The additional croquette and why you should keep your workers informed and motivated

I was having some tapas with five of my friends from college.

We arrive to that big fancy bar.

Before ordering, someone realized something strange happened with the menu…

  • 6 croquettes: 6 €
  • additional croquet: 0,75 € each

It was an obvious mistake, we agree. If you would order six croquettes you’d pay 1€ for each one. And then, from the seventh on, you would get a 0,25€ discount.

But we were having fun, so it couldn’t hurt to ask the waiter about it. So we ask him if we could order six “additional” croquettes instead of the six pack.

He told us, “if it’s in the menu, you can ask for it”.

We explained him that it should be an error, that if we ordered only additional, they were making less money.

“I only work here”, he answered.

In the beginning, he didn’t know about the menu. But in the end, he didn’t care about the profit.

Please… please, please, please… If you are a boss, a manager, an owner, keep in mind that your workers make the profit. Keep in mind that they need to understand how this profit is made. But, above all, keep in mind that they need to care about it.

Inform them. Motivate them. Good news is that both things are strongly related.

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Great bosses will want you to work less

Not more.

Great bosses leading successful companies won’t want you to work more.

They want you to be more productive. To bring better results in less time. Since…

Productivity = Work done / Time spent

Dilbert's Pointy-haired Boss asking you to work 178 hours a week

When some kind of (pointy-haired) boss asks you to spend more time at work, they are asking to increase the divisor. Increasing the divisor, by itself, will only DECREASE productivity.

Some other type of boss (not as pointy-haired but still kind of) could ask you to increase both the divisor and the dividend. The trick then is that if you would spend an extra 20% time at work, you would need to get at least a 21% increase in the work done to be more productive. This could seem plausible… but by definition extra work is done AFTER you’ve work your normal hours, so it’s unlikely that those extra hours would be the ones getting the most work done.

And all of this leave great bosses with the only strategy able to let them increase productivity. They must make sure to leave alone the divisor. The people is working as much as they should. So they need to INCREASE THE DIVIDEND. More work done in the same time.

How can you accomplish this? Let’s see some strategies:

  • Automation. Every time you need to have something done several times a week (or a month, or a year), please, automate.
  • Change the point of view. People shouldn’t wonder how many extra hours do they need to get this work done, but how is the best way to have this work done in as few hours as possible.
  • Remove obstacles each time tech people is stuck doing other things than their work. E.g. blurry requirements, old-fashioned hardware difficult to work with, dealing with licenses that expired, tough procedures to ask for holidays or reporting progress, …
  • State clear channels for communication. Avoid email lists. Define information radiators. Death penalty on the bosses who arrange long meetings with everyone involved.
  • Focus on focusing. Everyone working in one task at each time, until it’s done.

 

 


Related

 

 

You can be Bart, or you can be Lisa

lisa_gets_an_A

As a manager you could trust more in some members of the team.

As a team member you can trust more in some colleagues than in others.

As a contributor you could gain the trust of your boss, or not.

When wondering about why trust is earned, remember this dialogue between Marge, Lisa and Bart from The Simpsons.

  • Marge: Ready to go back to school?
  • Lisa: [ Weakly ] Oh, I don’t know. [ Coughs ] I mean, I could risk it, but…
  • Marge: No, no. You just stay put.
  • Bart: Wow. You didn’t even feel her forehead. How do I get that kind of credibility?
  • Marge: With eight years of scrupulous honesty.
  • Bart: Eh. It’s not worth it.
    (The Simpsons, Lisa gets an A)

Remeber. You can be Bart. Or you can be Lisa. Every role has its advantages and drawbacks.

Choose. Bart or Lisa. Because you can’t be both at the same time.

Gimli, son of Gloin, on software development

How to measure the productivity of a software developer has been an ongoing debate for years.

They studied professional programmers with an average of 7 years’ experience and found that the ratio of initial coding time between the best and worst programmers was about 20 to 1; the ratio of debugging times over 25 to 1; of program size 5 to 1; and of program execution speed about 10 to 1. They found no relationship between a programmer’s amount of experience and code quality or productivity. (Steve McConnell, Rapid Development)

Imagen de Legolas y Gimli en la peli de 1978

Gimli le explica a Legolas la vida del programador

From the number of lines of code written to assigning function points to each part of the code depending on complexity, there is a whole set of proposals out there.

