Sunday, February 17, 2013

Peopleware summary

  • In SW development, deadline will not make people more productive, but it will likely make them less productive.
  • Parkinson's law (work expands to fill alotted time) is just a joke.
  • Productivity cannot be increased by simply taking some (heavily advertised) magic pill, only by improving working conditions. And yet managers are so susceptible to buying magic pills, maybe because they feel desperate?
  • Noise and interruptions at the workplace are really annoying - in programming, most meaningful work gets done in the flow and it takes at least 15 minutes to get back there after an interruption.
  • When the members of a team work in physical proximity, they tend to discuss things at the same time and go to quiet, flow-mode at the same time as well.
  • Are deadlines really so important to justify losing good employees to burnout?
  • Price-vs-quality: end users usually don't care about quality that much (because it costs money), but low-quality products reduce the programmers morale. It's best in the long-term to let the developers set their own standard. In some companies, developers can even veto shipping.
  • The book is also rather funny or sarcastic: "Before drawing plans for its new Santa Teresa facility, IBM violated all industry standards by studying the work habits of those who would occupy the space.
  • Quiz: what annual turnover does your company have? How much does it cost to replace a person? Scoring: If you had any answer at all, you pass. Otherwise you fail. Most people fail.
  • It has come to my attention that some of you, when travelling on expenses, have been travelling economy class. This is not an economy-class organization. This is a first-class organization.
  • Managers with low confidence or ego problems may feel the urge to impose their position of status on their lowly subordinates, such as moving the company/office closer to their homes or  suppressing people who are different, because they feel threatened by them (around page 97).
  • Hawthorne effect - people are more productive when they do something new or in a different way or different environment (page 120).
  • People enjoy working in teams for a common goal. The challenge of work is important, but not in and of itself; it is important because it gives us something to focus on together.
  • At one company, they made a team of testers who took their pride in finding as many bugs and problems as possible, often in very mischievous ways. Grown men and women were reduced to tears by watching their programs misbehave under the demented handling of these fiends. The testing team started to dress in black and really enjoyed their work. 
  • To build a team: The team members need to get into the habit of succeeding together and liking it. A good manager/leader will set up situations to gain this kind of momentum. 
  • Internal competition has the direct effect of making coaching difficult or impossible. This means that internal competition (employee of the year, ...) makes no sense. 
  • Introducing change: There will be people strictly against change, strictly for-change and the doubters. And these are actually the only meaningful potential allies of the change.
  • To promote the change, forget about rational claims. People take sides based on emotions. So it's much better to emphasise how the old system was working well, how it served so many requests of the customers and then slowly transition into motivating the people to embrace the change (page 211).
  • How do you think about salaries? Do you consider them to be expense that, once paid, is gone, like the heat energy in winter? Or do you think of it as an investment? Because replacing people and bringing them up to speed takes a lot of time and money, so it's worth it to try and keep them. (page 217)
  • The office and environment you work in influences productivity to a high degree. Some really
  •  nice inspiration:

Monday, February 11, 2013

People in Hong Kong consider education to be very important. There are many expensive schools, parents and kids alike obsess over passing entrance exams, you hear phrases such as "he's not highly educated" from girls. But then, being the tall guy I am, I did have a chance to see what other people do on the MTR. Few of them actually read books, despite carrying iPads or Galaxy Note Twos. Everybody is just playing Candy Crush. And if people are not reading on public transport, which is the best time to do so, I doubt they read at any other time. Kindle is my faithful companion on every single journey around the city I take and I've actually finished Heretics of Dune in the month I've been here. In fact, few people here even ever heard of the Kindle. After discussing this with some people, I learned that students are simply overloaded with the school tasks to have any strength left for reading.

There is also an interesting distinction in the quality of services. My tiny apartment is nicely private, but doesn't have any cooking facilities, leaving me dependent on restaurants. I certainly don't need to be afraid of starving, in Tai Wai, in 500 m around my place, there surely are at least 10 Chinese restaurant-o-fastfoods, and I yet have to see them closed (maybe on lunar new year?) so it's just a matter of  overcoming the language barrier. But for some reason, I don't like these places very much, mostly because they don't appear to be very tidy and orderly. And, based on a few observations, the attitude and service quality of the staff is rather far from awesome. Higher-class restaurants in shopping malls, on the other hand, have service that comes a lot closer to awesome. And they also pay close attention to appearance and style. Of course, you could also tell these two classes of restaurants apart just by looking at the bill for the food.

The services in shopping malls even go to such lengths to hire a full-time toilet attendant. He stands there in the hand-washing area wearing a uniform making sure that the place remains clean. There is even a plaque on the wall with his name and photo.