Prefer goals over controls

A common vision is more important than seeking approval

Bruce Eckel is well known for his books in the field of programming, such as Thinking in Java, Thinking in C++, and Atomic Scala as well as his co-leadership of the Java Posse. And yet, on top of his work in programming, he has spent the last several years investing in and researching a topic that seems quite different, yet is intertwined with the destiny of software companies: the culture and operation of businesses.

In his OSCON 2013 Mainstage session, Bruce lays the foundation of modern business management, including a look back as far as Taylorism, a survey of what it means to get an MBA, and ways to gain this knowledge outside of the traditional institutions.

Bruce’s inspirational message provides actionable items for us to take back to our own organizations, including setting goals to create a work environment where people feel fulfilled and create value while having fun, reducing organizational structure to a minimum, and optimizing for employee happiness. To the most traditional of organizations, these aims seem at odds with optimizing for profit and productivity, but study after study has shown that happy employees who have fun at work are more innovative, push harder to help the company reach goals, and ultimately improve the company’s profitability.

The phrase that stuck with me the most from this talk is to “prefer goals over controls,” meaning that a common vision is more important and more effective than having to check with your boss for approval on your work tasks. That indeed, is a tenet of any company at which I’d want to work, and an easy one in which to begin a journey of reinventing business.

The Mainstage sessions at OSCON 2013 are a collection of jaw dropping, highly rated talks covering a variety of provocative programming topics. Watch more of them here.

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