones can get some new one for less then keep giving raises to your current employees.

Re:Not making money = wasting money (4, Insightful)

jhoegl (638955) | more than 2 years ago | (#39990323)

That is ignorant thinking.
What if the new people you bring in fuck up more than the cost of the old?
This is more than likely and more apt to happen, also your security prevention has just taken a dump as well as projects, known issues, preventative... everything
So... enjoy your pat on the back while it happens, you just fucked the company.

Re:Not making money = wasting money (4, Interesting)

JWSmythe (446288) | more than 2 years ago | (#39990847)

    I'm pretty sure his statement was sarcasm.

    Unfortunately, I have seen businesses who believe it to be true. They don't live by the ideas of equal pay for the same position, and appropriately adjusted yearly increases. They'll keep an employee at their starting pay, and give token increases if the employee isn't completely burnt out but threatens to move on.

    I watched at one place, where a 5 year employee was still making his starting salary (approx $40k/yr), although he had increased responsibility significantly. New hires for the same role were being brought in much higher (approx $75k/yr). There was a contractual obligation to not discuss salaries, although it did happen.

    They worked him til he burnt out, then terminated him on fictional grounds. My state allows termination of an employee for anything, or as joked, you can be fired because the boss doesn't like your shoes.

    The new hires in that situation won't last long. I didn't keep up with them, so I don't know if they're still working with that company. I know their 40 hour week became a minimum 60 hours, and on a whim senior management would demand people work "until it's done", even if it resulted in people sleepily typing the wrong things and making bigger mistakes. Like, "oops, I meant fsck, not mkfs".

    Most likely, the new hires at $75k will be laid off for another fictional reason, when they find some others willing to do the job for less money.

Re:Not making money = wasting money (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39989143)

Agreed. Im a nurse and generally pull 12s that turn into 13s or 14s. If I find time for a lunch break and I'm able to pee before dinnertime it's a mellow day.

Re:Not making money = wasting money (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39989165)

more on medical mal practice news at 11

Re:Not making money = wasting money (-1, Troll)

kcin (34043) | more than 2 years ago | (#39991307)

So sad for you. Poor little nurse has to pull longer hours 3 days a week. Awwww

Re:Not making money = wasting money (5, Insightful)

Kneo24 (688412) | more than 2 years ago | (#39989163)

What if you were paying someone by a set rate to get a project done. Would you want to pay them for that 20% of the time that they would be using to do nothing towards your project? Personnel enrichment is fine as long as its focused. I have experience managing people. You can't trust everyone to do something that would ultimately benefit the company without some supervision.

Re:Not making money = wasting money (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39989327)

You also can't expect the company to keep moving forward past the current projects if you're not willing to consistently take risks in letting employees try out something that may not work. That's what R&D is: investing in things that may not pay off, but are also the only way to advance the long-term prospects of the company using in-house resources. Unfortunately, American companies have redefined the research part of R&D to mean "go read up on what you need to do to get this project done."

Re:Not making money = wasting money (5, Interesting)

ATMAvatar (648864) | more than 2 years ago | (#39989347)

With technical workers, the management's job is to run interference against external distractions and help remove roadblocks. Your team should be largely self-organizing and self-motivating, such that you don't have to watch over them. Deviation from this is generally a failure in hiring, a failure in management, or both.

Re:Not making money = wasting money (1, Insightful)

Stiletto (12066) | more than 2 years ago | (#39989955)

Where do the magical unicorns come in? I suppose that might be true if you're one of those few companies that hires only the brightest 2% of technical workers out there. In most companies, however, your team is made up of one, maybe two really talented people, a few hard workers, and the rest just productive enough to not get fired.

Management's job is often to tell people what to do, make sure they are doing their jobs, make sure they follow through, ferret out incompetence, and watch everyone like a hawk. You might call this micromanagement but it's unfortunately necessary when your workers are not the cream of the crop, not "self-motivating" nor "self-organizing"--basically most companies.

Re:Not making money = wasting money (5, Insightful)

Belial6 (794905) | more than 2 years ago | (#39990469)

Those are the words of incompetent management. Don't feel bad. Middle management in America is massively loaded with incompetent managers. Of course, incompetent middle management is ultimately upper managements fault.

Re:Not making money = wasting money (1)

countach74 (2484150) | more than 2 years ago | (#39991533)

I wish I had points to mod this up.

Re:Not making money = wasting money (1)

Stiletto (12066) | more than 2 years ago | (#39991537)

Ok, smart guys, I give up... Exactly who's job is it "to tell people what to do, make sure they are doing their jobs, make sure they follow through, ferret out incompetence" if not management?

Re:Not making money = wasting money (2)

countach74 (2484150) | more than 2 years ago | (#39991571)

Like what's already been said, hiring the right people is key. Besides that, you assume that everyone needs to be told what to do and monitored constantly--and perhaps more importantly, you assume that micromanaging these people will actually solve this "problem."

Perhaps if management didn't assume the majority of their employees are completely irresponsible and child-like in nature, things would be better.

On the other hand, if one took a reasonable approach, the majority of management positions would make little or no sense and thus their existence largely invalidated. Let's face it, in most organizations, management is nothing more than glorified paper pushers, anyways... but they make a lot more money.

Re:Not making money = wasting money (1)

Belial6 (794905) | more than 2 years ago | (#39992009)

If you have to "and watch everyone like a hawk." then you are incompetent at "tell people what to do, make sure they are doing their jobs, make sure they follow through, ferret out incompetence"

Re:Not making money = wasting money (5, Interesting)

oatworm (969674) | more than 2 years ago | (#39992253)

Short answer: Supervisors, which, contrary to popular belief, is not management.

Long answer: If you're operating within the same time span as your employees, meaning your deadlines are their deadlines and vice-versa, you're not management or, worse yet, you're not managing.

A supervisor has the job you're describing. They usually are a former veteran in the field, someone with sufficient domain knowledge in the industry to know when an employee is doing their job, when an employee that's capable of doing the job is sluffing off, or when an employee is simply incapable of doing the job regardless of how much you incentivize them. A supervisor isn't formally trained on how to supervise - chances are, they've been supervised long enough where they've seen what works from their predecessors, what doesn't, and guide their approach accordingly. In military terms, they'd be an NCO (Corporal, Sergeant, etc.). How much latitude they have, and how they motivate or monitor the employees, is defined by management, depending on business needs and corporate culture.

