Last Friday (18th July) we were having one those typical Friday afternoon chats where we were discussing the pros and cons of introducing Nerf guns into our office.
I know its an odd conversation but hey it was late on a Friday afternoon and actually it was more a discussion about the type of working environment we are wanting to create.
Recently where I work people are beginning to bring in Nerf guns and shoot each other. We also have some XBox consoles and a table tennis table. I love the XBox and Table Tennis as sometimes having that 20 mins of mindless fun when I get bogged down on a development problem can help me refocus but I am beginning to think the Nerf guns are a step too far and actually though well intentioned are the wrong solution to a perceived problem.
One colleague of mine (in our chat) was very keen on it, saying that on his floor (which is full of technical staff) it had been a great success and provided some light relief. On the floor I work on, there are not as many technical people and most of my colleagues around me are "business types" with suits and formal working styles. We were saying that the Nerf guns would come across as a distraction and could cause issue with how the development team is seen by other teams.
After this discussion I decided to look on-line and see what others thought about such things and I came across an interesting post on the subject by Mike Crittenden (@mcrittenden) "Nerf guns don't matter" (http://mikecr.it/ramblings/nerf-guns-dont-matter).
I agree with many of the points Mike makes, I agree with the main aim of work should be to do the work and as such the work should be rewarding and challenging meaning toys are not needed. Personally, I like where I work and I am lucky as I have said before to work with some very smart and interesting people. On my project, I work with some excellent modern technologies and I find the majority of my work rewarding and challenging. However, I am sure some of my colleagues on legacy projects wouldn't agree that their work is rewarding to them, in terms of enhancing their skill set.
The company I work for is not a software company. I work in a development department within a company those main focus is working with data, displaying this data and providing insight to customers, many of whom work in financial services where formality can make the difference between getting and not getting a contract.
Within the company the development team do want to create a bit of a "start-up" feel within the team but I feel this might affect how other teams (who are much more formal) view us and then ultimately interact with us. I mean what would you think if you brought a client to look around the office to find development having a nerf war with the testing team (http://youtu.be/pVKnF26qFFM).
Please understand, I am not saying I want to turn where I work into a "sweatshop" with no fun at all, extremely formal processes and wearing suits all the time. I try to avoid wearing a suit as much as possible but I accept at times I might have to. I decided to work for a respected Data/Financial services company, as a developer this comes with many pros and some cons. If the cons (such as formal working style) outweighed the pros then I would leave, but it seems we are trying to turn where we work into something it isn't (i.e. a software start-up).
I am not saying we shouldn't tweak some things, such as not wearing suits to work and coming "smart causal", but we must be mindful of the other teams we work with and their needs. I would say if people want this start-up feel and the freedom that brings go work for one with the risk that involves, it seems that some developers are trying to have their cake and eat it.
Rather than toys, lets spend our time making ALL the projects rewarding and challenging. Lets keep all the developers motivated and engaged by enabling them to produce great work, this is where we add value to the other teams and thus the company we work for.
Ultimately we must remember...
THAT'S WHAT THEY PAY US FOR!