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Pawel Brodzinski on Software Project Management

People Are Lazy


The other day I was asked to write an article for our company’s intranet portal. The first thing which came to my mind was “no one would read it.” Well, probably few people would but not many more.

You might say I have a sad view of humanity, and you’d probably be right, but I kind of lost enthusiasm to systemic attempts to spread knowledge within organizations. And I mean here all things like intranet news sites, internal corporate blogs, knowledge bases, company magazines etc.

In theory, as long as you have at least a few dozens of people on board, these things are great. They have no weak points. There are a couple of leaders who organize site/blog/magazine/you name it, then there is a group of producers who work on content and then there is a vast majority who consumes all the stuff.

That’s the theory. In practice first two groups (leaders and producers) are rarely a problem. The problem is people don’t give a shit about your news site, blog, knowledge base and magazine. They couldn’t care less whether they might learn something from there. People just don’t want to learn.

Scott Berkun recently shared his thought why the world is a mess in general (read not only the post, but comments too). His conclusions are that people don’t listen and don’t read either. This actually supports the theory I offer above – even if you take the effort to create a gem or two and drop it into your intranet portal no one would read, no one would notice.

Actually not willing to learn, listen and read are just symptoms. And yes, there’s a single disease behind them all. People are lazy. They don’t learn because it’s easier to leave things as they are. They don’t read because skimming takes less effort. They don’t listen because trying to genuinely understand what other are saying is hard, much harder than just waiting for your turn to speak.

Note, I don’t say I’m not lazy. If I have problems with motivating myself while working at home that’s exactly because I am. If I tend to procrastinate most of housekeeping tasks, like fixing the lamp or securing a shelf to a wall, the reason is the same. Scott may be no different by the way.

Now, before you tell me that I’m over-generalizing, I know that. The same as you know that most people fit the picture above. When I look at statistics for recent articles on the intranet site I see that less than 10% of people in the organization read them. So when asked whether I would write an article on Kanban to be published there I wanted to answer with something like “I write about goddamn Kanban at least one every two weeks on my goddamn blog which you may find typing my goddamn name into goddamn Google. I did two goddamn presentations recently and sent goddamn links to two thirds of folks within the goddamn company. Shouldn’t that be enough for pretty much anyone here to find a goddamn article on goddamn Kanban?”

But now when you ask, I will write the (goddamn) article. It is worth helping people even if just 10% of them care. And it might make me look less lazy too. You know, I just aspire to be in to 10% of population.

in: personal development, team management

28 comments… add one

  • Sammy Larbi May 20, 2010, 2:03 pm

    Is it that they’re lazy, or that they’ve got too many other things to do?

  • Henk van Dijken May 21, 2010, 12:10 am

    Sadly, but true. They are lazy. And ignorant.

  • Flavius Stef May 21, 2010, 1:05 am

    This should be the area where a strong leader is required. I do not believe people are inherently ignorant/lazy, but just under a lot of pressure and possibly demotivated.
    A strong leader motivates and provides a sense of urgency. Organizational culture that emphasizes learning should be a sine qua non in the informational age.
    IMHO, specialized knowledge will be the only competitive advantage remaining for companies, in a globalized world where everything gets cheaper and more affordable.

  • Pawel Brodzinski May 21, 2010, 1:30 am


    It’s not about too many things to do. It was a part of discussion under the post about people now willing to learn by the way.

    First, pretty often they’re the most busy people who manage to find some time for learning. Second, if you can’t find time to sharpen the saw you basically waste your time.

    So yes, it is about being lazy and finding excuses.

  • Pawel Brodzinski May 21, 2010, 1:47 am


    I started a discussion how far should the leader go to convince/force their people to learn. I gave it a deep thought and I still think the role of a leader is to create opportunities, not to bring incentives to encourage people to learn.

    I agree however that a good leader should remove impediments for people willing to learn or to do something more in general. If they want to read, buy them books. If they want to listen, help them to find interesting people to discuss with. If they want to learn, give them time.

    And you’re right that organizational culture has to do a lot with this. And there are some organizations which are very good at attracting people who want to listen, read and learn and aren’t lazy.

