Peopleware

Learn what makes a great business team.

Great technology makes businesses work.

False!

Authors of Peopleware, Tom DeMarco and Timothy Lister state that the most crucial attribute of business is not technical but human.

Thus, a manager’s focus should lie on issues like the productivity of the developer, teamwork, and group dynamics to usher his team to success.

You’ll discover

  • How a margin for error can be good for team spirit
  • How forced overtime is equals to compensatory under time
  • How gardening sets a good-natured manner among employees

Many creative projects fail because managers have adopted the wrong management style.

Even though the field of creative software development offers project-based, many of these projects still go down south leaving the managers completely clueless as to why.

A study involving 500 different software development projects from real companies stated that 15% of these projects were either given up for lost or unused, while 25% of the larger projects that take a lot of years to finish remained incomplete.

Despite the intensive study on these failed projects, the reason for crashing still could not be explained. Instead, the reason stated for the failure was due to sociological problems and not technological at all. And because of flawed perspective of leadership, most managers do not pay attention to sociological problems.

Imagine yourself being in a party with your team of programmers. One of the party-goers asks you what you do for a living, what would be your answer?

If “I’m in software programming,” is your response, then you are mistaken.

As long as you do technological work, as a manager, you are still considered mostly to be in the human communication business. Your success would be from positive human interactions within your team.

Therefore, you have to bank on strong presence within your people and management and not technology.

Managers often overlook employees’ individuality, and don't leave room for necessary errors.

When a manager has no stable grip on his purpose and responsibilities, it would be evident through the several common mistakes he would commit as he manages his team.

First mistake that managers make is viewing workers less than machines—uniform and transposable. Workers should be appreciated because of their talents and skills.

In one study conducted in a software company, a manager oversaw a very gifted employee with an unusual expenditure. He was spending more money over all. The extra money he spent on food, he was saving somewhere else. Therefore, he was not spending more. Rather, he was spending unusually.

The manager still decided to brand the employee as a ‘food criminal’ that he stated through a public memo—thus, poor morale.

The second mistake a manager makes is not leaving room for opportunities. In a simple term, employees cannot make mistakes. This tiring, pressuring mind-set is what burn out employees.

If employees perceive a manager as someone who would not tolerate mistakes and would suffer errors, their actions and decisions would be very limited. They would feel inferior toward innovation out of the fear their managers have inflicted on them.

Mandatory overtime won’t increase productivity, but lead to undertime and higher turnover rates.

As a manager, you want to have the best of your employees, but how?

You can always make them work during weekends and holidays, or you can ask them to work for longer hours, or make them work over time.

But you ought to know that these demands are actually leading your people to underperformance.

We are all aware of our limited lifespan and the effect of stress and pressure in our health. It is very expected of our loved ones to disagree on working long hours at the expense of some family quality time.

So, whenever a worker feels burnt out or perhaps functioning too much on overtime, he would take a compensatory under time to cool down from such hype. You can expect leaving early, suboptimal performance, sick leave, and etc.

It will be much like running on a sprint. Extending the run would only stop you from actually finishing the race. It is the same with your team performance. The more overtime you demand, the more fed up your team becomes, which leads to team attrition due to their intentions to search for better working conditions.

In Data General’s Eagle Project, ‘workaholic project members’ have put in a lot of unpaid overtime hours to finish the tasks. As peer pressure suggests, other employees did the same to not look outperformed. But, right after the project ends, the whole staff quit.

In measuring productivity, think of this equation; benefit divided by cost. Savings from unpaid overtime could mean worn-out employees as you calculate the productivity of your team.

Sacrificing quality for speed will make your employees less productive.

Think of the project you have dreamt for so long—that one you drew way back in first grade when your teacher asked you to draw your dream job. Imagine finally doing that work now and being. How would you feel if somebody waltz in to the very door of your office and yank your whole project from your desk? You would definitely be devastated. That is how most of the employees feel when the projects they work so hard on would suddenly cease to operate halfway into completion.

As an example, some buyers would still purchase a program even if it needs a little tweaking as long as it is useful. The programmers still earn money from saving even if it other buyers choose not to get. This process is by cutting down the time-to-market.

Flight from excellence is when there is keenness in decrease of time-to-market. But this comes with a veiled price to pay. Sure, employees and managers may be okay with selling low-quality product, but dedicated programmers would rather trade with pride in. So, if these programmers are consistently pressured to build low-quality programs in such quick time, then chances are, they will grow unhappy of their jobs. As a manager, you might be in search for new replacements anytime soon.

Take Hewlett-Packard as an example. It is a famous company because of its dedication for quality. Now, the managers and the owners did not demand such sky-high standards for quality, the employees who build the programs set the standards themselves.

HP programmers are dedicated to providing quality more than what the market requires. And HP profits from this a lot. And the employees get job satisfaction and acknowledgement for their awesome job. This proves that efficiency and quality do not have to be tradeoffs.

The workplace has the highest effect on performance, so make your space a pleasure to work in.

Think about your office.

As yourself these questions; are the phones always ringing? Are there a lot of disturbances? Is everybody just so busy?

If the answer to these questions is yes, then it might be high time to change your office setup. This kind of setup often hinders productivity within your team.

The Coding War Games’ author stated that the workplace and its setup have the greatest impact on performance—even higher than educational background or work experience.

In this game, the aim was to measure productivity among different companies that participated through their two employees nominated to represent their company as a team. Each team of two was tasked to code and test a medium-sized program. They were all asked to log the time they spent on their work, and they were only allowed to work during normal working hours.

