Working Late May Be Destroying Your Organization: Colin McNamara [Video]


Many of us who work in the IT field are aware of the grim reality of working late at night. People often end up working long hours as they take on additional work and projects. But, is that good for you? Is it good for your organization? Is it good for your teams and clients? By doing so, are you helping your company or hurting it?

That was the topic of the keynote that Colin McNamara, Practice Director, DevOps at Dimension Data, delivered at DevOps Networking Forum.

Colin McNamara, Practice Director, DevOps at Dimension Data, spoke about managing DevOps and agile teams at DevOps Networking Forum.
He asked the audience “who writes code in the middle of the night? Oh, ok. Keep your hands up. Who’s written code in the middle of the night in this past 12 months? Six months? Three months? One month? Who’s written code past like 10 or 11 in the past week?”

Looking at the raised hands, McNamara said, “you might be destroying your organizations. You might be destroying your teams.”

He cited an example of when you are working on a project and suddenly your team is asked to add new features at the last minute. Every time you say yes, you are basically agreeing to take on additional work and deliver in the same amount of time. 

That situation can set things off the rails. Now you have more code to deliver in the same amount of time. Things can get so bad that the project you previously could have delivered ahead of time won’t even be delivered on time anymore. Now your teams are not happy; they are grumpy. They are working over time, and the coordination between teams has gone downhill because some people are working late at night, during odd hours.

In a nutshell, this habit is counterproductive: It’s damaging to you, your teams, your organization, and your clients.

Is there a solution? There are many, actually, and McNamara talked about some of them in his keynote, suggesting several ways to maintain a balance and keep energy levels high.

To avoid late-night work, he suggested implementing the 11/7 rule, which essentially means no coding between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m. That takes care of a lot of things. You don’t work late at night, so you get more sleep and you spend more time with family and friends. All of that recharges you. At the same time, because you are not working while the rest of your team is sleeping, there is no communication disruption. The result? Increased productivity.

McNamara also suggested a tip that many of us likely received before taking a test in school: Get a good night’s sleep. Eat well.

If you are continuously writing code, you will burn out. To avoid that, McNamara uses a strategy that comes from the Marine Corps: It’s a 72-hour stand. McNamara said that after 72 hours of coding, it’s time for rest, “Do not open your laptops. Go spend time with your family, as we don’t want you being divorced.”

McNamara’s teams noticed significant improvements when adopting his advice, “Four days later, our guys had started to think outside the box again.” Don’t you want your teams to be thinking outside the box?

Watch all 13 keynote videos from DevOps Networking Forum.