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Tue, 25 May 2004
A while back, I posted on (what I consider) Google's forward thinking policy of giving people 20% of their time to pursue unrelated projects. This was the frame of mind that I was in when I finally picked up Tom DeMarco's Slack: Getting Past Burnout, Busywork, and the Myth of Total Efficiency. Slack is much more about management than I expected it to be, and while it certainly provoked some thoughts for me, I didn't feel that DeMarco tied the ideas together into concrete actions that could be taken. Slack is good, but for me, it didn't quite live up to the standard of the excellent Peopleware: Productive Projects and Teams.

Here's a smattering of quotes that stuck out to me:

p.50: Lister's law

People under time pressure don't think faster
p.70: Managerial overtime
Overworked managers are doing things they shouldn't be doing
p.80: Laws of bad management
First Law of Bad Management: If something isn't working, do more of it.

Second Law of Bad Management: Put yourself in as your own utility infielder

p.87: Characteristics of a "Culture of Fear" organization:
  1. It is not safe to say certain things (e.g., "I have serious doubs that this quota can be met"). And truth is no excuse for saying them.
  2. In fact, being right in your doubts proves that you must be the reason that the fondest wishes of those above you did not come true.
  3. Goals are set so aggressively that there is virtually no chance of achieving them.
  4. Power is allowed to trump common sense.
  5. Anyone can be abused and abased for a failure to knuckle under.
  6. The people who are fired are, on average, more competent than the people who aren't.
  7. The surviving managers are a particularly angry lot. Everyone is terrified of crossing them.
p.100: Vernal Allee's principle of fair exchange
Simply stated, this principle requires you to arrive at an agreement that would be equally acceptable to you from either side. In other words, you would be willing to sign as either party.
p.108: Process standards don't help with the truly hard parts of the work.
When the new automation is in place, there is less total work to be done by the human worker, but what works is left is harder. That is the paradox of automation: it makes the work harder, not easier. After all, it was the easy work that got absorbed into the machine, so what's left is, almost by definition, fuzzier, less mechanical, and more complex.
p.109-110: Empowerment
Empowerment always implies transfer of control to the person empowered and out of the hands of the manager. That doesn't mean you give up all control, only some. You can't empower anyone without taking chances. The power you've granted is the power to err. If that person messes up, you take the consequences. Looked at it from the opposite perspective, it is this capacity to injure the person above you that makes empowerment work. "Oh my God, if I fail at this, my boss is going to look like a chump for trusting me". There is little else in the work experience with so much capacity to motivate.
p.115: Quality
But real quality is far more a matter of what it does for you and how it changes you than whether it is perfectly free of flaws.
p.124: Fischer's Fundamental theorem
The more highly adapted an organism becomes, the less adaptable it is to any new change.
p.138: What is leadership?
Leadership is the ability to enroll other people in your agenda. Meaningful acts of leadership usually accept people to accept short-term pain (extra cost or effort, delayed gratification) in order to increase the long-term benefit. We need leadership for this, because we all tend to be short-term thinkers.
p.140: Power and leadership
In fact, it is success in the absence of sufficient power that defines leadership. ... Have you ever taken direction from someone who didn't have the authority to make you obey? Of course you have. And how do you feel about that? How do you feel about the person who led you? Chances are, the more that person was operating successfully outside and beyond his/her designated authority, the more strongly you feel that you were lucky to have been touched by a real leader. ... It's enrolling someone who is distinctly outside the scope of your official power base that constitutes real leadership.
p.151: Two models for gaining trust
You gain trust by demonstrating trustworthiness
Parent's Rule: Always give trust slightly in advance of demonstrated trustworthiness.
p.171: A real management team
When you find a real management team in action, there are a handful of managers who run their respective subgroups together. People in the subgroups are aware that their bosses are spending a lot of time with each other. (Sometimes they even complain about this: Their past experience has accustomed them to a manager who is alone in his/her office for much of the day, and therefore more available to them.) Decisions are made by the team and belong to the team. Responsibility and accountability are spread over the management team, just as they are in the lower-echelon teams that work for them.

This modest diffusing of accountability is the "problem" cited by organizations that allow no real management teams.

p.185: The best knowledge work managers
The key tools of management in the knowledge organization are the tools of change management. Instead of authority and consequence (the management staples of the factory floor), the best knowledge-work managers are known for their powers of persuasion, negotiation, markers to call in, and their large reserves of accumulated trust.
p.195: Risk Management
Risk management is the explicit quantitative declaration of uncertainty.
p.198: Component vs Aggregate risks
The essential business of risk management is management the component or causal risks -- that is, the set of things that can go wrong that might lead to aggregate failure.
p.200: What it means to manage risk
  1. List and count each risk
  2. Have an ongoing process for discovering new risks
  3. Quantify each one as to its potential impact and likelihood.
  4. Designate a transition indicator for each one that will tell you (early, I hope) that the risk is beginning to materialize.
  5. Set down in advance what your plan will be to cope with each risk should it begin to materialize
p.201: Risk containment
The goal is to place in reserve enough time and money to give at least a fifty-fifty assurance that there will be enough to cover the costs of those risks that do materialize.
p. 202: Risk mitigation
  • The plan has to precedes materialization
  • Some of the mitigation activities must also precede materialization
[00:09] | [books] | # | TB | F | G | 1 Comments | Other blogs commenting on this post
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