What To Do If You Are Hired To Do Work, Knowing That The Plan Is Not Going To Work

I remembered one incident from 15 years ago. I don’t know why this came to my mind (maybe due the fact that I’ve been working on non-games stuff to pile some additional funds for this project). I was hired to do a visual presentation about a fire that spread quite far in my childhood town.

My uncle hired me and told me what to do.

When I saw the plan (me: age 15ish, uncle age: 3 times my age) I suggested that “yeh, the animated fire over the map looks pretty nice, but wouldn’t it make sense to put a *fast forward* button there so that in the presentation you don’t have to wait for the 3 minute animation to finish”.

My uncle immediately said: “No need for that, this is very good”

To which I replied: “…”

Okay, I was like “the lil boy working with stuff that I was hired to do” and my uncle was the “boss who said how things should be done”. And… he was my uncle. And authority. You don’t tell “but this will be shitty” to authority, right? At least in that situation I just let it be.

Then it was the presentation day. My uncle was saying things. Then some fireman started explaining how the fire spread (and told me to start the animation). The animation begun and everybody was looking the screen really amazed. For 16 seconds. Until then, the fireman needed to pause. And then my uncle said out loud to me (so that everybody could hear it): “hey, please fast forward it a bit”. To which I said pretty silent “It can’t be done, you said…” and then my uncle interrupted me and continued with even louder voice (so that everybody in the room could hear) “looks like boys have not done a fast forward for this, so let’s all wait for a moment for the animation to play”.

I think he did not do that on purpose. I think he genuenily thought that he had done nothing wrong and that it’s a “small problem in the boy’s animation, but I’ll protect him” type of thing. At least that’s my impression.

And it’s not like that I have grudges and plan some evil plot against my uncle (with the exception of publicly attempt to prove him totally wrong him via this blog post – he hardly speaks English I presume – and showing that I was right!). Okay, jokes aside. I didn’t feel bad or anything about that situation. The presentation was fine and everybody liked it, but for some reason this incident was buried into my memory.

I knew I was right. I explained the potential problem in the very beginning, before the presentation. I suggested the solution (which wouldn’t been a big deal to be honest). But the end result was “no, let’s not do that” and afterwards “why didn’t you do that?” (in a very small scale).

I wonder how common this is in people’s lives? Do you encounter situations where you know how things should be done, but your boss is stopping you from doing it – and then blaming you afterward for not doing the thing (which the boss had told you not to do)? How often?

I wonder if I have been like this in my past. I don’t recall any incident where I’d behave like this, but maybe I have. I don’t know. My own brain is telling me how good I’m at anything, so I cannot trust that part of me. It’ll just fool me.

Do you behave a boss like this? Have you done this in your past?

Any advice on how to handle situations like this?

“And So On”

Guess what’s the worst way to assign a task? I have experience on this, so I’ll share this with you.

The discussion goes something along this way:
Juuso: “The 3d character model needs to be bulky. Bit like Hulk would be.”
Artist: “Oh, like that big”
Juuso: “Well, not that huge guy, but you know… muscular shoulders. Head low.”
Artist: “…”
Juuso: “You know. Like a pro Wrestler type of character. But like Hulk. And needs to look cool. But not too cool. And he also needs to wear a dagger and rusty armor and so on…
Artist: “I’ll do what you want master! I’ll get right into it”

Well, I’m not that bad at giving tasks actually (I’m pretty good at explaining things I believe), but same way, I never hear artist saying that last line either…

Anyway.

Ending a task assignment into a “and so on” is like expecting the other person to be a mind reader – I know that won’t work.

What Dynamite Sales And Crunch Time Have To Do With Each Other?

I’ve been doing bit of a “crunch time” here this week. Not a real, real (sicko) crunch time you can see companies doing. But like… worked bit more hours. To me, that’s as close to crunch time as it gets.

Anyway. When doing things, and working totally on something, I’ve benefited from couple of things:

So, after eliminating distractions, there needs to be sensible amount of work to do. No point adding more work that one can handle.

When you have a fixed deadline (such as November 1st) and fixed resources (that would be me), then naturally the 3rd element needs to be flexible: quality. If this is the way you can do your crunch time, and can accept the fact that you might not get everything done (I’ve accepted this principle 4 years ago and makes crunch time stress free).

The problems appear when you try to have 3 fixed variables. Here’s a handy formula to know what happens when you try too much:

Fixed Resources + Fixed Deadline + Fixed Quality = Brain explosion and starting a new career in the field of fishing. With dynamites.

So basically, if you are a producer trying to fix deadline & quality and expect the resources to be more than they can be, you are basically digging a hole for yourself (and helping the fisherman union. And dynamite sales).

So… I just chill out and get done what I get done. That doesn’t mean that I wouldn’t work as hard as I can. It simply means that I work as hard as I can. Not harder.

And then I leave the dynamite fishing to other people.

Now back to work.

Management By Perkele

You might be wondering what this word “perkele” means.

It’s a Finnish word. And “management by perkele” refers to certain type of leadership/managing. Let me tell a brief story that I heard from a friend of mine. After reading this, I’m sure you know what this type of leadership is all about. Friend of mine – let’s call him Tony – had a boss who was using “management by perkele” with… well, quite obvious results. You might have seen similar bosses (or even have one right now).

To make a long story shorter, I’ll take some shortcuts and try to describe things briefly.

Shortly put:

  • Tony (friend of mine) asked assistance from his co-worker Mark, who said “sure, I can help you”. Tony emailed Mark that “but you cannot code the module, since my boss said it wouldn’t be allowed… which in my opinion is quite strange, since you have been coding similar modules for other people. I’ll have to get confirmation for all this from my boss, and will let you know if you are allowed to help me.
  • Mark emailed company lead (the big boss, that’s upper in the hierarchy than Tony’s boss) about this.
  • The next morning Tony was doing a part of the application. Suddenly, his boss walked into his room shouting “Now you’ve crossed the line!! GODDAMIT, how can you decide to take Mark into helping you when I’ve specifically said that you must consult me first!!!
  • Shouting continued and Tony managed to say that “It was just a preliminary inquiry and I told Mark I would ask you. Nothing was decided” and “Is this about the fact that Mark forwarded the email to company lead – I didn’t know he would do that.” (which the boss of course denied) and also that “do you think it’s professional to come here and shout at me?”… and nothing helped. Tony’s boss was in rage (and in reality all this rage was because the email reached the Big Boss, it had nothing to do with Mark assistance).

The end results were quite obvious:

  • Tony was very near countering with the cartman technique.
  • Then of course the immediate result for Tony experienced a total drop in motivation: how the heck is he supposed to continue working the rest of the day.
  • And this of course affects all of the following work: how Tony is supposed to be effective at his work if there’s a (poohole) boss shouting at him?

The point is… if the boss has issues (like he is about to get a burn-out or is a total jerk)… then it like doesn’t help anything to go shout to people who are lower in the hierarchy. M’kay?

(Anyone have a boss who uses “management by perkele”?)

How To Make Decisions

When you need to make a decision, and “don’t know which way to go”, then a really good idea is to talk with somebody whose opinion you trust, and somebody who knows what you are talking about.

Yesterday I had this decision to make about certain aspect of my game. I had planned 2 ways to go, and discussed this with friend of mine (3d artist). I explained him what I could do, and that I probably do this and then practically had made the decision without any help actually needed from him. All he did was to listen and made some comments (also gave one good tip), that helped me to decide.

In a way, it might have looked like he didn’t contribute more than 1% to the decision making, but I guess I was 99% done and needed that last 1% from somewhere.

I’m sure this has happened to you too – several times – but I thought to remind. It’s good to talk to people.

Sometimes people have come to me asking “can I help with something” to which I have said “yes” and the rest of the conversation has been “he saying, me nodding” and then (before I’ve had chance to say anything) the guy says he has made up his mind and thanks me for his time.

Military Training (And What We Can Learn From It)

I was in the army about 10 years ago. Some managers I’ve seen seem to think army style is “outdated” or “too hierarchical” or too “command oriented”, and partially there might be something like that in the army but there’s some things that are done really well in the army.

