PART I: MANAGING THE HUMAN RESOURCE
PART II: THE OFFICE ENVIRONMENT
PART III: THE RIGHT PEOPLE
PART IV: GROWING PRODUCTIVE TEAMS
PART V: IT'S SUPPOSED TO BE FUN TO WORK HERE
Most managers are prone to one particular failing: managing people like modular components. Most managers were judged to be good management because of performance as technicians and developers. Unfortunately it doesn't work well.
The Name of the Game - The Most frequently cited cause of failure was politics". Included are communcation and staffing problems, disenchantment with bosses or clients, lack of motivation and high turnover. To be precise, major problems of our work are not so much technological as sociological in nature. Yet the most people-oriented aspects of management responsibility are given the lowest priorities.
The High-Tech Illusion - Most people apply high-tech, using computers and other new technology components to develop products or organize affairs. Having to work in teams, projects, and other tightly knit working groups, we are mostly in the human communication business. More focus is placed on technical rather than the human side of work because that's easier to do. Most managers are like the vaudeville character who loses his keys on a dark street and looks for them on the adjacent street because, as he explains, "The light is better here."
My Conclusion: Almost all project failures are due to sociological problems, yet managers spend most of their time on technological issues because those are the issues they were trained to handle.
A Quota for Errors - For information workers, making occasional mistakes is a natural and healthy part of their work. Iterative software design is a cost-effective methodology which some managers might feel awkward defending. Fostering an atmosphere that doesn't allow for error simply makes people defensive.
Management: The Bozo Definition - You may be able to kick people to make them active, but not to make them creative, inventive, and thoughtful. There is nothing more discouraging to any worker than the sense that his own motivation is inadequate and has to be "supplemented" by that of the boss.
The People Store - Many development managers adopt the attitude that people are parts of the machine. They go to great lengths to convince themselves that no one is irreplaceable. Because they fear that a key person will leave, they force themselves to believe that there is no such thing as a key person. Some times, employees want things other than money. But too many managers are threatened by anything their workers do to assert their individuality. The natural people manager realizes than uniqueness makes project chemistry vital and effective, it's something to be cultivated.
A Project in Steady State is Dead - A project's entire purpose in life is to put itself out of business. The only steady state in the life of a project is rigor mortis. The entire focus of project management ought to be the dynamics of development, yet we assess people's value based on steady-state characteristics like code or documentation produced. More attention should be paid to fitting into the effort as a whole. A catalyst is important because projects are always in flux. Someone who can help a project jell is worth two who just do work.
We Haven't Got Time to Think About This Job, Only to Do It - Not 100% of your time ought to be doing tasks, there must be provision for brainstorming, investigating new methods, figuring out how to avoid some subtasks, reading, training, and just goofing off. Most managers spend too much time getting things done, not nearly enough asking if things ought to be done at all. The importance of a more considered approach increases as stakes increase. But we are so single-mindedly Doing that only 5% of out time is spent on planning, investigating new methods, training, reading books, estimating, budgeting, scheduling, and allocating personnel. The average software developer doesn't own a single book on the subject of his/her work, it is positively tragic.
Spanish Theory Management - Historians abstracted the Spanish Theory of Value that only a fixed amount of value existed on earth, while the English Theory held that value could be created through ingenuity and technology. While the English had an Industrial Revolution, Spain exploited the lands and Indians in the New World to move tons of gold across the ocean and achieved hyper-inflation as there was too much gold chasing too few usable goods. Spanish Theory managers dream of attaining new productivity levels through the simple mechanism of unpaid overtime by playing mind games (guilt trips, job security) with their employees.
And Now a Word from the Home Front - The Vienna that waits for you in Billy Joel's phrase is the last stop in one's life. People are very aware how short life is, and many things at home are much more important than the silly job they're working on.
But you know when the truith is told,
That you can get what you want or you can just get old.
You're going to kick off before you even get halfway through.
When will you realize ... Vienna waits for you?
"The Stranger" Billy Joel
There Ain't No Such Thing as Overtime - There will usually be an hour of "undertime" for every hour of overtime. There may be short term advantages but certainly no long term ones. Nobody can really sustain the intensity required for creative work more than 40 hours a week. Overtime is life sprinting, you have to slow down to catch your breath later, it doesn't make sense in a marathon. The best workers just ignore managers who often request that they sprint.
Slow down you crazy child,
And take the phone off the hook and disappear for a while.
It's all right. You can afford to lose a day or two.
When will you realize ... Vienna waits for you?
Workaholics - Workaholics eventually realize they have sacrificed a more important value (family, love, home, youth) for a less important value (work). Managers who exploit their workaholic employees eventually lose them. The key is to get "meaningful productivity" .
Slow down, you're doing fine,
You can't be everything you want to be before your time.
Although it's so romantic on the borderline tonight.
But when will you realize ... Vienna waits for you?
Productivity: Winning Battles and Losing Wars - Consider some things organizations do to improve productivity:
Reprise - People under time pressure don't work better; they just work faster. In order to work faster, they may have to sacrifice the quality of the product and their own job satisfaction.
My Conclusion: Take care of your people first, and they will take care of you.
The Flight from Excellence - Managers jeopardize product quality by setting unreachable deadlines because they think that might increase productivity. Hard-nosed managers feel that quality is like chocolate sauce on a sundae, more for those who want more, that the market doesn't care that much about quality and just wants to see the product in their hands. There is natural conflict because users sense of acceptable quality is usually significantly lower than the builders. Allowing the standard of quality to be set by buyer instead of builder is termed flight from excellence. It makes good sense only if you ignore the effect on the builder's attitude and effectiveness, it costs more in the long run.
Quality, far beyond that required by the end user,If you ask 100 random people which nation is famous for high quality, and which one is famous for high productivity. Chances are most will respond "Japan" to both questions. Its counter-intuitive that higher quality coexists with higher productivity. Tajima and Matsubara comment on the Japanese phenomenon:
is a means to higher productivity.
The trade-off between price and quality does not existQuality Is Free, But ... - Philip Crosby wrote in his book,Quality Is Free that letting the builder set a satisfying quality standard of his own will result in a productivity gain sufficient to offset the cost of improved quality. Thre real message is:
in Japan. Rather, the idea that high quality brings on
cost reduction is widely accepted.
Quality is free, but only to those who are willingA policy of "Quality - If Time Permits" will assure that no quality at all sneaks into the product. Hewlett Packard is a company that makes a cult of quality, reaping high productivity due to high, builder-set quality standards. Their sense of quality identification increases job satisfaction resulting in one of the lowest turnover figures in the industry.
to pay heavily for it.
Power of Veto - Hitachi Software and parts of Fujitsu give project teams an effective power of veto over delivery of what they believe to be a not-yet-ready product. It would take nerves of steel overcome Parkinson's Law and do this.
My Conclusion: Quality equals Productivity. If you can't identify with this, it's excusable, you've probably never done any Software Engineering, or at least any that others don't have to clean up after.
Parkinson's Law and Newton's Law - Newton's Laws have stood the test of some 200 years of subsequent study. Parkinson was a humorist, not a scientist. His "law" caught on because it was funny, not because it was axiomatic. His examples were observed in a fictitious British government bureaucracy, where they give little job-derived satisfaction. The simple truth is:
Parkinson's Law almost certainly doesn't apply to your people.
Their lives are too short for loafing on the job, as that would delay the satisfaction they hanker for. They are as eager as managers to get the job done, provided they don't have to compromise their standard of quality. You Wouldn't Be Saying This If You'd Ever Met Our Herb - In a healthy work environment, the reasons that some people don't perform are lack of competence, lack fo confidence, and lack of affiliation with others on the project and the project goals. They are overwhelmed by the diffculty of the work, pressure won't help, reassignment, possibly to another company might. Treating your people as Parkinsonian workers certainly won't work, it can only demean and demotivate them.