Management, meanwhile, is a formally defined skill with lots and lots of science behind it. Management's job is to provide differing levels of strategic direction for the company, depending on time span and objectives. The purpose of management is to make sure that each assignment provided to staff is part of a larger goal dictated by business needs and that each assignment is broken down and compartmentalized into appropriate-sized units, as dictated by the capabilities of each staff member or group. So, for example, a software architect might be assigned a multi-year software design project, while a starting coder would receive something fairly simple, like "Implement function X within the parameters Y specified here," with a deadline (implicit or explicit) of at most a week. To accomplish this, systems must be created, maintained, and monitored to ensure that there is consistent, positive output from the start of a project (or set of projects) to the end of one. When management does its job well, predictable, sensible output is the result (see recent iterations of Ubuntu and Windows, at least post-Vista). When management does its job poorly, the systems break down (see Longhorn, Apple in the '90s before Jobs reclaimed the throne, pretty much anything GM has done in the past 40 years). In military terms, management would be your officers (Lieutenants to Generals, depending on branch, of course).

Now, getting to what you were discussing, yes, it's true that Slashdot has more than its fair share of self-entitled 2%ers (or people that wish they were 2%ers and want to be treated accordingly) that think they should be given a six-figure paycheck, a well stocked lab, and a fridge full of caffeine so they can change the world, and view any failure to accommodate that vision as "poor management". In reality, that might be the start of an effective system of production, or it might not - depends on who's working for you and what you're doing. However, as GM learned the hard way in the '60s and '70s (and Toyota learned by studying Deming, who knew better as far back as the '30s), even "unskilled" labor benefits from frequent job reassignments, variety in work, and occasional moments to stop and think about the bigger picture. This doesn't mean letting the employees turn the company into a re-enactment of the "Lord of the Flies" (or whatever you want to call the excesses of the now-legendary Dot Com bubble 'companies'), but it does mean treating them as stakeholders that should be interested in the success of the company and whose opinions should be respected and rewarded when they lead to improvement and growth.

From a management (or even supervisory) standpoint, this means that, if your system calls on lots of yelling, screaming, and berating to get employees to do something they don't want to do, your system is going to only return just enough to avoid further yelling, screaming, and berating... usually. Maybe you're in a market where the resulting mediocrity is all you need to keep money in the bank - if so, good for you! If you're not (and, chances are, you're not), though, treating your employees at least halfway decently will not only help the good ones stick around, it might cause the mediocre employees to strive for a bit of greatness and outperform their natural inclinations from time to time.

Don't believe me? Ask the [wikipedia.org] experts [wikipedia.org] . This is all old, old hat.

Re:Not making money = wasting money (3, Insightful)

Hyppy (74366) | more than 2 years ago | (#39992459)

I have a few too many business degrees and miscellaneous related credentials, so I have some clue what I'm talking about.

The GP is right on this one. Technical and other professional workers are generally to be left to their own devices. Micromanagement is only to be used on those with little experience and job knowledge, or specific cases of a problem employee. This has been thoroughly studied and well-known in the (educated) business community for decades.

Re:Not making money = wasting money (1)

LingNoi (1066278) | more than 2 years ago | (#39991467)

Totally wrong, it's a failure in management and company culture if this is true for your business.

Re:Not making money = wasting money (1)

Kneo24 (688412) | more than 2 years ago | (#39990525)

I'm a bit curious as to what your work experience is. The reason I ask is that most people only work hard enough to keep a job. Many people who post here will even claim as much. This really means that they rarely give it their all at any point in the week. After all, they're just doing the bare minimum. Anyone who has managed more than themselves will see this at some point in their career. Your whole position is either a deluded dream, or you work at a top tier company with top tier talent, something the majority will never see.

Re:Not making money = wasting money (1)

networkBoy (774728) | more than 2 years ago | (#39991427)

And for those of us who work our asses off it breeds resentment, eventually (hopefully and with help of a wise greybeard) followed by enlightenment, which begets cynicism, then acceptance.

I have a good job. It is bursty in nature, which gives my manager fits, as when I'm busy I am so busy that I ignore people and make him run interference for me. When it's slow, I dilly dally around and read /., stack overflow, some open courseware from MIT, etc.

My peers range from genuinely brilliant, one with a bad streak of aspergers, to lazy bordering on incompetent. Us bright ones (I place myself near the bottom third of that pile) share notes and pointers, steer mostly harmless stuff to the real lusers, and codegrinding to the rank and file.
I think it really comes down to management as to how a work experience goes. I don't see the good ones getting schucked off and replaced with college grads, but I do see low-end to middle employees move on. The really bottom end folks cling on for dear life till a re-org finally catches them.
I started just over a decade ago at $13/hr and this last year came in just shy of six digits... So raises don't seem to be an issue either.
-nB

Re:Not making money = wasting money (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39992133)

People working only as hard as is enough to keep a job are the consequence of the bad management. I managed more then myself and the team definitely did more than they had to - when it was needed. As far as I can tell, we have not been top tier company and the team was composed of perfectly normal employees. The same guys you meet everywhere.

The key is to not piss off you employees by stupid policies and "suck it up I own the place you have to do what I say" attitude. Our higher management was smart enough to know that. An average employee is willing to put more in to avert the crisis, he is not willing to put more to avert eight crisis in the row.

Btw, watching employees like hawk and micromanagement are the easiest way how to turn the above top employee into bottom one. Micromanaged person does not own the task anymore, so why should he try hard? It suck all motivation out.

Re:Not making money = wasting money (4, Interesting)

JaredOfEuropa (526365) | more than 2 years ago | (#39989351)

I think the whole point is that it doesn't have to be particularly focused. The 20% might be spent on something innovative, on personal study of no direct benefit to the company, or it might be spent on catching up on some background tasks, beneficial to the company even though it doesn't contribute directly to the bottom line or move the little bars in some Gantt chart along. The time should be spent on something more or less related to the business, but the employee gets to decide how that time is spent, without supervision. Even if nothing of value gets produced by that employee in that one day a week, it can still make him a better motivated, smarter, more effective and less burnt-out employee.

It wouldn't work for everyone but I have seen it work for a lot more people than you'd think. At the end of the day you might find the benefits to the employees for whom it does work far outweigh the loss in productivity for those few who will really do nothing of any value whatsoever. If you find yourself at that stage, for gods sake do not try and optimize the scheme by introducing some supervision, detailed reporting, or a list of "acceptable" was to spend that time. Instead of killing the whole scheme that way, accept the loss in view of the larger gains.

