Dancing with Organizational Tornadoes | Targetprocess - Enterprise Agility Solution

We work with other people in office environments. Software development teams represent connected pulsating nodes of energies and emotions, regardless of whether the people stay in cubicles or in open spaces. As an outsider walks in to an office of some company, they might be able to sense it right from the start, if the emotional climate is moderate and comfortably mild, as in Northwest Pacific, or if there's a sense of hidden tornadoes and storms in the air, as in the Plains, or if there's a scorching drought and ruthless heat as in Arizona or in California. If you're a softdev professional who is considering a job opportunity, you might want to make sure that your "climate" preferences match that of the company you're going to commit yourself to. Some people don't mind staying on the verge of storms, they even like it. Some prefer to stay away from the emotional extremes, expressed outwardly or latently. These preferences do not define someone as a competent or incompetent professional. It's just that professionals need the environments that are right for them to show their best qualities in action.

We all know how challenging the situation with natural environment is these days. They launch initiatives to reduce the carbon footprint and to dampen the impact that industries are making on the climate. The damage from tornadoes, droughts and floods is just too costly, and not only in terms of damage to properties, but in terms of the count of lives taken.  It's very evident on the scale of the planet Earth, how dangerous the consequences of careless human actions can be.

It might not seem as evident and as dramatic, if the emotional atmosphere in an office feels like an accumulation of burnouts (think drought), or like forming a tornado's supercell, or like a hopeless swamp. But, in the long run, the consequences for companies can be quite dramatic. Naturally, these emotional climates are created by people.  If you've worked in several companies, you must have sensed that, and you must have felt if this particular environment lets you thrive, or if you want to get out from there.

Every sensible human being needs to take care of herself, first of all. On planes, the in-flight security regulations tell us: "Put on your oxygen mask first, then help the others." Indeed, we can only deliver our best performance in an environment that suits us most. Some people do not want to make a difference in their career, and they want to work in a swampy company, in some monotonous many-year project, doing their 9-5 work, collecting their paycheck, and then going home. There's nothing wrong with it, if they do their job well in this environment, and if the environment lets them live this way. Probably such people invest their energies into things that are unrelated to their work, e.g. their family or their hobby.  They do not perform well under duress. If you're the one who wants to stay away from burnouts, and if "work is the highest priority" is not your motto, then wanting to be hired by Google, for example, wouldn't look like a sensible decision, considering accounts of Google's employees working crazy 60-80 hrs per week. You'd need to pick a company with a more conservative structure and well-defined job boundaries and responsibilities. Well, drought-stricken companies might offer a better pay, but being lured with more $$$ only to lose your sleep and health wouldn't be a wise personal strategy in the long run.

Then, if you're the kind of person who truly wants to make a difference and contribute to some remarkable software product or service, you either need to start your own company or a start-up, or join a team of aficionados. You will hate to stay in a swampy boring environment if you're a person like that. You would probably want to contribute to your company on many levels, beyond your initial responsibilities, if that's the way you are, and you wouldn't be happy in an environment that blocks your vigor and candor. In that case, you'd welcome this drought of drive and passion.

Some companies keep the climate somewhere in the middle between super-drought and super-swamp. In fact, those two might even co-exist, right by each other's side, in one and the same organization. Some employees don't feel that what they do makes a huge difference, and they don't know what "passion for work" stands for. They just work. The others, however, might be staying in the drought climate zone, exposed to stresses, tensions and passions. Some risky decision-making might be involved, or meeting an important deadline, or winning over an important client. The problem then — and that's when tornadoes are born — is when the drought-stricken individuals are passing on their second-hand stress to those peaceful "farmers". Being a peaceful farmer in a software development company is not a bad thing per se, and you can be proud if you're the one. Such farmers are usually the rainmakers, and drama is the last thing they need to do their work well. Burned out, impatient aficionados crave the rain in the form of a successful release, or meeting a deadline, but the rainmakers might be scared away by the aficionados' stressed out behaviors. It might even make sense to put on some sort of blends on the farmers and intentionally guard them from the tense vibes. Catching a second-hand burnout does no good to organizational productivity; that's why keeping the harmonious environment for the rainmakers should be high in the list of priorities for someone in a position of power. Balancing between a swamp and a heat is vital for such a company to avoid devastating tornadoes. In fact, the real tornadoes are formed when the areas of high pressure and low pressure in the air collide. The second-hand panic and anxiety is poignant, and emotions are not just emotions. They transform into productivity, fueling it or blocking it. So, the more anxious someone is to whip the horse, the more this horse would refuse to draw the cart. There's a certain slight boundary where too much passion turns into restless anxiety,which burns out everything and everyone around.

I wonder, if it's a coincidence that the company run by Bill Gates, the well-tempered, balanced person who stays healthy in his late 50's, is headquartered in the gentle moderate climate of Northwest Pacific?

You can read this article in German: Mit Tornados in der Firma Tanzen at mbohlen.de


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