jueves, 13 de diciembre de 2007

Peopleware (Parte IV)

Despues de varios meses, me animo a continuar publicando el resumen con lo más resaltante de Peopleware. A continuación la cuarta entrega correspondiente a la cuarta sección del libro. He aquí las anteriores:


Believing that workers will automatically accept organizational goals is the sign of naive managerial optimism. The mechanism by which individuals involve themselves in the organization's objectives is more complex than that. You wouldn't be surprised to learn, for example, that the fellow you know as a database specialist is more inclined to describe himself as a father, a boy scout leader, and a member of the local school board. In these roles, he makes thoughtful value judgments all the time. What would be a surprise is if he stopped making value judgments when he arrived at work. He doesn't He is continually at work examining each claim for his individual energies and loyalty. Organizational goals come in for constant scrutiny by the people who work for the organization, and most of those goals are judged to be awfully arbitrary.

While the executive committee may get itself all heated up over a big increase in profits, this same objective is pretty small potatoes to people at the bottom of the heap.

Goals of corporations are always going to seem arbitrary to people-corporations seem arbitrary to people-but the arbitrariness of goals doesn't mean no one is ever going to accept them. If it did, we wouldn't have sports. The goals in sports are always utterly arbitrary.
The Universe doesn't care whether the little white ball goes between the posts at Argentina's end of the field or those at Italy's. But a lot of people get themselves very involved in the outcome. Their involvement is a function of the social units they belong to.

We stopped talking about building teams, and talked instead of growing them. The agricultural image seemed right. Agriculture isn't entirely controllable. You enrich the soil, you plant seeds, you water according to the latest theory, and you hold your breath. You just might get a crop; you might not. If it all comes up roses, you'll feel fine, but next year you'll be you'll be sweating it out again. That's pretty close to how team formation works.

If the staff comes to believe it's not allowed to make any errors of its own, the message that you don't trust them comes through loud and clear. There is no message you can send that will better inhibit team formation.

The common thread is that good managers provide frequent easy opportunities for the team to succeed together. The opportunities may be tiny pilot sub-projects, or demonstrations, or simulations, anything that gets the team quickly into the habit of succeeding together. The
best success is the one in which there is no evident management, in which the team works as a genial aggregation of peers. The best boss is the one who can manage this over and over again without the team members knowing they've been "managed." These bosses are viewed by their peers as just lucky. Everything seems to break right for them. They get a fired-up team of people, the project comes together quickly, and everyone stays enthusiastic through the end. These managers never break into a sweat. It looks so easy that no one can believe they are managing at all.

If you've got decent people under you, there is probably nothing you can do to improve their chances of success more dramatically than to get yourself out of their hair occasionally. Any easily separable task is a perfect opportunity. There is no real management required for such work. Send them away. Find a remote office, hire a conference room, borrow somebody's summer house, or put them up at a hotel. Take advantage of off-season rates at ski areas or at beaches. Have them go to a conference, and then stay over for a few days to work together in peace. (We've heard of a least one instance of each of these ploys.)

Such a plan will cost you some points with your own management and peers, because it's so audacious. How can you know, they'll ask you, that your people aren't loafing this very minute? How can you be sure they won't knock off for lunch at eleven and drink away their afternoons? The simple answer is you'll know by the product they come back with. By their fruits, ye shall know them. If they bring back a carefully thought-out and complete result, they worked. If they don't, they didn't. Visual supervision is a joke for development workers. Visual supervision is for prisoners.

Presented below is an admittedly simplistic list of the elements of a chemistry-building strategy for a healthy organization:

  • Make a cult of quality.
  • Provide lots of satisfying closure.
  • Build a sense of eliteness.
  • Allow and encourage heterogeneity.
  • Preserve and protect successful teams.
  • Provide strategic but not tactical direction.

Organizations also have some need for closure. Closure for the organization is the successful finish of the work as assigned, plus perhaps an occasional confirmation along the way that everything is on target (maybe a milestone achieved or a significant partial delivery completed). How much confirmation corporations require is a function of how much money is at risk. Frequently, closure only at the end of a four-year effort is adequate for the needs of the organization.

People require a sense of uniqueness to be at peace with themselves, and they need to be at peace with themselves to let the jelling process begin. When management acts to stifle uniqueness, uniqueness happens anyway. People simply express their uniquenessin uncontrolled dimensions. For example, employees who tak a perverse pride in being difficult to manage or hard to motivate or unable to work with others may be reacting to too much control. They would almost certainly rather express themselves in some less difficult way, something that would not work to the detriment of the group's effectiveness.

If a team does knit, don't break it up. At least give people the option to undertake another project together. They may choose to go their separate ways, but they ought to have the choice. When teams stay together from one project to the next, they start out each new endeavor with enormous momentum.

You can't always make it happen, but when a team does come together, it's worth the cost. The work is fun, the people are energized. They roll over deadlines and milestones and look for more. They like themselves. They feel loyal to the team and to the environment that allows the team to exist.

Copyright © 1999, 1987 by Tom DeMarco and Timothy Lister.