A hell of a tough bitch, progressing merciless, no second thoughts or considerations, no questions being asked, it just marches on, with or without you! As much as I am indifferent towards one’s allocation of spare time (whatever that’s supposed to mean anyway these days), I do have a few takes on how to get your work done in time.

Being in software development for years, there are tons of cases I could present whereby I am getting away scot free, reflecting discipline, displaying organized conduct and fighting chaos in its core. Instead I picked the one that I failed in miserably, successfully incorporating some of the fundamental f**k-ups only experience will prevent you from.

The Situation

At the time this whole thing went down, I did much business travel, being on the road a good 3 weeks per month. I’d accumulate a lot of miles both on and off airplanes. As our paths intersected frequently, the UBO of the group I was working for asked me to attend some interviews for finding a drop-in replacement to his CFO.

These interviews weren’t quite the center of my expertise but besides challenging the person, I was there to figure out if they knew their tools (mainly Excel and other data crunching software as you could have guessed, and of course we are not talking about auto-recording macros).  

There she was, that highly motivated PhD graduate, with a lot of academic laureate, at nearly no cost. Sounds like a trojan horse? Well, keep reading!

A young, tough and highly qualified person commanding the finances of a mid-scale enterprise, …, what could potentially go wrong? And actually it started off quite well, besides I haven’t heard from her in a while as she was getting acquainted with her new role and I was really busy closing the yet biggest deal of my career, selling a copy of our source code to the probably biggest company in my industry.

The Consequence

Things went sideways when one fine morning her and the UBO came by the office, kicking-off an investigation that would last about 6 months. I was very happy at that time as I regard internal revision as feature and not a bug. It took a nasty twist however when I received a 10-page eMail, asking me to deliver detailed information as to where I traveled, whom I met and what the purpose was.

At face value, that’s not an unusual thing to ask for and I was fine to deliver the papers we had in place. It however turns out that she wanted to have a lot more details in terms of what road I took, what kind of flight got booked and which type of food or hotel I got. To cut the story short, there are 2 things I hate spending money for, which is flights and hotels. I.e. my travel didn’t affect the budget at all. Noops however love picking on these things. Did I invite clients that pay 5-digit bills each month for dinner occasionally? Absolutely. Did we book a suite in the Ritz Carlton? Definitely not!

Again, nothing out of the ordinary here, just a bit of a pain in the a**. My real problem started elsewhere, and I didn’t see it coming. I already had an incomprehensible 60+ hrs/week schedule, the daily DevOps blues as well as this massive deal with that giant company that could afford an army of lawyers to conclude the agreement. And to add insult to injury, now there is that internal affairs investigative mayhem heading towards me at full throttle.

I am now burning precious time at an unprecedented pace by matching receipts of toll stations with a “what if we had bought a quarterly highway subscription” model to see if we could have saved € 8.56 a month.

The mistake here was not on the person inflicting the investigation on me, and to be clear, wasting money, even if little, is despicable. In that sense, all power to the investigators. The mistake was the allocation of time and that I gave precedence to this matter rather than taking care of my business.

Now why would I do that? Because I violated my own rules. She would question my pay (which only every got reviewed upwards), make me look bad whenever possible and challenged my integrity. In other words, it got personal.

Never argue with stupid people, they will drag you down to their level and then beat you with the experience.

Mark Twain

Now I am there in an ugly brawl that I see no issue in winning because I did nothing wrong and in the contrary, I am well prepared for. Except for one thing! Remember that huge deal I am about to close? The in-between time lags in answering the counterparties legal team dragged the negotiations on for months. And then something unforeseen happened. The market that company would have bought our product for went through some regulatory changes, obliterating the need for them buying our product.

S**t, a 7-digit deal down the drain. Ever heard of a Pyrrhic Victory? I won that investigation battle but lost an irreplaceable hundred-fold of what I gained with that software deal not materializing.

The Solution

You can absolutely avoid chaos and wasting time in software development and daily operations by adhering to certain rules. To start off with, someone’s time will get wasted eventually due to the human need of intercommunicating.

Don’t waste your time! Waste that time of others that you can afford, especially the time of the client when assignments are unclear and stuff hasn’t been documented well on their end!

Communication per se is not evil. The methodology of transport (being language) however, is flawed. Individuals possess alternating levels of skill in applying language and comprehension of complex topics towards expressing their needs. The level of skill is greatly limiting their ability to transport the message accurately. This is true for me and anyone else around.

Wasting the guy’s time that doesn’t cost you much and yet could potentially make it happen, does 2 things for you.

  1. As you let them struggle their way through sharpening their language, they progress and become a very valuable asset, decreasing the time lost with each iteration.
  2. You have more time to focus on 7-digit deals rather that finding the right color theme for your client’s website.
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