Sunday, March 18, 2012

Skimming : Peopleware

Peopleware: Productive Projects and Teams (Second Edition)


Somewhere Today, A Project is Failing

  • For the overwhelming majority of the bankrupt projects we studied, there was not a single technological issue to explain the failure, (p.4)
  • The major problems of our work are not so much technological as sociological in nature. (p.4)
  • The main reason we tend to focus on the technical rather than the human side of the work is not because it's more crucial, but because it's easier to do. (p.5)

Make A Cheeseburger, Sell A Cheeseburger

  • Development is inherently different from production. But managers of development and allied efforts often allow their thinking to be shaped by a management philosophy derived entirely from a production environment. (p.7)
  • The "make a cheeseburger, sell a cheeseburger" mentality can be fatal in your development area. (p.7)
  • Fostering an atmosphere that doesn't allow for error simply makes people defensive. ... The average level of technology may be modestly improved by any steps you take to inhibit error. The team sociology, however, can suffer grievously. (p.8)
  • You may be able to kick people to make them active, but not to make them creative, inventive, and thoughtful. (p.9)
  • The catalyst is important because the project is always in a state of flux. Someone who can help a project to jell is worth two people who just do work. (p.11)
  • The more heroic the effort required, the more important it is that the team members learn to interact well and enjoy it (p.12)

Vienna Waits for You

  • Productivity ought to mean achieving more in an hour of work, but all too often it has come to mean extracting more for an hour of pay. (p.14)
  • Your people are very aware of the one short life that each person is allotted. And they know too well that there has got to be something more important than the silly job they're working on. (p.15)
  • Throughout the effort there will be more or less an hour of undertime for every hour of overtime. The trade-off might work to your advantage for the short term, but for the long term it will cancel out (p.15)
  • Productivity has to be defined as benefit divided by cost. The benefit is observed dollar savings and revenue from the work performed, and cost is the total cost, including replacement of any workers used up by the effort. (p.18)
  • A schedule that the project could actually meet was of no value to those Spanish Theory managers, because it didn't put the people under pressure. Better to have a hopelessly impossible schedule to extract more labor from the workers. (p.18)
  • People under time pressure don't work better; they Just work faster. (p.18)

Quality—If Time Permits

  • There may be many and varied causes of emotional reaction in one's personal life, but in the workplace, the major arouser of emotions is threatened self-esteem. (p.19)
  • Any step you take that may jeopardize the quality of the product is likely to set the emotions of your staff directly against you. (p.19)
  • In many cases, you may be right about the market, but the decision to pressure people into delivering a product that doesn't measure up to their own quality standards is almost always a mistake. (p.20)
  • The point here is that the client's perceived needs for quality in the product are often not as great as those of the builder. There is a natural conflict. (p.21)
  • Quality, far beyond that required by the end user, is a means to higher productivity. (p.22)

Parkinson's Law Revisited

  • In a healthy work environment, the reasons that some people don't perform are lack of competence, lack of confidence, and lack of affiliation with others on the project and the project goals. (p.25)
  • The most surprising part of the 1985 Jeffery-Lawrence study appeared at the very end, ... Projects on which the boss applied no schedule pressure whatsoever ("Just wake me up when you're done.") had the highest productivity of all. (p.29)
  • Organizational busy work tends to expand to fill the working day. (p.29)


  • People who are desperate enough don't look very hard at the evidence. Similarly, lots of managers are "desperate enough," and their desperation makes them easy victims of a kind of technical laetrile that purports to improve productivity.(p.30)
  • The manager's function is not to make people work, but to make it possible for people to work. (p.34)


The Furniture Police

  • But people work better in natural light. They feel better in windowed space and that feeling translates directly into higher quality of work. (p.40)
  • Almost without exception, the workspaces given to intellect workers are noisy, interruptive, unprivate, and sterile. (p.40)
  • Police-mentality planners design workplaces the way they would design prisons: optimized for containment at minimal cost. (p.40)

"You Never Get Anything Done Around Here between 9 and 5"

