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Items filtered by date: September 2014 - Q:PIT Ltd

Success (part 2)

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Some time ago, I wrote a blog entry called "The Sweet Smell of Success" which was about seeing the results in an organization which was really moving forward. Of course, the question remains as to whether such a "success" is short-lived, whether the good practices and improvements will all be forgotten with months or days after the formal appraisal. One of the foundations of the success referenced in that company was an intelligent use of measurement as a basis for improvement, understanding quality and productivity - a practice which I continue to believe should be the foundation of any effort to move forward.

Recently, I came across one of their marketing materials in which they have used their results, their measurements of quality as a benchmarking tool. I am pleased to share this leaflet here to show the ongoing value of measurement as a tool for Improvement:  ISDC Leaflet on .NET and Java Quality.

Please note that, not only have they been able to demonstrate the quality of their products against a number of standards, but they have also been able to show the breakdown of activities, indicating the value of project management activities and the amount of time spent creating products vs correcting.

Of course, I am not advertising this company over others, I am using their intelligent use of measurement as an illustration of what others could achieve as well. But I am quite proud of what they have achieved.

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Open space offices? Why?

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What if the workspace theories were wrong?

The theory goes that people communicate and share better if they share an office space. In fact, there appears to be very little evidence to support this theory. While it makes sense in a factory that everyone should be sharing a common work space, the same does not hold when people are expected to think and/or create something.

While creativity comes largely from the clash of different ideas and concepts, the understanding that your thoughts might be usefully combined with my ideas, your concepts might complete my theories. It therefore makes sense that people should be sharing the same space so that they can communicate, exchange and be inspired by one another.

Frequently, this is seen as solved through the creation of open space (open plan) offices in which everyone can freely exchange and communicate.

However, communication necessarily involves more listening than talking (or more reading than writing). The result of an open space office (with or without cubicles) is that communication get seriously reduced in practice. People in open-space offices frequently complain about the noise level which does not allow them to concentrate and the frequent interruptions by colleagues. Then, of course, there are the distractions, as one starts to listen to one side of a telephone conversation two desks away...

Interestingly, while management continues to promote the open-space environment, they do understand the negative consequences and reserve closed offices for themselves, usually taking up the windows, leaving the creative staff to work in permanent artificial light and recycled air. Of course, management claims that they need to have private conversations and discuss business critical affairs which they cannot do in an open-plan office. They also consider that, should any of the staff members need to discuss something, they can use the conference rooms, a facility they consider unsatisfactory for their own needs.

Many people in these spaces sit with headphones on, listening to music or the radio. They have broken off all communication with their peers and are working alone.

People are not interested in going through the complexity of finding and booking a conference room and, as a consequence, do not communicate when necessary. Either that, or they interrupt the work of their neighbours by talking loudly in the open space office. If you are focused on an activity, concentrating on what you are doing, there is no interruption of less than twenty minutes (before you get back to the same level of concentration).

The open-space office, contrary to the theory, reduces communication by increasing distractions. 

Of course, having each individual in a single-person, closed office is not a solution to improve communication or efficiency. We are generally working in an environment where the team has become the critical factor. The ideal situation identified in many papers and researches, for optimized office work is to have closed offices per team with approximately 6 people sharing a space, working together on the same project, and being able to use wall-space to post key messages, progress reports, etc. In this environment, if one team wants to be noisy (whether brainstorming or celebrating), they are able to do so. If another team need quiet concentration, they can have it.

Since the publication of Tom de Marco's "Peopleware" in the 1980s, measurement has regularly demonstrated that open-space offices, in an engineering environment costs at least a 25% reduction in productivity.

The open-space office, contrary to the theories, reduces communication, productivity and quality by increasing distractions. 

No one benefits.

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Agile and Process

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Video: I was recently requested to give a talk on whether a software company could use both CMMI and Agile methodologies at the same time. This is a recording of that presentation. The sound quality is not very good and the picture's auto-focus goes a little funny when the screen is white - my apologies for that.

The talk was give in Sofia (Bulgaria) and was sponsored by Strypes and ImprovingIt.

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Let them be messy

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What if the workspace theories were wrong?

This is the first in a small series of posts challenging some of the most common workspace ideas I have seen.

Obviously, a tidy desk is the sign of a tidy mind and therefore we should make sure that everyone has a nice tidy desk, which can be cleaned every day, without papers and pens and things lying around in uneven stacks.

This approach may be productive in a robotic, repetitive, factory work, but is that what you really want? Are you interested in standardization based on what you are already doing, or might you be interested in creativity, evolution, change, progress...? If you are working with people in an intellectual, creative environment do you want to automate them into mindless work?

Creativity comes from linking together ideas, events, facts and others which appear unrelated to most people. It is not surprising therefore that the most creative people frequently have messy work spaces. They need to see things juxtaposed by accident in order to trigger the idea which might change everything. Allowing people to have their mess at their work place will foster the juxtaposition of ideas, data and concepts which will allow fresh approaches and real creativity to emerge.

In recent years, we have seen the creation of a number of "Campus" style offices, which aim to trigger creativity by bringing engineers together in a semi-disorganized manner, in a colourful and slightly chaotic space. The idea is to encourage exchange of ideas and the "Eureka" moment which comes when someone understands how a number person's idea fits into her own research or concepts. By opposition, older organizations frequently have a structure of clear "vertical and horizontal markets", creating what are commonly called "silos" or "stove-pipes" in which people who are "supposed" to be working together are kept out of reach of the rest of the organization. Typically these organizations rapidly find that the creativity has gone and the productivity they were expecting starts to suffer.

If it is true in team work that the clash of ideas leads to new ideas and higher creativity, and that the creativity leads to better productivity, imagine what it could do for a single person.

Let the creative people have messy desks! Their creativity is more important to your business than the office manager's theories.

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