Re:Not making money = wasting money (4, Insightful)

Auroch (1403671) | more than 2 years ago | (#39989567)

Would you want to pay them for that 20% of the time that they would be using to do nothing towards your project?

Because productivity goes up when your workers feel appreciated, valued and cared for. Otherwise, why bother giving them sick days when they're sick? They're not being paid to be sick. Most companies have a wellness program (or employee assistance program) to prevent workers from becoming less productive DUE to all those other non-related-to-the-project issues.

Because no one works for a solid 8 hours on a high-level project without having peaks and valleys in their productivity. The 20% rule would help those peaks last longer when on-task. No one, no matter what you believe, works at their best for the entire day, every day, day after day. Sure, you pay them for work - do you measure quality or quantity? Don't you want your employees to be more productive? And if it cost you an hour of pay each day to make the other 7 extremely productive, don't you think that's a good trade-off?

Re:Not making money = wasting money (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39990617)

If they are only there for the project then you shouldn't be employing them and have them operate as contract work. Employees have a benefit that few employers recognize with regards to knowing company specific details. You need to decide which one you want and deal. You can't have it both ways.

Re:Not making money = wasting money (1)

interval1066 (668936) | more than 2 years ago | (#39989205)

If you company is kucky enough to have full time R&D staff i think most of the goofing off can be found there.

Re:Not making money = wasting money (1)

Nerdfest (867930) | more than 2 years ago | (#39990883)

Contrary to the current twisted MBA view of things. "making money" does not necessarily only mean "in this quarter". It is precisely that attitude that has off-shored the western nations lead in technology.

Re:Not making money = wasting money (5, Insightful)

grcumb (781340) | more than 2 years ago | (#39989225)

The business owners I've worked with don't have a lot of patience for people who aren't being productive on their dime. In today's business climate, in most professions goofing off means overstaffed. Our current MBAs don't realize the future benefits of personnel enrichment.

First off, this problem has existed since forever. It was only formalised into doctrine, though, with the time-and-motion studies of the early 20th Century, and the introduction of business schools in the US. That was the point where people could talk about productivity in pseudo-scientific terms, making it okay to forget all other considerations, and to trust 20-something MBAs instead of experienced managers who'd worked their way up through the ranks and who actually knew the business.

There has always been a minority of bosses and business owners who recognise the limitations of an straight-up efficiency --> profit approach. In my professional life, I've stuck with those who realised that the best way to invest in the company was to invest in me, and not with those to whom I was only a cog in the wheel.

In my current job, I negotiated a 'Google' day. It actually took some explaining to make people realise that this wasn't a day off. It was a day in which nobody got to tell me what to do. In other words, for 4 days of the week, I work to other people's priorities, but on the 5th day, I decide what the priority is. Some of the time, it's work on outside projects (last week, it was an editorial for the local newspaper), but most of the time, it's work stuff that wouldn't otherwise get enough time from me - website refinements, code cleanup, automation scripts and other things that add value to the company, but not in a directly linear way.

Re:Not making money = wasting money (1)

Kjella (173770) | more than 2 years ago | (#39989685)

In my current job, I negotiated a 'Google' day. (...) most of the time, it's work stuff that wouldn't otherwise get enough time from me - website refinements, code cleanup, automation scripts and other things that add value to the company, but not in a directly linear way.

I don't think having some self-directed time to do your regular job is really what the article was talking about. That's more "I'm the one in the middle of it and see what needs fixing better than you do" rather than any kind of permission to do pet projects or experiments. That's great but I wouldn't call it any real freedom anymore than an agile team that says "This sprint we need to refactor, we won't be making any external deliverables". Anything like a skunkworks means something that'll actually end up as a new product or new service or new market that wasn't part of your daily duties. From the sounds of it that's just a small fraction of that day.

Re:Not making money = wasting money (2)

rwa2 (4391) | more than 2 years ago | (#39990159)

I don't think having some self-directed time to do your regular job is really what the article was talking about. That's more "I'm the one in the middle of it and see what needs fixing better than you do"

Hey, even that I'd really appreciate. I'm always being pulled over by some management or other saying "hey, we've got deliverables you need to be working on" while I'm working on some process automation that would knock off huge chunks of time-intensive error-prone manual labor from our workflow.

But I guess whatever helps them complain about being understaffed helps them grow their org :-P

Re:Not making money = wasting money (0)

Kneo24 (688412) | more than 2 years ago | (#39990575)

Regardless of what your company is currently allowing you to do, why do you feel it's acceptable to get paid to do something that's entirely not related to work? This is what they're paying you to do. It's one thing to do indirect items that still assist the company, but it's another to do something that is entirely unrelated. Would you pay someone to do something completely unrelated? I highly doubt you would. The reason I say this is that I find most people only find it okay when they do certain things, but when the shoe is on the other foot, suddenly it's not cool anymore.

Bottom line, what you've done is highly unprofessional.

Re:Not making money = wasting money (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 2 years ago | (#39991153)

Regardless of what your company is currently allowing you to do, why do you feel it's acceptable to get paid to do something that's entirely not related to work?

By virtue of a contract, I wager.

Re: Tell me what to do (2)

TaoPhoenix (980487) | more than 2 years ago | (#39992153)

Sometimes there's a fine line there, where you can't boldly tell management "you can't tell me what to do" because that risks emotional tones later. I've made a little progress by dividing work into "types of priorities" which I add a splash a bit of humor on by color coding. Example: Today you are given This Emergency To Get Out The Door. Code Yellow, right? But then This Bigger Emergency shows up and now That Needs To Get Out The Door. Code Red. Okay, so far so good. But now it gets silly. This Even Bigger Catastrophe Needs To Be Dealt With Right Now.

Really?! We already have a Yellow and a Red going. So I called it Code Purple, with nods to old Defense projects, and Royalty.

It's like the math branch dealing with infinities. Laymen get disoriented fast when you have "unlimited natural numbers", which are unlimited, then the "bigger set of unlimited real numbers", then the even bigger set of whatever it is when you allow the imaginary ones in.

So getting back, after you solve the Code Purple and the Code Red, you sometimes have to remind managers that under all the chaos and rubble the Code Yellow is there. And - wait for it - *after the Code Yellow you need time to clean up the rubble left over from the Code Purple and the Code Red.*

It's that cleanup that everyone misses. Made a custom 1-off of some document? Port the general changes back to the master template and re-post the template. Made a management change in policy? Propagate the results of that change across all the typical documents that use it. Update the company database/shared resource with the new info. Tag the 5 obsolete copies of something as Do Not Use.

