Soda in the fridge

There is an interesting thread over at Joel Spolsky's The Business of Software discussion forum:

[...] we got a new director of engineering. During a meeting on why we were late on our current project and what could be done about it, I joked and said he could get us a fridge in the lab with Mt. Dew in it. Well not an hour later, a guy comes in wheeling a mini fridge...stocked with Mt. Dew.
Personally, nothing has motivated me more to want to work in that dull white lab and put in some extra effort then that small jesture. (Provide a nice place to story)

This turned into quite a long thread, where several people voiced there views that often tended to be in conflict with other posts.

When I read the original author's post, I was quite impressed. You can of course begin disecting the scenario and analyze the positions and make guesses as to what the team should have done or how the manager could have reacted.

As it stands, this particular manager has made his team member's day. No, it was probably not a very big investment and did not take much effort. The point I think is: This developer spoke and was listened to. We can probably assume some respective appreciation.

Appreciation or rather the feeling that one is being appreciated is very, very important. Not every company has an intrinsic corporate culture developed around its software development teams. In those cases the software developers are just another department and their efforts are probably not as valued as would be the case in a company that his highly developer-centric.

Either way, as a developer you like being respected. Development processes are rarely perfect, release cycles tend to attract the occasional crunch time, necessitating longer work days.

A fridge filled with free sodas might be just the thing. There are other options, too. How about late-night pizza, catered lunch or Amazon gift certificates? It probably does not really matter.

Nope, your manager will probably not be able to cause major departmental changes overnight. You will not revolutionize your development process while struggling to meet your deadline for the next release and you most definitely won't find any silver bullets in form of that hot new technology or third-party tool you keep hearing about.

Having the team understand that their manager listens to them and acts quickly to the extend he or she can is very powerful though.