I like this quote from Tom Brokaw (South Dakota native….not bragging, just saying) "It’s easy to make a buck. It’s a lot tougher to make a difference".
Ever cross paths with someone who talks about wishing they had more responsibility or authority (although usually they really only mean money) – the sad thing is that these people typically talk about wanting these things but won’t do the things it takes to improve their lot. They see others with positions they desire and like to think that those people must have been in the right place at the right time – and then when opportunities arise (usually in the form of difficult problems), they quietly avoid the situation all the while hoping "they don’t get stuck with the work" – never knowing that once again they have just missed the boat because here is the secret all people should know – "Want to make a difference – solve a problem….want to make a big difference, solve a BIG PROBLEM" and yes, solving problems and making a difference takes work.
A few years back reading Joel Spolsky’s blog, I came across a reference to the infamous IBM "Black Team" which I had never heard of so I had to go read about them.
If you haven’t read about these guys – take a minute and do yourself a favor by reading it – its an incredible story – The IBM Black Team
Anyway these people took a task (software testing) which had been thankless and not seen as a glamorous job and turned it into the ultimate team-building experiment and raising their craft to new levels – they reinvented their jobs and created a legend in the process – they made things happen and thats why years later, this story sticks with me – who wouldn’t want to be on a team like that? – whether its a team of black shirts or ninjas – thats where I want to be. In a perfect world, there would be a beer named after these guys!
So I keep their lesson in mind – want to make a difference in your company, solve a problem that needs solving in your company – maybe its related to marketing, training, software testing, software development – maybe to solve it, you need to collaborate with someone else – even better. But people know what problems the company faces or things that could be made smoother – those things are called opportunities for those actually wanting them and not just idly daydreaming.
I have had the incredible opportunity to work on a few products from the incubation stage all the way to nationwide release – and I am thrilled to have had those chances and to work with the teams that I have been on – the most satisfying and successful stories usually centered around a core team of driven individuals that seeked to solve problems even if it took more than 40.00 hours a week. I was fortunate in that the last 16 years plus I worked with leaders who set the bar high and that made the rest of us step up.
Its stories like those that encourage and motivate me. So while Tom Brokaw had it right "making a difference is harder" – with the tools and information available so easily to software developers these days – its getting easier.
Think I’ll wear black tomorrow.