Re:Not making money = wasting money (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39989289)

they realize it just fine. they just don't care.

In that case (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39989339)

If you have the intelligence and social skills to be a really good software developer, then you have the intelligence and social skills to start your own business, or go into a different field.

In either case, you will make more money and exercise more control over how much abuse you endure.

Re:Not making money = wasting money (1)

bickerdyke (670000) | more than 2 years ago | (#39989369)

Why should they? Things that that has benefits in the way future won't effect the quarterly numbers on which their bonus is measured on.

Things are different in family run businesses. Long term investment might mean a generation or two....

MBA's aren't against R&D ... (1)

perpenso (1613749) | more than 2 years ago | (#39989541)

The business owners I've worked with don't have a lot of patience for people who aren't being productive on their dime. In today's business climate, in most professions goofing off means overstaffed. Our current MBAs don't realize the future benefits of personnel enrichment.

"Our current MBAs"? "Our" as in at this point in history or your particular company?

I'm a recent MBA grad and I would say that MBAs are taught the value of, and possibly necessity of, research and development. However there is a world of difference between allowing someone to spend 20% of their time on any project and 20% of their time on a project they think will benefit the company. "Benefit" could take different forms: revenue, public image, training staff, staff morale, etc ...

There probably should be some sort of "approval" and "progress" tracking of these 20%-time projects. By "approval" I am not suggesting some sort of business plan. All I am suggesting is that the person proposing the idea be able to articulate some kind of reason this project may benefit the company. Again, benefit should be interpreted in a loose manner in this context. By "progress" I am not suggesting schedules. All I am suggesting is that the person proposing the idea be able to articulate some sort of plan, and that they be demonstrating progress. Again, not progress as in dates. Things are bound to take longer than expected, especially when the plan is informal. Progress should be interpreted in a loose manner too. Progress may be learning that the idea is a bad idea. This progress tracking may be everyone getting together and describing where they are at and what they think the next step should be. Such a get-together might be a good place to get feedback, bounce ideas, share problem and ask for suggestions, etc.

Now for a project that has no plausible articulated benefit for a company, well that sounds like something to pursue on your own time. Perhaps an example would be useful:
Project A: Write a program in programming language "foo". We don't use "foo" but it may be a viable option for some company projects in the future.
Project B: Write a program in programming language "bar". "Bar" is totally unsuitable for any projects were are thinking about but I am curious about the language and would like to learn more about it.

Project A sounds like a 20%-time project. Project B sounds like a personal time project.

Re:MBA's aren't against R&D ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39989573)

except that learning a language that has no benefit to the company, may still help the programmer be a better programmer.

Re:MBA's aren't against R&D ... (2)

Kneo24 (688412) | more than 2 years ago | (#39989871)

That's easily countered with them learning a language that would benefit the company.

Re:MBA's aren't against R&D ... (1)

rwa2 (4391) | more than 2 years ago | (#39990187)

I'm not sure which category it falls under, probably a bit of both... but reportedly the original purpose of Java was simply to interface with the (relatively dumb) smartchip in ID badges in a platform-agnostic way. Somehow it grew way, way out of its original scope :P

Choose B [Re:MBA's aren't against R&D ...] (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39989809)

Now for a project that has no plausible articulated benefit for a company, well that sounds like something to pursue on your own time. Perhaps an example would be useful:

Project A: Write a program in programming language "foo". We don't use "foo" but it may be a viable option for some company projects in the future.

Project B: Write a program in programming language "bar". "Bar" is totally unsuitable for any projects were are thinking about but I am curious about the language and would like to learn more about it.

Project A sounds like a 20%-time project. Project B sounds like a personal time project.

I would hire programmer B. The guy who wants to learn a new language even though it has no conceivable use is the one who is going to come up with other out of left field idea that could make the company a billion dollars.

But the idiot MBAs believe thinking out of the box should be killed as "personal time."

Re:Choose B [Re:MBA's aren't against R&D ...] (1)

perpenso (1613749) | more than 2 years ago | (#39990753)

Now for a project that has no plausible articulated benefit for a company, well that sounds like something to pursue on your own time. Perhaps an example would be useful:

Project A: Write a program in programming language "foo". We don't use "foo" but it may be a viable option for some company projects in the future.

Project B: Write a program in programming language "bar". "Bar" is totally unsuitable for any projects were are thinking about but I am curious about the language and would like to learn more about it.

Project A sounds like a 20%-time project. Project B sounds like a personal time project.

I would hire programmer B. The guy who wants to learn a new language even though it has no conceivable use is the one who is going to come up with other out of left field idea that could make the company a billion dollars.

But the idiot MBAs believe thinking out of the box should be killed as "personal time."

I have never met a good software engineer that was not learning a new language, a new API, a new tool, etc on their own time out of their own curiosity. I have met poor engineers who only learned such new things if they were on the company clock. You are welcome to hire the later.

Plus my only suggested requirement was that the person be able to articulate a plausible hypothetical benefit to the company, that "idea out of left field". If they truly are thinking out of the box that is a very low hurdle.

Re:Choose B [Re:MBA's aren't against R&D ...] (1)

LingNoi (1066278) | more than 2 years ago | (#39991549)

Learning things on the company's dime doesn't mean they're a "poor engineer" you phb.

The good engineers are the curious ones ... (1)

perpenso (1613749) | more than 2 years ago | (#39992001)

I have never met a good software engineer that was not learning a new language, a new API, a new tool, etc on their own time out of their own curiosity. I have met poor engineers who only learned such new things if they were on the company clock.

Learning things on the company's dime doesn't mean they're a "poor engineer" you phb.

That is not what I said. Re-read the quote above. The poor software engineers are those who **only** learn on the company dime, that have no innate curiosity, no innate drive to learn. They are the one's who don't write any code unless its a school assignment, a work assignment, etc. They probably entered the field because someone told them that software engineering was a good career path, and not because they had any inherent interest in programming. The good software engineers are the ones who sit down and write a bit of code for no other reason than their own curiosity, a personal challenge, to help out someone, because its more fun than watching TV, etc.

Re:MBA's aren't against R&D ... (1)

kvvbassboy (2010962) | more than 2 years ago | (#39990135)

I'm a recent MBA grad

Work for a few more years in hardcore tech, and come back and read what you just wrote. Your approach could work for ultra-conservative companies. You should look at 20% projects more as something that keeps the really smart and enthusiastic engineering folks from leaving your company.

