Wednesday, 7 October 2009

The Personal Toyota Way

I've been reading about the organisational philosophy behind the Toyota Way lately and it's something I agree with as an Engineer. On my dark and wet bike ride home, I started thinking about how individual philosophies and ethics affect a company (and more specifically, a department) and how these personal outlooks can often be correlated with those of the company.

Have a look around in your department and gauge who "contributes" to your internal economy by doing things for the greater good: clearing up their own messes and those of others, figuring out ways to make everyone's lives easier, enhancing productivity, trying out new tools and letting you know which ones are good. See some? Good. (So do I).

Now think about whether there are any "capitalist consumers" who simply seize any advantage offered them by someone else's hard work: rapidly delivering their own work using carefully crafted components, but leaving nothing re-usable in their wake, changing a whole swathe of behaviour, confident that existing unit tests ensure they've broken no-one else's code, but providing no new unit tests to protect their own. Maybe even just grabbing a well indexed book from your reference library and tossing it back in the general direction when they are done or finishing the last of the milk and not going to get some more. Notice any? Oh.

And of course there are those in between: Mr and Mrs average like you and me...

The nature of the people you see around you is likely reflected in the outward philosophy of your company, as a conscientious employer will likely take on people with ethics that fit in and will foster attitudes that match the companies vision. Likewise, a company out to make money and nothing else is likely to value those that have demonstrated their ability to focus on short term gain and may even be reticent to employ someone who appears to come with a large "ethical overhead" such as being say an active BCS or ACCU member, on the C++ standards committee or being evangelically devoted to a "clearly wasteful" practice (in their opinion) such as TDD or unit testing.

In the "closed market" of our company and even our department, we have to carefully maintain the ecosystem such that we don't consume more of the "good stuff" than we create: this equals technical debt (or a mess: thank you Uncle Bob for making this distinction). There's also the non technical "good stuff" such as keeping the place tidy and a pleasure to work in, organising the annual dinner out and sticking a new air freshener in the bog that can so easily taken advantage of and rung dry, making a place a misery to work in. Take care of yourself, and each other (TM).

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