Operation Bootstrap

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Enlist Passionate Individuals Rather Than Assigning Roles

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I’m working at a new company. I opted to work for this company, to a large degree, because they seemed different than others I’ve worked for. I have always wanted to work in a collaborative environment where communication is valued (not just because it’s uncommon) and where individuals have the ability to steer projects. My Company practices this to the extreme.

One example of this I’ve seen a few times is what I’ll call the “call for passionate volunteers”. Lets say you need to solve a problem: “We need to improve visibility into client side response time”. You could decide how important this is to the company, decide how much horsepower you need to get it done, then assign individuals to the task. That’s one way. The other way is to send an email like this to the whole technical organization (in my company, this goes to Engineering & Ops):

We are assembling a small team to improve visibility into client side response time. We want to be able to trend & report on this for a variety of metrics and expect this to lead directly to improvements in our overall system performance. We are looking for individuals who are are interested in helping with this effort. We expect this to consume about 1-2 hours per week for about 6 weeks. If you are passionate about this and would like to help, please let me know.

This is simple, and it does a few things:

  • Gives anyone in the organization a chance to be involved the effort. No matter whether they can write code, or just contribute ideas, they can put effort into areas they are passionate about.

  • Creates a team of individuals who are genuinely interested in setting aside time for this.

  • Allows folks who are either not interested, or who are just too busy, to exclude themselves and not weigh down the team.

I think it’s brilliant – yet this is the first time I’ve ever seen it in my 14 year career.

I know a lot of folks may be looking at this and saying “In my company, nobody would volunteer”. You have other problems – read “Good to Great”. You do have to start somewhere and this probably isn’t going to work with an overworked team who isn’t passionate about what they do.