The biggest end result of side projects are motivated people, not new technology.

Re:MBA's aren't against R&D ... (1)

perpenso (1613749) | more than 2 years ago | (#39990593)

I'm a recent MBA grad

Work for a few more years in hardcore tech, and come back and read what you just wrote.

I had over 20 years of hardcore software development experience (embedded, scientific, video games, ...) before going to business school. Much of that time was in startups or other very "progressive" work environments. I have not worked in the ultra-conservative sort of environment you mention.

Your approach could work for ultra-conservative companies. You should look at 20% projects more as something that keeps the really smart and enthusiastic engineering folks from leaving your company.

Morale was only one of various justifications that I offered. My focus was actually on the 20%-projects being incubators for new ideas for projects and internal processes.

The biggest end result of side projects are motivated people, not new technology.

20%-projects are merely one way of keeping morale up. Also having the 20%-project offer some remotely plausible hypothetical benefit to the company/employees and having a person talk about their 20%-project with coworkers every so often does not take the fun and curiosity out of the idea. I have rarely met an engineer who did not think their company could use some particular new tool, or that customers might like a new product that served some unanswered need or want, etc.

Re:MBA's aren't against R&D ... (2)

Dodgy G33za (1669772) | more than 2 years ago | (#39990197)

Progress and tracking?

Yep, you certainly sound like a recent MBA grad...

Re:MBA's aren't against R&D ... (1)

perpenso (1613749) | more than 2 years ago | (#39990663)

Progress and tracking? Yep, you certainly sound like a recent MBA grad...

"Progress and tracking" in that everyone describes their projects and how they are coming along to their fellow engineers. No TPS reports, just a group meeting where everyone talks for a few minutes, maybe some ideas get bounced around, etc.

Re:Not making money = wasting money (1)

dexomn (147950) | more than 2 years ago | (#39990399)

I do a lot of dinking off at work, mostly coding utilities we can use in-house. The boss department merely nods and congratulates on these things because of the man-hours I save by investing the companies time I save for taking a 30 minute task an trimming it down to 3 minutes. I do not get paid extra for this, but the time it saves allows us to to do our jobs in less time. I would encourage folks in the SMB market to let the smart guys (that have been there a while) take a few hours to automate some things that will save people time. If a long drawn out procedure can be automated and require less attention it is going to profit the company.

Not necessarily (2)

cultiv8 (1660093) | more than 2 years ago | (#39990465)

I work for a small-ish 100-person "web consulting" firm. About 6 months ago we opened an office in Philadelphia that I manage and I thought it would be funnier than hell to steal the owner's Bob's Big Boy statue (which lived in the break room) and take it up to the new office. So late one night, after a company-wide happy hour and a few drinks, I grabbed one of the janitors and had him help me carry it to my car. I left notes behind (eg. "After 10 years of living in this break room, I decided to explore the world and sow my wild oats. Goodbye company"), posted pictures in the break room of Bob in random places (eg. LOVE statue, Rocky statue, Italian market, etc), and generally teased the company's owner about the loss of Bob. Soon enough the owner found out it was our office, and while he was upset at first, the camaraderie it brought to the organization as a whole more than outweighed any concerns he had.

The statue still sits in the Philly office, and is still quite the conversation topic. :)

Re:Not making money = wasting money (1)

WebCowboy (196209) | more than 2 years ago | (#39991793)

I think that the goofing off discussed in the article is not of the browsing facebook and playing freecell variety. It is the kind of thing that we would otherwise call "research and development" if it were conducted by someone with a PhD.

Perhaps it is a concept better sold as "Integration of R&D into business operations" rather than "goofing off" or "skunkworks".

Re:Not making money = wasting money (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39991887)

A recent contract left me in the position of choosing to do what I was told (code) or working on a much deeper problem that directly affected not only my project, but the viability of the hardware platform we were working on. In the end, I chose to chase the hardware problem, which if not fixed, would have made my project impossible. It ended up being a most important problem, with a cadre of engineers working weekends and resulting in a spin and patch to the Linux kernel.
Management held it against me and did not extend my contract.
Moral: CYA and DWYT unless you own it.

I donno (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39989121)

For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Spend a full day honoring the sabbath, I suggest. Work on your relationship with God. It's fun when he talks back!

God says...

C:\Text\DARWIN.TXT

me number of species, then we may conclude that
generally only one species of each of the older genera has left modified
descendants, which constitute the new genera containing the several
species; the other seven species of each old genus having died out and left
no progeny. Or, and this will be a far commoner case, two or three species
in two or three alone of the six older genera will be the parents of the
new genera: the other species and the other old genera having become
utterly extinct. In

The Pareto Principle! (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39989123)

This is just a presentation of the Pareto Principle:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pareto_principle

It is closely related to Sturgeon's Law, which states that 90% of everything is crap.

I'm confused (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39989191)

From the book's description on Amazon from the above link:

At companies such as Google, employees are encouraged to spend 20% of their work time on projects they're personally interested in.

That doesn't sound like "Goofing-Off". That sounds like R&D to this MBA.

But if calling it "Goofing Off" makes you feel better and you don't call it that in front of my, I don't care.

Goofing off (5, Interesting)

girlintraining (1395911) | more than 2 years ago | (#39989211)

In the meantime, how do you manage to find time to goof off to get ahead?"

By always looking busy, never telling the manager what I'm working on until it's done, and reporting I'm capable of doing less work than I actually am. Then, when I exceed expectations, my manager loves me, and when I deliver shiny new toys, the rest of the department loves me.

That said, in many other countries and corporate environments, tinkering would be encouraged... but in most jobs here in the good ol'US of A... you're supposed to be just smart enough to do your job, and not so smart you realize your manager's a moron, your company is unethical, and your coworkers make more than you.

Re:Goofing off (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39989373)

Yeah pretty much this. In my research job, everyone keeps a research 'bank'. You need to control how much you report out to management. Some weeks you get a ton of shit done and you can hold some back. However, you really really need to write it down somewhere. It sucks doing something then forgetting about your effort and nobody ever knows.

Re:Goofing off (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39989391)

I think it's got more to do with the type of industry and corporate culture rather than country. I've worked in Canada, Europe, and USA and in financial institutions especially goofing off is frowned upon, but in companies with an R&D focus it's strictly encouraged, i.e. the manager comes and says "enough work you guys, check out this hilarious Flash game..." I know i learned a lot in the early part of my career by tinkering with open source games during work hours.