Some Data from the University of New South Wales - Michael Lawrence and Ross Jeffery of the University of NSW conducted a survey of 127 projects in 1985 with these results:
|Effort Estimate Prepared by||Average Productivity||Number of Projects|
|Programmer & Supervisor||7.8||16|
Projects which the boss applied no schedule pressure whatsoever ("Just wake me up when you're done.") had the highest productivity of all. Pressure has to be applied with the same care as punishing a child, timing has to be impeccable so that justification is easily apparent, if done all the time, just shows how much the manager really knows.
Variation on a Theme by Parkinson - A company exhibits Parkinsonian behaviour if it is drowning in bureaucracy:
Organizational busy work tends to expand to fill the working day.
My Conclusion: Get motivated people to work for you, then let them do their own estimations, help them buffer the schedules if too ambitious. Pressure does not help to increase productivity, let their pride in their own work be the driving force.
Lose Fat While Sleeping - While collecting ads for products that claimed to boost productivity by 100% or more, Timothy Lister found an ad on the back of the New York Post stating that one could "Lose Fat While Sleeping." It seemed to fit in with all the other seminars, methodologies, books, hardware monitors, computing languages, and newsletters.
Some organizations do better than others not by using any particularly advanced technology, but by having more effective ways of handling people, modifying the workplace and corporate culture, and implementing some measures discussed in Parts II , III and IV . The relative inefficacy of technology may be discouraging because the kinds of modification we advocate are hard to apply and slow to take effect. Easy non-solutions are often more attractive than hard solutions.
The Seven Sirens - Like the Sirens that tempted Odysseus, here are Seven False Hopes of Software Management:
This Is Management - The manager's function is not to make people work, but to make it possible for people to work.
My Conclusion: Technology investment for productivity gains have to be made with a long term view, and expectations have to realistically consider how long it typically takes for the corporate culture to assimilate the new process, methodology or tool.
There are a million ways to lose a work day, but
not even a single way to get one back.
"Look how beautifully uniform everything is! You have no way to tell
whether you're on the 6th or 7th floor. But once people move ib, it
will all be ruined. They'll hang up pictures, individualize their
cubes and be messy. They'll probably drink coffee over the lovely
carpet and even eat their lunch right here. Oh dear, oh dear ..."
The Uniform Plastic Basement - Police mentality may manifest itself in office layouts where there are no offices with windows at all, the corridor runs around the building so that the question of "who gets windowed space is eliminated". But the side effect is that most frequently traveled paths, from elevator to cubicle or from cubicle to cubicle, do not pass any window, wasting all the availabel view. Basement space lends itself better to uniform layouts, but people work better in natural light. They feel better in windowed space, translating to higher quality of work. They want to shape their space to their own convenience and taste.
Visiting a few dozen organizations each year, almost without exception, the workspaces given to intellect workers are noisy, interruptive, unprivate and sterile. Some even had company paging systems!
Police-mentailty planners design workplaces the way they would design prisons: optimized for containment at minimal cost. Sadly, for organizations with productivity probklems, there is no more fruitful area for improvement than the workplace. As long as workers are crowded into noisy, sterile, disruptive space, it's not worth improving anything but the workplace.
My Conclusion: Workplaces should be customized to enhance the productivity of intellect workers, this investment gives the most bang for the buck.
A Policy of Default - A California company that Tom DeMarco consulted for conducted a survey and recognized that the noisy environment was the worst problem workers faced, but decided that they couldn't do anything about it. This is a policy of total default.
Coding War Games: Observed Productivity Factors - Since 1977, the authors conducted some sort of public productivity survey each yeear. From 1984, teams of software implementors from different organizations compete to complete a series of benchmark coding and testing tasks in minimal time and with minimal defects. Here's how these Coding War Games work:
Individual Differences - 3 rules of thumb seem to apply whenever you measure variation in performance over a sample of individuals:
Productivity Non-Factors - The following factors had little or no correlation to performance:
You May Want to Hide This from Your Boss - It mattered a lot who your pair mate was. If paired with someone who did well, so did you and vice versa. For the average competing pair, performance differed by only 21%. They worked in the same physical environment and shared the same corporate culture. That best performers clustered in some organizations and worst performers in others was predicted by Harlan Mills in 1981.
While this [10 to 1] productivity differential among programmersThe best organization in the sample of 92 worked 11.1 times faster than the worst, while passing the major acceptance test. That some companies are doing a lot worse than others may be due to their environment and corporate culture.
is understandable, there is also a 10 to 1 difference in
productivity among software organizations.
Effects of the Workplace - Many companies provide developers with a workplace that is so crowded, noisy and interruptive that it fills their days with frustration. That could reduce efficiency as well as increase the tendency for good people to migrate elsewhere. By using the Coding War Games with an environmental questionaire, workplace characteristics could be compared between those who did well and those who didn't. Average performance of the 1st quartile was 2.6 times better than that of the 4th quartile.
|Environmental Factor||1st Quartile||4th Quartile|
|1. How much dedicated work space?||78 sq. ft.||46 sq. ft.|
|2. Is it acceptably quiet?||57 % yes||29 % yes|
|3. Is it aceptably private?||62 % yes||19 % yes|
|4. Can you silence your phone?||52 % yes||10 % yes|
|5. Can you divert your calls?||76 % yes||19 % yes|
|Do people interrupt you needlessly?||38 % yes||76 % yes|
What Did We Prove? - The data presented does not exactly provde that a better workplace will help people perform better. It may only indicate that people who perform better tend to gravitate toward organizations that provide better workplaces. Either way, if they proved anything, it's that a policy of default on workplace characteristics is a mistake. If you participate in or manage a team of people who need to use their brains during the day, then workplace environment is your business.
My Conclusion: Fix the workplace before putting resources into anything else!
The cost of the workplace is a small percentage of the salary, employee benefits, training etc. The total investment in the worker could easily be 20 times that of his or her workplace. It implies that workplace cost reduction is risky. Attempts to save a small portion of the $1 may cause you to sacrifice a large portion of the $20. The prudent manager would not consider moving people into cheaper, noisier, and more crowded quarters without first assessing whether worker effectiveness would be impaired.
A Plague Upon the Land - We show irresponsible unconcern for our natural resources, so why not in workplace design? Advocates of open-plan seating did not back up their recommendations with careful scientific study. At the heart of the matter:
The fundamental areas of consideration in designing an open-planNo mention that people are going to try to work in that space. Also not mentioned are any definitions or metrics of employee productivity.
office within an IT environment are: the system's electrical
distribution capabilities, computer support capabilities and
manufacturer and dealer service.
We Interrupt This Diatribe to Bring You a Few Facts - Before drawing plans for its new Santa Teresa facility, IBM violated all industry standards by carefully studying the work habits of those who would occupy space. Researchers observed the work processes in action in current workspaces and in mock-ups of proposed workspaces. They watched different workers go about their normal activites and concluded that a minimum accomodation for this mix of people to be the following:
Workplace Quality and Product Quality - Companies that provide small and noisy workplaces explain away complaints as workers campaigning for the added status of bigger, more private space. To determine whether noise level had any correlation to work, we divided our sample into those who found the workplace acceptably quiet and those who didn't. Then, looking at workers within each group who completed the entire exercise without a single defect:
Workers who reported that their workplace was acceptably quiet beforeAs the noise level gets worse, this trend gets stronger:
the exercise were 1/3 more likely to deliver zero-defect work.
|Zero-defect workers:||66% reported noise level OK|
|1-or-more-defect workers:||8% reported noise level OK|
A Discovery of Nobel Prize Significance - On February 3, 1984, in a study of 32,346 companies worldwide, the authors confirmed a virtually perfect inverse relationship between people density and dedicated floor space per person. If you're having trouble seeing why this matters, you're not thinking about noise. Noise is directly proportional to density, so halving the allotment of space per person can be expected to double the noise. Even if you managed to prove conclusively that a programmer could work in 30 sq. ft. without being hopelessly space-bound, you still wouldn't be able to conclude that 30 sq. ft. is adequate space. The noise in a 30 sq. ft matrix is more than triple the noise in a 100 sq. ft. matrix, which could make the difference between a plague of product defects and none at all.
