Taking Away Hostility By Making Tasks Fun
2 July, 2018
I was working as a Principal Engineer for a US company that was trying to set up a development center in Bangalore. My company acquired a Dutch company, which outsourced part of its work to people in Hungary, whose developers were actually working in Belarus. The product they were working on was an enterprise search product and it had been developed over thirteen years. I, along with another engineer, was told that we needed to travel to Belarus to gather knowledge and bring it back to India. Our VP of Engineering wanted to start scaling and to be able to start hiring people while I was in Belarus. Because of this, I had to be careful in managing his expectations.
Unfortunately, the Belarusian engineers would sit on top of the code and refuse to provide any real information or insights in regards to how the code worked. For thirteen days, we were forced to ask endless questions to get any insights from them. I also started recording our conversations on video so that I could provide information back to the Indian office. People began to become impatient, as they wanted to move on and our VP of engineering wanted to start hiring. I explained that we understood some models but that some of the code models were still unclear. We hired an engineer for the Indian office, and this helped because we found that we understood the product's model logically. However, there were a lot of cycling interdependencies in the modules and at the same time, we had to develop scaling plans back in India. This wasn't a job where one person could act as the hero. To gather all the data and bring knowledge back to India, we needed to work as a collective. We decided to forget about the code and the business blocks and instead broke down the model to break down the cycles in the code. Within four days, the entire code had been broken down into 52 sub-projects. This was a huge number, but the code required it because it had been written over 13 years and was relatively complex. People enjoyed this exercise because it was fun and finite, and they gained more energy and more confidence from it.
You don't necessarily need to choose tasks that make you the only hero. Find the tasks that everyone can do together and have fun with. By doing this, we were able to reduce people's feelings of hostility, anxiety, irritability, and restlessness were able to be completely turned around. In addition, instead of focussing on all of the flaws of the framework, people were instead inspired to just focus on identifying sub-projects in the code.
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