Nation Lumpen mailing list proposed reading Peopleware, a book that I read 9 years ago. After crying a little bit realizing how fast time goes by, I removed a couple of white hairs from my head and brought myself to revisit it. In addition, 3rd edition has some new stuff.


Peopleware is a book about sociology within software companies. The thesis is that projects fail because of “social” reasons, not technical ones.

Part I focuses on the individual. You must understand his or her motivations and perceptions to be able to act accordingly. What people builds, and how is it done (quality, deadlines…) has a huge impact on motivation.

Part II disembowels current trend of nasty open spaces at offices, and offers many improvements over that approach. Brain work is not compatible with noise and interruptions, and we must actively fight against them.

Getting new people in the team and retaining them is Part III topic. Hiring should involve not only technical aspects but also sociological, and diversity plays a key role there. A good hiring policy is pointless without taking care of the team to avoid turnover.

A team is much more than a group of people, as Part IV explains. A jelled team is great, but ruining it is easy: there are many ways to spoil it but only a few to build it up. A shared goal is probably the most important factor, and avoiding defensive management is the best approach.

Part V explains how to cope with the organization surrounding the team. Methodologies, risk management, meetings or communication are policies that are usually beyond the area of control of a team, but they have a huge impact on people.

The last Part, VI, gives some hints about why people feel that their work is a dull, old-fashioned “job”, and how can you fight against it, including activities (war games), approaches to new projects, ad-hoc positions… And it ends with a manifesto about pushing changes.


The whole book succedes presenting several common underlying trends:

  • Embrace human nature, don’t fight against it: encourage natural interactions, understand that people is opinionated…
  • Fragmentation is often wrong.
  • Work on team motivations and needs, which are people motivations, not company-wide ones.
  • Some chaos is fine.

One of the most thought-provoking themes through the book is rejection of homogeneity. Sometimes the work of the manager and the company-wide strategies encourages standarization, but authors back heterogeneity up.

Quality pays off. Quality pays off. Repeat until you can’t disagree.

The book holds that the classic concept of management (order, control, push dates…) is totally wrong, and the “good management” is actually the art of making people get the most of them while the manager is invisible. I must agree.

I really miss a section about remote working in this edition. It’s not trivial and it has a lot of sociological implications, so a chapter or two would’ve been a must. There’s not a single mention about it! Bummer.

For me, this is a must-read not only for managers but for anybody involved in software development. It’d help to create awareness, critical thinking and a positive attitude about changes and team work. You could argue that many topics of the book are obvious, but the fact is that our industry is full of companies that wouldn’t pass a close exam of book suggestions, and all of us can recognize many of the wrong attitudes or actions in ourselves. Easy to say, hard to accomplish.


Part I: Managing the human resource

1. Somewhere Today, a Project Is Failing

The major problems of our work are not so much technological as sociological in nature.

The main reason we tend to focus on the technical rather than the human side of the work is not because it’s more crucial, but because it’s easier to do. (…) If you find yourself concentrating on the technology rather than the sociology, you’re like the vaudeville character who loses his keys on a dark street and looks for them on the adjacent street because, as he explains, “The light is better there.”

Projects fail because of “social” reasons.

2. Make a Cheeseburger, Sell a Cheeseburger

Speaking to a group of software managers, we introduced a strategy for what we think of as iterative design. The idea is that some designs are intrinsically defect-prone; they ought to be rejected, not repaired. Such dead ends should be expected in the design activity. The lost effort of the dead end is a small price to pay for a clean, fresh start. (…) Fostering an atmosphere that doesn’t allow for error simply makes people defensive.

We spent far too much of our time trying to get things done and not nearly enough time asking the key question, “Ought this thing to be done at all?”

Producing software is not like most productions system at all.

3. Vienna Waits for You

Productivity ought to mean achieving more in an hour of work, but all too often it has come to mean extracting more for an hour of pay. There is a large difference.

Trying to get people to sprint too much can only result in loss of respect for the manager.

Workaholic project members put in endless unpaid overtime hours to push productivity to unheard of levels. At the end of the project, virtually the entire development staff quit. What was the cost of that? No one even figured it into the equation.