Hiding Out - When the office environment is frustrating enough, people look for a place to hide out. They book conference rooms or head for the library or wander off for coffee and just don't come back. Saving money on space may be costing you a fortune.
My Conclusion: If you're not going to perform a detailed study of workplace requirements for each type of worker, at least differentiate between the different categories such that those who need more space and privacy get more than those who don't.
, author of
, stated that:
Anything you need to quantify can be measured in some way
An organization that wants to and can't make some assessment of its
programming productivity rate just hasn't tried hard enough.
that is superior to not measuring it at all.
But You Can't Afford Not to Know - Since there are 10 to 1 differences in software productivity across organizations, and you probably wouldn't be too surprised to find yours at the top or bottom because you don't have the foggiest idea now, only the market will recognize where you stand and take steps of its own to rectify the situation, steps that many not bode well for you.
Measuring with Your Eyes Closed - In order to make measurement deliver on its potential, management has to be perceptive and secure enough to cut itself out of the loop. Data collected on individual performance has to be used only to benefit that individual as an exercise in self-assessment. Only sanitized averages should be made available to the boss. If this is violated and the data is used for promotion or punitive action, the entire data collection scheme will come to an abrupt halt. Individuals are inclined to do exactly what the manager would to improve themselves, so managers don't really need individual data in order to benefit from it.
My Conclusion: I'm not sure how practical it'll ever be to try to measure any aspect of a software developer's productivity as our architectures, paradigms, methodologies, tools and languages are in constant flux. But I have always believed that you can't confirm improvement of anything you don't measure. On the WWATS project (link questionable) , I used to keep very basic statistics like number of lines of code needed to accomplish a task, lines per module, stability of each module (how recently it had to be changed) in relation to the rest of the system etc. just to get a rough idea of how each member of my team is performing. Your gut feel for any belief is improved with some real raw data.
|Work Mode||Percent of Time|
|Working with one other person||50%|
|Working with two or more people||20%|
The significance of this table from a noise stanpoint is that 30% of the time, people are noise sensitive, and the rest of the time, they are noise generators. Though those working alone are a minority at any given time, it's a mistake to ignore them because they actually do the work during the solitary periods.
Flow - During single-minded work time, people are ideally in a state that psychologists call flow . It is a condition of deep, nearly meditative involvement, a gentle sense of euphoria when one is largely unaware of the passage of time. For anyone involved in engineering, design, development, writing or similar tasks, flow is a must. These are high-momentum tasks that only go well when you're in flow. Unfortunately, it can't be turned on like a switch, it takes a slow descent into thye subject, 15 minutes of more of concentration before the state is locked in. Each time you're interrupted, you require an additional immersion period to get back into flow. During this immersion, you're not really doing work.
An Endless State of No-Flow - If an average incoming call takes 5 minutes and your reimmersion period is 15 minutes, the real cost of that call in work time lost is 20 minutes. A dozen phone calls use up 1/2 a day, a dozen other interruptions and the day is gone. As important as the loss of effective time is the accompanying frustration. Workers who keep trying to get into flow and are interrupted each time end up unhappy. A few days like that and anybody is ready to look for a new job. Managers tend to be unsympathetic to the frustrations of being in no-flow because their own work is done in interrupt-mode, but they have to understand that it reduces effectiveness and satisfaction of their workers, increasing the cost of getting work done.
Time Accounting Based on Flow - Most company's accounting model is based on the conventional model assuming work accomplished is proportional to number of hours put in, making no distinction between hours spent doing meaningful work and hours of pure frustration. They account for body time rather than brain time. To really measure uninterrupted hours onestly, you have to remove the onus from logging too few uninterrupted hours. People have to be assured that it's not their fault if they only manage 1 or 2 uninterrupted hours per week, rather it's the organization's fault for not providing a flow-condusive environment. The first huge benefit is that it focuses your people's attention on the importance of flow time. The resultant interrupt-consciousness helps protect them from casual interruption by peers. The other big benefit is a record of how much meaningful time has been applied to a project. Project management using body-present hours is a futile endeavour.
The E-Factor - The Environmental Factor or E-Factor is measured as follows:
E-Factor = ---------------------------
A somewhat surprising result of collecting E-Factor data is that factors vary within an organization from site to site, for eg. 0.38 to 0.10 in a large government agency. E-Factors can be threatening to the status quo. If you report 0.38 for a sensible space and 0.10 for a cost-reduced space, people are likely to come to the correct conclusion that the cost reduction didn't make much sense. Workers in the 0.10 space will have to put in 3.8 times as much body-present time to do a given piece of work as those in the 0.38 space. That means having work done in the cost-reduced space could result in a performance penaly far greater than the space savings.
A Garden of Bandannas - When you first start measuring E-Factors, don't be surprised if it hovers around zero. You're not just collecting data, you're helping change people's attitudes. At one of our clients, red bandannas on dowels suddenly sprouted from desks after a few weeks of E-Factor data collection, by consensus, they were being used as "Do Not Disturb" signals.
Thinking on the Job - Tom DeMarco was at Bell Labs sharing an office with Wendl Thomis who went on the build a small empire as an electronic toy maker. One day, while Wendl was staring into space pondering problems of extreme complexity with his feet propped up on the desk. Their boss came in and asked, "Wendl! What are you doing?" Wendl said, "I'm thinking." And the boss said, "Can't you do that at home?" At least in those days they had the option of thinking. Your people bring their brains in with them every morning. They could put them to work for you at no additional cost if only there were a small measure of peace and quiet in the workplace.
My Conclusion: In the technology realm where devising or using more appropriate algorithms yield order-of-magnitude instead of fractional improvements, it's such a shame that it's so damn difficult to concentrate at work because some bean counter decided that 36 sq. ft. of dedicated space should be enough.
Visit to an Alternate Reality - Imagine a world where telephones were not invented yet, people would send notes to each other and plan ahead a little more. If the notion that anyone could interrupt you anytime from anywhere until you picked up the handset were presented from the point of view of reduced productivity, you might reject the idea of having phones at all.
Tales from the Crypt - There's no turning back, you can't remove phones from people's desks without causing them to revolt. But have you ever been annoyed standing in line for service when that very person is also taking phone calls. Why should a caller be prioritized over someone who has bothered to be there in person? Even though the telephone reshaped the way we do business, it should not have blinded us to the effects of the interruptions. Managers should be alert to the effect that interruptions can have on their people, but they are often the worst offenders, switching their lines over to their employees when they are not available to take calls.
A Modified telephone Ethic - Corporate culture should realizse that people sometimes choose to be unavailable for interruption by phones. Email is one of the tools that respect this culture. Savings in paper turn out to be trivial compared to the saving in reimmersion time. More important than any gimmick you introduce is a change in the attidtude. People must learn that it's OK sometimes to not answer their phones, and they must learn that their time, not just the quantity but its quality, is important.
My Conclusion: Even though improved phone technology has broght us "Do Not Disturb" modes and voicemail, we have to make a conscious effort to ensure that they are put to use to protect our flow periods.
The Show Isn't Over Till the Fat Lady Sings - The degradation of working conditions that has affected most of us over the past 10 years has depended on our consent. As a group we haven't hollered loud and often enough about the counterproductive side effects of saving money on space. You have to create a forum or use existing ones like surveys to highlight the environmental issues. the establishment will probably have at least 3 counter-arguments:
The Issue of Glitz - The fact that workers don't care a lot about appearances is often misinterpreted to mean they don't care about any attributes of the workplace. If you ask specifically about noise, privacy and table space, you'll hear strongly felt opinions that these characteristics matter a lot. It is more often the case that higher management is guilty of status-seeking in designing the workers' space. The person who is working hard to deliver a high-quality product on time is not concerned with office appearances, but the boss sometimes is. We see the paradoxical phenomenon that totally unworkable space is gussied up expensively and pointlessly with plush carpets, eye-catching furniture, and elaborate panels and decorative plants that get more space than workers. Work-condusive office space is not a status symbol, it's a necessity. Either you pay for it by shelling out what it costs, or you pay for it in lost productivity.