  • Staying late or arriving early or staying home to work in peace is a damning indictment of the office environment. (p.43)
  • If you participate in or manage a team of people who need to use their brains during the work day, then the workplace environment is your business. (p.50)

Saving Money on Space

  • ... minimum accommodation for the mix of people slated to occupy the new space would be the following:
    • 100 square feet of dedicated space per worker
    • 30 square feet of work surface per person
    • noise protection in the form of enclosed offices or six-foot high partitions
  • Noise is directly proportional to density, so halving the allotment of space per person can be expected to double the noise. (p.56)
  • People are hiding out to get some work done. If this rings true to your organization, it's an indictment. Saving money on space may be costing you a fortune. (p.57)

Intermezzo : Productivity Measurement and Unidentified Flying Objects

  • In order to make the concept deliver on its potential, management has to be perceptive and secure enough to cut itself out of the loop. That means the data on individuals is not passed up to management, and everybody in the organization knows it. (p.61)
  • The individuals are inclined to do exactly the same things with the data that the manager would do. They will try to improve the things they do less well or try to specialize in the areas where theyalready excel. (p.61)

Brain Time Versus Body Time

  • Thirty percent of the time, people are noise sensitive, and the rest of the time, they are noise generators. (p.62)
  • Flow is a condition of deep, nearly meditative involvement. ... Not all work roles require that you attain a state of flow in order to be productive, but for anyone involved in engineering, design, development, writing, or like tasks, flow is a must. (p.63)
  • If you're a manager, you may be relatively unsympathetic to the frustrations of being in no-flow. After all, you do most of your own work in interrupt mode—that's management—but the people who work for you need to get into flow. (p.64)
  • What matters is not the amount of time you're present, but the amount of time that you're -working at full potential. (p.65)
  • Whenever the number of uninterrupted hours is a reasonably high proportion of total hours, up to approximately forty percent, then the environment is allowing people to get into flow when they need to. E-Factor = Uninterrupted Hours / Body-Present Hours (p.66)

The Telephone

  • Do you often interrupt a discussion with co-workers or friends to answer a phone? Of course you do. You don't even consider not answering the phone. Yet what you're doing is a violation of the common rules of fairness, taking people out of order, just because they insist loudly (BBBRRRRHINNNNGGGGG!) on your attention. (p.71)
  • The big difference between a phone call and an electronic mail message is that the phone call interrupts and the e-mail does not; (p.73)
  • People must learn that it's okay sometimes not to answer their phones, and they must learn that their time—not just the quantity but its quality—is important. (p.74)

Bring Back The Door

  • The most obvious symbol of success is the door. When there are sufficient doors, workers can control noise and mterruptability to suit their changing needs. The most obvious symbol of failure is the paging system. (p.75)
  • What is more relevant is whether the workplace lets you work or inhibits you. Work-conducive office space is not a status symbol, it's a necessity. (p.77)
  • The creative leap involves right-brain function. If the right brain, is busy listening to 1001 Strings on Muzak, the opportunity for a creative leap is lost. (p.79)
  • The inconvenient fact of life is that the best workplace is not going to be infinitely replicable. Vital work-conducive space for one person is not exactly the same as that for someone else. (p.80)

Taking Umbrella Steps

  • Christopher Alexander, architect and philosopher, is best  known for his observations on the design process. ... His philosophy of interior space is a compelling one. It helps you to understand what it is that has made you love certain spaces and never feel comfortable in others. (p.82)
  • Alexander has very little patience with windowless space: "Rooms without a view are like prisons for the people who have to stay in them." (p.87)
  • If you've ever had the opportunity to work in space that had an outdoor component, it's hard to imagine ever again limiting yourself to working entirely indoors. (p.89)
  • At the entrance to the workplace should be some area that belongs to the whole group. It constitutes a kind of hearth for the group. (p.89)
  • A common element that runs through all the patterns (both ours and Alexander's) is reliance upon non-replicable formulas. No two people have to have exactly the same workspace. (p.90)


