Slack: Getting Past Burnout, Busywork, and the Myth of Total Efficiency

Slack: Getting Past Burnout, Busywork, and the Myth of Total Efficiency If Your Company S Goal Is To Become Fast, Responsive, And Agile, Efficiency Is Not The Answer You Need SlackWhy Is It That Today S Superefficient Organizations Are Ailing Tom DeMarco, A Leading Management Consultant To Both Fortune And Up And Coming Companies, Reveals A Counterintuitive Principle That Explains Why Efficiency Efforts Can Slow A Company Down That Principle Is The Value Of Slack, The Degree Of Freedom In A Company That Allows It To Change Implementing Slack Could Be As Simple As Adding An Assistant To A Department And Letting High Priced Talent Spend Less Time At The Photocopier And Time Making Key Decisions, Or It Could Mean Designing Workloads That Allow People Room To Think, Innovate, And Reinvent Themselves It Means Embracing Risk, Eliminating Fear, And Knowing When To Go Slow Slack Allows For Change, Fosters Creativity, Promotes Quality, And, Above All, Produces Growth With An Approach That Works For New And Old Economy Companies Alike, This Revolutionary Handbook Debunks Commonly Held Assumptions About Real World Management, And Gives You And Your Company A Brand New Model For Achieving And Maintaining True Effectiveness

Tom DeMarco is the author of fifteen books, including five novels, a collection of short stories and the rest business books His most recent work is a seemingly jinxed love story, The One Way Time Traveler. Before that he wrote Dark Harbor House, and before that Slack and Peopleware and The Deadline.

✈ [PDF / Epub] ✅ Slack: Getting Past Burnout, Busywork, and the Myth of Total Efficiency By Tom DeMarco ✸ –
  • Paperback
  • 256 pages
  • Slack: Getting Past Burnout, Busywork, and the Myth of Total Efficiency
  • Tom DeMarco
  • 08 July 2017
  • 9780767907699

10 thoughts on “Slack: Getting Past Burnout, Busywork, and the Myth of Total Efficiency

  1. says:

    I think there is one big idea to Slack that makes it worth reading for anyone dealing with leadership or leading at scale A lot of the rest of the book is fairly obvious or not practical, so not giving it five stars.The big idea of this book is that creativity can t be rushed, and if you don t build the slack into your schedule to spend some time creatively thinking about your business, you won t be able to innovate You will only be able to be reactive, not proactive The Hurry Up mindset is so easy to slip into because there is always to do than there is time Providing a theory and data around the fact that having slack in your schedule is not only ok, but it s a good thing, is almost counter intuitive, and thus really valuable to think about.The book talks about how some companies slip into a hurry up mindset where everyone wants to look busy all the time The danger of being busy is that you can too easily especially if you are only being reactive be busy on working on the wrong stuff Very successful companies have never struck me as particularly busy in fact, they are, as a group, rather laid back Energy is evident in the workplace, but it s not the energy tinged with fear that comes from being slightly behind on everything When managing people there is another kind of slack that the book points out the slack to give up control to someone Highly functioning people like to own their goals and process and have leeway to accomplish them on their own As a manager, one of the hardest tasks is to balance giving them that autonomy with occasionally checking in or diving in to make sure things are on track If you do it too much, you will annoy people or cause them to leave if you do it too little your team could be wasting time heading in the wrong direction.Other interesting points In a hurry up organization, there is a natural tendency to try to get people to work harder to meet deadlines While this can work over short stints, it s generally not sustainable In fact, the book had a bunch of data to show that on average overtime hours aren t productive They analyzed the star performers in a number of companies, and the only thing they had in common they could point to was the strength of their networks Establishing good connections and doing favors for others let s you get stuff done faster when you need to The book makes a point that setting Quality goals for companies can be dangerous b c you can so easily focus on the wrong metrics For instance, reducing the number of bugs is correlated with quality, but it isn t the same thing as making a great product This seems pretty obvious, so I m not sure why it needed to be included in the book It s important to set a vision for the organizations culture The culture are those things that are so important to the organization that they should never change If a organization lacks those, it will define itself as status quo and resist all change Effective leaders build up trust, often before they ve even earned it The most effective way to do this is to acquire trust by giving trust The act of giving trust is an enormously powerful gesture The author told a story about a woman giving him her 2 year old daughter to carry off the plane The trust she showed impressed him.A great summary of the book Reinvention takes place in the middle of the organization, so the first requisite is that there has to be a middle I ll assume your organization still has one Now pour in some slack, increase safety, and take steps to break down managerial isolation Viola, the formula for middle of the hierarchy reinvention.