Creative Space - In response to complains about noise, you can treat the cause and choose isolation in the form of noise barriers, walls and doors which cost money. or you can treat the symptom by installing Muzak or some other form of pink noise, a much cheaper alternative. Or you can save even more money by ignoring the problem altogether so that people resort to their own CD players and headphones.
A Cornell experiment in the 1960s polled a group of computer science students and divded them into those who liked to work with music in the background and those who didn't. They put 1/2 of each group together in a silent room, and the other 1/2 in a different room equipped with headphones and a musical selection. To no one's surprise, they performed about the same in speed and accuracy of completing a Fortran programming task. The part of the brain required for arithmetic and related logic is unbothered by music which is handled by another brain centre.
There was a hidden wildcard. The specification required an output data stream be formed through a series of manipulations on numbers in the input data stream. Although unspecified, the net effect of all the operations was that each output number was equal to its input number. Of those students who figured this out, the overwhelming majority came from the quiet room. Not all work is centred around the same left part of the brain. There are occasional breakthoughs that may save months or years or work involving right-brain function. The creative penalty exacted by the environment is insidious since it is an occasional occurence anyway. The effect of reduced creativity is cumulative over a long period. The organization is less effective, people grind out the work unenthusiastically, and the best people leave.
Vital Space - Enclosed offices need not be 1-person offices. The 2, 3 or 4-person office makes a lot of sense if office groupings can be made to align with work groups. Those who meet very often are natural candidates to share an office.
Even in open-plan offices, co-workers should be encouraged to modify the grid to put their areas together into small suites. When this is allowed, people become positively ingenious in laying out the area to serve all their needs: work space, meeting place, and social space. Since they tend to be in interaction of flow mode at the same times, there is less noise clash than with randomly selected neighbours.
Breaking the Corporate Mold - What could be less threatening than a proposal to allow people to reorganize open-plan seating into shard suites instead of individual cubicles? One of the great benfits of "office system" that your company has purchased is its flexibility, so it should be easy enough to move things around. Letting people form suites may seem non-threatening but we predict someone in management will hate it and try to protect the hallowed principle of uniformity that demonstrates ownership and control over a territory. The inconvenient fact of life is that the best workplace is not replicable. Vital work-condusive space for one person is not going to be exactly the same for someone else. Each person and each team's space will have a character of its own.
Management, at its best, should make sure there is enough space, enough quiet, and enough ways to ensure privacy so that people can create their own sensible workspace. Uniformity has no place in this view.
My Conclusion: My most productive days as a software engineer were in Milpitas, Building 6 when I had my own office with a door on it. But if the company really wants to reduce my dedicated space and effectiveness by 70%, so be it! I'm not going to work overtime just to get back the hours which they didn't consider important enough to protect in the first place.
There is one timeless way of building
It is thousands of years old, and the same today as it has always been.
The great traditional buildings of the past, the villages and tents and
temples in which man feels at home, have always been made by people who
were very close to the center of this way. It is not possible to make
great buildings, or great towns, beautiful places, places where you feel
alive, except by following this way. And, as you will see, this way will
lead anyone who looks for it to buildings which are themselves as
ancient in their form, as the trees and hills, and as our faces are.
- The Timeless Way of Building
Christopher Alexander , architect and philosopher, is best known for his observations on the design process. His book, Notes on the Synthesis of Form is considered a kind of holy book by designers of all kind. His philosophy of interior space is a compelling one. It helps you understand what it is that has made you love certain spaces and never feel comfortable in others.
Alexander's Concept of Organic Order - If your organization is about to build a complex of new space, the 1st step is certainly to develop the master plan. In most cases, this is a 1st and fatal deviation from The Timeless Way of Building . Vital, exciting and harmonious spaces are never developed this way. The master plan envisions hugeness and grandeur, steel and concrete spans, modular components. The result is sterile uniformity and space that deosn't work anyone except the one Ego to whom it stands as a tribute.
Most monolithic corporate space can only be understood in terms of its symbolic value to the executives who caused it to be built. Your cubicle, infinitely repeated to the horizon, leaves you feeling like a numbered cog. The result is depressingly the same: a sense of suffocation to the individual. In place of the master plan, Alexander proposes a meta-plan. It is a philosophy by which a facility can grow in an evolutionary fashion to achieve the needs of its occupants. It has 3 parts:
Patterns - Each of the patterns of The Timeless Way of Building is an abstraction about successful space and interior order. The central volume of the set, A Pattern Language , presents 253 of these patterns and weaves them into a coherent view of architecture. Some patterns deal with light and roominess, others with decor, or relationship between interior and exterior space, space for adults, for children, for elders, or with traffic movement around and through enclosed space. Consider Pattern 183, Workplace Enclosure:
People cannot work effectively if their workspace is too enclosed or too
exposed. A good workspace strikes the balance. You feel more comfortable
in a workplace if there is a wall behind you. There should be no blank
wall closer than 8 ft. in front of you. (As you work, you want to
ocassionally look up and rest you eyes by focusing them on something
farther away than the desk. If there is a blank wall closer than 8 ft.
your eyes will not change focus and they get no relief. In this case
you feel too enclosed.) you should not be able to hear noises very
different from the kind you make, from your workplace. your workplace
should be sufficiently enclosed to cut out noises which are a different
kind from the ones you make. There is some evidence that one can
concentrate on a task better if people around him are doing the same
thing, not something else. Workspaces should allow you to face in
- A Pattern Language
For the purpose of the next 4 subsections, we have nominated ourselves to be a team that prepares a set of new patterns tailored to the specific nature of our project. We take aim at 4 of the worst failings of present day institutional space, borrowing heavily from our clients that have succeeded in creating successful workplaces.
The First Pattern: Tailored Workspace from a Kit - Today's modular cubicle is a masterpiece of compromise: It gives you no meaningful privacy while managing to make you feel isolated. You are poorly protected from noise and disruption making it diffult to work alone and almost impossible to participate in the social unit that might form around your work.
The alternative is to fashion space explicitly around working groups. Each team needs identifiable public and semiprivate space and each individual needs protected private space. The team members and their space counselor could work out the possible ways their space could be arranged.
The Second Pattern: Windows - Modern office politics makes a great class distinction in the matter of allocating windows. Most participants emerge as losers in the window sweepstakes. People who wouldn't consider living in a home without windows end up spending most of their daylight time in a windowless workplace. Alexander likens windowless enclosures to prisons.
Hotels are existence proof that sufficient windows are possible without excessive cost. you can't image being shown a hotel room without a window. But if buildings are limited in width to facilitate more windows, what about economies of scale that come with buildings of enormous indoor spaces? Some years back, Danish legislature passed a law that every worker must have his or her own window. This law forced builders to construct long, narrow buildings. In studies conducted after the law had been in effect for a while, there was no noticeable change in cost of space per square meter. Even if there is a higher cost per worker to house people in the more agreeable space, the added expense is likely to make good sense because of the savings it provides in other areas. The real problem is that cost is easily measured whil the offsetting advantages like increased productivity and reduced turnover are poorly measured.
The Third Pattern: Indoor and Outdoor Space - The narrow configuration also makes it possible to achieve greater integration between indoor and outdoor space. The authors had an office in Manhattan that was 1/3 outdoors in the form of a terrace, which was fully occupied the 1/2 of the year that weather permitted. What does that say about workers' preferences?
The Fourth Pattern: Public Space - An age-old pattern of interior space is one that has a smooth "intimacy gradient" as you move toward the interior. At the extermity is space where outsiders may penetrate. Then you move into space that is reserved for insiders (the work group or family), and finally to space that is only for the individual.