People under time pressure don’t work better—they just work faster.

If you want a healthy project, pursue a healthy work-life balance.

4. Quality—If Time Permits

There may be many and varied causes of emotional reaction in one’s personal life, but in the workplace, the major arouser of emotions is threatened self-esteem.

We all tend to tie our self-esteem strongly to the quality of the product we produce—not the quantity of product, but the quality.

The builders’ view of quality (…) tend to impose quality standards of their own. The minimum that will satisfy them is more or less the best quality they have achieved in the past. This is invariably a higher standard than what the market requires and is willing to pay for.

[Software] industry has accustomed its clients to accept in-house-developed application programs with an average defect density of one to three defects per hundred lines of code!

Allowing the standard of quality to be set by the buyer, rather than the builder, is what we call the flight from excellence.

In the long run, market-based quality costs more. The lesson here is: Quality, far beyond that required by the end user, is a means to higher productivity.

“The trade-off between price and quality does not exist in Japan. Rather, the idea that high quality brings on cost reduction is widely accepted.”

Strive for quality!

5. Parkinson’s Law Revisited

Work expands to fill the time allocated for it - Parkinson’s Law

Parkinson was not a scientist. He collected no data; he probably didn’t even understand the rules of statistical inference. Parkinson was a humorist. His “law” didn’t catch on because it was so true. It caught on because it was funny.

Parkinson’s Law almost certainly doesn’t apply to your people.

Bad estimates, hopelessly tight estimates, sap the builders’ energy.

These projects [which no estimates were prepared at all] far outperformed all the others.”

Estimations (because of the time pressure that they impose) are most of the times harmful for productivity.

6. Laetrile

The manager’s function is not to make people work, but to make it possible for people to work.

There’s no silver bullet. Focus on effective ways of handling people, modifying the workplace and corporate culture…

Part II: The Office Environment

7. The Furniture Police

Intellectual work is not taken into consideration when offices are set up.

8. “You Never Get Anything Done around Here between 9 and 5.”

Many companies provide developers with a workplace that is so crowded, noisy, and interruptive as to fill their days with frustration.

The data presented above does not exactly prove that a better workplace will help people to perform better. It may only indicate that people who perform better tend to gravitate toward organizations that provide a better workplace.

Think about your workplace beyond defaults.

9. Saving Money on Space

When a worker complains about noise, he’s telling you he doesn’t fit into either of those fortunate subsets. He’s telling you that he is likely to be defect-prone.

A quiet environment is likely to be more cost-effective than any other measure that you tackle for productivity gains.

Intermezzo: Productivity Measurement and Unidentified Flying Objects

Having some metrics is always better that not having any measurement at all.

Keep individual metrics private.

10. Brain Time versus Body Time

Not all work roles require that you attain a state of flow in order to be productive, but for anyone involved in engineering, design, development, writing, or like tasks, flow is a must.

What matters is not the amount of time you’re present, but the amount of time that you’re working at full potential.

By regularly noting uninterrupted hours, you are giving official sanction to the notion that people ought to have at least some interrupt-free time. That makes it permissible to hide out, to ignore the phone, or to close the door (if, sigh, there is a door).

11. The Telephone

Managers ought to be alert to the effect that interruption can have on their own people who are trying to get something done.

People who are charged with getting work done must have some peace and quiet to do it in. That means periods of total freedom from interruptions. When they want to work in flow, they have to have some efficient, acceptable way of ignoring incoming calls. “Acceptable” means the corporate culture realizes that people may sometimes choose to be unavailable for interruption by phone. “Efficient” means that they don’t have to wait out the bell in order to get back to work.

The big difference between a phone call and an electronic mail message is that the phone call interrupts and the e-mail does not; (…) Priority “at the receiver’s convenience” is acceptable for the great majority of business communications.

To the extent that knowledge workers are required to multitask, their managers need to take account of the flow requirements of the different tasks. Mixing flow and highly interruptive activities is a recipe for nothing but frustration.


Keep in mind that this involves changes in habits and attitudes.

