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How do you reward dev team for software release?

Every 6 months or so we release a somewhat major version of our software.  As a team we try to do something to celebrate the release, such as have cake and ice cream, or go to a movie.  My question is what do you do (if anything)?  We are looking for some more ideas.

Kevin
Thursday, October 17, 2002

Great question.  Y'know, here is one problem with software development:  it lingers forever.  You need milestone events like these to wrap up the project and give people the sense of accomplishment - even though, come monday morning, they are likely to be staring at the same code base which has been a struggle for so long.

If you were designing an ASIC, and the cut worked, you'd move onto the next big thing - often a very different thing.  Not so true with software, the day after it "ships" you're still working on the same old thing - especially in small companies where there are just a few horses to ride.

The best thing we did with a major release was send everyone involved to the trade show for which it was targeted (SuperComm, this last June in Atlanta).  It was a great team builder.  You get to show your stuff off in front of the customers and competitors.  Spend the evenings out with your team.  Obviously expensive, so reserve it for major events.

Engineers need to be sent to things like this when the time is right.  They did the work, they should get some glory and fun from it.  Often, a company will send the manager and a marketing guy, leaving the team at home to code.

Nat Ersoz
Thursday, October 17, 2002

I agree with.  Give a reward that actually seems like a reward to the folks who earned it.

But in my case, the awards I appreciated most were those that I could enjoy with my family.  Frankly, by the end of a project I'm pretty tired of the team.  Indeed it's my "home" team needs the re-building.

Nat's other great point is that most software projects never seem end so you need to find a way to get folks off the treadmill from time to time.

tk
Thursday, October 17, 2002

send their manager to Las Vega and dump more work to the dev team. That's what I would do.

anger within me
Thursday, October 17, 2002

How about giving the team a nice sum of money and a day to go out and buy something for the office... A corfortable couch, a floor lamp, decorative items, a fussball game, a 120Gb drive for the mp3 jukebox...

Big B
Thursday, October 17, 2002

Anger,

>send their manager to Las Vega and dump more work to
>the dev team. That's what I would do.

Hahah...

This pretty much happened to me, my then mgr. declined me a vaccation, and the following week he left to go to the US for a week.

Great managers think alike eh? ;-)

Patrik
Thursday, October 17, 2002

I'd contract with a hooker with VD to pay him a complimentary house call...

d00d
Thursday, October 17, 2002

Fussball?

That's so 90s. So dot-com.

Lauren B.
Thursday, October 17, 2002


"That's so 90s. So dot-com. "

So true. Ah, the nostalgia.

Some little bribes are needed. Things like the stuff found over ThinkGeek.com, nice lamps, bigger monitors, PDAs.

I used to work for a dot com, and when we reached some deadline in advances (a couple of times) we used to do something different. Carting, paint ball, food, and stuff like that.

Leonardo Herrera
Thursday, October 17, 2002


  Well, I'm still waiting for the company's barbecue, that was supposed to celebrate a big sell, after months working hard to make it possible.

  It's been more than 6 months now...

Ricardo Antunes da Costa
Thursday, October 17, 2002

give them pink slips today and next day tell them you were just kidding. Not being laid off could be the most rewarding thing for them.

Try that.

Or as i said before, send their managers to las vegas and force them to work 12 hours a day and tell them they should be very grateful that they haven' t been laid off cause the project is finished. Be as nasty as you can.

anger within me
Thursday, October 17, 2002

Anger,

Try 18 while you are at it. Or 15 if you have a good day.
Then sit and ponder why turnover is high. Quit wasting
my time.

Patrik
Thursday, October 17, 2002

Hey Patrik,

Yeah that sucks. This is a really important issue -- employers showing respect and appreciation for employees. Developers will stick with it a long time with no appreciation but when the better offer comes in, good developers take off. Appreciating the employees is a cheap investment to reduce this from happening. A lot of these tech companies that have failed had good ideas but they did not treat the employees well and so the employees were glad to leave when a better opportunity came along and after a few rounds of that there was nobody left who even knew whene the source code was, much less what it was supposed to do. This would be followed by some brief thrashing about, desperately trying to hire people who could promise to finish the work, or even changing focus of the company to a new product, or trying to find a sucker to buy the company, not realizing the key developers had all left.

