Debugging is like farting — it’s not so bad when it’s your own code.

Power to the People!

Posted: November 14th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Soapbox | No Comments »
Power to the People!

Power to the People!

So, it’s a been a strange week, during which I was given the chance to observe (and occasionally partake) in the manpower issues faced by local development companies. In both cases, the major issue was in tapping the creativity and enthusiasm of the rank-and-file developer. It’s hard to say if this is the result of our uniquely sterile and reticent Singapore culture, or if this affects overseas startups as well.

So in company one, which we shall refer to as the Empire, has a very draconian top-down management style with multiple layers of hierarchy. Employees are not allowed to carry in data storage devices, required to store their personal effects out of the main work area, and are expected to carry out allotted tasks like any standard cog-in-the-machine would. There is a lengthy approval process during which the Emperor will personally appraise every minute aspect of the Death Star design and lay forth to his Stormtroopers what is to be done. This would not be so bad if the Emperor was talented at Death Star design. Unfortunately this is not the case. Every engineer he has knows about the fatal flaw in the design, yet cannot get the message through. As a result, they shuffle listlessly about the deck, engaging in activities like Youtube and Facebook to bury their misery. This in turn leads to a long drawn-out war against the likes of Youtube and Facebook, a battle that sees no signs of ending.

Company two, which we shall call the Alliance, is slightly more “enlightened”. They believe that every soldier should believe in what he is fighting for, and have a say in what that should be exactly. Unfortunately, there are no Leias or Ackbars to champion any causes. Everybody just sort of sits around waiting for somebody else to step up and take the lead. There are long lengthy meetings, where the fate of a planet in distress is discussed in a committee while it gets destroyed. Nobody really knows where the Alliance is going, so everybody treads water, carrying out the necessary actions to ensure survival and little else.

So the question is, is it possible to have a company like the Borg? (yes, I know I’m crossing references) A company where the collective makes decisions, yet they are so finely attuned to each other that there is a strong direction and everything seemingly magically clicks into place. What does it take to make such a company, and is it really for the best? What other sort of business models, sci-fi reference or no, would be suitable for a creative company? While there is plenty of talk about the virtues of Agile methodologies like SCRUM, these are merely processes. What we are interested in is the sort of culture that will give the company the resilience to forge down the rocky game development road, to go where no indie company has gone before…

*Note: Dramatizations have been made for entertainment purposes.

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