12. Bring Back the Door

The most obvious symbol of success is the door. When there are sufficient doors, workers can control noise and interruptibility to suit their changing needs. The most obvious symbol of failure is the paging system. Organizations that regularly interrupt everyone to locate one person are showing themselves to be totally insensitive to the imperatives of a work-conducive environment.

We should be proactive seeking a better workplace.

Appearance is stressed far too much in workplace design. What is more relevant is whether the workplace lets you work or inhibits you.

Many of the everyday tasks performed by professional workers are done in the serial processing center of the left brain. Music will not interfere particularly with this work, since it’s the brain’s holistic right side that digests music. But not all of the work is centered in the left brain. There is that occasional breakthrough that makes you say “Ahah!” and steers you toward an ingenious bypass that may save months or years of work. The creative leap involves right-brain function. If the right brain is busy listening to “1,001 Strings” on Muzak, the opportunity for a creative leap is lost.

You don’t need to go for 1-person offices. Instead of open spaces you can arrange small 2-3 people offices, enabling natural, easy interactions.

Management, at its best, should make sure there is enough space, enough quiet, and enough ways to ensure privacy so that people can create their own sensible work space. Uniformity has no place in this view.

13. Taking Umbrella Steps

Most monolithic corporate space can only be understood in terms of its symbolic value to the executives who caused it to be built. (…) The master plan is an attempt to impose totalitarian order. A single and therefore uniform vision governs the whole.

In place of the master plan, Alexander proposes a meta-plan. It is a philosophy by which a facility can grow in an evolutionary fashion to achieve the needs of its occupants. The meta-plan has three parts:

  • A philosophy of piecemeal growth
  • A set of patterns or shared design principles governing growth
  • Local control of design by those who will occupy the space

The First Pattern: Tailored Work Space from a Kit. (…) Today’s modular cubicle is a masterpiece of compromise: It gives you no meaningful privacy and yet still manages to make you feel isolated.

Groups of people who have been assigned or have elected to work together need to have a meaningful role in the design of their own space.

The Second Pattern: Windows. (…) If buildings are constructed in a fairly narrow shape, there need be no shortage of windows.

The Third Pattern: Indoor and Outdoor Space. (…) If you’ve ever had the opportunity to work in space that had an outdoor component, it’s hard to imagine ever again limiting yourself to working entirely indoors.

The Fourth Pattern: Public Space. (…) a smooth “intimacy gradient” as you move toward the interior (…) should be true as well of a healthy workplace.

The patterns that crop up again and again in successful space are there because they are in fundamental accord with characteristics of the human creature. They allow him to function as a human. They emphasize his essence—he is at once an individual and a member of a group. They deny neither his individuality nor his inclination to bond into teams. They let him be what he is. A common element that runs through all the patterns (both ours and Alexander’s) is reliance upon non-replicable formulas. No two people have to have exactly the same work space. No two coffee areas have to be identical, nor any two libraries or sitting areas. The texture and shape and organization of space are fascinating issues to the people who occupy that space. The space needs to be isomorphic to the work that goes on there. And people at all levels need to leave their mark on the workplace.

There is nonetheless a possible way to put your people into vital, productive space. The possibility arises because master-planned space is almost always full, and it’s a continual hassle to find a place to house any new effort. If you run one of those as-yet-unhoused efforts, turn your sights outward. Petition to move your group out of the corporate monolith. (…) You don’t have to solve the space problem for the whole institution. If you can solve it just for your own people, you’re way ahead.

Part III. The Right People

Replace [the manager-as-strategist view] with an approach that encourages you to court success with this formula: Get the right people. Make them happy so they don’t want to leave. Turn them loose.

14. The Hornblower Factor

So the people who work for you through whatever period will be more or less the same at the end as they were at the beginning. If they’re not right for the job from the start, they never will be.

The need for uniformity is a sign of insecurity on the part of management.

The term unprofessional is often used to characterize surprising and threatening behavior. Anything that upsets the weak manager is almost by definition unprofessional.

