Thursday, July 22, 2010

What type of schedule do you have?

I'm a software engineer and it seems that recently my group at work has been having more meetings. We may be having twice the hours of meetings that we had a year ago. Another colleague commented this week about how all the meetings were making it harder to get work down. I remembered an essay by Paul Graham and shared it with the team. Several agreed with the main points.

I thought some of our readers might also enjoy the essay. In Maker's Schedule, Manager's Schedule Paul Graham writes about the affect a meeting has on people at work. He groups people into two categories: Makers and Managers.

Makers are people like software developers, QA or technical writers. They are people who typically need big blocks of time to do their work. As a software engineer I don't whip out another line of code when I have a spare minute. It takes big blocks of time to make progress.

Managers on the other hand typically go from meeting to meeting. They are more interrupt driven. They react to problems and issue. Most of their tasks can be down in an hour or less.

So if a Maker has a couple meetings during the day, say at 10:00 AM and 3:00 PM it may totally break his rhythym. There can be a huge difference in his productivity. Another meeting for a manager doesn't really change his productivity.

The problem is normally it is managers who are arranging the meetings. They rarely see the down side to putting another meeting in the middle of the afternoon.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

I think it's worse than what you describe; it's not that they don't see the downside to putting a meeting in the middle of the afternoon. Sometimes they seem to be convinced that work is not getting done UNLESS there is a meeting.

christinemm said...

Henry I have been thinking about how I spend my time. As a creative person, a do-er of many things at home, I need and want time.

However I feel pushed to do many social things in groups with the time. I think I blogged my theory at some point...it is...that there are different personality types. Among my friends and relatives some people seem very social and plan all their spare time on people-centered things and get-togethers. They do no projects, are not DIY people, not crafters or artists, or makers of things (at home). An example are the PTA volunteers that add on a zillion extra things like Father-Daughter Valentine's Dance (as if spending a date with the wife is not just enough) and the Ice Cream socials and the Little League year end picnic and Scout year end picnic and Lacrosse year end picnic (after spending tons of time doing the actual thing).

These primarily social people fill in every spare moment with doing stuff with other people. The invite us for last minute get-togethers and enjoy being in groups.

It is hard to do a ton of things with strangers in the community plus acquaintences plus friends plus extended family plus our own immediate family then plus work people (after-hours work parties).

Those of us who are do-ers struggle to do what we want do to for projects plus do all these extra social events.

I am not saying do-ers are anti-social but there is a difference between some who fill all their time with social stuff and do no real projects. It's just work, daily living, then social time.

It seems to me some people are so social and such people-persons that they want to be together so much. These ones often want face to face meetings to discuss this and that while others of us feel email is more efficient and leaves our time free to do the work we dicussed in the email.

Think about this as you think of the people you know and see if you think it's correct.

One problem is when at work they call meetings to discuss all that needs to get done but management doesn't give the workers time to actually do the work.

My theory is the managers are the people-persons and they don't get it about spending time actually doing things, they prefer to talk about doing stuff instead and to just be around others and discuss stuff.

Henry Cate said...

Anonymous - You are correct, many poor and average managers do seem to think that things only happen because they have had a meeting.

Christinemm - I believe great managers do provide value. They set priorities, arrange resources and buffer you from other distractions. My experience has been that there are few great managers.