  2. says:

    I picked this up because I recognized DeMarco s name from one of my favorite business books of all time, Peopleware This is a fast read DeMarco meant it to be read by busy managers on a flight but it s dense with insights Some of the memorable ones People under time pressure don t think faster 50, quoting Lister, co author of Peopleware Productivity of knowledge workers is almost entirely based on the number of days worked, not hours 64 The first law of bad management If something isn t working, do of it 80 healthy leadership involves people leading their bosses, leading their peers, leading those in peer organizationswithout ever being granted the official power to do what they re doing 141 acquire trust by giving trust 152 just a small selection of the many gems in the book.Not only will you recognize many of the bad management processes from projects you ve been on, DeMarco does a great job of contrasting bad management with good management better called leadership He repeats several times that good management is much difficult and counter intuitive, which explains why it s relatively rare.I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to be part of the healthy, successful company, because you not someone else have to make it that way.

  3. says:

    This book has two primary hypotheses 1 The opposite of efficiency is slack In the name of efficiency, many companies remove slack This impairs the organization s ability to adapt to change, to manage risk, and a host of other ills.2 Middle management has gotten a bad name, and flattening the org chart is now in fashion The author argues that middle management is a critical part of a company s ability to reinvent itself, because innovative change rarely comes from the top senior management is too removed from the hands on work of the company s problem space or from the bottom individual contributors must focus on details and rarely have time to look at the big picture That leaves the middle.The book is a series of sections which apply the slack idea to different areas delivering projects on schedule, team morale, quality a term he rails against in its common usage in business , and leadership and organizational change The sections mostly stand alone, so you can easily skip over one if it s not applicable to you.The risk management section is a good example He argues that project schedules and resources are always allocated based on best case scenarios Risk management is the process of thinking of, and cataloging, all the risks and what their impact might be Then the project lead s can create a slack pool, extra resources usually time and money available to absorb any risks that might materialize.Of course, this is common sense even something as simple as a family road trip requires slack Somewhere along the way you ll miss a turn, or get stuck with a hotel room that costs than you budgeted, or blow a tire Allocating some extra time and money up front to account for such risks is the only thing to do But, the author argues, many businesses don t apply this simple common sense to their own projects.Also, don t miss the fun little fairy tale parable at the end.

  4. says:

    3.0 Not a huge number of concrete changes to make, some of the risk management stuff is good, probably things that most organizations really don t do at allHe s a consultant and self proclaimed expert Spends a lot of time telling you what not to do, and what you re supposed to do sounds great but perhaps hard to concretely apply.On efficiency Don t hire efficiency experts to root out inefficiency to keep everyone busy 100% of the time on their immediate tasks Let people be idle some percentage of the time so they can jump on important things that come up Hire secretaries and gofers to free up high level thinkers Don t punish people who aren t looking busy 100% of the timethey ll either leave or slow down till they barely keep up with incoming work Cost of voluntary turnover is high, even for average team memberOn managing Pressure is expensive A small amount will increase productivity, much than that and things slow down and people leave Productivity measured per hour pretty much universally decreases after 8 hour workdays Root out culture of fear Managing by objectives MBO doesn t work wasn t sure if this was well arguedseems that it really depends on how you state your objectives Don t put yourself in as your own utility team member If someone leaves, hire transfer to fill the gap When you re doing your team s work, you re not managing An overworked manager is not better than one who has free time to meet with team, be curious, innovate Overworked manager is probably doing things she shouldn t be.On risk Most orgs confuse best possible date with expected date and do no risk management Some confuse the most likely date with the 50 50 date because project delivery is going to be right skewed, typically the peak of pdf is going to represent the 30% mark project 30% of the time will deliver by then or sooner Consider the cdf pdf of project completion date and compute the point when probability is 50 50 of being before after that date perhaps 20% after larger than the most likely scenario Actively solicit and track risks identify them identify how you ll recognize when they begin to surface identify mitigation ahead of time, and consider investing even if it delays the best possible scenario

  5. says:

    As a knowledge worker , I agree with a lot of what DeMarco has to say I, too, would love to work in a quiet environment with few meetings and no pressure to hurry up and meet arbitrary deadlines The thing is, I m not sure if this book is helpful in figuring out how to create this dream work environment He gives good tips here and there, but I assume most managers who read this won t walk away with a concrete plan on how to improve their company.Still, it s worth reading if only to realize whether or not your company has a good work culture, rather than accepting the status quo.

