Wednesday, February 28, 2007

The 100-fold advantage

There is a Silver Bullet for programming productivity - pick good people. It probably works for all other areas of I.T. as well.

There is a definitive study, rigorous research, by a Professor of Behavioural Psychology.
It's published in the book "How to be a Star Performer" by Robert E. Kelley.

BTW, Kelley talks of only 10- and 20-fold performance differences amongst "brain-powered" staff at the Bell Labs unit that programmed the "5ESS" telephone switch.

"In the wild", this varies more. Best I've heard of is Rob Kolstad who in a half-day rewrote a key program that had taken a year or more effort - and it ran 100,000 times faster. I've sped-up a critical process by 2- 5,000 times, again with a small tool, quickly implemented. Sadly, no studies, no references.

"100-fold" is a guesstimate, an accumulation of experience and observation, not solid, proven research.
But then again, how do you measure 'productivity' for programmers and other I.T. professionals. Lines-of-code a day doesn't work - you just drown in bugs...

Kelleys' take-away is that 'Stars' are made, not born.
"Initiative" is the central key element - everything else builds on that.

With more highly productive staff, you should be able to get more done - if your organisational processes allow and encourage it, and your managers can get out of the way of the technical staff.

From the on-line page, the Contents of the book:

I. The Productivity Secrets of the Star Performers
1. What Leads to Star Performers
2. Stars are Born, Not Made
3. Creating the Star Performer Model

II. The Nine Work Strategies of the Star Performers
1. Initiative: Blazing Trails in the Organization's White Spaces
2. Knowing Who Knows: Plugging In to the Knowledge Network
3. Managing Your Whole Life at Work: Self-Management
4. Getting the Big Picture: Learning How to Build Perspective
5. Followership: Checking Your Ego at the Door to Lead in Assists
6. Small-L Leadership in a Big-L World
7. Teamwork: Getting Real About Teams
8. Organizational Savvy: Street Smarts in the Corporate Power Zone
9. Show-and-Tell: Persuading the Right Audience with the Right Message
10. Become a Star Performer: Making the Program Work for You

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