Git ‘r Done (part 2)

Someone recently forwarded the following article to me: “Get Shit Done: The Worst Startup Culture Ever”.  Before reading it I was a bit ready to disagree. (see my previous post on getting stuff done.)

But after reading this article, I have to agree with the premise of the article; and point out I think there’s two different ways of looking at what “Get Stuff Done” can mean.

At my current assignment, a coworker and I were joking about how some people had some many letters after their name like PMP or CAPM, PMI-SP and the like.

So we joked we needed some letters and we settled on GSD – Get stuff done.  At times on this particular project we seemed to be the only ones accomplishing much or caring about accomplishing much. We had one person who was more concerned with the agenda of the meeting every day (yes, daily meetings to see why the project wasn’t getting done.  With 5-6 people in that room, that’s 25 or more person-hours per week of discussing why things weren’t getting done.)

So in that context, “decide what your goal is, and actually GETTING IT DONE” I think “Get ‘r Done” is an important concept.

On the other hand, I have seen (and fallen prey to myself, both as a manager and as a employee) of the “Get ‘r Done” attitude in the above article.

The project above I was working on never got done.  It wasn’t for lack of effort on the part of myself and several others that it didn’t get done.. It was though for the lack of effort on the part of management that it never got done.  At one point they asked me what could be done to make sure the project could be completed on time. I gave them several examples of areas where they could put some pressure on another group to streamline some procedures.

I was basically told that wasn’t going to happen, and that I had to work harder and “get ‘r done”.  At this phase of the project, I needed 4-5 items from another group and the other group had a policy that each item needed a separate ticket.  Each ticket had to be done sequentially and could only be submitted when the previous ticket was closed out.  Oh, and their policy was 2 weeks per ticket.  Period.

So, by my math, that’s 8-10 weeks. That assumes every ticket goes smoothly, which had not been our experience with this other group.

The project due date was in 6 weeks.

So, I was being told to get things done, in an impossible fashion.  Talk about demotivating.

In general, I’ve been my best as a manager, when I’ve been given the tools to let my team get the job done. It may be buying them dinner one night as morale boost. It may be making sure no extra work gets thrust upon them, or keeping certain other managers from trying to add to their work queue. In one case, it was buying a new NAS so we had enough storage space that we weren’t getting paged every night about diskspace issues. When properly motivated, people can move mountains and better yet, can often do it in a normal work week.

So, if you want to get it done, make sure your team has the tools to do their job, aren’t being distracted, and aren’t being given reasons to have low morale.  They’ll move mountains for you. But ask them to work harder without any of the above, and sooner or later you’ll find yourself without a team, and your boss simply asking you to work harder!

By the way, on that NAS, I think that $5K investment probably helped keep a key employee of mine from jumping ship for greener pastures.  That NAS was probably a better investment than if we had tried to offer him another $5K to keep him happy despite the lack of sleep from all the pages and other issues.

Moral: You want them to “get ‘r done”, give them the tools they need, remove barriers and keep morale up.  They’ll get it done.


As a middle manager in several start-ups I’ve had to deal with being short of resources of all kinds.  But, at the height of the first dot-com bubble, I had a great team.  No, not all of them were equals, but each pulled their weight and each could be relied on to perform well, in their area of expertise.

One guy, was a great troubleshooter.  He’d leave no stone unturned and you could tell if a problem was bothering him since he’d fixate on it until he understood it AND had solved the root cause.  It wasn’t good enough for him to fix the current problem. He wanted to make sure it couldn’t happen again.  However, what he wasn’t good at, was the rote, boring procedures. “Install this package in exactly this way, following these steps.” He’d tend to go off script and sometimes that caused problems.

On the other hand, I had another guy who was about 2 decades older and not from an IT background.  Troubleshooting wasn’t his forte and he honestly didn’t have the skill set to do a great job at it.

However, he excelled at the mundane, routine, rote tasks. Now this may sound like a slight, but far from it. The truth is in most cases in IT, you’re dealing with the routine, rote tasks. In an ideal world, you might ever have emergencies.

Now, this wasn’t to say he couldn’t solve most problems as they came up.  Simply if it was overly complex or rather obscure, it wasn’t his forte.

I learned when I wanted to get stuff done, that assigning the routine stuff to him worked far better than assigning it to the first guy.  And just the reverse.  If I had some weird problem I needed debugged that wasn’t easy to solve, the first guy was the guy to through at the problem.

Each excelled in their own way and the team did best when I remembered how to best utilize their talents.

Impossible Things

“I daresay you haven’t had much practice,” said the Queen. “When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.

I wanted to relate a story that happened to a colleague of mine.  She maintains servers in two separate datacenters. All the servers are on the same domain.  So, in theory updating the password in one datacenter does so in both datacenters.  And this is the way it has been for the past year. Things worked as expected.

Recently she noticed however that after updating her password, the one datacenter was still using the old password and the second datacenter was using the new one.

In a proper domain this shouldn’t be possible, but apparently it was.  She spent some time confirming it before calling the IT department.

When she explained the problem to IT, their response was, “That’s not possible.  We synch the servers every hour and run an exception report every night that would show that.”

IT managed to fix the problem (after finally acknowledging it.)

However, the troubling problem though to me is not that the passwords got out synch. Sometimes the impossible does happen. What’s more troubling is that the sync apparently never fixed the problem and the exception report never showed an issue in over the month the problem existed.

The moral here?

It’s not that the impossible sometimes happens (though that would be good for a future blog post).  It’s when your alerts and warnings fail, perhaps it’s time you look at your alerts and warnings since they’re obviously not doing you much good.