SECOND THERMODYNAMIC LAW OF MANAGEMENT: Entropy is always increasing in the organization. That’s why most elderly institutions are tighter and a lot less fun than sprightly young companies.

15. Let’s Talk about Leadership

In order to lead without positional authority —without anyone ever appointing you leader— you have to do:

Step up to the task. Be evidently fit for the task. Prepare for the task by doing the required homework ahead of time. Maximize value to everyone. Do it all with humor and obvious goodwill. It also helps to have charisma.

Innovation is all about leadership, and leadership is all about innovation.

The net here is that it takes a bit of a rebel to help even the best innovation achieve its promise: rebel leadership. The innovator himself doesn’t have to be a great leader, but someone has to be. What rebel leadership supplies to this process is the time to innovate—you take a key person away from doing billable work (this may constitute constructive disobedience on your part) in order to pursue a nascent vision—and the hard push for whatever reshaping the organization has to submit to in order to take advantage of the innovation.

Since nobody ever knows how the next innovation may alter the organization, nobody knows enough to give permission to the key instigators to do what needs to be done. That’s why leadership as a service almost always operates without official permission.

16. Hiring a Juggler

When you set out to hire an engineer or a designer or a programmer or a group manager, the rules of common sense are often suspended. You don’t ask to see a design or a program or anything. In fact, the interview is just talk.

Aptitude tests are almost always oriented toward the tasks the person will perform immediately after being hired. (…) [But] That person might end up doing the tasks that the test measured for two years and then do other things for twenty.

So the hiring process needs to focus on at least some sociological and human communication traits. The best way we’ve discovered to do this is through the use of auditions for job candidates.

17. Playing Well with Others

Women brought much more to their new industry than just labor hours. They changed the way that teams were organized and how team members interacted. (…) Today, an all-male team seems thin and less than totally energized. Women made a huge difference.

That said, the capacity of a team to absorb newness has its limits. Twenty contractors this month, three the next month, and fifteen the third month means you have just had to integrate 38 new people during your project. You need extra planning to avoid renting humans like you rent cars.

18. Childhood’s End

One generation’s technology is the next generation’s environment.

In the most-simplistic terms, the new generational divide in your organization is about attention: Young people divide theirs while their older colleagues tend to focus on one or possibly two tasks at a time. A generation that grew up studying with music blaring on their iPods, text messages flooding in and out, social networking sites open at all hours, and a video game going on sporadically in a window beside the history assignment is an illustration of what former Microsoft Vice President Linda Stone has called “continuous partial attention.” Your youngest hires will tell you that they operate most effectively in this environment. The problem is that continuous partial attention is the exact opposite of flow. If you believe, as we do, that a flow state is essential for getting real work done, then you need to set limits on how attention may be divided. You need to make your youngest workers understand the difference between spending 2 percent of their workday on Facebook in a single block of time and spending 2 percent of their attention all day on Facebook. The one may be a reasonable accommodation for human workers’ personal needs (much like the occasional call or text message home during working hours), while the other may be a deterrent to their ever fitting in. Workers who can’t get into flow are not just less effective, they also are unlikely to fit into a jelled team of mixed-generation people.

Articulating the contract to young workers is going to be essential to give them a chance to fit in. If work needs to be done in flow, then your people need to be ready to focus. Continuous-partial-attention periods have to be defined as personal time off, acceptable within limits during the workday. The rest of the workday is for, well, work.

19. Happy to Be Here

A reasonable assessment of start-up cost is therefore approximately three lost work-months per new hire. (…) The total cost of replacing each person is the equivalent of four-and-a-half to five months of employee cost or about 20 percent of the cost of keeping that employee for the full two years on the job.

In an organization with high turnover, nobody is willing to take the long view.

Over the years, we have been privileged to work and consult for a few companies with extraordinarily low turnover. You won’t be surprised to learn that low turnover is not the only good thing about these companies. Indeed, they seem to excel at many or most of the people-conscious qualities discussed in these pages. They are the best. (…) The best organizations are not of a kind; they are more notable for their dissimilarities than for their likenesses. But one thing that they all share is a preoccupation with being the best.