Here’s some of the things I was really impressed about:

  • Responsibility: there was always somebody who “called the shots”. Maybe in workplaces we don’t need to have privates and sergeants and badges, but it’s a good thing if somebody in the team actually has the responsibility to “keep the order” (so to speak) and maybe even have final word on things. I think this type of order and structure was helpful in the army: everybody knew who was responsible and no time was wasted arguing over something useless.
  • Order: occasionally, some people came late to a lecture and the captain was standing there (actually, this might be a military secret of the Finnish army and I think I was said that I cannot share anything that happens in the army, but let’s hope nobody finds out about this blog post, okay?). Anyway, the captain was there waiting patiently (with a strict look in his face) for the latecomers to arrive. After that, the lecture was 10 minutes late and he gave a 2 minute speech about how this cannot happen again or we’ll start training this arrival on time (meaning: from now on, people would come like 1 hour before the actual event if things don’t change). After that, he went on with the lecture.

    I thought this was amazing. Previously, I had seen people coming late to their workplaces (or school) and (1) coming up with all sorts of excuses, (2) driving recklessly when they were late, (3) trying to do too many things (like eat breakfast, make the bed, brush teeth, and shave – while driving) in order to “not to be too late”. Then some boss/teacher either (1) did nothing, (2) tried to mumble something or (3) was one of the latecomer. This captain was just standing there and waiting for people to find their seats in order. No fuss, no stupidities. Strict order. Then he said what would happen if things won’t change (and he sure would have ordered that). I liked that approach.

  • Delegating: when you get an assignment in the army, your superior will tell you what you need to do and then you repeat the task to confirm you’ve got it. That’s a pretty simple thing: (1) first somebody gives you a task, and (2) then you confirm that you got the message. Simple.

    I wonder why there’s probably tons of producers (including the guy who is writing this blog post) who don’t handle this properly always when needed. Some producers actually don’t do either step (telling what to do nor asking people if they know what they need to do), yet they keep wondering why project isn’t going well.

I’m not necessarily a big army fan (pretty neutral attitude towards the army maybe), but I think they’ve done some things pretty well. So well that it’s worth learning from.

I Wonder Why They Try To Motivate People With These…

Some companies seem to try to reward workers by buying some crap to them. I read some article somewhere about saying how employees could play table tennis at the workplace. It was mentioned how motivated the workers will be when they have these sort of fun toys to play around.

I kind of disagree.

To me this sounds like “working feels horrible, so lets ease the pain with something else”. I think the focus should not be on purchasing tennis tables (or whatever stuff). Focus should be making working fun. If you feel great to be able to work and have really interesting tasks, you really don’t need external toys or rewards (they can be nice addition, but not really necessary). The work in itself is so rewarding that you’d hate to stop working. (Money is needed for practical purposes, but if the work is really rewarding, having a big salary isn’t all that important).

The main goal could be to create such environment where people feel privileged to work. Whenever somebody is thinking: “I even get paid to do this which is odd since this really doesn’t feel even work to me!” he is on the right path.

In my pretty humble opinion, I think teams should focus on making the work feel a reward in itself. Buying stuff to reward somebody should come after that.

How To Trick Others To Work More

When I was something like 10-15 years old I spent time picking strawberries. There was some strawberry fields that needed workers and I spent some (darn hard) time picking those berries in some summers. The owner of the fields was one sneaky guy. Here’s how he tricked us to work more (and resent him).

Guarantee huge salary + bonuses right in the beginning…
This guy was saying that we would get we would get X*1.5 bucks per kilogram (in the last summer we actually got only X bucks per kilo, so it sounded like a really good deal – we would get like 50% more than last year). He said that the market is good and encouraged us to work hard (for short time as you’ll see soon).

…and then say that something went wrong, and that bonuses won’t be there…
Few days later the guy came and said: “Please listen to… it looks like I remembered the sum wrong. The actual salary is X per kilo. Hopefully you can understand old man for messing up the figures”. After working hard for several days (getting to the field like 5:00 am) that wasn’t such a pleasant news for us – but what you gonna do. Everybody was grunting but accepted this. After all, it was just spoken words…

…repeat the same trick the next year…
I didn’t encounter this same, but one of the co-workers said that “Well, that wasn’t a surprise – I knew this. He did the same last year, so I’ve used to this. Still, I need the money so I’m here”. Can you believe this? The guy did the same thing the very next year (and I bet he has done it over and over).