The Pattern of the Patterns - The patterns that crop up repeatedly in successful space are there because they are in fundamental accord with human nature. They emphasize the essence that he is at once an individual and a member of a group. They deny neither and let him be what he is. A common element that runs through all the patterns is reliance upon non-replicable formulas . No 2 people have to have exactly the same workspace. The space needs to be isomorphic to the work that goes on there and people need to leave their mark on the workplace.
Return to Reality - If you work for a large institution, you're unlikely to convince the powers that be to admit the error of their ways and allow everyone to build a Timeless Way sort of workplace and perhaps you don't want to work for a small company where it can happen.
There is nonetheless a possible way to put your people into vital, productive space. The possibility ariese because master-planned space is almost always full, and it's a continual hassle to find a place to house any new effort. Put your people to work to find and arrange their own space. If you can solve the space problem for just your own people, you're way ahead. And if your group is more productive and has lower turnover, it just proves you're a better manager. Work conducted in ad hoc space has got more energy and a higher success rate. People suffer less from noise and interruption and frustration. And the quirky nature of their space helps form group identity.
My Conclusion: When opportunities arise, we have to battle hard to make our workplaces more condusive to intellectual work by following the guidelines provided above. That's why Bill Joy (old internal Sun link) moved his team out as Aspen Smallworks. And in similar fashion, James Gosling must have had a creativity-condusive environment off-site at 2180 Sand Hill Road when he conceived Java on the Green Project (old internal Sun link)
The Uniform Plastic Person - Everyone knows that hiring mistakes result from too much attention to appearances and not enough to capabilities. In a healthy corporate culture, the effect of hiring people who don't differ too much from the corporate mold may be small enough to ignore. But when the culture is unhealthy, it's difficult or impossible to hire the one person who matters most, the one who doesn't think like all the rest.a Strong managers pride is tied only to their staff's accomplishments, they are not insecure about the need for uniformity.
Standard Dress - Companies that enforce or even encourage dress codes lose all their most valuable people because those people will realize that their contributions to work are not as important as their appearances.
Code Word: Professional - The term unprofessional is often used to characterize surprising and threatening behaviour that upsets the weak manager. For eg. popcorn, long haired males, posters, comfortable shoes and laughing. In healthier organizations, people are thought professional to the extent they are knowledgeable and competent.
- Entropy is levelness or sameness. The more it increases, the less
potential there is to generate energy or do work. In companies, entropy
be thought of as uniformity of attitude, appearance and thought
Just as thermodynamic entropy is always increasing in the universe, so
corporate entropy is on the rise.
2nd Thermodynamic Law of Management:
That's why young companies are more fun to work for. The successful
brings in the right people and lets them be themselves even though they
deviate from the corporate norm.
Entropy is always increasing in the organization
My Conclusion: Try not to be influenced by appearances to bring in talented people, then let them be themselves to get the most out of them.
Aptitude Tests - Aptitude tests are mostly left-brain oriented, but if someone stays in the company for a long time and moves to management, the activities are to a much greater degree right-brain oriented, requiring holistic thinking, heuristic judgement and intuition based upon experience. These tests can be used but they have to be viewed in terms of short-term suitability, and are best utilized for private self-assessment to aid employee development.
Holding an Audition - Software engineering is much more a sociological than a technological activity, there's greater dependence on ability to communicate with each other than with machines. By asking a candidate to prepare a 10 or 15 minute presentation on some relevant aspect of past work, a group can get to know and bond with a potential teammate, resulting in good feedback for the hiring decision.
My Conclusion: Hiring the right people is paramount so a lot of effort should be put into examining samples of the candidates' past work, testing the candidates' expertise using a small barrage of test questions, and auditioning candidates to test their communication skills.
If your organization can't answer both questions, it fails like most.
Turnover: The Obvious Costs - Typical turnover figures range from 33% to 80% per year, implying an average employee longevity from 15 to 36 months. If your company is in the middle of this range and a average person leaves after 2 years. It costs about 2 months salary to hire a new employee in terms of recruitment costs. And initially, this employee is worst than useless because someone else's time is taken up bringing him or her up to speed. Depending on how esoteric the job is, it might be 5 months before the new employee is working at full speeds, and the cost about 20% of keeping that employee for 2 full years.
The Hidden Costs of Turnover - Employee turnover costs about 20% of all manpower expense but the invisible cost can be far worse. With high turnover, people tend toward a destructively short-term viewpoint. If people only stick around a year or two, the only way to conserve the best people is to promote them quickly, but that means near beginners in 1st-level management positions. The more disconcerting viewpoint is that a person will spend 35 out of 40 years working as a manager. Even Karl Marx didn't foresee such top-heavy capitalism. In companies with low turnover, promotion into 1st-level management comes after about 10 years. Some of the strongest organizations have a low and flat hierarchy.
Why People Leave - Here are a few reasons accounting for most departures:
Turnover engenders turnover. Poeple leave quickly so nothing is spent on training. Since the company does not invest in the individual, the individual thinks of nothing but moving on.
A Special Pathology: the Company Move - Sometimes, the real reason behind an office move is the naked exercise of power. At other times, it is a political move by someone in upper management, seldom is it conducted for real reasons of cost etc. It brings tremendous strain on 2-career families and is seldom tolerated by competent workers nowadays who can usually get a job elsewhere.
The Mentality of Permanence - The best organizations are more notable for their dissimilarities than for their likenesses, but one similarity is a preoccupation with being the best. There is a mentality of permanence in the sense that one would be dumb to look for a job elsewhere. What matters is being the best, a long-term concept, so these companies would readily invest in long-term employee satisfaction because there is a widespread sense that you are expected to stay. A common feature is widespread retraining, Master's programs, and numerous stories of employees who have risen though the ranks.
My Conclusion: It is of the utmost importance to take care of employee development and create a sense of permanance with a career path.
The Covert Meaning of Methodology - Wouldn't it be nice if we could get around the natural limit that an organization is only as good as its people? All we need is a Methodology, a general systems theory of how a whole class of thought-intensive work ought to be conducted. The people who write it tend to be smarter that those who carry it out. But a team of human workers will lose its self-healing properties to the extent it becomes deterministic, maybe proceeding in directions that make no sense.
The big difference between Methodology and methodology is: small m methodology is a basic approach one takes to get a job done, it doesn't reside in a fat book but in the heads of those doing the job. It consists of a tailored plan and a body of skills necessary to effect the plan. Big M Methodology is an attempt to centralize thinking, all meaningful decisions are made by the Methodology builders, not by staff doing the work.
Methodology Madness - If your people aren't smart enough to think their way through work, the work will fail. No Methodology will help, it can only do damage to efforts where the people are competent by guaranteeing:
Voluminous documentation is part of the problem,
not part of the solution.
Methods: Our state of technological infancy offers very few competing methods for most of the work we do. When there are genuine alternatives, people have to know about and master them all. To standardize on one and exclude the rest boils down to the view that knowledge is so valuable that we must use it sparingly. Responsibility: People want to accept responsibility but won't unless given acceptable degrees of freedom to control their own success. Motivation: The underlying message when imposing a Methodology is the demotivating knowledge that management thinks its workers are incompetent.
The Issue of Malicious Compliance - Malicious compliance is doing exactly what a Methodology says whether it makes sense or not. In Australia, there's a charming form of strike called work to rule where worker will follow every stupid detail of regulations such that work almost grinds to a halt.
The Baby and the Bathwater - Most of the benefits claimed on behalf of Methodologies are really benefits of convergence of method but there are better ways to achieve this:
The High-Tech Illusion Revisited - The obsession with Methodologies in the workplace is another instance of the high-tech illusion . Even if the best imaginable Methodology prescribed the right method for every activity, it may give only a small improvement in the technology. And whatever the technological advantage may be, it may come at the price of significantly worsening the team's sociology.