The Hornblower Factor

  • All of this means that getting the right people in the first place is all-important. (p.96)
  • You're hiring on behalf of the whole corporate ladder above you. The perceived norm of these upper managers is working on you each time you consider making a new offer. That almost unsensed pressure is pushing toward the company average, encouraging you to hire people that look like, sound like, and think like everybody else. (p.97)
  • In the corporation or other organization, entropy can be thought of as uniformity of attitude, appearance, and thought process. (p.99)
  • SECOND THERMODYNAMIC LAW OF MANAGEMENT: Entropy is always increasing in the organization. (p.99)

Hiring A Juggler

  • It would be ludicrous to think of hiring a juggler without first seeing him perform. (p.100)
  • The aptitude tests we've seen are mostly left-brain oriented. That's because the typical things new hires do are performed largely in the left brain. The things they do later on in their career, however, are to a much greater degree right-brain activities. (p.103)
  • So the hiring process needs to focus on at least some sociological and human communication traits. The best way we've discovered to do this is through the use of auditions for job candidates. (p.103)
  • But it doesn't follow that aptitude tests are no good or that you ought not to be using them. You should use them, just not for hiring. (p.103)
  • It soon became clear that the audition process served to accelerate the socialization process between a new hire and the existing staff members. (p.104)

Happy to be Here

  • Employee turnover costs about twenty percent of all manpower expense. But that's only the visible cost of turnover. ... In companies with high turnover, people tend toward a destructively short-term viewpoint, because they know they just aren't going to be there very long. (p.106)
  • But from the corporate perspective, late promotion is a sign of health. In companies with low turnover, promotion into the first-level management position comes only after as much as ten years with the company. (This has long been true of some of the strongest organizations within IBM, for example.) (p.108)
  • ... a few reasons account for most departures:
    • a just-passing-through mentality: Co-workers engender no feelings of long-term involvement in the job.
    • a feeling of disposability: Management can only think of its workers as interchangeable parts (since turnover is so high, nobody is indispensable).
    • a sense that loyalty would be ludicrous: Who could be loyal to an organization that views its people as parts?
      (p. 108)
  • But in the best organizations, the short term is not the only thing that matters. What matters more is being best. And that's a long-term concept. (p.111)
  • A common feature of companies with the lowest turnover is widespread retraining. ... They realize that retraining helps to build the mentality of permanence that results in low turnover and a strong sense of community. They realize that it more than justifies its cost. (p.112)

The Self-Healing System

  • When you automate a previously all-human system, it becomes entirely deterministic. The new system is capable of making only those responses planned explicitly by its builders. So the self-healing quality is lost. (p.113)
  • The maddening thing about most of our organizations is that they are only as good as the people who staff them. Wouldn't it be nice if we could get around that natural limit, and have good organizations even though they were staffed by mediocre or incompetent people? Nothing could be easier—all we need is (trumpet fanfare, please) a Methodology. (p.114)
  • There is a big difference between Methodology and methodology. Small m methodology is a basic approach one takes to getting a job done. It doesn't reside in a fat book, but rather inside the heads of the people carrying out the work. ... Big M Methodology is an attempt to centralize thinking. All meaningful decisions are made by the Methodology builders, not by the staff assigned to do the work. (p.115)
  • Of course, if your people aren't smart enough to think their way through their work, the work will fail. No Methodology will help. (p.116)
  • Convergence of method is a good thing. But Methodologies are not the only way to achieve convergence. (p.118)
  • Better ways to achieve convergence of method are
    • Training: People do what they know how to do. If you give them all a common core of methods, they will tend to use those methods.
    • Tools: A few automated aids for modeling, design, implementation, and test will get you more convergence of method than all the statutes you can pass.
    • Peer Review: In organizations where there are active peer review mechanisms (quality circles, walkthroughs,inspections, technology fairs), there is a natural tendencytoward convergence.
  • It's only after this kind of gently guided convergence that you may think of publishing a standard. You can't really declare something a standard until it has already become a de facto standard. ... In that company's standards manual, it defines a standard as "a proven method for undertaking a repeated task." The manual goes on to explain that proven means "demonstrated widely and successfully within DuPont." (p.118)


