Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Big Picture

Robert Fulghum is the author of the bestselling book All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten, which is one of my favorite books. The followup book, It Was On Fire When I Lay Down On It, was also very good. In that book, he told the following story:

A traveler went to Chartres in France to see the great church that was being built there. He arrived at the site just as the workmen were leaving for home. He asked a man, covered with dust, what he did there. The man replied that he was a stonemason. Another man, when asked, said he was a glassblower, who made slabs of colored glass. Another said he was a blacksmith who pounded iron.

Wandering inside the unfinished edifice, the traveler came upon an older woman, armed with a broom, sweeping up the stone chips, wood shavings and glass shards from the day's work. "What are you doing?" he asked. The woman leaned on her broom, looked toward the high arches and replied, "Me? I'm building a cathedral for the glory of God."

Now there was a woman who knew how to look at the big picture.

Some recent events at my job reminded me of this story. I work for a computer company testing software. My job is to make sure the product does what it's supposed to do and that the quality is good enough for our customers.

With the current economy people are worried about their jobs and hope they rank high in their department. Managers are always trying to measure employees, and for QA people one of the common measurements is the number of defects found during testing. It's not a foolproof measurement, but it's a tangible one that gets used a lot.

A coworker mentioned to me that his manager was disappointed that another group found a defect in his product instead of him. Of course, there's many valid reasons for this: 1) that set of testing wasn't his responsibility, 2) that defect wasn't there when he tested it and was just recently introduced, or 3) the other group had the resources to test it and his group didn't. His concern was that his ranking would be lower because he wasn't the one that found the defect.

To me, it's a shame that he has to worry about that. I'm not saying it's not a valid concern because I'm sure his manager will use this in his ranking. However, we should be happy that the defect was even found before the product was shipped, no matter who found it. Our job is to ship a product that has value for the customer and works well.

That's the big picture.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Free Breakfast Tacos

I like coming into work early because traffic is minimal and there's fewer interruptions from coworkers. Most of the time I'll just pick up some breakfast on the way, but today was Free Breakfast Taco day at work. The company provides breakfast tacos the third Thursday of every month.

So I drove straight to work. I thought I could get in 1-2 hours of work before the tacos arrived at 8:30.

It was at 7:30 when I realized today was Wednesday. Tacos won't be here until tomorrow.

Anyone want to go to McDonalds?

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Don Young: Cheerleading Competition Judge

When switching through the channels, you've probably seen a cheerleading competition or two. You may have wondered what kind of experience the judges have. Perhaps they used to be cheerleaders in their younger days, or maybe even a coach.

Or perhaps they were undercover.

Many, many years ago a friend of mine coached a cheerleading team. In their bracket was a team that consistently won the various competitions. And in those competitions they usually had the same set of judges, more or less. And one of those judges used to coach the team that consistently won. In that case, the judge is supposed to let the alternate judge take care of that bracket, but this judge wasn't doing that. So my friend wanted to make sure that everything was being judged fairly, and she needed an undercover judge to investigate.

And that judge was me.

I was never a cheerleader in high school or college, and I had no idea how to judge them. My friend brought over tapes of prior competitions and I took a crash course in what to look for. And we also decided on what my cheerleading experience would be when I was introduced at the competition. I also decided that the reason I no longer cheered was because of a knee injury, just in case anyone asked.

At the competition I was the alternate judge, which meant I tallied the other judges' scores and took them to the person running the competition. For that one bracket, the judge in question had been asked to let the alternate take his place, so I did. And truth be told, the team that kept consistently winning was doing so because they were actually better than all the other teams. We proved that the judge wasn't playing favorites.

As for me, my friend and the person running the competition thought I did such a good job that I was a judge at the competition the following year, too. After that, I retired.