  • Flavius Stef May 21, 2010, 4:41 am

    So I went through the thread you suggested, and I feel that the general opinion about developers’ attitude is rather derogatory. I can’t feel but think that maybe, in a way, it isn’t the leader’s fault that people arrived in that state.

    I’ve felt the same pain you mention for a while. But lately, I’ve been employing a strategy by which I am constantly recognizing efforts directed towards learning. The trick is that I have a couple of persons in my team that are really driven by the desire to learn, and they set a positive example. The others, while previously uninterested in learning, seem to be changing their attitude in order for them to be able to participate in our discussions related to the new techniques/tools/methods.

    You will always find people that are reluctant to learning new stuff, especially one that they do not deem necessary. They will invoke lack of time. It is our job as leaders to also be facilitators, to negotiate time for learning with management. On the other hand, peer pressure (“everyone but me knows that topic”) is a powerful motivator.

    One last point: learning should be a tool, not a goal. You learn X so that you can do Y better. I think the key is finding a way to explain how learning X will make the developer’s life easier. Couple this with learning time facilitation and peer pressure and I think you have a few means to instigate learning.

    This animation (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u6XAPnuFjJc) based on Dan Pink’s presentation of Drive (http://www.amazon.com/Drive-Surprising-Truth-About-Motivates/dp/1594488843/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1274441953&sr=8-1) might provide more insight about what really motivates us.

  • aiur2010 May 21, 2010, 9:27 am

    I agree with sammy. Sometimes, the problem is people have too many things in their hands and they don’t know how to manage them. A true leader should be able to give realistic goals for his team. Keep the communication open. In my case, keeping communication open is the key to make the team perform. I use Clutterpad to communicate and collaborate with the members of my team. Check clutterpad out. I love it!

  • Tapan Karecha May 21, 2010, 10:19 am

    People may be lazy. People may not read. But that should not (and mostly it does not) stop someone from writing. Even if one other person finds value in a written artifact, the writer’s effort is worth it.

  • Jeff May 21, 2010, 1:27 pm

    It’s not that people are lazy or not. It’s more of a continuum – how often is someone lazy? The antithesis of laziness is passion, and that’s how we fight laziness. We continue to learn and share passionately and hope that our peers catch the same bug. Both passion and laziness are contagious, so the end goal is always to have more passion than laziness around you so you and your team are always on an upwards curve, or at worst, a short flattening out.

  • Scott Berkun May 21, 2010, 5:02 pm

    I agree people are lazy – but I’m not sure we’re much different from any other species. For lots of animals, if they have enough to eat and don’t have to run for their lives, they’ll tend not to do very much either. Liking the status-quo is an evolutionary advantage much of the time.

    But while I do think people are lazy, I also think they can rally together to do amazing things. They have to be led well, be given a vision, and some sense of where to go, but when it happens its amazing.

    And the rub is you can’t always tell who is being lazy, and who is just waiting for the right moment to step forward.

  • Craig May 22, 2010, 1:36 am


    You are an optimist. That’s why you get frustrated :)

  • Pawel Brodzinski May 22, 2010, 2:01 am


    I’m yet to see a self-learner who was so much overloaded with work that they stopped learning at all in the long run. Yes, it happens sometimes we need to take extra effort to complete some task and we cut out virtually every single thing which doesn’t help us in achieving the goal. But then we must slow down thus we have our time for learning back.

    You can’t complete a marathon at pace you complete sprint. You either slow down or you don’t complete marathon at all.

  • Pawel Brodzinski May 22, 2010, 2:01 am


    You’re right. That’s why I’m going to write the article for intranet site after all.

  • Pawel Brodzinski May 22, 2010, 2:16 am


    An interesting observation (as always). Having, or not having, the right stimulator at any given moment may result in different attitude – at times you can be very active and at times you can appear as bored.

    However if people tend to be active sometimes, I don’t consider them as lazy. That may be a view of the world which is easy to accept for me because I tend to be lazy at times but usually I try to do different things, including learning, reading and (hopefully) listening too.

    The group of people I might misjudge are those who seem to be lazy all the time waiting for a trigger that never comes. But then again, should I care? Is putting them into the box labeled ‘lazy’ so unfair?

  • Flavius Stef May 22, 2010, 3:30 am

    Pawel, my second comment seems to have gotten lost. I’ve added it yesterday and it showed “waiting for moderation” or something similar. Any idea where it might have ended up?

  • Pawel Brodzinski May 22, 2010, 4:40 am


    I don’t know why the comment was held to moderation, it shouldn’t happen. Anyway I’ve published it.

    I think you’re right about value of peer pressure when it comes to learning. I see it as one of those triggers/moments Scott mentions. By the way I know a team which changed their attitude when they got a new leader who is a self-learner himself. I guess they just saw a good example and maybe a couple of impediments were removed.

    But I still find a lot of people having a very good example of self-learner at hand and doing nothing to unwind themselves. If you asked them what blogs they read they would answer they don’t have time for that stuff, but if asked them about headlines on news site they would cite them in a second.

    I’m not sure about learning being means, not the goal. I learn a lot of stuff not to do something better but just to widen my horizons. For example I learned about Kanban in the first place because it sounded interesting. I didn’t have a goal of applying it anywhere. A couple of months later it appeared as a perfect match to our process and I used the knowledge. I wouldn’t be able to do it if I didn’t learn about Kanban just in sake of learning new things.

  • jos Essers May 22, 2010, 8:47 am

    It is not that they ar elazy or ignorant. 67 percent of the total world populations wants to keep things as they are. They want to stay in their comfort zone.

    All behavorial tests point in that direction. Consequently if you want to change something you have to make sure that you address those 67 percent with great content and great leadership they have never seen before ( or at least seldom) Than you can move the pack.


  • Pawel Brodzinski May 22, 2010, 9:10 am


    Can you link to research results?

    If the majority of population want to leave things as they are to stay in their comfort zone this basically make them suit the definition of laziness if you ask me.

  • Rick Pulito May 23, 2010, 12:25 pm

    I could not agree more with you, Pawel. Excellent post. I wish I had written it myself. I didn’t. Probably didn’t because I was just too lazy. Anyway, thanks for saying what had to be said. Here is my post that celebrates your post: http://ideationz.wordpress.com/2010/05/23/pawel-brodzinski-says-people-are-lazy-who-am-i-to-disagree/

    Rick Pulito

  • Pawel Brodzinski May 23, 2010, 12:28 pm


    You take effort to read and write. You listen too. That doesn’t make you a perfect role model for the post I guess. Thanks for commenting and linking.

  • Fabrício Ferrari de Campos May 23, 2010, 8:08 pm


    More one great article about a subject that has been bothering me.

    Lazy even can be good, but a lot of people are lazies because is easier to complain than to do anything about it. After all, “ignorance is a bless”.

    Best regards

  • Pawel Brodzinski May 24, 2010, 1:32 am


    Complaining instead of doing anything to change the situation which bothers us is yet another subject I could rant about. I know it’s easier to complain than to do something, but do we really have right to complain if we did virtually nothing about the problem?

    But of course laziness can be defined in a couple of different ways. Peter Taylor makes it a banner for his high productivity approach for example. But definitely that’s not laziness I meant here.

  • Olga Kouzina May 24, 2010, 11:02 am

    Pawel, great insights. You’ve put in writing what I’ve been thinking about recently. I think the root of all this stuff with laziness about reading articles, complaining rather than doing something is in being overloaded with too much things that inherently are not essential to people. The age of consumerism have secured basic human needs AND it overloaded people with things that they apparently need/must do – but on the other hand these things are not essential to their existence. That’s why people are lazy, people procrastinate etc – some of them may downshift afterwards. There’s a limit to any overload, and it seems that it’s reaching it’s red alarm zone now. Disclaimer: Kanban works great and if your guys do not want to read about it, mount a screen with your blog posts and/or Kanban board :)