Within certain divisions in Fujitsu , the standard would be for at least one part of the effort to be run in a nonstandard way. In 1932, Hawthorne Western Electric Company tried raising, then lowering the light level and productivity went up in both cases. They speculated that turning the lights off would send productivity through the roof. Change wasn't as important as the act of changing as people were intrigued by novelty, this is called the Hawthorne Effect . Many papers cite productivity improvements when something is introduced, but very few analyze 10 year old "improvements" to see if they are still worthwhile. To allow the Hawthorne Effect to work for you, make nonstandard approaches the rule, the total of all standards imposed should be less than 10 pages. This gives a development environment consistent with the initial dreams of Mae Tse Tung:
Let a hundred flowers blossomMy Conclusion: Continually changing the way we do things is good not just because you're trying to improve, it also keeps people interested. But don't ever use tons of bureaucratic methodology as it will choke your organization. If you have to use standards, only use the proven ones and do your best to keep your usage light.
and let a hundred schools of thought contend.
Concept of the Jelled Team - A jelled team is a group of people so strongly knit that the production of the team is greater than that of the same people working in unjelled form. Once a team jells, the probability of success goes up dramatically, they don't need to be motivated and have great momentum working towards the common goal. .
Management by Hysterical Optimism - Some managers find it distasteful to consider the need to form elaborate social units and skillfully get workers to accept corporate goals. Believing that workers will show professionalism and automatically accept organizational goals is the sign of naive managerial optimism.
Throughout the upper rank$ of each organization, there i$ marvelou$ ingenuity at work to be $ure that each manager ha$ a $trong per$onal incentive to accept the corporate goal$. But at the bottom where the real work is done, this ingenuity fails and we count on "professionalism" to assure that people are all pulling in the same direction.
Getting a system built is an arbitrary goal, but teams can accept and form around it. From the time of jelling, the team itself is the real focus for energies, people are in it for joint success, the pleasure of achieving a goal, any goal, together.
The Guns of Navarone
- Goals of corporations are always going to seem arbitrary, but that
mean no one is ever going to accept them. People who work on jelled
often get so involved they're psyched up enough to storm the guns of
Navarone even though their goals are not the Moral Equivalent of War.
spite of the useful energy and enthusiasm that characterize jelled
managers don't take enough pains to foster them. There is very little
teamwork required in most of our work but teams serve as a device to
everyone pulling in the same direction.
The purpose of a team is not goal attainment but goal alignment.
Signs of a Jelled Team - Jelled teams exhibit these characteristics:
Teams and Cliques - The difference between a team and a clique is like the difference between a breeze and a draft. They both mean "cool current of air", but while a breeze is found delightful, a draft is annoying. People use team when the tight bonding of the jelled working group is pleasing, and clique when it represents a threat. Fear of cliques is a sign of managerial insecurity because managers are often not true members of their teams (more in Chapter 23 ), so the loyalties that exclude them are stronger than the ones that bind them into the group. Loyalties within the group are stronger than those tying the group to the company so there is always the fear of mass exodus. Jelled work groups may be cocky, self-sufficient, irritating and exclusive, but they do more to serve the manager's real goals than any assemblage of interchangeable parts could ever do.
My Conclusion: From my own experience, real work gets done so much faster and better in great teams that effort should be put into forming them.
Stuff of Which Legends Are Made - There was a company in upper New York State that made large blue computers and software to run on them. They tried training customers to make them more tolerant of bugs but this didn't work so they tried to get rid of the bugs instead. The easy obvious approach of leaving it to the programmers didn't work so software was released still with lots of bugs. Some testers were better than others, so they formed the Black Team consisting of these slightly better motivated testers. The team formed a personality of its own, an adversary philosophy of testing that they had to want and expect to find defects. They were delighting in submitting the program to an ordeal such that bringing your program in for Black Team testing was like appearing before Ming the Merciless .
Pitiful Earthlings, What can Save You Now? - They began to cultivate an image of destroyers, doing mostrously unfair things to elicit failure, overloading buffers, comparing empty files, keying in outrageous input sequences. The wose they made you feel, the more they enjoyed it. Team members began to dress in black, cackle horribly whenever a program failed, and some members even grew long moustaches that they could twirl in Simon Legree fashion.
The company was delighted because customer satisfaction went up. People on the team got such a kick out of what they were doing that colleagues outside the team were positively jealous. The chemistry within the group had become an end in itself.
My Conclusion: It doesn't matter how ludicrous a manner in which a jelled team operates as long as it is highly effective.
After struggling to find ways to make team formation possible, they used Edward de Bono 's trick called Inversion as described in his book, Lateral Thinking , and came up with teamicide , sure-fire ways to inhibit the formation of teams and disrupt project sociology.
Defensive Management - It makes good sense for a manager to take a defensive posture in most areas of risk, but one area where it will always backfire is your own people's incompetence. If your staff isn't up to the task at hand, you will fail. Once you have decided to go with a certain group, your best tactic is to trust them. Defensive measures will only posion any chance for your team to jell .
People get to be managers usually because they had exhibited a higher standard of excellence than the average worker. But this may go against them because of the tendency to vet everything their workers do. The only freedom that has any meaning is the freedom to proceed differently from the way your manager would. In a broader sense, the right to be right (in your manager's eye) is irrelevant, it's only the right to be wrong that makes you free. People who feel untrusted have little inclination to bond together into a cooperative team.
Bureaucracy - A study on systems development costs conducted by Capers Jones in the late 1970s concluded that mindless paper pushing, took up more than 30% of the cost of producing a product. Bureaucracy hurts team formation because the team has to believe the goal it forms around, and spending 1/3 of their pushing paper will ensure that they won't.
Physical Separation - If a potentially tightly bound team is scattered over multiple floors or even different buildings, specific work interactions may not suffer terribly, but there is no casual interaction. They may grow stronger bonds to non-group members and there is no chance of group culture forming. Neighbouring workers are a source of noise and disruption whereas team members tend to go into quiet flow mode at the same time.
Fragmentation of Time - Fragmentation is bad for team formation, but it's also bad for efficiency. People can keep track of only so many human interactions. When they try to be part of too many working groups, they spend all their time changing gears. Simply saying that a goal is to assign people only one piece of work at a time can result in significant reductions of fragmentation and give teams a real chance to form.
The Quailty-Reduced Product - Nobody talks about quality-reduced products, only cost-reduced ones, but they boil down to the same thing. Often, the product's end user gives willing consent to this trade-off but such concessions can be very painful to the developer. Their self-esteem and enjoyment are undermined by the necessity of building a product of clearly lower quality than they are capable of. And the 1st casualty of quality reduction is whatever sense of team identification the group has been able to build. People will just want to get out of the group and on to better things as soon as possible.
Phony Deadlines - When a manager gives a phony deadline, group members can barely keep their eyes from rolling. They're been there before and know the whole routine. Maybe phony deadlines to work on naive workers some time ago but it certainly doesn't work anymore. Your workers will ask, "Why?", knowing that the date is impossible to meet and the boss is a Parkinsonian robot with no respect or concern for them. The team will certainly not jell.
Clique Control - A participant at one of the authors' seminars made an observation that the only time management shows any awareness of teams is when it takes specific steps to break them up. Part of the reason is insecurity as indicated in Chapter 18 . Another part is a conspiciously low consciousness of teams in upper management. The team phenomenon only happens at the bottom of the hierarchy, "management teams" is an oxymoron as managers are only bonded into teams as part-time peers, never really jelling.
Once More Over the Same Depressing Ground - Most organizations don't set out consciously to kill teams. They just act that way.
My Conclusion: People have a natural tendency to learn to work well with each other if they have the same goals. We must try not to impede this phenomenon and instead make full use of jelled teams.
Team Effects Beginning to Happen - At the supermarket, nobody takes charge but people begin to discuss what ingredients are necessary and gather them until there's concensus that the cart is full enough. You go back to her place, and people make suggestions and pitch in until dinner comes together. You all eat till you're full and then share in cleaning up.
