Meta work is destroying actual work
Monday 20 March 2023

Lets say you’re a company that makes a photo editing application. Imagine it as a startup that tries to create an alternative for Adobe Photoshop.

“Work” for me is creating the software itself. that’s what the company sells. so everyone in the team should be contributing to this end artifact. That’s what solely matters the freaking thing you’re selling.

In reality that’s not the only thing people in the company are doing of course. You’ll find also people doing work that facilitate work for the actual people doing work. Like creating/closing chat channels on Slack or Hipchat or whatever people are using to communicate. Or inventing meetings to “coordinate” between people doing work to make sure they’re “aligned” and people monitoring other people doing work and measuring their performance and reviewing their work for quality. That’s what I will call from now on “Meta Work” it’s not an actual work that contributes to the end product. it’s work that adjust the actual work that produce the end product.

Then there is other work like training people to give proper feedback. or making talks and events to make sure people know the policies for creating documentation pages that include policies about the organization. or Making meetings with people doing meta work to make sure they’re doing their meta work correctly and properly. That as you expect can be named “Meta Meta work”.

The rabbit hole is as deep as you can dig really. in some organization you can find Meta Meta Meta work where someones time is spent on deciding which organization will get a contract to offer training on how to make policies or creating meetings effectivly in an organization. You see what I’m getting at?

This is a plague. And I’m not exaggerating. This is one of the reasons startups fail to deliver a solution that actually work. Have you ever used a software and asked yourself: “Why this simple feature doesn’t exist?” or “Why the hell can’t do this simple thing in this software?” One of the reasons is that meta work. It overshadow the actual work. eating the time of the actual people doing work.

Contrary to the common perception of what developer time is used for, Coding is not the highest consumer of time. Developers spend most of their time doing meeting and attending internal talks and review meetings and planning meeting and other types of meetings.

The more a developer loves coding the more I see an annoyance on his face when a meeting starts. There are people who actually picked up this career to write code and develop solutions but instead they found themselves in a hole full of meeting with nothing but a thin agenda and zero reason to exist in any of them.