A common feature of companies with the lowest turnover is widespread retraining. (…) When they needed new skills to make a change, the company provided those skills. No job is a dead end.

20. Human Capital

Companies treat investment in people as an expense, which is contrary to the fact that people is what matters the most for knowledge work.

Part IV: Growing Productive Teams

Good work experiences have always got a fair measure of challenge about them (…) [but] it’s a remote part of the background. What’s in the foreground of most of our prized work memories is team interaction.

21. The Whole Is Greater Than the Sum of the Parts

A jelled team is a group of people so strongly knit that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. (…) Once a team begins to jell, the probability of success goes up dramatically. (…) Teams by their very nature are formed around goals. (…) As part of the jelling process, they have all bought into the common goal. (…) Even though the goal itself may seem arbitrary to team members, they pursue it with enormous energy.

Believing that workers will automatically accept organizational goals is the sign of naïve managerial optimism. (…) Organizational goals come in for constant scrutiny by the people who work for the organization, and most of those goals are judged to be awfully arbitrary.

There is very little true teamwork required in most of our work. But teams are still important, for they serve as a device to get everyone pulling in the same direction. The purpose of a team is not goal attainment but goal alignment.

A few very characteristic signs indicate that a jelled team has occurred. The most important of these is low turnover during projects and in the middle of well-defined tasks.

Jelled teams are usually marked by a strong sense of identity.

There is a sense of eliteness on a good team.

There is invariably a feeling of joint ownership of the product built by the jelled team.

The final sign of a jelled team is the obvious enjoyment that people take in their work.

People use team when the tight bonding of the jelled working group is pleasing to them. And they use clique when it represents a threat. (…) Fear of cliques is a sign of managerial insecurity.

22. The Black Team

Give a goal to a group of motivated, talented people and you have a jelled team.

23. Teamicide

You can’t make teams jell. You can hope they will jell; you can (…) but you can’t make it happen. The process is much too fragile to be controlled.

We stopped talking about building teams, and talked instead of growing them. The agricultural image seemed right.

Measures that make a team fail: Defensive management; Bureaucracy; Physical separation; Fragmentation of people’s time; Quality reduction of the product; Phony deadlines; Clique control.

You can’t protect yourself against your own people’s incompetence. (…) But once you’ve decided to go with a given group, your best tactic is to trust them. Any defensive measure taken to guarantee success in spite of them will only make things worse.

Mindless paper pushing is a waste. It ought to be attacked because it keeps people from working. But our point here is a slightly different one. It is that bureaucracy hurts team formation. The team needs to believe in whatever goal it forms around. (…) Just telling your people that the goal matters won’t be enough if you also have to tell them they should spend a third of their time pushing paper.

Teams need not only work interactions but also casual interactions, and you often need spaces for that.

Fragmentation is bad for team formation, but it’s also bad for efficiency. (…) No one can be part of multiple jelled teams.

Nobody really talks about quality-reduced products. What they talk about is cost-reduced products. But it usually boils down to the same thing.

Tight deadlines can sometimes be demotivating. (…) A tight but not impossible deadline can constitute an enjoyable challenge to the team. What’s never going to help, however, is a phony deadline.

The only time our management shows any awareness of teams is when it takes specific steps to break them up. (…) The team phenomenon, as we’ve described it, is something that happens only at the bottom of the hierarchy.

24. Teamicide Revisited

Motivational accessories, as they are called (including slogan coffee mugs, plaques, pins, key chains, and awards), are a triumph of form over substance. They seem to extol the importance of Quality, Leadership, Creativity, Teamwork, Loyalty, and a host of other organizational virtues. But they do so in such simplistic terms as to send an entirely different message: Management here believes that these virtues can be improved with posters rather than by hard work and managerial talent.

Extended overtime is a productivity-reduction technique, anyway. The extra hours are almost always more than offset by the negative side effects. (…) We don’t work overtime so much to get the work done on time as to shield ourselves from blame when the work inevitably doesn’t get done on time.

25. Competition

Competition between siblings is not entirely ok.

