Monday, May 19, 2008

Summary of Slack

I have been reading slack and also making notes of key points from the book. I always wanted to share the summary of the book on this blog, and incidentally I found that somebody has already done this. Thought would the share the summary here without reinventing the wheel.

You can also read the following summary here written by the author

* In our constant quest to make our organizations more efficient (reduction of overhead, standardization of processes, overworking management and resources), we have actually made them less effective. The solution lies in (re)introducing `slack'. Slack is the lubricant required to effect change, it is the degree of freedom that enables reinvention and true effectiveness.
* Multitasking and overtime, thought to be ways of getting the most out of the teams, are actually having a negative impact on productivity. Multitasking, specifically for knowledge workers, causes at least a 15% penalty in productivity. It is much higher for tasks (such as troubleshooting or design for instance) that require complete immersion before the resource can actually make progress. Systematic overtime is also proven to be an ineffective way of improving project cycle-time. While it may provide short term gains, the demands it puts on resources quickly reduces their productivity and effectiveness. An alternative to systematic overtime are well calculated and well timed sprints (focused and value-added, yet handled as exceptions).
* Overworked managers also have a very negative impact on organizational effectiveness. It is indeed managers, and more specifically middle managers, that can the most effectively champion and effect change in organizations. The more overworked they are, the less time they have to reinvent the ways of working. Those same middle managers will be most effective in bringing about positive changes if they can collaborate with each other, which in turns requires that organizations stop fostering destructive internal competition.
* Prescriptive processes, pushed top-down, are a form of disempowerment. They are a result of fearful management that is allergic to failure. These processes succeed in dictate every aspect of how you should do you work but fail in providing guidance in doing the `hard parts'. They are often heavy and form an armor that reduces the mobility and agility of teams, hence resulting in less competitive organizations. The solution is to put the ownership of processes between the hands of those who do the work.
* An effective change manager is a person that can remonstrate, repeat, correct, encourage, cajole, motivate, and has great powers of persuasion. He/she is less of a boss and more of a negotiator. Great change managers have a lot of markers to call in. Markers come from favors done and confidence earned in the past. They have built a reservoir of trust and tap into it to entice their people to embrace change. Change managers have to come from within the organization, a stranger has no markers to call in, just a little `honeymoon capital'.
* The best time to introduce change is in a period of growth. Decline causes anxiety and makes people more resistant to change.

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