Fog Creek Software
Discussion Board




Strategic proj or great-people team? which 2 pick?

You have an option to choose between two separate teams you have recently worked on (in a huge Fortune 100 company):

first:
v warm, closely-working committed team. strong management, pre-defined but flexible roles;
low visibility/non-strategic proj;
technically medium challenging;
limited growth opportunity.

second:
non-cohesive, frustratingly poor management (nobody-sure-who-does-what) team;
high visibility/strategic;
technically challenging;
maybe possibility for growth opportunity.


which team would *you* pick?

decisions, decisions...
Friday, July 02, 2004

Having been on both I'd pick door number three -- neither company. :)

But if I *had* to choose I'd probably pick the first company. Even if you're bored out of your mind the low hours, easy work, and relaxed atmosphere will leave you plenty of time for family, leisure, friends, etc. and the time spent there while looking for greener pastures will not be overly difficult.

The other job would mostly leave you frustrated, burnt-out, etc. after a short period of time. If you can gut it out until you find a new job then great but the time you put in will feel like hard labor. There would probably be a “Mt. Everest”-style jubilation if/when you complete the project (e.g. “In spite of the odds we got it done”) but that would assume that incompetent managers and fighting teams would be able to get a working project out the door.

Captain McFly
Friday, July 02, 2004

The first one. The second one is a classic case from the book Death March.

Poor management will always lose to good (or even mediocre) management.

>>high visibility/strategic
That's a classic case of a blame factory.

Peter
Friday, July 02, 2004


Pick the first one.

When the second team fails and/or crashes and burns, job growth and stability will quickly approach zero.

KC
Friday, July 02, 2004

Which one will teach you more?

Edward
Friday, July 02, 2004

What do they pay. If they pay the same, 1. will probably be twice as rewarding for your family.

coresi
Friday, July 02, 2004

Depends on your career choices, if you like to make it to the top, nothing beats a high-profile, make or break project.  Especially you contributed and make it work, you'll be the man from now on.
If you like sitting in a cubicle and chill with your boys all day, then nothing beats first choice.
I don't want to flame you, some people like normal work days.  After working under tons of stress and pressure for so long, I can't imagine myself going to a lay back environment.
Your best bet is this, if you want to move up and make a name for yourself, the quickest way is to get on a high-profile project.

Unix2M$
Friday, July 02, 2004

>> Which one will teach you more?


You will probably learn more from the one that nearly kills you.  You decide if it is worth it.

XYZZY
Friday, July 02, 2004

If you think that the second one is actually going to lead you to opportunities for fame and fortune, you are naive or a fool. The project will fail, you will be blamed and your career will be destroyed if you haven't already killed yourself.

Will you learn something? Yes, you will learn to never again take on that sort of project again because there is no good outcome possible for anyone. Does the beaten woman learn something from her abusive boyfriend? Sure, she learns that being beaten up every week sucks! If you already understand this lesson, there is nothing to be 'learned' from accepting an abusive work environment.

The nonsense about a bad work situation being an opportunity for growth is just BS propoganda spewed by project managers who are desperate to get people signed up for their Death March. Do not be fooled by such propoganda.

*Useful* learning experiences and true growth opportunities do not come out of the environment you describe in scenario #2.

Dennis Atkins
Friday, July 02, 2004

If the second project fails you can always right a book about it and perhaps call it something like "Legendary guy month". Could be a best seller and on Joel's book list.

somemorone
Friday, July 02, 2004

its write a book

somemorone
Friday, July 02, 2004

Been there, done that, picked door #2. Would never do it again.

Neat Chi
Friday, July 02, 2004

>> Which one will teach you more?

Spend $20 on Death March and spend the weekend reading it. That will teach you more than a bunch of guys on a forum will/can.

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/013143635X/

Peter
Friday, July 02, 2004

I would pick #2.  An interesting project is always better than interesting people :-)

As they say...between two evils pick the one which you have not done before :-)

Code Monkey
Friday, July 02, 2004

Pick #1

A high visibility/strategic and technically challenging situation is almost always brought on by a non-cohesive, frustratingly poor management (nobody-sure-who-does-what) team. And the project won't get better until the management does first.

Tom H
Friday, July 02, 2004

> Spend $20 on Death March and spend the weekend reading it. That will teach you more than a bunch of guys on a forum will/can.

Who do you think writes books you silly jerk? It's the same type of guys that appear on forums.

.
Friday, July 02, 2004

Thanks everyone (Peter, Edward, Dennis, McFly, KC, rest) for great comments and insights.
Just to clarify, intent was to get additional questions that I should be asking myself; such as one Edward suggested.
Peter, thanks for the great suggestion; I know what I will be reading this weekend. :)

Thanks again and have a great long weekend folks!!!


some clarifications:
Both teams in same company; same pay
Have already worked on both ( ~internship ); need to finalize one
Second team has solid backing; in-competence only gets rewarded :(
job S/W dev in non-IT industry (health/banking/telecom...)

decisions, decisions...
Friday, July 02, 2004

Having already done #2 a couple of times, I'd pick #1 to see what the difference would be like.

example
Saturday, July 03, 2004

I've been on a team in both situations and I can unequivocally say that the number #2 option sucks. BIG TIME.

Part of the problem is that in a #2 team you tend to work in an environment that is full of aggravation and major stress. Your co-workers will probably be difficult to deal with if the team is disfunctional and if the management is poor you'll end up flipping from crisis to crisis.

High visibility projects are a total disaster if things go pear shaped. Vary rarely do things go right unless everyone busts their ass for weeks on end and in any event the project manager will probably steal all the credit and you'll be left contemplating your next move.

Seriously, scenario #2 sounds like a a dot-com, death march nightmare. You have been warned...

TheGeezer
Sunday, July 04, 2004

*  Recent Topics

*  Fog Creek Home