Heavy Snowfall, Telecommuting & Office Situations Gone Wrong


Well, it’s winter again and we’ve had plenty of heavy snowfall disrupting traffic and the daily commute. Pictures of commuters pushing the busses they normally ride made the news head lines. No worries for me. I just work from home those days. That’s a good thing for a lot of reasons. You spend less time commuting in peak traffic, get more work done than at the office, you pollute less and you’re used to working remotely. That means you’ll be able to do it without any issues when there is a need like a flooded office floor, a flu pandemic or harsh weather conditions. Even better is that you can do this cheap and secure using the licenses you already have for Windows 2008 R2/Windows 7 with solutions like Remote Desktop Gateway  and Direct Access. Sounds pretty good right? So why aren’t more organizations using this to the fullest?

It is amazing how few companies really use telecommuting and remote access to their benefit. The culture shift it requires is usually to big of a hurdle. Yeah right. You often do see it happen on a larger scale when the company can close an office building due to telecommuting. That’s cold hard cash savings right there. Think of it. When there are huge monetary savings involved they’ll outsource work to the other end of the world and all objections disappear or “need to be dealt with”. So why is this? The lack of using telecommuting to the fullest of its potential is, to me, an indication of management failure. It’s so much easier to fool yourself into thinking your employees are productive when you can physically see them and they punch in and out. Whatever happened to that result driven organization? I know some employees need an office, not to have a place to work, but because of all the fun things you can do there. Gossip, small talk, lunches, meetings, etc. Some have bad home situations are are happier at the office or they bought an overly expensive house and the added heating cost would bankrupt them so they prefer to come in even with a 3 hour commute. Those people tend to confirm bosses in their beliefs that people need an office. Crappy managers also need control and rules. It’s a good indication on how your employers see you. Do they see you like irresponsible children who need to be protected against themselves, guarded and ruled by policies? Or do they think of you as responsible adults who’ll get the job done?

Now there is the  careerists view that you need to go to the office as well. You need to be seen working. The more people you can involve the more important your work looks and the longer it takes. Bad managers & bad companies like that for some weird reason. You see nothing is as annoying to a boss than employees who are to good and fast at their jobs. They tend to disturb the balance or come nag for input and direction which leads to having to manage. Ok, some managers like that as it serves their ego’s and confirms they are needed by their “sheeple”. Well in all honesty, when some of your employees get the job done in 20 hours per week that’s not their problem. It’s yours. You have way to many employees that are not up to the job at hand or you have a lot of fakers, who just fill time until they can punch out. And bad managers will never fail to “punish” the most productive employee by assigning them more work. Basically training them to do less and less because they figure out pretty quick productivity and speed doesn’t’ get them anything but more work for the same pay. That meritocracy that everyone seems to want, isn’t that result driven? But to recognize results you need to have a clue. But that’s another problem and I won’t go into that any further here. What do you think your boss like better. All projects completed and money made but you telecommuting 50% or a perfect office attendance record but project over time and over budget? Right.

To add insult to injury the office nowadays are landscape ones. Fields of blatting sheep, people interrupting each other all the time for input, telephone calls, vast amounts of senseless meetings with way to many participants and way to few decisions. They want to drag you in to every meeting as they think you have to execute all there ideas. No, you don’t. You already have a job and if the only thing they can produce is work for others to do there is something wrong. Employees should reduce the workload of the organization not increase it. Than two, three four colleagues who come over for a chat, eating another our of of your day. At one job it’s gotten that bad that when I had to spend a day at the office I tried to get home as soon as possible so I could start doing some work. Which I hated as bad office situations drain my energy. Some people are happy with activity and call it a day. But I’m very sorry, that doesn’t cut it. I need progress and results. A good taught provoking talk on this can be found here http://edition.cnn.com/2010/OPINION/12/05/fried.office.work/index.html, it’s by Jason Fried of http://37signals.com/.

I’ll give you some examples of my own. I recently agreed to go in to the office for one day during a holiday because of an urgent meeting. That meeting wasn’t urgent at all and everything could have waited another month that’s one but hey they taught it was cool and the boss was real happy. But the real silly thing is I sat down at my office to print the agenda for the meeting and within 15 minutes three people came by claiming my urgent assistance, attendance or time. One was indeed urgent but should have gone to the service desk. The other two where prime examples of a meeting culture run amok (yes with all those meetings people are rustling up attendees) and egoistic failure to plan. Really people, your failure to plan does not make it my emergency. Those are typically the people who run out early and can not ever stay late. Or need stuff urgently and when they get it go on leave for 3 to 4 weeks. As true spoiled children they act annoyed, let down and helpless when they are told I’m not there for them. “What to do now?"!”. Well the best answer is “grow up, get a grip and learn to plan ahead”.  That does not mean go moan to the boss, trust me on this one. If you’re entire existence is dependent on people being on stand by for every need that arises or them attending every meeting you hold you must be the commander of SAC/NORAD or something. Either that or you’re doing something very wrong.

Now offices can be useful if and when they are functional. A lot of office environments are far from that. They are toxic time wasters and that is such a shame. Offices can be smaller, more efficient and productive than they are now.  Augment that with flexible working and telecommuting and all the noise around commuter hell, missed deadlines, meetings, productivity and profit can go to garbage bin where they belong. Today, so many jobs do not need to be affected too much by weather, small disasters, pandemics but you will have to learn to work smarter and better. As a bonus you’ll have less tress, a cleaner environment and less traffic jams. What is not to like? So use the winter weather and all its problems with transport to rethink the way you work. You’ll be better of on the whole.

Microsoft Project 2007-2010 Default Format When Saving Group Policy


For a roll out of Office 2010 we needed to set the default format when saving to Microsoft Project 2007 and not Microsoft Project 2010. This was the prevent any accidental file format issues with people still using Microsoft Project 2007. The rest of the Office 2007 formats such as Word, Excel, Visio, … have remained the same as in 2007 (in the case of Visio even the same as 2003).

We had already loaded the ADMX GPO templates for Office 2010 some and intend to set the default to Microsoft Project 2007. So we navigate to User Configuration => Policies => Administrative Templates: Policy definitions (ADMX files) retrieved from central store => Microsoft Project 2010

MSProject2010-1 (2)

Where we find following options:

MSProject2010-2

Funny we thought we’d find three options: Project 2010, Project 2007 and Project 2000-2003. Now what mpp format would that “Project” setting refer to? Microsoft Project 2007 or 2010? Well we checked the contents of the ADMX file proj14.admx which can be found, when using the central store that is, at:

\\blog.demo\SYSVOL\blog.demo\Policies\PolicyDefinitions\proj14.admx

There we see the following:

MSProject2010-3

Aha it’s the mpp format of Microsoft Project 2007 as indicated by MSProject.MPP.12. An entry for Microsoft Project 2010 doesn’t even exist. We quickly had a look at the proj12.admx (Microsoft Project 2007) and there the entries are exactly the same for that setting for “Save” policy.

It seems that even when the file formats is different between Microsoft Project 2007 and Microsoft Project 2010 they offer no way to easily identify what mpp format you’re setting it to in the GPO. Why they don’t offer Microsoft Project 2010 I don’t know. I guess their take is that you could leave it disabled in the GPO. Which is true but GPO setting are normally very unambiguous and you can explicitly set every option when you enable it, even the default when disabled. Perhaps they just forgot as they did not need this for the other office products in the Office 2010 release. I don’t know.

Anyway we tested this and indeed it set the default format for saving to Microsoft Project 2007. So all is well. Tip of the day: check the content of the ADMX file when in doubt.