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Do You Want a Meritocracy at Work? Expand / Collapse
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Posted Friday, June 14, 2013 7:19 AM


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Would you like to work in a place where the more talented people rise faster than the average worker, regardless of seniority, friendliness with management, or any other non-skill based measure?

Over the last 30 years I've seen this happen to some people, myself included, in every place I've worked. But it's a very tough question to give an absolute answer.

To some degree, I think this already happens. One way or another (either within the company or by moving on) the most talented people do rise quickly. There will always be exceptions of course but for the most part this is what I've seen over the years.

Enjoy!
Post #1463557
Posted Friday, June 14, 2013 7:30 AM
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As for most things in life, nothing is completely bad and nothing is completely good. With an "IT meritocracy" (not really caring about DNA or physical composition), there is some good to be brought out from it, namely, to prevent professionals who have been in the company for many years to become complacent in their skills while the company itself struggles for that IT edge called innovation. If I was a business owner (one day!), I would want my development team to be younger, being guided by those who have the experience to prevent, to the best of their abilities as managers, the pitfalls of the young generation being too courageous (= dumb).

But we can't all be managers just because we have tenure. So while there is definitely a push out there to promote the young who may be more in tune (and more flexible) to adopt newer technologies, it also prevents anyone from just pushing the same button over and over again because it may have worked well in the past. This would, in my eyes, be a boost to incentive all staff, younger or older, to constantly hone their skills and learn something new to keep yourself relevant in the company as well as in the IT world, which is always changing: just as you're just getting a good handle on SQL 2008, SQL 2012 comes out.

So while I don't agree with the idea that someone should be promoted and rise quickly in the corporate ladder just because of their technical skills, I tend to believe that such mentality should also never totally fade away. We all need the push from a young and fresh perspective to change things and keep it interesting. Is it perfect? Obviously not. But there's definitely value in it, to my eyes.

Anyway, just my 2 cents. I see myself as the young guy who came in and quickly became everyone's golden athlete so naturally I'm biased towards the young quickly going up the ladder just because as the younger person within the corporation, it is the most important thing I can bring to the table at this point in my career.
Post #1463564
Posted Friday, June 14, 2013 7:31 AM


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Dave Schutz (6/14/2013)
To me it depends on the skills that people are being rewarded for. If we are rewarding people for doing a good technical job, then I'm in favor of that. Too often people are rewarded because of who they befriend and not what work they produce.
When a company promotes people because they are nice and go along with the flow, then expects to get improved performance they are often disappointed. People who just go along with the flow often are unable to drive improvement because improvement requires change from the way you are doing things.


That said there is value in a personable colleague - if that is even a word (I know it is used a lot). Any task should be done well whilst rustling as few a feathers as possible. I think the smart route is somewhere between dictatorship and complete supplication. I am convinced that time spent getting the magical "buy-in" is usually worthwhile. The old adage of choosing ones battles wisely applies here.


Gaz

-- Stop your grinnin' and drop your linen...they're everywhere!!!
Post #1463565
Posted Friday, June 14, 2013 7:42 AM


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In our type of company it is really hard to implement meritocracy fairly. The reasoon for this is not because of the individuals but because each individual works for a di9fferent customer, on a different contract in a different location requiring different skills. I am supporting an agency that has always been backwards in implementing new technology. When my co-workers were building ASP.Net MVC apps for SQL Server 2008 R2, this agency was in the process of converting its Asp.Net 1.1 apps to 2.0 and upgrading from SQL Server 2000 to 2005. In providing support for this customer, innovation and new technology was not as appreciated as competence in the old technologies. In addition, my co-workers had their customers submit semi-annual reviews for each individual's performance, whereas the contract I work under will not allow the government to submit reviews for an individual but only for the company's performance. As those reviews do not count towards the bonus calculations it becomes obvious that those in the first situation will benefit more.

So while the concept is good, it is hard to see how people can be best recognized for the actual value added when people are working in completely different environments.
Post #1463573
Posted Friday, June 14, 2013 7:52 AM


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fchen 34442 (6/14/2013)
...I would want my development team to be younger, being guided by those who have the experience to prevent, to the best of their abilities as managers, the pitfalls of the young generation being too courageous (= dumb)...


Well, I am going to have to call you out for discrimination here.

I find what you are talking about to be personality types that are unrelated to age. I find that there are those who eager to learn new technologies constantly throughout their career, regardless of age, and yet some "stick in the muds" from day 1 of their career.


Gaz

-- Stop your grinnin' and drop your linen...they're everywhere!!!
Post #1463579
Posted Friday, June 14, 2013 7:59 AM
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haha very true. I will certainly not defend myself or my views. It is what I've seen and when, through my own experience, I am proved wrong, I will certainly welcome it.
Post #1463581
Posted Friday, June 14, 2013 8:16 AM
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I think the sports analogy was incomplete. There are team sports, and individual sports. In team sports individual ability is one of only many attributes that contribute to a successful team.
If we consider a department, or a company, as a team, then individual skills are only one part of the puzzle. Simply promoting on the basis of the IT equivalent of 'how high you can jump' or 'how fast you can run' would sink my department.



Post #1463597
Posted Friday, June 14, 2013 8:36 AM
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Dave Schutz (6/14/2013)
To me it depends on the skills that people are being rewarded for. If we are rewarding people for doing a good technical job, then I'm in favor of that. Too often people are rewarded because of who they befriend and not what work they produce.
When a company promotes people because they are nice and go along with the flow, then expects to get improved performance they are often disappointed. People who just go along with the flow often are unable to drive improvement because improvement requires change from the way you are doing things.


Quite agree. In technical fields, I absolutely believe in a meritocracy (at least as far as remunerations goes); without technical excellence it's hard to achieve performance excellence with any kind of efficiency. Where most companies (that I've worked for at least) struggle is in identifying not the abilities of the individual, but their potential. Being a good technical manager means you have to understand both the technologies you and your team work with and the people you manage. A good manager can tell the difference between issues that have a technical root and an emotional root, and act appropriately. I've seen so many people achieve rank simply because they've stuck around longer than anyone else, all the while perpetuating a 'least common denominator' mode of doing business, to no advantage to anyone.

"The personal courage to be different and the self-confidence to take the lone and often unpopular position are clearly basic characteristics of leaders in both management and technology.
...
All too often those who obey the rules and don't make waves are rewarded with steady advancement. The evidence suggests, however, that the most promising leaders are often the wild ducks, and that it might be wise to consciously look for talent among the ranks of the rebels.
...
People choose to be different for many reasons, but some of them take this path because they see opportunities for improvement that the rest of us have missed."
- Watts S Humphrey
Post #1463614
Posted Friday, June 14, 2013 9:05 AM
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nimbell (6/14/2013)
[quote]Dave Schutz (6/14/2013)
..."The personal courage to be different and the self-confidence to take the lone and often unpopular position are clearly basic characteristics of leaders in both management and technology.
...
All too often those who obey the rules and don't make waves are rewarded with steady advancement. The evidence suggests, however, that the most promising leaders are often the wild ducks, and that it might be wise to consciously look for talent among the ranks of the rebels.
...
People choose to be different for many reasons, but some of them take this path because they see opportunities for improvement that the rest of us have missed."
- Watts S Humphrey


This reminds me of a bumper sticker: "Just because no one understands you does not make you an artist".

There is also the true statement "before you can break the rules, you must know how to use them". Our entertainment culture which has celebrated brilliant rule breakers has produced a generation that seems to think that throwing mud on everything we've learned through experience somehow equals success.

Disruptors are essential, but they must be the people who fully understand what happened in the past, and have a clear approach to improving things.

[Unfortunately too many 'wild ducks' are the the ones that migrate as soon as the weather turns rough.]


...

-- FORTRAN manual for Xerox Computers --
Post #1463633
Posted Friday, June 14, 2013 9:09 AM


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In the UK age discrimination in the workplace is now illegal and rightly so. Whilst there are clearly people who still believe that younger people are better able to adapt to new technologies or make better development team members I'm not sure there is any evidence to back this up. Some might even think that a developer with 30 years experience might be quite good.
I enjoy my job and still hope to be working as a developer well into my 60s. I've managed to adapt from the world before PCs though to SQL Server 2012 without too many problems and don't see why SQL Server 2024 (sic) should be any more difficult.
Age is just as irrelevant as gender, race or what football team you support.
Post #1463635
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