Re:Goofing off (4, Funny)

bickerdyke (670000) | more than 2 years ago | (#39989415)

By always looking busy, never telling the manager what I'm working on until it's done, and reporting I'm capable of doing less work than I actually am. Then, when I exceed expectations, my manager loves me, and when I deliver shiny new toys, the rest of the department loves me.

Don't we all do this shtick?
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t9SVhg6ZENw [youtube.com]

Re:Goofing off (1)

JWSmythe (446288) | more than 2 years ago | (#39990903)

    The good ones do. The bad ones promise the product in exactly the estimated time, and come in late when there are any unforeseen circumstances.

    I always set my estimates liberally, and then double them. If it looks like it could be banged out quick and dirty in a week, or properly in 2 weeks, give the estimate of 4 weeks. It will usually be done and tested in 3 weeks. But never, ever, turn it in until the end of the 4th week unless the Klingons are attacking. :)

    For some reason, bosses will always demand it be done in less time anyways, even though there is no practical deadline or other pending projects. It's no wonder there is so much kludgy code out there.

Re:Goofing off (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39991839)

    The good ones do. The bad ones promise the product in exactly the estimated time, and come in late when there are any unforeseen circumstances.

Hear, hear!
There's so many ways for something to unexpectedly take longer, and so few for it to unexpectedly go quicker.
And it's bad for everyone when you're behind schedule -- other tasks are scheduled with dependencies, whether on you (being done) or for the deliverable (being ready for testing), and now they're slipping or being rescheduled, too. But being early does no harm -- there's always something that needs done.

Two asymmetries, both suggesting it's important to estimate longer than the "expected" time. And yet some people don't get it...

Re:Goofing off (1)

timeOday (582209) | more than 2 years ago | (#39991847)

I've worked with really good people who consistently under-estimated, and decent but slower guys who sandbag their estimates so they can exceed them. I prefer the former because I really don't care about their estimates. In the end I can tell for myself what each person's productivity is, and guess as well as they can how long a job will probably take them - which, granted, is not all that well. But I do think I can accurately rank order people by productivity.

Re:Goofing off (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39991101)

I always liked the way he phrased it in Relics: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ufkh1cKG8Dw because it applies to more than just his job.

Re:Goofing off (1)

Ryanrule (1657199) | more than 2 years ago | (#39991631)

Of course, one you move up into management...http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yd9ma2UVLHM

Re:Goofing off (1)

mapuche (41699) | more than 2 years ago | (#39989487)

This is a passive-agressive approach, and almost everybody in an organization does the same. The human nature is to find a low energy state because the opposite, doing a good work in less time is rewarded with more work, and never less.

As a manager it's hard to make your team being more efficient and at the same time make them say: thanks for all the work!

Re:Goofing off (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39989585)

Although many of my coworkers are incapable of it, writing scripts / code to auto or semi-automate ones job goes a long way in giving you time to do whatever you need to. Assuming your job can benefit from such a thing of course.

Just make sure to keep your secret ability to do 10x as much work as the rest, a secret. Lest they decide to let everyone else benefit from your code / scripts as well. The way I see it, my job is to make my job as easy and efficient as possible for me. It is NOT my job to ensure my job becomes extinct by my own hand.

Re:Goofing off (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39991375)

THIS

this is bullshit (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39989319)

I work my ass off, spend 14+ hours a day at work including commuting, I'm fucking ruined. And I make $77k a year, have no social life because I am butchered in terms of my mind and body from the work day. I am an economic unit, contributing to the machine, the military industrial complex and those alpha type elites who run the world. and I like it! if I didn't I would be taken out thank's to the NDAA.

all this google nerf football shit is for fucking retards, come to my world, where you eat tuna from the can when you are starving, have a "good" meal of ramen when you can afford it because you're completely fucked. I feel bad for the people in mainland china, making shiny apple gizmos for the zionists and they quiche eating brothers, the world is suffering, we are economic units,. so go play video games, and jerk off, your day is coming.

Re:this is bullshit (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39989539)

You make $77k a year, and can only afford cans of tuna and ramen to eat?
Since when is ramen better for you than tuna?
LoL you suck at life if you can't get a decent meal with that much money.
You work almost twice as long as required and make less than 100k/yr. You are so getting taken advantage of.
Maybe you should try going into the oil field, you can make 100k/6 months maintaining an off-shore rig and have half a year of vacation every year.

Re:this is bullshit (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39989935)

that's before taxes. Here in NYC it's $10 for a sandwich, $2 for a drink. I'm fucked as I said. Not to mention $12 a pack of cigarettes, I'm an addict as they call us here, so yeah. I am getting taken advantage of no doubt. Not to mention $1800 rent, that's 1 check, figure the rest it's a struggle yeah man. Maybe I will move to North Dakota take peyote and learn the ways.

Re:this is bullshit (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39992449)

Why don't you quit your job and move out of NYC? If you're working 70 hour weeks and have no disposable income left over from $77K your living expenses are stupid.

I live in Southern California, work 70 hour weeks, make $40K, and can't spend money as fast as I make it.

Why don't you pay yourself $1000/month in disposable income by getting a roommate? $12/day in smokes is retarded. I smoke 2 packs a week. Why don't you cut back?

Your living situation is totally unsympathetic. I make half as much as you, live in a similarly high priced real estate market, and blow $300 month on eating out. My cigarettes don't cost $12, but that's a habit you could afford to lose anyway. WTF? Are you drowning on debt? How did you fuck up so badly?

Re:this is bullshit (4, Informative)

TENTH SHOW JAM (599239) | more than 2 years ago | (#39989665)

Move closer to work. If they are paying you an hourly rate for the first 8 hours, work 8 hours. If they want more, inform them that an overtime payment is traditional. Social lives are overrated, but handy for making connections to get a leg up. Your address book is more vauable than your CV.

I too work for the military industrial complex and have all those alpha types in my address books. If I see them doing dumb, they get an email pointing it out politely. (It's just possible they might not have thought of all the consequences.)

Guess what. I am in exactly the same boat, and choose to control my life. The workplace actually prefer me to only work 8 hours as I work all 8 of them and come back ready to do it again instead of thinking how tired I am. They don't mind me goofing off occasionally because the last time I did, I saved the section $3M per annum.

As for tuna and ramen? Take time out and have a real lunch. The time away from your desk is refreshing. The vitamins and minerals will do your body good.