What's Been Going on Here? - You've just had your 1st success as a group. Success breeds success and productive harmony breeds more productive harmony. Your chances of jeiing into a meaningful team are enhanced by your very 1st experience together.
Natural managers have a subconscious feel for what's good for the team. This feel may govern decisions throughout the project. Good managers provide frequent easy opportunities for the team to succeed together. The opportunities may be tiny pilot sub-projects, demonstrations or simulations, anything that gets the team quickly into the habit of succeeding together. The best successes are the ones with no evident management, where the team works as a genial aggregation of peers. The best bosses do this over and over again without the team feeling "managed". It looks so easy that no one can believe they are managing at all.
My Conclusion: Give your team many opportunities to succeed together, starting off with the smallest of projects, then increasing in scope and difficulty as they succeed in the previous ones. You don't have to restrict this team-building activity to work-related projects.
Calling in Well
"Listen, I've been sick ever since I started workingA job situation that hurts your self-regard is itself "sick". The person who calls in well is ready for work that enhances self-regard. Assignment to such work is an acknowledgement of certain areas of competence, and provides autonomy and responsibility in those areas. Managers of well workers are careful to respect that autyonomy. They accept occasional failure even though they may have prevented it as a reasonable cost. You give your best shot to putting the right person in the position and don't second-guess them.
here, but today I'm well and I won't be in anymore."
- Even Cowgirls Get the Blues
This Open Kimono attitude is the exact opposite of defensive management. You take no steps to defend yourself from the people you entrust. And everyone under you is entrusted. A person you can't trust with autonomy is of no use to you. It's a little frightening to know the boss has put part of his or her reputation into the subordinates' hands but it brings out the best in everyone. The team has something meaningful to form around, they're making sure the trust is rewarded.
The Getaway Ploy - The most common means by which bosses defend themselves from their own people is direct physical oversight, wandering through the work areas looking for people goofing off. They are the Parkinsonian Patrol , alert for people to kick.
If you've got decent people under you, the most dramatic way you can improve their chances of success is get out of their way. Such a plan will cost you some points with your own management and peers because it's so audacious. If asked how you know they don't just goof off, the simple answer is that the product will speak for itself. Visual supervision is a joke for developers, it works only for prisoners. If you get them away from the office, you are protecting your highest-priced resource from distractions and interruptions. Even if you someday succeed in building a productive office environment where it's at least possible to get something useful done between 9 and 5 , the getaway and periods of total autonomy give them an improved chance to jell into a high-momentum team.
There Are Rules and We Do Break Them - Engineering is famous for the unique concept of a skunkworks project . This project is hidden away from upper management's knowledge and thus their interference. One of DEC 's most successful products, the PDP-11 came to the market this way. The amusing thing is that skunkworks is really just a synonym for insubordination . People look out for their Open Kimono managers and are determined to make them look good, even though the managers may botch occasional decisions. Defensive managers are on their own.
Chicken with Lips - In the mid 1970s, Larry Constantine was counseling certain client companies to help them build healthy corporate sociology. One of the things he advised was to allow people at the lowest level some voice in team selection. Projects were posted at a central kiosk and people would form into teams to bid on jobs. The company picked the best suited team for each job based on your team's resumes, how you complemented each other, and how little it disrupted other work in the company.
2 unusual degrees of freedom given to people where what they worked on and who they worked with. The surprising finding was that the first of these factors didn't matter very much. The fear that the most mundane projects wouldn't have bidders turned out to be unfounded. People just want to work with certain other people.
The idea of employment audition introduced in Chapter 15 had a similar effect. In addition to technical judgement, workers supply a team perspective on how well the candidate will fit in. The authors were part of a well-knit group whose members started to have many characteristics in common, in particular, a similar sense of humour. Their shared theory of humour held that chickens were funny while horses weren't, and lips were funny while shoulders weren't. After interviewing a well qualified candidate, one of their colleagues asked the others if they thought the candidate would come to understand that chickens with lips are funny, they all didn't think so and rejected that candidate.
Who's in Charge Here? - The best bosses take chances on their people. They give direction and make judgements of their owns only by exercising their natural authority , i.e. only in their own areas of expertise and not when their workers are better than them in those areas. In this atmosphere of Open Kimono, the team has its optimal chance to jell.
My Conclusion: Choose your people carefully, then trust them completely because that's the only way to really succeed. Rules are not as important as what makes sense. Team chemistry is as important as skillsets, maybe more. The best bosses do what they are best at and leave what their workers are better at to them.
People are at ease, having a good time and enjoying interactions with their peers. The work is a joint product and everybody is proud of its quality. If there's not even a glimmer of this healthy glow in your present situation, it may be time to call in well and get your resume out.
In organizations with the best chemistry, managers devote their time and energy to building and maintaining healthy chemistry. It's hard to break down and analyze the elements of a chemistry-building strategy, but here's a partial simplistic list:
The Cult of Quality - The judgement that a still imperfect product is "close enough" is the death knell for a jelling team. There can be no impetus to bind with others to deliver mediocre work. The opposite attitude of "only perfect is close enough for us" is the strongest catalyst for team formation because it sets them apart from the rest of the quality deficient world. Their friend, Lou Mazzucchelli, chairman of Cadre Technologies was shopping for a paper shredder. When a salesman demonstrataed one which was enormous and noisy, he asked about a German-made one he'd heard about. The salesman contemptuously replied that it costs 50% more and, "All you get for that extra money is better quality." Extraordinary quality doesn't make short-term economic sense but always pays off in the long run because people get high on quality and out-do themselves to protect it. The cult of quality is what Ken Orr calls "the dirt in the oyster". It is the focal point for the team to bind around.
I Told Her I Loved Her When I Married her - The human creature needs reassurance from time to time that he or she is headed in the right direction. This comes from what psychologists call closure , the satisfying "thunk" of pieces of the whole falling into place. Organizations may not need closure as much as humans do, so it is up to the good manager to ensure that there are enough milestones along the way for the team to succeed together and enjoy it. They get a high from the success, recharges them with renewed energy for the next step, and makes them feel closer together.
The Elite Team - In the early 1970s, a VP sent around a memo on the subject of travel expenses to his division. The gist of it was that since his was a 1st-class organization, his people should not be flying economy class. Sounds improbable for a real-world corporation, but it happened at Xerox .
People require a sense of uniqueness to be at peace with themselves, and they need that to let the jelling process begin. When management acts to stifle uniqueness, it happens anyway. What's wrong with a team that is uniquely quality-conscious or productive or competent? Nothing! Yet these nominally acceptable forms of uniquess are upsetting to lots of managers. What's really threatened is not manageability but the trappings of managerial strength, worry about being considered a wimp. The mediocre manager is too insecure to give up the trappings but the great one knows that people can't be controlled in any meaningful sense anyway. The essense of successful management is to get everyone pulling in the same direction and fired up to the point that even their manager can't stop their progress.
On Not Breaking Up the Yankees - If a team does knit, don't break it up. At least give them the option of undertaking another project together. When teams stay together from one project to the next, they start out each new endeavour with enormous momentum.
A Network Model of Team Behavior - Managers are usually not part of the teams they manage. Teams are made up of peers, equals that function as equals. The manaer is most often outside, giving occasional direction from above and clearing away administrative and procedural obstacles. On the best teams, different individuals provide occasional leadership, taking charge in their areas of strength. The structure of a team is a network, not a hierarchy. For all the deference paid to the concept of leadership , it doesn't have much place here.
Selections from a Chinese Menu - The unfortunate baggage that comes from the analogy of a sports team is the sameness of the members. A little bit of heterogeneity can be an enormous aid to create a jelled team. Add one handicapped developer to a newly formed work group, and the odds go up that the team will knit. Whatever the heterogenous element is, it serves as a clear signal that it's OK not to fit into the corporate mold.
Putting It All Together - You can't always make it happen, but when a team comes together, it's worth the cost. Work in fun and people are energized. They succeed and look for more goals to conquer. There's loyalty to the team and environment that allows the team to exist. In Western, particularly American heritage where there is little communal living, they matter even more.