The Whole is Greater than The Sum of The Parts

  • The reasons for this effect are not so complex: Teams by their very nature are formed around goals. ... Prior to a team's jelling, the individuals on the team might have had a diversity of goals. But as part of the jelling process, they have all bought on to the common goal. (p.123)
  • There is very little true teamwork required in most of our work. But teams are still important, for they serve as a device to get everyone pulling in the same direction. The purpose of a team is not goal attainment but goal alignment. (p.126)
  • The final sign of a jelled team is the obvious enjoyment that people take in their work. Jelled teams just feel healthy. The interactions are easy and confident and warm. (p.127)

The Black Team

  • The Black Team was initially made up of people who had proved themselves to be slightly better at testing than their peers. They were slightly more motivated. (p.130)
  • The team was a success. It succeeded as a test group, but more important for our purposes here, it succeeded as a social unit. People on the team got such a kick out of what they were doing that colleagues outside the team were positively jealous. (p.131)


  • So instead of looking for ways to make team formation possible, we began to think of ways to make it impossible. (p.133)
  • You can't protect yourself against your own people's incompetence. If your staff isn't up to the job at hand, you will fail. Of course, if the people are badly suited to the job, you should get new people. But once you've decided to go with a given group, your best tactic is to trust them. (p.133)
  • People who feel untrusted have little inclination to bond together into a cooperative team. (p.135)
  • Physical separation of people who are expected to interact closely doesn't make much sense anyway. Neighboring workers are a source of noise and disruption. When they're all on the same team, they tend to go into quiet mode at the same time, so there is less interruption of flow. (p.136)
  • No one can be part of multiple jelled teams. The tight interactions of the jelled team are exclusive. Enough fragmentation and teams just won't jell. The saddest thing is we allow far more fragmentation than is really necessary. (p.137)
  • Co-workers who are developing a shoddy product don't even want to look each other in the eye, There is no joint sense of accomplishment in store for them. They know that there will be a general sense of relief when they can stop doing what they're doing. At the end of the project, they'll make every effort to separate themselves from other members of the group, and get on to better things. (p.137)
  • But there are certainly cases where a tight but not impossible deadline can constitute an enjoyable challenge to the team. What's never going to help, however, is a phony deadline. (p.138)
  • The team phenomenon, as we've described it, is something that happens only at the bottom of the hierarchy. ... When managers are bonded into teams, it's only because they serve dual roles: manager on the one hand and group member on the other. (p.139)

A Spaghetti Dinner

  • The common thread is that good managers provide frequent easy opportunities for the team to succeed together. (p.141)
  • The best boss is the one who can manage this over and over again without the team members knowing they've been "managed." (p.142)

Open Kimono

  • This Open Kimono attitude is the exact opposite of defensive management. You take no steps to defend yourself from the people you've put into positions of trust. And all the people under you are in positions of trust. A person you can't trust with any autonomy is of no use to you. (p.144)
  • They're not just getting a job done. They're making sure that the trust that's been placed in them is rewarded. It is this kind of Open Kimono management that gives teams their best chance to form. (p.145)
  • If you've got decent people under you, there is probably nothing you can do to improve their chances of success more dramatically than to get yourself out of their hair occasionally. (p.146)
  • What seemed to matter was the chance for people to work with those they wanted to work with. (p.148)
  • Between master craftsman and apprentice there is a bond of natural authority—the master knows how to do the work and the apprentice does not. Submitting to this kind of authority demeans no one, it doesn't remove incentive, it doesn't make it impossible to knit with fellow workers.  (p.148)

