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People and happiness

One of the biggest changes moving from being a freelancer to starting work at Unboxed in November of last year was working in an agile software development environment. The part of the Agile Manifesto that I felt most strongly there was Individuals and interactions over processes and tools (which people often shorten to people over process (and other people grumble about shortening)). I’ve kept that lesson with me since I left, and I’ve noticed that it’s a thread that I look for in everything I do.

In the past few months, I’ve been feeling a bit overwhelmed with all the various extracurricular and meetup things that I’m involved with, but it’s the people part that keeps pulling me back in. It was quite strange for me to realise that, actually, I like meeting people and chatting to them. Finding and developing these relationships is one of the things that makes me happy.


I keep coming back to Why You Hate Work in the NY Times. There’s lots of good stuff in the article (despite the aggressive title), but I like really like the focus on people over process, and even over clients:

A truly human-centered organization puts its people first — even above customers — because it recognizes that they are the key to creating long-term value.

Focusing on customers over people is a only short-term win: customers come and go, but your people stay. In his fantastic book, The Secrets of Consulting, Gerald Weinberg says: “it’s always a people problem.” It’s people all the way down.

After quite a few speed bumps while I was freelancing, I came to realise that being happy at work was more important to me than anything else. I use this as a guiding principle for where I’m at and where I want to be. It sounds kind of obvious, but it’s a useful yardstick to measure against. It’s not simple though: people are complicated. There’s autonomy / self-organisation to think about, sustainable pace / putting in sustainable hours, meaningful and interesting work.

My partner, Jo, is researching happiness in retirement and what the factors are that affect it, and so we end up discussing these kind of things quite a bit. As you might be able to tell from this brain dump.