Saturday, February 7, 2009

Inspiration for teamwork


Some thoughts inspired by a recent discussion on Community vs Personal Credit at
Particularly in high-tech industry, teamwork and knowledge-sharing makes organizations productive. On the other hand, the appreciation of others and the benefits of social standing in a group are the most important motivations for a lot of employees. Relationships with colleagues make people either happy and productive, or miserable and unmotivated at work.
Many organizations work very hard to increase productivity by improving the employee motivation. A lot of thought goes into designing clever compensation schemes that align personal financial interests of employees with organizational performance. However, the bonuses and the raises happen very infrequently, usually once a year, while motivation is needed every day of the week. In addition, money is not a strong motivation for everyday performance for most people. These schemes take a lot of effort to create and execute, but ultimately fail to deliver on their goal of inspiring the employees.
Significantly less effort appears to be devoted to managing the social structure in the organization. Cooperation is not particularly rewarded, and the office jerk regularly gets ahead. There are hardly any programs that reward knowledge sharing with individual performance credit. It is normally up to each individual to persuade, cajole and bribe their coworkers into teamwork, against the carefully designed organizational incentives.
Fortunately, it is not very hard to get many people to cooperate. Many are happy to join the team and cooperate, because that is what makes people feel good. People prefer to work together even if HR-designed financial incentives suggest that it is better to strive for individual credit, rather than cooperate with others.
Still, an organization that figures out how to reward cooperation and knowledge-sharing will enjoy the highest employee productivity and a reputation for a happiest place to work.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Scrum on a Wednesday

Wednesday is Monday I

There is a huge pull to perceived firsts and lasts. People make New Year's resolutions and buy the most expensive January's gym memberships. Lots of unsuccessful diets start on an already-stressful Monday, or on the first of the month (less stressful, but why wait?).
It is not just personal, it's business, too. New projects start on Mondays and deliveries are scheduled for Fridays, which are shown to be the least productive days of the week. Even worse, finishing up a job is often scheduled at the end of the year - Christmas holidays and all.
Mondays and Fridays are the worst days to make decisions under pressure: it takes time to get into the work flow after the weekend, and it is harder to concentrate after 4 days of hard work, than it was, say, on day 2 of the week. The productivity is highest in the middle of the week, Tuesday through Thursday. Mondays and Fridays are the least productive days of the week.
Lots of Scrum implementations start their iteration on a Monday and finish on a Friday. The beginning and end of Scrum iterations are when most meetings and decision-making occurs. The hardest and most error-prone work of the iteration - the work that does not go through a normal test cycle - is routinely scheduled to occur on the least productive days.
Planning and release are arguably the most important parts of the iteration, they set the tone for the success and productivity of the iteration, and the entire project. Would not it make sense to give these meetings a prime spot in the week, when the concentration is highest and the team has had a chance to get into the flow and is not mentally preparing for the weekend?