Unless you are a big company, or a company with a very well established finely architected code base (which is never true for a product before its first saleable release), the loss of your key developers WILL mean the end of the company. Managers need to realize this.

But instead of facing facts, we'll here more propaganda about how developers are prissy overpaid madonnas and we need to raise H1B levels because they can't hire anyone for $37,000/year who has the skills to take over a complex project in which all the developers have left.

That's one of the secrets of the industry -- when you see those job listings with the page-long list of obscure knowledge and experience that is quite unlikely to find, you are looking at a list of technologies that were used in a mission critical project for which all the key developers have left after being tortuously abused. If you want to avoid living in hell for 6 months, avoid these companies like the plague.

Sarain H.
Thursday, October 17, 2002

Do you have a Dave and Busters in the area (http://www.daveandbusters.com/). And do it on company time, not after hours.
If you insist on going in the evening, give everone the next day off.

Doug Withau
Thursday, October 17, 2002

Leonardo, things like bigger screens are stuff the company should be providing anyway. The idea that this is a reward is deceitful.

Also, the idea of little toys as rewards used to be a standard thing among a certain type of manager - common in dot.com days - and represented an insulting view of the programmers. That is, the programmers are so dumb they'll be happy with a ticket to the movies ( $10.)

Getting back to the topic, really productive management techniques I've found are have a cycle, even on a weekly basis. There are high pressure times, then easy times. It's nice.

Must be a manager
Thursday, October 17, 2002

Know your people (take cigarrete breaks with them and that kind of thing) and give them options. I knew two of my top engineers were very much into tennis, so with VERY careful planning on my side I sent them to Roland Garros.

One of them almost cried when I told him where he was going. :) They still work with me and I wouldn't know what to do without them.

Beka Pantone
Thursday, October 17, 2002

manager,

"the idea of little toys as rewards ... represented an insulting view of the programmers. That is, the programmers are so dumb they'll be happy with a ticket to the movies"

You are so right -- intelligent programmers would much rather have a poke in the eye vith a sharp stick.

Not! I wouldn't mind tickets to the movies and two hours off in the afternoon to see a matinee. I guess that means I am just "dumb" according to your theory of management. Or wait -- could it be that you are cleverly trying to use 'reverse psychology' to make the dummies think they don't really want movie tickets?

"Smart people don't want free movie tickets."
Yeah, that's the ticket. Wow! It's like a light's going off in my head now that I finally realize the truth of that!

"Getting back to the topic, really productive management techniques I've found are have a cycle"

The cycle is so important, as is avoiding managers such as yourself who are on theirs.

Sarain H.
Thursday, October 17, 2002

I'm surprised that nobody else seems to think like me.  The only reward I want from work is money.  Ice cream is stupid.  I have too much work to do  and I don't want to be bothered with it.  Standing around with the people I work with for 15 or 30 minutes eating ice cream has never been a good reward for me.

Tickets to the moveis don't do much for me either.  You might as well give a $7 bonus.  At least that way I can choose what I buy.  However, you'll get exactly $7 of appreaciation from me. (not much)

A better idea is to give real cash.  How about $500 for a good release (gross it up, you pay the taxes).  That will do something for me.  Not a lot but at least it's something.

Trinkets are for kids.  Either hire children or give our real cash.

vanguard
Friday, October 18, 2002

The place I work at the moment is fantastic, basically I do whatever I want, I come to work when I want, I go home when I want, I work from home when I want, I wear what I want, I have food and drink in the fridge when I want it, we have beers on Friday (if I want), occassionaly our manager takes us out for a company financed restauraunt meal, usually on an impromptu basic, i.e no releases or milestones etc, lets just do it because we are adults and everybodies available and feels like it. My manager wears a suit, is smart, works 8am-6pm, cuts himself some slack sometimes (because he wants to). He organises meetings, checks progress, applies pressure when necassary, keeps in touch, talks to the business, sacks bad developers.

