Tackling the productivity beast

With all budget gone in vapour, everyone now is talking about productivity.  In software development ‘Productivity’ , per se, is a difficult beast even to  measure. More often, productivity improvement  is  basically plugging holes or innovative data presentation.

Still, few things you might like to do to improve productivity, which can save you the trouble and embarrassment of talking in terms of frameworks and datasets.

– Buy a whiteboard and place it well. Build a culture that short quick decisions are made over whiteboard, and encourage people to do that. Studies proved that communication over whiteboard is extremely effective. Not to mention efficient.

– Lot of time goes away in arguments and debates, which in itself is not bad, but should move towards something. Learn how to deal with arguments. A good place to begin are Roger Fisher’s books.

– Discourage, or better still, eliminate multitasking. Particularly for developers.  Which might mean no phones on desk; expectations to check mails only a few times a day; no ad-hoc meetings or status collection. Of course, planned work without frequent change of assignments is the bare minimum, without that better don’t do the project. Again, many studies and research illustrate the perils of multi-tasking and context switching for knowledge workers. Tom De Marco’s ‘Peopleware’ is a good reference, the Poppendieks’ (Mary and Tom) Lean books too. This NY Times study or this says it can take as much as 20 minutes for person to switch context back to his development work.

– Select all tools so that they give rapid feedback. Software development is all about  ability to change course; and that is impossible without feedback mechanism. Select tools that don’t make developers to switch context frequently.

– Give developers access to some noise free work environment. Private offices are more productive, though communication might suffer. Educate all to respect open space etiquette.

– Write documents in easy, readable style. Avoid jargons. Avoid needless words. Read and reread Strunk and White’s ‘Elements of Style‘. From what I see around, most of the documents meant for even programmers are too heavy. And needlessly.

– Get training in speed reading, without compromising with comprehension.

– Get training in increasing typing speed. Learn all hotkeys and shortcuts. Use relevant plugins. For all the tools you use.

And of course, there is peopleware.

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