…and you can bet your white socks that people will resent you, and somebody will probably sue you at some point
I’m not sure how well the strawberry field is doing today (or how much the workers really wanna be there) but something tells me that this wasn’t such a good long-term strategy (nor not much of a short-term either) to get motivated workers. And I guess it only works with kids who don’t understand to get the stuff written on paper…

Have You Ever Been Assigned to Do Useless Tasks? (Here’s How You Can Fight Back)

When team leads come to say that they need something. Then later they complain why the artist gave them something else (something that wasn’t what the lead want). Then they go and tell what needs to be changed and the artist asks “Why didn’t you say that in the first place?”, to which the team lead says “geesh, you didn’t ask!” and goes away. Then the grumpy artist thinks that “well, I would have asked if you bloody moron could have told me that there will be other changes as well…”

Hopefully that above situation isn’t too familiar to you.

Dogbert’s management book says to the managers that “If the worker cannot understand what you say then the fault must of course be in the receiving end”. That probably won’t help anything, but there is actually one thing the “worker” can do:

Keep asking ‘why?’
When somebody gives you a task it doesn’t hurt if you sometimes start asking a sequence of “why” questions. It can actually help the team lead (or client or whoever is giving the assignment) to figure out what they really want. They might be fixed on certain way of thinking, that they’ve forgotten why they really want the stuff they are asking.

Producer could say that he wants the 3D artist to make sure model has finger bones. By asking “why” (and not assuming that “it’s because he wants animated fingers”), he might tell you that “later when we assign objects like rings to the character, we can use the finger bone to locate the proper place”. Here artist could say that “we don’t need bones to locate the ring, we can use other technique” or he could say that “why don’t we simply paint a ring texture in proper location, that would work”, to which producer would say “oh… true… nevermind then”.

The key is to ask why they want something.

The answers can sometimes be very surprising.

Some Ways to Get Dog to Sit (Lessons In Game Producer Team Leadership)

If you are a game producer leading a team, then I believe some of these things might be useful in your situation.

There’s several different ways to get dog to sit. Here’s some of them.

The not so easy way (or at least very lasting way)
By the use of force (The Star Wars method), doing physical corrections and yelling “SIT!” (not to forget harsh words), it’s possible to get dog to sit. It will be stressful (for you, the dog and everybody who sees the situation). The dog might sit in weird position, and do it badly. And… as soon as you step away and don’t watch the dog, he stops sitting. In fact, he will be running crazy and barking to other dogs after you leave.

Might even grin to you behind your back.

The easier way
The easier way to get dog to sit is to show him what he needs to do, and helping him to do what he is naturally capable of doing. It’s natural for dogs to sit, so by giving him a treat when he does a good job is an easy way to get the dog to sit.

Sometimes it might happen, that the dog is not interested to sit. It might be that the surrounding is not helping doing the task of sitting. It might be that his leg just broke and he needs a break. Or, it might be that he has just been running around like crazy and simply can’t bothered today. In those days, you gotta be patient and accept the fact that everybody can have bad days in life.

Or, maybe he is such an old dog that he just smiles when he sees a youngster like you trying to train him to sit. Old dogs might do things in their ways. It’s not easy to get them to sit if you try to make them to follow you. You gotta let them follow you… in their pace.

The easiest way
Dogs have natural tendency to sit. Sometimes they sit even without you needing to say anything. This is the easiest method to get dogs to sit: they do it voluntarily by themselves (even when you aren’t watching their back).

With all the dogs, this level might not always be possible to reach. It’s something that happens when you’ve got the right dog.

The famous bottom line
Asking status reports about the dog’s performance in sitting, isn’t necessarily going to help much to get the dog to sit. Trying to force dogs to sit works… to some extent, but pretty much requires you to be there all the time (as long as your health can bear the increased stress level) and isn’t fun. Plus, it might scare the dog so that in some day he’ll bite you or escapes from you. And then you might need hire, uh, get a new dog.

It’s easier if you get dogs to sit on their own will, and if you can find the treats and methods that are most rewarding to them. It requires perhaps bit more work in the beginning, but is most rewarding in the end.

That way they stay healthy and look forward to sit. That way you stay healthy and feel good when see the dogs working.

I mean, sitting.