Chemistry For Team Formation

  • In organizations with the best chemistry, managers devote their energy to building and maintaining healthy chemistry. Departments and divisions that glow with health do so because their managers make it happen. (p.150)
  • The opposite attitude, of "only perfect is close enough for us," gives the team a real chance. This cult of quality is the strongest catalyst for team formation. It binds the team together because it sets them apart from the rest of the world. The rest of the world, remember, doesn't give a hoot for quality. (p.151)
  • When team members develop a cult of quality, they always turn out something that's better than what their market is asking for. They can do this, but only when protected from short-term economics. (p.152)
  • The chemistry-building manager takes pains to divide the work into pieces and makes sure that each piece has some substantive demonstration of its own completion. ... Each new version is an opportunity for closure. Team members get warmed up as the moment approaches, they sprint near the very  end. (p.152)
  • A jelled team does have the effect of making people more productive and goal-directed. And you do give up some control, or at least the illusion of control, when it jells. The team begins to feel elite in some way or other, with all members of the team sharing in the sense of eliteness.  (p.154)
  • On the best teams, different individuals provide occasional leadership, taking charge in areas where they have particular strengths. No one is the permanent leader, because that person would then cease to be a peer and the team interaction would begin to break down. (p.155)


Chaos And Order

  • One caveat about pilot projects: Don't experiment with more than one aspect of development technology on any given project. (p.161)
  • From four years of running our Coding War Games, we have learned that the sometimes raucous, competitive, no-lose experience can be a delightful source of constructive disorder. (p.162)
  • There can be no question that good sense and order are desirable components of our work day. There's also a place for adventure, silliness, and small amounts of constructive disorder. (p.166)

Free Electrons

  • It's hardly hot news these days that lots of our peers are working as cottage industry entrepreneurs. They contract their time by the day or week for programming or design work or sometimes management. (p.167)
  • Organizations are under increasing pressure to offer attractive in-house alternatives to their best people lest they become part of the cottage industry phenomenon. One such alternative is a position with loosely stated responsibilities so that the individual has a strong say in defining the work. (p.168)
  • Our colleague Steve McMenamin characterizes these workers as "free electrons," since they have a strong role in choosing their own orbits. (p.168)
  • The reason there are so many gurus and Fellows and intrapreneurs and internal consultants in healthy modern companies is quite simply that companies profit from them. (p.168)
  • 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 then turn them loose. (p.170)

Holgar Dansk

  • The key to success in fostering the kind of change we're advocating is that you not try to wrestle the bull. You're certainly not strong enough for that. (p.172)
  • There may be a sleeping giant inside your own organization, ready to awaken 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 whose patience is nearly exhausted. (p.173)


Teamicide Revisited

  • These motivational accessories, as they are called (including slogan coffee mugs, plaques, pins, key chains, and awards), are a triumph of form over substance. (p.178)
  • Extended overtime is a productivity-reduction technique, anyway. The extra hours are almost always more than offset by the negative side effects. (p.180)


  • At the extreme, at least, competition is certain to inhibit team jell. (p.181)
  • What is the long-term effect of heightened competition among people who need to work together? One of the first victims is the easy, effective peer-coaching that is ubiquitous in healthy teams. (p.182)
  • When you observe a well-knit team in action, you'll see a basic hygienic act of peer-coaching that is going on all the time. Team members sit down in pairs to transfer knowledge. When this happens, there is always one learner and one teacher. Their roles tend to switch back and forth over time ... (p.182)
  • Our point here is somewhat more limited: Any action that rewards team members differentially is likely to foster competition. Managers need to take steps to decrease or counteract this effect. (p.184)