Bottom line, we work hard, because we want to. We deliver. Of the 9 developers in my team, I have been there the shortest period of time (4 years). I even do some free lance stuff which, get this, if I'm not busy, I'm allowed to do on my companies time.

Alberto
Friday, October 18, 2002

ps. I am paid very well. $US72 p/hr, contract.

Alberto
Friday, October 18, 2002

Alberto,

Does your company have an open position ?
;-)

Robert Chevallier
Friday, October 18, 2002

Here's a great reward -- they get to keep their jobs.

Why should people be given additional rewards for what they are already paid to do?

It's not like they were working on the project as a favor to the company.

programmer
Friday, October 18, 2002

At my company, it's the polar opposite of Alberto's.  The pay is good, but we have these sad celebrations of milestones like bowling, which is hard to enjoy because you know that going back to work nothing will change.  Even in a down economy, people leave.

Still, the thing to keep in mind is that after a release you want to relax and fix all those problems you had while you were engrossed.  New things were developed that you didn't have time to try out, and there were problems you encountered that are worth thinking about.  Maybe that proprietary IDE sucked and half the team wants to get good on emacs.  Or people want Alberto to consult for a few hours so we can emulate his workplace.

Maybe a few bucks for people to get something cool from Thinkgeek and a laid-back restaurant where people can say what they want from the company and how they want to work.  You know in Japan drunk people can say anything they want... just pretend they're drunk.

Tj
Friday, October 18, 2002

The really important thing is to avoid making the reward seem like the reason they worked. A pat on the back is good. An 'incentive' reward is bad. Personally I reckon you should arrange to take them all go-karting for an afternoon; a weekday afternoon. Or something like that. Something social, rewarding, relaxing and fun.

My brother worked for a company that sent the whole team on a weeks overseas vacation when they finished the job.

Mr Jack
Friday, October 18, 2002

>>> Also, the idea of little toys as rewards used to be a standard thing among a certain type of manager - common in dot.com days - and represented an insulting view of the programmers. <<<

I'll generally agree with this.  It is not so much the little toys that are the insult.  It's that I may have spent months or even a couple of years on a project where management didn't provide the kind of support that it is supposed to, then they try to make up for it with a couple of cheap trinkets.

This kind of attitude shows up on "Career" web pages where they'll tell you about their subsidized cafeteria or even gourmet chef on the staff, but they don't mention a thing about the work environment.

mackinac
Friday, October 18, 2002

The problem with any of these little rewards if finding something that everyone will like.

At one place I worked one of the managers decided to give away tickets to baseball games.  A few were purchased and given away by random drawing.  The people who had no interest in baseball felt a bit slighted.  Then they added concert tickets, which made things a bit better.  After a while they gave it up.

That's a problem with any freebie.  If you provide free coffee, then you need to provide alternatives - good quality tea or soft drinks.  Free beer on Fridays is only appreciated by beer drinkers.

mackinac
Friday, October 18, 2002

Can somebody please explain to me why you should /reward/ people for doing a job they are already paid to do?

If you want to /celebrate/, that's fine. It's a different thing, though. Celebration encourages social interaction, rewards (usually) encourage competition. You pick and choose what you want for your team.

Robert Blum
Friday, October 18, 2002

I say, get the team out for a social evening.  This is a massive team builder, as people get comfortable and talk about things besides programming.  This can take a few hours to happen, since its too easy to discuss work until people begin to interject non-work conversation.....

Yes, I say plan something for after work, like dinner or drinks or bowling or whatever.  Also, if at all possible, see if you can arange for an outing *on the company's time*, like leaving the office for the happy hour around 3pm.  Of course, some people always use this as a chance to eat and run, and get home by 5pm. 

Bella
Friday, October 18, 2002

Being rewarded for a job well done?  A couple of posters have noted that you're being paid, why should there be some reward above that?

