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Think rate is fixed

posted 2012 // book review, work // 1

I’ve just finished reading Tom DeMarco‘s Slack, a book aimed at dissolving the myth that total efficiency within an organisation is “a good thing”.

This book is more general than Peopleware, DeMarco’s software development oriented book (which I found to be a more engaging read, probably because I’m a developer).

Slack is aimed at management but speaks sense to all levels, as those of us who aren’t managing are most likely being managed. I found the early chapters most interesting, those are centered around fungible resource (knowledge workers are not interchangeable assets), aggressive schedules, the cost of pressure, overtime and a culture of fear.

The most poignant sentence I read in this book, is attributed to DeMarco’s friend and colleague, Tim Lister. In the context of the cost of pressure, and exerting it on knowledge workers to increase efficiency:

People under time pressure don’t think faster.Tim Lister

You can’t treat knowledge workers as you would galley slaves, think rate is fixed. No matter what you do, you can’t pick up the pace of thinking. If anything, exerting increasing amounts of pressure only serves to distract and occupy the employee’s mental state, decreasing productivity.

This is book is a worthwhile read, especially for those considering a step into / towards management. There is advice in this book, that once read, you will find difficult to remember that you didn’t always know it, even though it contradicts traditional management practices. This kind of advice gives you a feeling that these common-place management practices, are in fact stupid!

With that said, if you work in IT, and only have time for one book this year, read Peopleware. That book is the definitive guide to running a software company.


Greg K // 08.Jan.2012 // 09:58

Interesting RSA video from Dan Pink on motivation and management of knowledge workers: