Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Getting More for Less out of your staff

What to make more profit, lower costs and increase financial viability of your company?

David H Maister in "Practice What You Preach: What Managers Must Do to Create a High Achievement Culture" gives you the formula. And his model really is a mathematical formula!

And it's simple - staff will perform better, stay longer and even work for less if they like working for you.
Message: Treat your people well, and you will benefit many-fold.

For some people, this will be a "non sequitur" - a "yeah, so what?". For those who believe all workers have to be whipped to produce anything, and will skive off given half a chance, nothing will convince them - not even going broke.

For those wanting to be convinced, Maister does a lovely bit a research using a multi-national marketing company with a full range of business types - small to large, premium products to low-cost mass-market.

Masiter comes up with a good mathematical model relating a number of factors to a composite figure he calls "Profitability" - not just one years' profit, but longer term financial viability. He also has a nice way of presenting the factors in hierarchical form.

Think this through with "brain-workers" (or Knowledge workers) - you can't order them to "produce some brilliance". You can't see inside their heads nor really know just how good the 'stuff' they produce is. Software is an intangible - it's hard to measure and harder to quality assess. You can't beat good ideas out of them...

This is the definitive environment for "passive aggressive" behaviour and for subtle undermining and sabotage.
Screw your staff over, and you'll reap the consequences for a very long time. And you won't even know who did what, when.
At the very least, the more "meek and mild" staff will just withdraw and do an absolute minimum.

You did remember to hire bright people, didn't you? They will expend their creative efforts in looking very busy and producing as little as they can get away with.

Unless you are an expert in the field, and current at that, you won't be able to pick it.

Message to managers:
Treat your I.T. staff well. Get them off-side and you will suffer.

The great thing is that they are very easy to keep happy - give them the stuff they ask for or be clear about what you can afford and why, listen to their requests for changes and especially for reasonable deadlines and occasionally show them you appreciate their efforts. In return you will get high output and when you need it, they will go to extraordinary lengths for you. You have to earn their trust and loyalty - not bully, intimidate or demand it.

There's a secret here you've heard a thousand times from the mouths of Pop Stars: "I'd do this for free".
Yep - good and great programmers/I.T. practitioners love what they do.

And there is a proof the best will do great work for free: Open Source Software.

Technically there is a reason - there are very high intrinsic rewards in programming/I.T.
We can guess it comes from the feelings of "Flow" [Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi ], the human reaction to 'achievement' (a nice high) and the rewards of Problem Solving.

[There has to be some good psychology names for these processes]

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