The result of this game showed that workplace had greater effect on workers’ performance more than salary experience, years of experience, and programming language.

So, the question is how do effective workplaces look different from ineffective ones?

Efficient ones are much quieter, have fewer disturbances, and are bigger in space. In fact, those participants who excelled in the games were the ones working in a bigger space with an average of 78 square feet.

Within this group:

  • 57 percent said that their workspace was acceptably calm and quiet;
  • 62 percent reported that it was acceptably private;
  • 52 percent were allowed to silence their phones;
  • 76 percent were able to divert their calls;
  • And only 38 percent reported being needlessly interrupted.

While those who worked in 46 square feet of work space performed less, and 76 percent of whom were often bothered.

Restructure your workplace to maximize “flow,” which is the source of our best work.

Have you ever experienced being so in-depth with a task you work on that it feels like the simplest job ever? This is called flow. It is a condition of being deep in the task that reaches to a point of meditative involvement with a little sense of euphoria.

In flow, a deep concentration is formed to help the employee work better and more efficient, faster, and with more passion. This is very important for creative work; however, it does not always happen to everyone as not all develop a sense of respect for the brain time dedicated for work.

How to attain flow?

You can make a way to start working with flow. For one, work less interrupted as possible. Put doors on your office for privacy and quiet.

Next, silence all mobile phones while at work.

Then, change the setup of your workspace in such a way without compromising solitude and interaction.

One manager who worked at Bell Labs recalled his time in a spacious two-person office wherein they worked with their mobile phones turned off. He and his co-worker would sometimes sit at his desk as they both engrossed in thought—something that would not happen in a busy office.

Turn the workplace into a playground for your employees, and you’ll save money in the long run.

Google has a reputation for producing a unique, enjoyable, and satisfying working environment for its employees. And Google has a reason for all this.

As a manager, investing in your people to keep them for the long haul should be your priority. The happier and content your team is, the more productive it will be. You should always be conscious in striving to make sure your team shares a unified vision with you.

Reader’s Digest even set up a community for its employees to create a good atmosphere for its employees.

Paying attention to your people’s welfare and happiness, you increase your chances of keeping them in the long run. After all, turnover expenditures can be very costly.

You are looking at a roughly couple of months to expect a new employee to be up to speed on how the work process run and over the adjustment period and negative output due to getting used to. This contributes to up to 20% of all manpower expenses for turnover costs. Imagine losing somewhere from 33% to 80% of your workforce annually for turnover, and you would definitely consider taking care of your team’s well-being.

Now, let us get you going building your ‘wonder team’.

Being a defensive manager won’t rally your team; bureaucracy too will just bog everything down.

Being the head of the team, you need to encourage a positive and encouraging ambiance. Avoid protecting yourself from your team’s failures. You will find that owning up to your team’s mistakes will earn their loyalty. Remember, defensive management will backfire in the near future.

On one anecdote, the author recalled reading about a manager who was adamant on gathering criticism from the clients and not trusting the task to his team, but ended up not completing the task due to being snowed under by work, which resulted in lack of effectiveness.

Officialdom with bureaucracy is another problem. Make no mistake, this is a consistent enemy to team unison and can be very time-consuming.

Studies suggest that bureaucracy results to 30% of the total production’s loss and only does a little good toward the project’s advancement since it is mostly just about documenting completed work.

To help a team come together, foster a sense of shared quality as well as eliteness.

Every employee is unique.

One’s skill might be different from the other, but this does not mean less-skilled members would drag the whole team down. The team’s success should never be dependent in just a single worker’s skills.

You may have heard about how the Black Team—a team of skilled software testers—was formed. A company which faced a constant dilemma with its software errors or bugs formed the said team to overcome its problem. It only took a year for the team to establish a reputation and personality through developing the hardest tests for software development. The team has standards that presenting code to the members became nerve-wracking.

The team’s success is about two accomplishments; writing the best potential programs and improving programs detecting and erasing bugs.

The Black Team also creates a sense of eliteness by wearing black clothes, and making themselves known for outrageous and punishing software tests. The whole team became the other employees’ center of envy, because they all seemed to enjoy their work. Thus, membership becomes an honor. And this only increased their eliteness.

Even though new people have replaced the original Black Team members, they quickly adopted the strength of mind and manner of the Team. Thus, the spirit of the Black Team lives on.

Show team members it’s okay to be themselves, by recruiting a heterogenous mix of workers.

If you are to choose between being yourself and having to be somebody else just to please the company you work for, what would you opt for?

Individuality is vital to one’s mental and social health. To be accepted is a paramount necessity for each and everyone. Having a diverse team signals your employees to be unique and think differently in playing roles that contribute to the team’s success. On the contrary, this kind of thinking does not tear the team apart, but rather forms it into a cohesive one.

Structure work into manageable chunks to support your team’s need for accomplishments, too. Make things easier for your members to work on their individual and collective success, especially if the project the team works on will take a couple of years to finish. Small successes will pay off in motivating the team’s spirit.

Final Summary

The best and wisest managers would not spend all of their time and efforts in managing technology, but their people.

See each of your team as a single contribution with unique skills and a need for individual success. The more you bank on this attitude, the better outcome you will harvest. Then, treat them all with fairness and equality as you lead the whole team toward your unified goal.

Actionable advice:

Turn your phones off—including you, especially you.

Work without interruptions; disconnect whatever causes disturbance, work to achieve a flow state, and enjoy working with those who dedicate their skills for your success.

TEASoftware