1. Is a promotion not a reward?  If you are promoted, either up a technical or managerial track for a job well done, is that not a reward?

2. Corporate profit sharing and/or stock option grants.  Are those not rewards?  Granted, initial option grants are part of a hiring negotiation package, but grants based on performance are in fact rewards.

3. Salary increases, bonuses - these are all rewards based on merit.

The reason that rewards are often given to employees for good work is that they are a valued asset.  The ability to keep them happy is a very useful tool.

Nat Ersoz
Friday, October 18, 2002

I was once on a team where the petty jealousies and backbiting were starting to affect productivity. This was noticed by management and vorious solutions were offered and debated, elaborate 'team-building' conferences and workshops were scheduled and then cancelled. The team was watching all this thrashing about disappointedly because everyone knew the politics had gotten out of control and people were getting ready to quit.

I got together with another engineer who had had it too and we came up with a plan. I reserved a campsite at Cardiff State Beach and borrowed a 10-man tent. She went and bought lifesavers and bingo cards and came up with a set of party games. We invited the whole team to the beach camp on Saturday afternoon and out of 16, 12 came that weekend. Had fun trying to light a bunch of wet firewood -- one guy was able to display his boyscout prowess at doing so, played games, ate smores, told ghost stories, went swimming in the cold ocean and then for a long jog in the morning before heading home on Sunday at around 11.

Completely turned the project around despite the fact that its inevitable demise was already common knowledge. Finished it ahead of schedule and under budget. management seemed pissed off about the whole thing. Got fired 3 weeks after that for among other things, going 'behind their backs' on the beach issue. Left smiling and had a better job the next week at a tidy increase in salary.

Ed the Millwright
Friday, October 18, 2002

Maybe you forgot to invite management?
:-)

Alberto
Friday, October 18, 2002

Sarain, what I was getting at is that $10 for a movie ticket is nothing at all, and the people dishing out such "rewards" would never accept such a trivial thing themselves.

There used to be courses for HR managers on keeping programmers and other staff happy without spending much money. Any fool can give pay rises and trips and so on, but these courses taught HR managers how to do it without spending money. It's not an approach I ever used.

Must be a manager
Friday, October 18, 2002

manager,

Ah OK I misunderstood you. You are coming from a situation where the only appreciation the workers get for their long hours is a movie ticket or some other such trinket. I'm with you there -- that sucks big time and the workers would not be fooled.

I thought you were saying that workers that accept small gifts are stupid in general.

Where I was coming from is a situation where one is competitively compensated and management happens to give out little tokens of appreciation on top of that, in which case it's the thought that counts and you know the thought is genuine because you are happy with your pay otherwise.

Sorry for the misunderstanding.

Sarain H.
Friday, October 18, 2002

I have to side with the "something cool for the office" folks.    For example, a team of 10 finishes up a 6 month, $1 million project and gets a budget of $10K for an office improvement.  This can be a plasma TV, a bunch of flat panel monitors, a ping-pong table, whatever -- but it has to have a tiny plaque honoring the project team (at least something like "2002 - Acme Financial Wizard").    Might also work to send everybody to an event and just put up pictures in a nice display.

Think it sounds corny?  Just imagine months later when you're stressed and wondering if your project will ever end.  All you need to do is walk through the office to be reminded of past successes.

meara
Saturday, October 19, 2002

If you respect people's personal lives, they will work their ass off for you. 

Bella
Sunday, October 20, 2002

I work for a company with a great working environment and really supportive management. We get good salaries and have regular performance reviews. When we reach a milestone the team leader will often take the team and their significant others out for a dinner to celebrate. With the economic downturn, there is not really adequate budget for this, so we've taken to going out for dinner anyway and having everyone pay for their own meals and the company pays the drinks tab. Despite what you might think, this works great. It is the motivation and way it is done that matters, not what you do. IMHO devs need to feel that they are valuable, even when the economy sucks. They also like to feel part of the team, so outtings like this give everyone a chance to relax together and involve their SOs.

Astarte
Monday, October 21, 2002

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