QUIT WHINGEING AND TAKE CONTROL

20% goof off time is more common than you'd think (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39989343)

No I don't work for the likes of Google/Facebook/Amazon, nor do I work for a hip trendy start up with bags of venture capital and 5 employees. Just a relatively ordinary software development house (~200 employees). We too get this magical 20% time to work on "personal projects"... at least that's what upper management that implemented it believe we do *cough*.

Goofing off to get ahead? (1)

mbadolato (105588) | more than 2 years ago | (#39989359)

Well if that's all it takes, I have a former coworker who's about to be elected President of the United States

Re:Goofing off to get ahead? (4, Funny)

girlintraining (1395911) | more than 2 years ago | (#39989817)

Well if that's all it takes, I have a former coworker who's about to be elected President of the United States

Your former coworker believes god lives in a nearby solar system, wears magical underwear, that the Garden of Eden was in Missouri, and that when he dies he's going to become a god?

snicker snort (3, Insightful)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 2 years ago | (#39989393)

"His old day job at Gawker entailed calling BS on tech's high-and-mighty,

His old day job at Gawker entailed bullshit sensationalist commentary on other people's blog posts. Because that's what gawker does.

20% Time: The New THINK? (4, Interesting)

theodp (442580) | more than 2 years ago | (#39989449)

Back in the day, Thomas Watson made the case for THINK-ing: [ibm.com] "And we must study through reading, listening, discussing, observing and thinking. We must not neglect any one of those ways of study. The trouble with most of us is that we fall down on the latter -- thinking -- because it's hard work for people to think, And, as Dr. Nicholas Murray Butler said recently, 'all of the problems of the world could be settled easily if men were only willing to think.'"

Re:20% Time: The New THINK? (1)

nedwidek (98930) | more than 2 years ago | (#39990805)

That was the old IBM. Today's IBM is more: "work quickly, like a scared little bunny! You don't want to be the one with your head on the chopping block tomorrow."

Re:20% Time: The New THINK? (1)

timeOday (582209) | more than 2 years ago | (#39991921)

'all of the problems of the world could be settled easily if men were only willing to think.'

I'm afraid I don't agree with that at all. Unfortunately life is full of intractable problems and people whose best interests inherently conflict. Do you want a really good indicator of shallow or wishful thinking? It is a sentence includes the words "if only..."

more slacker (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39989483)

BS

Why companies don't do this (3, Insightful)

bigsexyjoe (581721) | more than 2 years ago | (#39989493)

... and probably why google doesn't have this policy anymore...

If an employee has a great idea not directly related to their work, then they probably won't want to give that idea to their employer. And why should they? Your company makes it's money by underpaying you for your work and ideas. Your company realizes this so they don't give you free time to work on your own ideas. In fact, most employers don't even encourage you to learn things that can't be quickly applied directly to your work. My employer doesn't really want me to bring any new technologies into the codebase.

I would love to work for an employer who had that policy, but it's a little too kumbaya to be realistic. We are employed in a capitalist system. And capitalism is the war of all against all.

Re:Why companies don't do this (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39989621)

Google certainly does still have the same policy.

Re:Why companies don't do this (1)

bigsexyjoe (581721) | more than 2 years ago | (#39989677)

I've heard they don't. At the very least it doesn't expand out when they acquire other companies and their employees.

Re:Why companies don't do this (2)

magamiako1 (1026318) | more than 2 years ago | (#39989957)

There are a lot of intricate reasons as to why corporate policies do not carry over to acquired companies. The decision could have very well been the guy in charge at the acquired company.

Re:Why companies don't do this (4, Interesting)

eulernet (1132389) | more than 2 years ago | (#39990273)

I attended a conference about how Google engineers work.

You are right about the 20%: it's not encouraged anymore, but it seems that you can ask for it.

Google manages people with Excel, and managers rate them every year (trying to fire 5% of their employees, aka the underperformers), it's a very tough environment.

I realized that the 20% was used to buy social peace, because Google's culture is internally very competitive, and not about goofing off at all !
Given that the 20% are not pushed anymore, the turn-over will probably increase (and it will not be limited to the underperformers, but the brilliant minds who will prefer a less competitive environment).

I believe that innovation stopped when they closed Google Labs.
This sent a message to their developers: if you have a good idea, it's better to create your own startup and sell it to Google.
And I'm sure that's what happens now !

Re:Why companies don't do this (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39990777)

Google manages people with Excel, and managers rate them every year (trying to fire 5% of their employees, aka the underperformers), it's a very tough environment.

That is a lousy environment to work in, it breeds contempt and competition. They probably feel like they're breeding better engineers by culling the weaker ones, and that may be the effect at first, but ultimately all they'll end up with are a bunch of people who know how to game the metrics.

I suspect Google's SOP is give everyone a 200% workload, they understand that virtually no one will accomplish it all, then they create a bell curve, the ones who failed the least get the highest grade and the ones at the low end get fired, there are always going to be that bottom 5% to fire even if that 5% are still stellar people.

A more fair process would be provide everyone with a reasonable workload, let's call it 100%, and then the vast majority, possibly even all of them, will do a good job and then there is no one to fire. I've been fortunate to work for companies where the latter is the SOP, you've got to consistently under perform to be fired.

Having worked with Google HW engineers directly, I can say that I do see that mentality of be the best, sink or swim. These people need to be "on" all the time, at the low end of the totem pole the "work-life" balance is literally "work is first, then life", that's why they like them young, no family, limited friends and relationships. Once you hit your 30s, or dare I even say 40s, you've got to be a super achiever, and usually a cut throat, to survive.

It's certainly not the way I want to spend my working career...

Re:Why companies don't do this (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39990655)

Good points in this discussion. I agree and disagree with you.

I'd argue that the majority of companies do not make money by underpaying you for your work and ideas... They make money selling products and services--if we followed your logic no company would turn a profit because they'd forever "owe" it to their employees. You may feel you are underpaid, but if you accept being underpaid, is it the companies fault for not volunteering additional money, or if it your fault for continuing to work there? If you are underpaid for your skills/ideas/etc then you should be able to at least make a lateral move... so why not do it? Additionally, the reality is that most of us don't truly contribute "ideas", or at least not ones that directly impact company revenue in a significant way. We're often gears in a machine--yes one gear not working can prevent the machine from functioning--but it's still just one gear.

