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Part IX: Culture and Quality > Gifted Programmers

Chapter 59. Gifted Programmers

It has been a long year. Month after month you have worked hard to deliver on project promises, and so have the programmers on your team. You are starting to think about year-end bonuses. It is the season for gifts—Winter Solstice, Hannukah, Christmas, Kwanza, or plain-vanilla New Year's—the celebrations seem to come tumbling one after another. What do you give your high-performing programmers to let them know you appreciate them? More generally, what do you do to recognize, reward, and motivate your applications and software developers? That was essentially the question posed from the audience on one speaking tour I did in Australia with industry luminaries Rob Thomsett and Ed Yourdon. It got us all to thinking about some of the more creative and effective incentives for developers.

This is a perennial problem. Many of us have a tendency to think in simple terms when it comes to incentives. Some years ago, I was working with Russian and Ukrainian managers from what were then recently privatized former Soviet-run firms. At one point, I found myself caught up with them in the ever-popular management game of “Why-Don't-You-Yes-But.” I would suggest ways to work more efficiently and they would say, “Yes, but we don't have reliable lines of supply here.” “Yes, but our workers do not expect to take initiative.” “Yes, but we cannot fire workers and we cannot change their pay. We have no ways to motivate them.” At first, these bright, motivated former-Soviet managers could see no way to motivate their workers, but when I suggested they brainstorm, they devised dozens of ways and means to motivate others without resorting to the axe or the pocketbook. Certainly we can do as well.


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