Consider both points above together – your coworker codes 25 function points in one day, but they’re all simple validations (if text box “a” is not a date, throw an error…)

In the same day, you stared at the screen for six hours, whiteboarded a lot, then rewrote one line and deleted fifteen other lines, making a major part of the data processing engine faster by two orders of magnitude.

So he wrote 650 lines and 25 function points, you wrote *negative* fourteen lines of code and no new function points.

Who’s “better” ? (Joel On Software Forum)

J.R.R. Tolkien, in The Lord of the Rings,  was so kind as to take some time to explain, through the words of Gimli the dwarf, the most complex and marvellous part of a software developer’s work.

We would tend these glades of flowering stone, not quarry them. With cautious skill, tap by tap – a small chip of rock and no more, perhaps, in a whole anxious day – so we could work, and as the years went by, we should open up new ways, and display far chambers that are still dark, glimpsed only as a void beyond fissures in the rock.

Trying is harmful

Do, or do not. There is no try.
(Master Yoda, The Empire Strikes Back)

  • We’ll try to meet tomorrow
  • I’ll try to be on time
  • We try to improve every day
  • I’ll try not to let you down

The verb ‘to try‘ is the shield behind which we hide when we are not sure, when we don’t really feel like doing something, when we try to avoid uncertainty, when we don’t want to make a commitment.

The verb ‘to try‘ is a wild card, is the way we can walk through without burning any bridges.

Up to what point does inserting to try into the sentence affects our mood, our will, the results of our actions?

Are we doing our best when we are just trying? Or are our words leading to a path of failure?

How different do the words sound when we rule the lack of commitment, the laziness and the fear out!

  • We’ll meet tomorrow
  • I’ll be on time
  • We improve every day
  • I won’t let you down

How different do they sound when we stop trying and start doing!

Don’t hire firemen nor heroes

Andrea: Unhappy is the land that breeds no hero.
Galileo: No, Andrea: Unhappy is the land that needs a hero.
(Bertolt_Brecht – Life of Galileo)

A firemen feels confident, useful and brave during a fire.

A hero without anyone to rescue feels under-used and undervalued.

If you work with firemen and heroes, you’ll spend all day heroically fighting fires. That means you will work on mitigating the urgent instead of on solving the important.

If you have the chance to hire any of them, please don’t do it. And if your staff includes firemen and heroes, you should better train them to do normal, easy-paced, work flow, or get rid of them.


Related:

  • Don’t be a Hero (signal vs noise, DHH)Being a hero is all about sitting aside all costs and winning anyway. That’s not a prudent way to drive everyday development. […]Every time you play the hero card, you’re jeopardizing the next game.”
  • The Hero Complex (Making things happen, Scott Berkun) “If things work out well, the survivors look on their heroic efforts as a large part of why they succeded.[…]However, there are bad habits hiding behind this logic.”
  • Fast vs Cheap vs Good and the Covery Quadrant “Finally, quadrant 2, non urgent and important things, is what will give you the chance to offer good and cheap (in the long run). What quadrant of the matrix are you willing to live your life into?”

Embed purpose beside the goal

Every project, every plant, every firm has one goal.

So this is the goal: To make money by increasing net profit, while simultaneously increasing return on investment, and simultaneously increasing cash flow.

Eliyahu M. Goldratt.

Sometimes you don’t agree with the goal. Sometimes you don’t understand the goal. Or even you don’t know about it.

But whether you are aligned with the goal or not, you can always work beyond the goal. You can always embed purpose on the project. On your work.

What is purpose?

Purpose is not the goal. Is beyond the goal. And it touches everyone involved in a deeper, more personal way.

mike-tysons-punch-out

Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out was a milestone on videogame development.It probably fulfilled its goal.

But the people working on the game also instill purpose into it by inserting an inspiring declaration from world heavyweight champion Mike Tyson into the box.

punchout_advice.jpg

Quitting is for people who are not serious about their goals. If you give up trying, you will never achieve your goal.
Mike Tyson.

Maybe you can’t choose the goal of your project. But you always can choose which kine of purpose you instill on it.