Sunday, 23 September 2007

We Make It Up As We Go

Every now and then I find myself repeating the same thing in weekly chats, so I try to note them down in a blog post so the Exowebers that actually read the Exoweb Planet have a chance to see it. This particular one has to do with how we developed our work processes and best practices. There is no mystical method, no profound MBA insights or deep pondering. Quite simply, we make it up as we go.

That's not to say all our current processes are arbitrary. Every process or practice we have, we evolved to overcome a perceived problem. We experiment with different processes and those that work, we kept. Those that failed we learned from and moved on. The entire organization is a work in process, continuously trying to improve itself.

There are a few core values we do have, which very much reflect those of agile methodology: People over process, working code over documentation, etc. We also believe very much in making this a great place to work. Since you spend a huge portion of your waking hours at work, why wouldn't you want to make it as pleasant, as fun, as challenging a place as possible?

From these core values we simply figure things out as we go. For example, our current process of code reviews was triggered by the realization that our code quality wasn't good enough, that too much bad code and bugs were leaking into production systems. We tried the NASA style group code reviews but found that much too heavy. We then tried having a couple of core code reviewers doing all the work, but found that it did not scale and that the benefits of code review actually were disproportionately accumulating with the core reviewers. Our current method is a lightweight team review process that seems to combine the benefits of code review while reducing the cost. We are likely to make more tweaks and changes in the future, depending on future needs and ideas.

What does this mean for Exowebers? Most important of all, it means that it is the past ideas of all of us that have created the great environment we have. It means it is your future ideas that will make us an even better place to work. You need to pay attention to your environment, be willing to question our processes and methodologies, and contribute new ideas when they come to mind. No process is sacred. Given good enough reason, visible enough benefits, anything can be changed.

You can contribute ideas openly, by floating RFCs by email, or you can quietly suggest them to your team leaders in weekly chats. Whatever method you choose, it is important that the ideas are communicated and considered. Only then can we as a company improve. Only then can we make this place an even better place to work.

Yes, this includes higher salaries too. If you have ideas on how to make us more profitable, we can all share in the profits in the form of higher salaries :)

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