Lesson 10: Winner take all

No, this one doesn’t talk about anyone winning at anything.

The winner was simply the first person to get to the office. We had a bout 20-something computers.

The concept was ‘first come-first serve’. If you got to the office at, say 7:55 you had 20 computers to choose from. You could sit anywhere you wanted. The later you arrived, the fewer computers that were available. No one had a place assigned, except, of course the big shots like Larry, Mathew and Sam. They had their own private office.

For some reason they didn’t want to assign a space to their employees. Why? Because that way all of the computers are “for everybody”. Nobody “owns” a computer, so to speak. So everyday, we arrived and we didn’t really KNOW where we would work that day. So if I had worked on a couple of files the day before, I would have to save them to a flash drive, a portable hard drive or upload it somewhere because I wasn’t sure that I would be able to use the same computer the next day.

You can imagine the implications of this. Computers often got viruses and had performance issues. Files often got lost or corrupted. If someone saved their work in one computer and the next day someone else was sitting there, they had to “borrow” the computer for a while so that the files could be retreived and work could continue. Just writing this now, gives me a hint of a headache.

But that was the way these guys had designed the working-system. If it can be called as such.

There was this guy, Larry’s cousin, who I will call David. David was in charge of tech support. He was the ‘computer guy’. And he had A LOT of work to do when we worked like this. He used to format computers almost on a daily basis (I wonder why). And when he asked what was done in the computer or when he tried to figure out what was wrong with it, he had a hard time. Because he couldn’t find out exactly who had used it or who had done what with it.
This continued for like, the first year or so. Everybody had problems with the computers. They often had viruses, which was the most common problem. Then when new teachers were hired, we began to run out of computers. So there were times when people arrived and found out that there were no machines available.

Better luck tomorrow, buddy. This one is mine for today.

So Larry lent them his own laptop. How do you hire someone and not take into account that you don’t have enough work stations?
They bought like two laptops to lend when this issue arised. It seemed easier than assigning specific work stations to teachers. At least, it seemed like that.
And people complained and got ignored and we kept working like this for quite sometime.

This time, it feels obvious enough to say that your company should look for practical solutions and simple ways of organizing. But, after this little incident, I can’t stress this enough.
The lesson this time is this: think simple.
In this case, it would have been A LOT easier to just assign a workstation to each teacher.  John, your machine is number 1, Frank-yours is number 2, Helen-you’ll take number 3 and so on.

This way, everyone had their files on their own machine. No files would be lost. Or at least the possibility of them getting lost would have been scarce. If everyone wasn’t putting their flash drives on every computer, viruses would be avoided.
Well, they came to this predicament about a year after starting the business. And we have worked like this ever since. Why didn’t they do this before? I don’t know. Apparently, things get done when Larry says, not when it is needed.

So think practical, easy, simple. If it seems too complicated, it probably is. And employees will have headaches trying to work like that. Problems will eventually present themselves and you will have to deal with them. This will cost you time and money.
Some problems can be foreseen or prevented. But others show up much later. We really can’t do much with unexpected conditions, except work them out as they arrive. But we CAN prevent easily identifiable problems using common sense.
Wheter it’s organizing a recording session, assigning a work station or figuring out what the next step in your venture should be,  apply the KISS principle: Keep it simple, stupid.

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Next: Army ants.