When you observe a well-knit team in action, you’ll see a basic hygienic act of peer-coaching that is going on all the time. Team members sit down in pairs to transfer knowledge. When this happens, there is always one learner and one teacher. Their roles tend to switch back and forth over time with, perhaps, A coaching B about TCP/IP and then B coaching A about implementation of queues. When it works well, the participants are barely even aware of it. They may not even identify it as coaching; to them, it may just seem like work. (…) Whether it is named or not, coaching is an important factor in successful team interaction. (…) The act of coaching simply cannot take place if people don’t feel safe.

Internal competition has the direct effect of making coaching difficult or impossible.

Any action that rewards team members differentially is likely to foster competition. Managers need to take steps to decrease or counteract this effect.

26. A Spaghetti Dinner

Good managers provide frequent easy opportunities for the team to succeed together. (…) The best boss is the one who can manage this over and over again without the team members knowing they’ve been “managed.”

27. Open Kimono

You take no steps to defend yourself from the people you’ve put into positions of trust. And all the people under you are in positions of trust. A person you can’t trust with any autonomy is of no use to you.

It’s heady and a little frightening to know that the boss has put part of his or her reputation into the subordinates’ hands. It brings out the best in everyone.

If you’ve got decent people under you, there is probably nothing you can do to improve their chances of success more dramatically than to get yourself out of their hair occasionally.

By their fruits, ye shall know them.

The engineering profession is famous for a kind of development mode that doesn’t exist elsewhere: (…) the project is hidden away someplace where it can be done without upper management’s knowing what’s going on.º

People at all levels know whether some sensible insubordination is acceptable or not.

28. Chemistry for Team Formation.

Admittedly simplistic list of the elements of a chemistry-building strategy for a healthy organization:

  • Make a cult of quality.
    • The judgment that a still-imperfect product is “good enough” is the death knell for a jelling team. (…) The opposite attitude, of “only perfect is good enough for us,” gives the team a real chance. This cult of quality is the strongest catalyst for team formation.
  • Provide lots of satisfying closure.
  • Build a sense of eliteness.
  • Allow and encourage heterogeneity.
  • Preserve and protect successful teams.
  • Provide strategic but not tactical direction.
    • By definition, the manager is not a peer and so can’t be part of the peer group. (…) No one is the permanent leader, because that person would then cease to be a peer and the team interaction would begin to break down. The structure of a team is a network, not a hierarchy. For all the deference paid to the concept of leadership (a cult word in our industry), it just doesn’t have much place here.

Part V: Fertile Soil

29. The Self-Healing System

There is a big difference between Methodology and methodology. Small m methodology is a basic approach one takes to getting a job done. It doesn’t reside in a fat book, but rather inside the heads of the people carrying out the work. Such a methodology consists of two parts: a tailored plan (specific to the work at hand) and a body of skills necessary to effect the plan. One could hardly be opposed to methodology: The work couldn’t even begin without it. But a Methodology is very different

Big M Methodology is an attempt to centralize thinking.1 All meaningful decisions are made by the Methodology builders, not by the staff assigned to do the work. Those who espouse a Methodology have a long list of its supposed benefits, including standardization, documentary uniformity, managerial control, and state-of-the-art techniques. These make up the overt case for the Methodology. The covert case is simpler and cruder: the idea that project people aren’t smart enough to do the thinking.

Voluminous documentation is part of the problem, not part of the solution.

Methodologies are not the only way to achieve convergence.

Better ways to achieve convergence: training; tools; peer review.

30. Dancing with Risk

Project risk is a good thing, a likely indicator of value. Projects that have real value but little or no risk were all done ages ago.

It’s perfectly reasonable not to manage a risk for which the probability of occurrence is extremely low. It’s not reasonable to leave unmanaged the risk for which the consequences are “just too awful to think about.”

31. Meetings, Monologues, and Conversations

Behavior [open laptops and so on] that we take for granted today would have gotten you fired a generation ago.

A meeting that is specifically called to get something done might be called a working meeting (…), typically called to reach a decision. Who should be invited? That’s easy, the people who need to agree before the decision can be judged made. Nobody else. To make sure no one is blindsided, it’s essential that the working meeting have an agenda relevant to its purpose and that it stick to that agenda.

