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“A Bad Technician Is Worth Negative Money”

“A Bad Technician Is Worth Negative Money” is something I said a lot back in the days when I had to go around and fix all the stuff the night shift technician had screwed up. A technician who causes problems is worth negative money because not only does he not do his job, he sucks up the time of others who must fix his mistakes.

Larry O’Brien comes to a similar conclusion about software developers: bad programmers are not slow programmers – they are programmers who are actively counter productive to the code base. In a fascinating post, he argues that the goal isn’t a silver bullet for programmer productivity, but a silver codebase, which bad programmers make impossible. Larry started all this discussion by dissecting the myth of the super-programmer.

My take – he makes sense to me. I’ve had to clean up code from some, well, people who shouldn’t have been programming, and it was not pretty. I’ve seen how a well designed codebase can make adding functionality much easier. On the other hand, I currently have an inherited codebase that needs some serious refactoring before it’s anything close to silver.



1 Frank Lamb { 07.22.12 at 9:13 am }

Hi Tony, I noticed your heading of automation philosophy today and thought I’d dive down the rabbit hole since it was related to my topic today. This one is a jewel! It also applies to technicians… it can take more time to redo some people’s work than it took them to do it in the first place. Meanwhile while someone else is fixing their mistake they are over screwing something else up. Negative money indeed!

I think it happens often in management also more than we would like to believe. Its not always obvious because managers rarely create an end product like code or widgets that can be tested and seen. The results can be even more far reaching though and cost millions of dollars. It then gets multiplied many times through the people following their direction. It is usually not discovered as quickly either.

Again, great post!

2 Harold Tuchel { 08.06.12 at 5:52 am }

Often not the technicians fault. Having done this for forty plus years I have seen graduates of tech schools or apprenticeships enter the workforce and being shown NOTHING. Current employees must feel vulnerable, and management wants to invest NOTHING. The fortune 500 I work for invests nothing in training other than that required by law. It is little wonder that we get negative results. This is especially true if everyone concentrates on computers but does not concentrate on I/O related stuff…which is out in the DIRTY world. Have you ever noticed when someone retires no one cares what they worked on until they are gone!

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