  • Kathleen Lisson May 24, 2010, 5:37 pm

    I have an unconventional solution to employee “laziness.” Could you try doing your articles in interview format? If someone wants to see an article about Kanban, offer to interview them about their questions about the product and give them answers. Ask them about their current problems. Ask them how the plan to use the product in an innovative way. Use the article to put a spotlight on their ideas as well as yours.
    If they just wanted to learn about the product, they would have googled it. They want to start a conversation about it.
    Who will read the article then? The person interviewed. Her department. If it’s discussed around the watercooler, then other departments as well? If this happens with a different idea and interview every month, would you want to be the only one in your project meeting that hasn’t seen the latest issue?
    What do you think? Is this idea workable?
    Kathleen Lisson

  • Pawel Brodzinski May 24, 2010, 11:42 pm


    There’s much truth in people being overloaded. 20 years ago we didn’t do emails multiple times a day, we read a paper in the morning instead of checking headline news every couple of hours, there was no Twitter to waste you time on it etc. We didn’t do all of these and we were perfectly fine.

    However, and I may be completely wrong on this one, I don’t think people were considerably less lazy then than they are now. We may see it more vividly now, since it is so darn easy to learn these days. A lot of articles and videos from thought-leaders can be found in minutes. We don’t have to travel long miles to see what some industry celebrity wants to say. And yet most of us don’t even try use this knowledge.

    Personally I tend to accept one of nature-related solutions, like the one Scott proposed: all animals are lazy and humans are no different. And still, while I can occasionally rant on the subject I still believe the glass is half full – those who are willing to take an effort to learn are doomed to succeed.

  • Pawel Brodzinski May 24, 2010, 11:56 pm


    I like your approach. I was playing with the idea on the blog, using one’s question or comment as a base for a blog post. And to be honest I’m a bit disappointed. Yes, the subject is interesting for a person who asked a question or left a comment. Yes, the subject is interesting for me, otherwise I wouldn’t write about it. However it seems these aren’t hot topics and they don’t get much comments and/or tweets. But I digress.

    Actually I got asked not only about the article, but also about some coaching in Kanban implementation in one of teams. And the latter I’d do with much more enthusiasm, because it will be more individual. I will be working with a team of 5 people interested in subject, instead of throwing the article at hundreds uninterested, on average, in what I have to say.

    With the article the problem is tricky. I was asked to write one by one person, but the article should be addressed to other folks in our company. It was something like “Hey Pawel, maybe you write an article on Kanban, which you keep talking about, so people would get interested in it and in improving their project management approach in general.” I don’t really need to ignite Ola, who asked me about the article, since she already works on improving quality in different areas of the company. What I need is to ignite those lazy people who don’t care about reading articles, attending presentations etc.

    So while I’d like to use the method you propose it won’t really work. I play with another idea too. Add some unrelated but funny stuff within the article to make people talk about it. Like throwing “if you read this go to Pawel and ask for beer, every third person who asks gets one” sentence somewhere in the middle. Anyway, we’ll see how it works. Chances are good I’ll have material for another post then.

  • Floris June 24, 2010, 11:30 pm

    This is how lazy some people today are: 36 % too lazy to run to catch a bus, 52% of the dog owners don’t want to walk their pet and 59% take the lift instead of even walking up two flights of stairs.

    Source http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/tvandradio/5998253/One-in-six-Britons-too-lazy-to-get-up-to-change-TV-channel.html

    But I believe people have to many choices and sometimes they get an information overload.

  • Sarah December 28, 2011, 5:52 am

    This article is just awful! it’s not like people are lazy, cause they don’t read this guy, it’s just that this THIS GUY IS BORING TO DEATH!

    I could hardly finish to read the article and read only 4 comments–could not more! no information, water without sense, complains that nobody reads him but he still thinks he is among those 10% of the “not-lazy-to-read-bullshit”. Low writing skills, high self confidence about his writings. He is just disgusting….

    My views:
    1. People ARE lazy. It’s their nature. Thanx to this, people make inventions to simplify their life. Laziness is the push to invention.
    2. People would not read smth they don’t like, what is not interesting and what is boring. People don’t need to be forced to read good articles, books, blogs.

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