Process Improvement Programs

  • Standards are good. ... but it's worth pointing out that the great triumph of standards in the modern world is almost entirely the success of standard interfaces. ... how it interfaces with its corresponding parts—but nothing about the process for building that product. (p.187)
  • Competent people are involved in process improvement all the time: They take pride in progress and growth, and these can only come from getting more proficient at what they do. This kind of low-level process refinement is the basic hygiene of knowledge work, but formal process improvement moves responsibility up from the individual to the organization. (p.188)
  • Organizations that build products with the most value to their customers win. Those that build products that make the world yawn lose, even though they build them very, very efficiently. (p.189)
  • All the projects that carry real benefit carry real risks along with them. It is the project that has some novelty, some innovation or invention, that might grab the customer's imagination and wallet. (p.189)
  • One of the strongest justifications for the CMM is that it will raise quality and productivity while decreasing risk .... Organizations become more and more averse to risk as they "mature." An organization under the gun to demonstrate increased CMM level is not going to go looking for real challenge.  (p.190)
  • Raising the bar means that risk will increase. The more proficient you are, the more risk you take on. You'd be crazy not to (p.191)
  • As we make real progress in process improvement, we need more talented and more experienced people to do the work (p.191)
  • You need as much proficiency as you can possibly build into your organization. You need that in order to take on ever-more risky projects. The Key Process Areas, as identified by the SEI, will be useful to you in building proficiency; they define sets of skills that ought to be on any good software manager's wish list. Focus on the KPA skills, but do whatever you can to turn off the institutional score-keeping. (p.192)

Making Change Possible

  • "You don't get it. I'm sorry, but people really, truly hate change. That's the problem: They're not rejecting a particular change on its merits; they're rejecting any change. And that's because people hate change." (p.194)
  • Johnson asserts that the Believers but Questioners are the only meaningful potential allies of any change. The two extremes, Blindly Loyal and Militantly Opposed, are the real enemies. (p.197)
  • MANTRA: The fundamental response to change is not logical, but emotional. (p.197)
  • Instead, we need to celebrate the old as a way to help change happen. (p.198)
  • When you try to institute change, the first thing you hit is Chaos. ... You are suffering from the dip in the learning curve, and the assessment that the change is the problem may well be right, at least for the moment. You are worse off, for now. This is part of the reason why response to change is so emotional. (p.199)
  • An interesting characteristic of human emotion is that the more painful the Chaos, the greater the perceived value of the New Status Quo—if you can get there. (p.200)
  • Change won't even get started unless people feel safe—and people feel safe when they know they will not be demeaned or degraded for proposing a change, or trying to get through one. (p.200)
  • Paradoxically, change only has a chance of succeeding if failure—at least a little bit of failure—is also okay. (p.201)

Human Capital

  • An investment, on the other hand, is use of an asset to purchase another asset. The value has not been used up, but only converted from one form to another. When you treat an expenditure as an investment instead of as an expense, you are said to be capitalizing the expenditure. (p.203)
  • Companies of knowledge-workers have to realize that it is their investment in human capital that matters most. (p.208)

Organizational Learning

  • Experience gets turned into learning when an organization alters itself to take account of what experience has shown. This alteration takes two forms, which are different enough to talk about separately:
    • The organization instills new skills and approaches in its people.
    • The organization redesigns itself to operate in some different manner.
  • Learning is limited by an organization's ability to keep its people. (p.210)
  • That means the most natural learning center for most organizations is at the level of that much-maligned institution, middle management. This squares exactly with our own observation that successful learning organizations are always characterized by strong middle management. (p.212)
  • In order for a vital learning center to form, middle managers must communicate with each other and learn to work together in effective harmony. This is an extremely rare phenomenon. (p.212)

The Ultimate of Management Sins is ...

  • The ultimate management sin is wasting people's time. (p.215)
  • Organizations have need of ceremony. It's perfectly reasonable to call a meeting with a purpose that is strictly ceremonial,  particularly at project milestones, when new people come on board, or for celebrating good work by the group. Such meetings do not waste anyone's time. ... Ceremonial meetings that only celebrate the bossness of the boss, however, are a waste. (p.217)
  • Fragmented time is almost certain to be teamicidal, but it also has another insidious effect: It is guaranteed to waste the individual's time. (p.220)

The Making of Community

  • Community doesn't just happen on the job. It has to be made. The people who make it are the unsung heroes of our work experience. (p.223)
  • An organization that succeeds in building a satisfying community tends to keep its people. When the sense of community is strong enough, no one wants to leave. (p.224)
  • Like any work of art, your success at fostering community is going to require substantial talent, courage, and creativity. It will also need an enormous investment of time. The work will not be completed by you alone; at best, you will be the catalyst. (p.225)