Monday, February 19, 2007

Slack (a book review)

"Slack: Getting Past Burnout, Busywork, and the Myth of Total Efficiency"
by Tom Demarco

Don't get too excited.  The book doesn't conclude that being a total
slacker is good for your employer.  Instead, it's main argument is that
if an organisation's workers are always 100% "busy", and therefore
working at 100% efficiency, then the true effectiveness of the
organisation actually suffers.  By allowing some "slack", workers
(especially knowledge workers) can produce better output, express
themselves more creatively, feel less stressed and ultimately feel
happier.  The organisation also benefits: it becomes more responsive
to change, quality improves and it becomes more profitable.

The author challenges many of the pillars of modern management:
* "Fungible resources" e.g. interchangeable staff
* "Management by Objectives"
* Rigid processes with high ceremony
* "Productivity" measurement
* "Quality" programs
* "Motivational" material and seminars

Another interesting book co-written by this author is:
"Peopleware: Productive Projects and Teams"
by Tom Demarco and Timothy Lister

I try to re-read it once every couple of years.  There's lots of great
stuff covered on how to create a productive environment for IT workers.
It all seems like common sense, but you need reminding every once in a
while because many employers seem to do the opposite.