Originally published on 30 May 2006.
Recently I stumbled across an article on how not to lead geeks, i.e. technical people. I found it insightful. Most people don’t have a clue how IT folks work, and it cuts down on productivity. I am a computer consultant, so I go in as a hired gun to help people out. Mostly what I do is considered “supplemental staffing”; that is, I come in and provide a pair of trained hands to help out on projects that are already in progress.
There was one point that I find mostly in my clients, which is:
9: Don’t give them tools
A fast computer may cost more money than an older one and it may not be corporate standard, but geeks use computers differently. A slow computer lowers productivity and is a daily annoyance. So is outdated software. Give them the tools they need.
It never ceases to amaze me how many people assume they can hire a consultant, give them a below standard machine, and expect them to work fast. One client I had had me working on cardboard boxes for almost a month, after I spent an entire week without a PC to work on. Another client gave me a machine that didn’t even have a CD drive with which to load the programming tools. Another client refused me access to the code I was sent in to change. Another client gave me a computer that their technical guys said was so outdated they didn’t consider worth it to put in the asset management system.
My own company doesn’t standardly issue us computers – they expect the client to provide the tools. And when they do issue us laptops, the machines are stripped of their factory settings, and an outdated operating system put on instead. So when the programmers get a company issued laptop, the first task is to strip the hard drive and install our development operating system, plus our standard tools.
This all comes down to a lesson in getting things done. The right tools for the job make the job go fastest. Yes, you can pound a nail into a wall using a shoe, but that doesn’t make it the best tool for the job. Specialized jobs require specialized tools.