Posts Tagged “productivity”

I really liked J. Schwan’s blog on Oscar and Albert. It’s a workplace parable about overcoming (or denying) the realities of off-shoring.

Sometimes it’s difficult to admit to ourselves, but in IT we are judged by more than how we do our specific jobs (even when it’s hard to find anyone who can do your job better than you). Honing our skills beyond a certain point (and to the exclusion of other, newer skills) can make us less competitive in both our local and global marketplaces.

This is not so much about a .Net programmer learning Ruby (although that certainly can help until Ruby becomes old hat). It is about a programmer taking a greater role in requirements definition, usability, user training, or any other area that enables him (or her) to build his capabilities and deliver value at the business level.

Tomorrow’s rewards will be won by the IT workers who focus on broadening their perspectives and adapting their skills. They’ll use this mindset to identify and satisfy the numerous new value opportunities created by our evolving global marketplace. Far from being out-sourced, many will get wealthy doing it.

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Okay, what I’ve done here is taken a practice that is necessary but lame and have tried to make it new and cool by slapping the word agile in front of it. You know, like agile modeling, agile development, agile analysis and agile DBA. But, really, this is more than just that … really.

Sometimes you have important meetings — such as department meetings or one-on-ones — that really can defy any form of standard agenda. One way to deal with these meetings is to run them in an organic, ad hoc fashion. The manager marks the start and end points of the meeting and people throw out and devour topics in between. That’s a bit chaotic and, in my opinion, inefficient. Another approach is to compile an agenda in advance of each meeting, where someone collects each discussion item via email, IM, hallway conversation or carrier pigeon and posts the agenda prior to each meeting. That’s a bit cumbersome and, quite frankly, medieval.

The agile agenda provides a simpler option, in just three steps:

  1. Prior to the start of the meeting, the manager writes “Agenda” on the whiteboard and adds underneath it any discussion items of which he or she is aware
  2. Meeting members call out any additional discussion items and those get added to the agenda. This can also be done more informally, where individuals add their own discussion items as they come in the door.
  3. The meeting starts. The manager or the group decides the order in which the items are discussed. People can add additional items to the agile agenda if they think of them during the meeting.

The meeting is over either when the group is through the agenda or the team has run out of time.

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Meetingpalooza — if only it were half as cool as it sounded.

Meetings inevitably strike when we are deepest into the productivity zone, abruptly jolting us away from half-implemented solutions and half-formed inspirations. Worse, for some of us, numerous meetings crater the landscape of the day, forcing us to repeatedly stop what we are doing and toss away an hour of productivity (or, at least, that’s too often the way it feels).

Meetings, none-the-less, are an essential tool for communication and collaboration. They can be the fastest way to build consensus around an issue, to quickly solve a problem, or to plan the next two weeks of work for an entire team. We use meetings quite a bit for purposes such as this on agile teams.

Assuming you are already attending the meetings that make you and your team more productive, here’s a list of techniques to use to thin down the time spent in meetings that make you less productive: Read the rest of this entry »

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In economics there is a law of diminishing returns. The more workers you throw in a factory the more productivity you get until you pass a point of optimum performance after which, with each additional worker added, average output per worker actually drops. Most of us realize that this scenario applies directly to software development teams. In the last few months, however, I have had to remind myself that this same scenario also applies to the individual. Read the rest of this entry »

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