Your goal should be to eliminate most ceremonial meetings and spend the time in one-on-one conversation, to limit attendance at working meetings and apply the “What ends this meeting?” test to each one. In place of ceremonies, encourage Open-Space networking to give people a chance to have unstructured interaction. Most important, curtail your own need for the confirmation that is provided by ceremonial meetings.

32. The Ultimate Management Sin Is . . .

… wasting people’s time.

The need that [a meeting with n people present] was being served was not the boss’s need for information, but for reassurance. The ceremony supplies reassurance.

Ad-hoc implies that the meeting is unlikely to be regularly scheduled. Any regular get-together is therefore somewhat suspect as likely to have a ceremonial purpose rather than a focused goal of consensus. The weekly status meeting is an obvious example. Though its goal may seem to be status reporting, its real intent is status confirming. And it’s not the status of the work, but the status of the boss.

There is a natural inclination to take the effort lopped off the end and apply it back at the beginning. Voilà, a project with this familiar pattern of early overstaffing.

Fragmented time is almost certain to be teamicidal, but it also has another insidious effect: It is guaranteed to waste the individual’s time. A worker with multiple assignments—a little new development, some maintenance of a legacy product, some sales support, and perhaps a bit of end user hand-holding— will spend a significant part of each day switching gears.

33. E(vil) Mail

When you over-coordinate the people who work for you, they’re all too likely to under-coordinate their own efforts.

Life is short. If you need to know everything in order to do anything, you’re not going to get much done.

34. Making Change Possible

People hate change.

When we start out to change, it is never certain that we will succeed. And the uncertainty is more compelling than the potential for gain.

The Believers But Questioners are the only meaningful potential allies of any change

Change involves at least 4 stages: old Status Quo, Chaos, Practice and Integration and New Status Quo. You move from 1 to 2 pushed by a foreign element, and from 2 to 3 with a transforming idea.

Change won’t even get started unless people feel safe.

35. Organizational Learning

The first thing to realize about organizational learning is that it is not the same as simple accumulation of experience.

Experience gets turned into learning when an organization alters itself to take account of what experience has shown. This alteration takes two forms: The organization instills new skills and approaches in its people. OR The organization redesigns itself to operate in some different manner.

The most natural learning center for most organizations is at the level of that much-maligned institution, middle management. This squares exactly with our own observation that successful learning organizations are always characterized by strong middle management.

36. The Making of Community

An organization that succeeds in building a satisfying community tends to keep its people.

Part VI: It’s Supposed to Be Fun to Work Here

Nobody ever says outright that work ought not to be fun, but the idea is there, burned into our cultural subconsciousness.

Work should be fun.

37. Chaos and Order

Progress toward more orderly, controllable methods is an unstoppable trend. The thoughtful manager doesn’t want to stop the trend, but may nonetheless feel a need to replace some of the lost disorder that has breathed so much energy into the work. This leads to a policy of constructive reintroduction of small amounts of disorder. (…) Ways to implement this policy:

  • Pilot projects
  • War games
  • Brainstorming
  • Provocative training experiences
  • Training, trips, conferences, celebrations, and retreats

38. Free Electrons

The trend to create an increasing number of free electron positions is more than just a response to the threat of the cottage industry. The reason there are so many gurus and fellows and intrapreneurs and internal consultants in healthy modern companies is quite simply that companies profit from them. The people in these positions contribute disproportionately to the organizations that employ them. They are motivated to make the positions created for them pay off for their companies.

The mark of the best manager is an ability to single out the few key spirits who have the proper mix of perspective and maturity and then turn them loose.

39. Holgar Dansk

It doesn’t take much to wake up the giant. If the silliness is gross enough, people need no more than a gentle catalyst. It may be one small voice saying, “This is unacceptable.” People know it’s true. Once it’s been said out loud, they can’t ignore it any longer.

If you’ve smiled ruefully at any of the characterizations in this book, it’s time now to stop smiling and start taking corrective action.