My Conclusion: The elements that facilitate team formation and jelling may be counter intuitive, but if a manager is brave enough to provide the above mentioned environment, the team will reward him with success as they try to protect the enjoyable environment.
Progress Is Our Most Important Problem - The amount of chaos is ever declining, particularly in new technological fields. People attracted to such areas years ago by the newness feel nostalgic about the less orderly days. Progress is good but some of the crazy fun is lost in the process. Going towards more orderly, controllable methods is an unstoppable trend, but we may feel a need to replace some of the lost disorder that has breathed some much energy into the work. What we need is a policy of constructive reintroduction of small amounts of disorder :
Pilot Projects - Pilot projects are for ignoring some aspect of standards and trying some new and unproven technique. It will be unfamiliar initially so you can expect to be inefficient, but besides the potential improvement in productivity from the new technique, the Hawthorne Effect will boost interest and energy because people are doing something new and different.
The authors experience is that pilot projects tend toward higher-than-average net productivity. You need not worry about running out of new ideas because there are many from the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s which you probably haven't tried, and by the time you've tried those, a decade would have passed and they'll be plenty more to try out. And if you're worried about inconsistent products, this is a problem even in the most standardized shops. What present-day standardization has achieved is documentary consistency among products, but nothing approaching meaningful functional consistency .
Don't experiment with more than 1 aspect of development technology on any given project. For all the talk about importance on standards, it's surprising how often managers abandon all standards on the rare pilot project. In the healthiest environment, project personnel understand that they are encouraged to experiment with some single new technique while respecting established standards in other areas.
War Games - From 4 years of running their Coding War Games , they've learned that the sometimes raucous, competitive, no-lose experience can be a delightful source of constructive disorder. It can be an enjoyable experience to try your hand at a set of tailored problems, and to be able to compare your performance to a statistical performance profile of your peers (games results must be confidential as described in Chapter 8 or nobody will participate).
War games help you evaluate your relative strengths and weaknesses and help the organization to observe its global strengths and weaknesses. The most effective form calls for participation in teams, and the following is one formula for such an exercise:
These affairs cost money and organizations should not expect to get something usable out of free overtime. Invest a lot in making the problem specification solid, building in lots of milestones and bringing the facilitators up to speed. Special care has to be put in to make sure the scope is about the right size.
Running in through the night adds to the fun because people like to get tired together, push back sleep and let their peers see them with their hair down, unshaved, with no makeup or pretense. Carried out properly, it may make them feel more closely bound to each other, and give them the most exciting and enjoyable experience of their entire careers.
Brainstorming - brainstorming is a structured interactive session, specifically targeted on creative insight. Up to 6 people get together to focus on a relevant problem. Since you're trying to introduce chaos into the thought process, rules don't have much of a place. Everyone should know to strive for quantity of ideas, not quality, and to keep the proceedings loose, even silly. Negative comments like, "That's a dumb idea," should be discouraged as they often lead others to think of good ideas. When the idea flow slows down, try restarting it with one of these ploys:
Training, Trips, Conferences, Celebrations, and Retreats - perhaps a sad reflection on the dismal corporate workplace, but everybody relishes a chance to get out of the office. What workers relish most is combining travel with peers and a one-of-a-kind experience. Particularly when a team is forming, it makes good business sense to fight for travel money to get team members out of the office together. When there is a thought-intensive deliverable due, put them into a conference centre or hotel. Give them a chance to fly and eat out together, and work out their roles in the new team.
The Outward Bound schools make a thriving business of taking corporate groups into the wilderness and testing their mettle. Some of their courses involving expeditions are certainly not cheap, yet companies invest in pushing the envelope to bring out the best in their people. If your budget only allows for much less, there are many other ideas, like bringing in a food vendor for an office celebration.
There's no question that good sense and order are desirable, but there's also a place for adventure, silliness, and small amounts of constructive disorder.
My Conclusion: Whether we use the above-mentioned techniques or some of our own, there is a need to constantly breathe life back into our work. We spend way too much of our lives working to find it a drag.
The Cottage Industry Phenomenon - Lots of our peers contract their time by the day or week for programming or design work or sometimes management. The most staid companies do business with independents because it's a seller's market for expert services. If you're a Captain of Industry, the cottage industry phenomenon can be upsetting because the entrepreneurs are inclined to be uppity, are a terrible example to your employees, have more freedom, more time off, more choice of work, are having more fun and often make more money.
Fellows, Gurus, and Intrapreneurs - Organizations have to offer attractive in-house alternatives to their best people lest they become part of this phenomenon. One such alternative is a position with loosely stated responsibilities so that the individual has a strong say in defining the work. In extreme cases (like James Gosling ), the charter is a blank check; if your corporation is fortunate enough to have self-moticated superachievers on board, it's enough to say, "Define your own job." The authors colleague, Steve McMenamin (not the Liverpool midfielder) characterizes these workers as "free electrons" since they have s atrong role is choosing their own orbits. The trend to create an increasing number of free lectron positions is more than just a response to the threat of the cottage industry, the reason there are so many gurus and Fellows and internal consultants in healthy modern companies is simply that companies profit from them. They contribute disproportionately to the organizations partly as a reward for the faith in them.
No Parental Guidance - in Soviet society, particularly among Communist Party members, there is a pervasive system of life counseling. To Westerners, this all seems terribly intrusive. We feel that the individual needs to be left alone to work out personal matters, and left alone to seek guidance if and when and from whomever he or she chooses. But this freedom evaporates in the workplace, accepting the wisdom that virtually everyone needs firm direction, handed down from above. Most people need a well-defined charter, but managing the ones who don't is another matter. The mark of the best manager is an ability to single out the few key spirits who have the proper mix of perspective and maturity, and turn them loose. Such managers know they can't give direction to free electrons because they have progressed to the point where their own direction is more in the best interest of the organization than any direction you might give them. Get out of their way!
My Conclusion: Good managers try their best to sense who needs direction and who doesn't, and provides direction for the former while only removing barriers for the latter.
But Why Me? - Making that single change is a tall order for one person, who are you, after all, to confront the kind of power group that springs up around the new Methodology or around the space and services being planned for the new office? Are you really strong enough?
Some years ago, a famous bullfighter, El Cordobes was once asked what regular exercies he did to stay fit enough for the fights. He replied, "There is something you don't understand, my friend. I don't wrestle the bull." A single person acting alone is not likely to effect any meaningful change. When something is amiss (like too much noise in the workplace), it takes very little to raise people's consciousness of it. Then it's no longer just you, it's everyone.
The Sleeping Giant - Just north of Copenhagen is the castle of Kronborg . For a few kroner, you can visit the castle and see the reclining form of Holger Danske , the legendary sleeping giant of Denmark. He sleeps quietly while the country is at peace but if ever Denmark should be in danger, Holger will awake and then his wrath will be terrible to see. There may be a sleeping giant inside your organization, ready to awake when it is in danger. It is in danger if there is too much entropy, too little common sense. The giant is the body of your co-workers and subordinates, rational men and women whoes patience is nearly exhausted. Even if they aren't great organization thinkers, the know Silly when they see it.
Waking Up Holger - If the silliness is gross enough, people need no more than a gentle catalyst. It may be one small voice saying, "This is unacceptable." People know it's true. Once it's been said out loud, they can't ignore it any longer. This may seem idealistic, but if you do wake up a sleeping giant in your company, you won't be the first.
If you've smiled ruefully at any of the characterizations in this book, it's time now to stop smiling and start taking corrective action. Sociology matters more than technology or even money. It's supposed to be productive, satisfying fun to work. If it isn't, then there's nothing else worth concentrating on. Choose your terrain carefully, assemble your facts, and speak up. You can make a difference ... with a little help from Holger Dankse.
My Conclusion: Don't be discouraged that you are only one trying to change something silly in your work environment. If it is obvious enough, you may be able to easily get your co-workers to join in your efforts.