My employer pays me to do a job. If I consistently do that job in under 8~9 hours--and they know it--then they will likely give me more to do, there is no company that will stand for an employee having multiple hours free during a standard business day. If I'm doing less, then I must be either redundant or superfluous.

My employer has no problem with me being at the office for 12~15 hours per day, at best they ignore it and at worst they take advantage of it by pushing work to me at odd hours knowing I will be there. In this case yes, I may spend 3~4 hours per day reading things that are only quasi-related to my job, I may do some trivial experimenting at work using company resources, etc... but it's a tricky thing... if I were to develop something "real", then legally speaking my employer would have some claim to that.

I've done a handful of things where I've extended a products functionality, or developed a new tool that we use. In general my manager recognizes my value as a result of this, it's the reason I've survived the group I'm in going from 35 people to 6 people. There were 7 people who used to do my job, now there is 1 (me). My workload is arguably higher, but in reality the transition has been that instead of being devoted to the success of a single design with perfection as the bar, I'm now spread across multiple designs with the bar set somewhere around "good enough" for all of them.

It's also a chicken & egg situation in many cases. Until you extend yourself, tangibly prove your value, you can't expect to be treated as valuable. So there is some amount of time between your achieving far beyond expectation and when the compensation improves.

Re:Why companies don't do this (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39990705)

My employer pays me to do a job. If I consistently do that job in under 8~9 hours--and they know it--then they will likely give me more to do, there is no company that will stand for an employee having multiple hours free during a standard business day. If I'm doing less, then I must be either redundant or superfluous.

I just wanted to expand on this idea a bit further--
I'm able to do my job in a typical day within 2-7 hours. Sure some days are longer, but on average I have several business hours "free". I still show up in the morning, I still stay late, and I make it a point to keep lunch under 60 mins and never leave during the day otherwise.

I had a co-worker who would also handle his typical day in 2-7 hours. He got complacent, he felt like our employer knew this and accepted it. He decided to consistently come into work after 11AM every day, spend at least two hours "in the lab" where he'd be found watching a DVD, and then typically leave about 4:30PM. the best case was our employer getting 5-6 hours from him, an average case was getting 2-4 hours given his other obvious non-work activities during the day.

This went on for a long period of time, nearly 2 years. He got to the point where he would almost flaunt it to other employees outside of our group.

When he got laid off, I would say he was genuinely surprised. In his mind he was "doing his job" and the fact that his employer did not spoon feed him exactly 8 hours of work per day was their problem, not his.

It's like that scene from ST:TNG, Relics... where Geordi tells the captain he'll have something done in 4 hours and Scotty presses him "so how long will it really take?", and is disgusted with Geordi upon finding out that the estimate given was a real one... You've got to pad your estimates, otherwise they'll never think you're a miracle worker ;-)

Knife your co-workers (1)

david999 (941503) | more than 2 years ago | (#39989551)

20% are goof-offs? Kinda high. Small companies cannot afford that, maybe a very large company or gov't can. My company has been laying off many people who know their stuff yet there are some who are slackers who somehow manage to stay on who are friends with hire-ups. They are also skilled at knifing their co-workers in the back. I knew of a person who arrived late nearly everyday, 20mins or more or was absent many times but was friends with the supervisor who had hired them as they once worked together. They keep their job by putting on an act that anything they are asked to do is an imposition and they are doing you a favor etc. They also bad mouth people. This person was transferred out of the dept to another where they managed to get promoted by a newly hired manager. I expect the Peter Principal to take effect with them but in the meantime they will do damage. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_Principle [wikipedia.org]

Back in my day (0, Flamebait)

rsilvergun (571051) | more than 2 years ago | (#39989897)

we called this 'Research', and budgeted for it.

I'd love to be a consultant selling this (3, Funny)

GoodNewsJimDotCom (2244874) | more than 2 years ago | (#39989977)

Oh the many ways I know how to slack. I knew it'd come in handy some day, or I wouldn't have trained it so much.

Re:I'd love to be a consultant selling this (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39990821)

Praise Bob.

Good people do this anyway (2)

spaceyhackerlady (462530) | more than 2 years ago | (#39990255)

Creative people are curious, and anybody who is any good has toys to play with and side projects on the go. A good manager will encourage a bit of goofing off...sorry, personal research. Good people do so anyway, and if it's on company time, the company may be able to make some money out of it.

Not every side project will be a winner, but if you don't try, you will never know. One of mine got a security guard fired. Another became a key test tool. Another looked like a good way for the company to make lots of money until our marketing person screwed it up. :-(

...laura

Pranks (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39991149)

Sometimes the odd computer related pranks can tip off your bosses boss that you are tech savy enough to be given more responsibility. Provided they aren't destructive and annoying to enough people to cause them to complain about you.

No Goofing off Allowed in New York City! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39991265)

In other news in the proper business world of New York City and Wall Street, Mayor Bloomberg of New York City has fired someone for leaving solitaire open on his computer mentioning something about your there to work and not play games.

https://www.nytimes.com/2006/02/10/nyregion/10solitaire.html?_r=1 [nytimes.com]

"Skunkworks" they say, hm? (1)

Gimbal (2474818) | more than 2 years ago | (#39991477)

I'm still confused by the phrase, "Skunkworks," in that context. Clearly, it's not about aerospace engineering. I think that the term has been better applied, elsewhere.

Your reputatin matters. (1)

PerlPunk (548551) | more than 2 years ago | (#39991541)

A lot depends on your reputation. If you are something like a "god among coders", and the standards of what management considers "god" can vary widely, then they tend to lean on you for a lot of things, and then they will be more inclined give you a significantly free hand to try new things. But you really have to be something like magnitudes better than the most all of the others in your area.

One guy said shovel the shit. (1)

Deliveranc3 (629997) | more than 2 years ago | (#39991713)

Another guy took a step back and invented the wheel.

Its the people silly! (2)

node159 (636992) | more than 2 years ago | (#39991935)

The problem I see with this as a manager of a reasonably sized team of what should be highly qualified people is that this only really works with the right people, the kind of self motivated, highly competent people who would work for Google and the like. If you try to apply this to your standard run of the mill software developer (as I can attest from experience), the cost/benefit ratio is very low and you end up with mostly goofing off rather than anything useful. From experience it is much more effective to try and empower the team, allow them to give input into what they think is important and enable them to work on the things that have clear or potential benefit, rather than writing a blank check, which with, if you don't have Google type people, tends to just get squandered.

Love to hear other opinions on this, as I do see the potential benefit, just don't see it happening with your average Joe developer.

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