  6. says:

    Great book on building organizations that operate with the slack required to innovate and treat its employees well The book shows managers how to make their organizations slightly less efficient but enormously effective Knowledge work requires deep immersion and the organization must make room for it The industry is recovering from an extreme response to slow, massive corporations that s carried into the new millennium The principal resource needed for invention is slack When companies can t invent, it s usually because their people are too damn busy If every worker has a massive incoming pile, work moves through the organization slower this is the smell of blooming bureaucracy The book questions leadership tenets is aggressive scheduling really productive If you tried to build a house in a week and your Sunday delivery didn t arrive, what will the 50 workers do on the Monday if there is no reasonable probability of finishing 20 or 30 percent ahead of schedule the schedule is a goal, not an estimate Speed has downsides Ships sail at a prudent pace, too fast and you risk damaging the sails and human error increases as fatigue sets in too slow and you lose momentum At the right dosage, however, it can be an incredibly productive thing Calling a weekend sprint with the team over pizza and late night Chinese can make corporate heroes However, only when called with impeccable timing and a huge trust reserve if the Monday deadline is not met, it s a moral disaster Working late is similar, and neither are productive in the long run Projects are measured in days and not workhours for a reason in knowledge work, our daily mental capacity is finite.Leadership happens everywhere in the organization, and that s the sign of a thriving, healthy one Networks flow up, down, left and right through the white space on the org chart The stars are those with the most responsive networks a star, on average, would receive answers in twenty minutes, while the norm for the whole laboratory was like four hours The implementation of change comes from below, while the incentive may come from above To make the system responsive to change, all parts of the puzzle must feel ownership of their process Who do you think will be most sympathetic to change, the Volvo workers who build the cars from nothing as a team, or the classic Taylorism i.e segmented work motor factory Especially with automation challenging the latter production protocol When the new automation is in place, there is less total work to be done by the human worker, but what work is left is harder That is the paradox of automation It makes the work harder, not easier Management is hard, and often learned on the job moving from something with measurable productivity, and often it s easy to sink back into the work as a relief but it s really a retreat Training of a manager follows the same rule as for a quantitative discipline slow practise of a task A callow manager shouldn t be expected to get a project done in as little time as the experienced.The book concludes with a chapter on risk, with the main points being that the analysis of risk is paramount, and has to be owned if it s everybody s responsibility, it becomes nobody s The only new initiative you can afford to take on today is one that is full of risk It s got to be something that thrusts you into a new market or exploits a brand new technology, one that transforms your company at the same time that it transforms your clients and the way they work If you identify any project as risk free, or even relatively risk free, cancel it.

  7. says:

    A solid manifesto against the lean , highly trimmed, insanely efficient,constantly running full tilt or company As someone who comes from the start up world, I resembled Mr DeMarco s don t look back and plan for success mantras that lead to late code, burned out developers and non agile risk blind development I ve also seen how agile is misused so that Agile means 100% engaged, damn the torpedoes and go full steam ahead I ve also seen the damage these styles can do to a software organization In Slack, Mr DeMarco talks about how having some time to stop and poke your head up can actually lead to a better organization An organization that can respond to change, that can retain employees, that can manage risk, and that can deliver product The book is a manifesto there isn t a lot of footnotes or empirical studies to back him up Instead, we are getting a glimpse of his experiences at companies over the years I can also say that this rings true to me Even as a start up junkie, the past few years I ve found myself working smarter so that I have time to stay on top of the changes in my industry Or that I have the time to spend with my co workers where idle talk can transfer a lot of knowledge In other words, the message of Slack rings true with my perceptions of companies that get it and therefore get it done.

  8. says:

    A nice read about how important it is for an organization to design slacks into their operation Slack is a mandatory ingredient for flexibility, organizational learning, and also a weapon to fight stress and fear There s also a nice section about risk management and mitigation.

  9. says:

    Das Buch ist gut geschrieben, sehr locker und ehrlich, ohne gro e Sach und Fachlichkeit, aber doch gut recherchiert und aufbereitet.Letzendlich hat mir aber das how to gefehlt Das Buch zeigt gut auf, wo wir die falschen Wege gehen, jedoch nicht wirklich wie wir davon weg kommen.Trotzdem eine gute Lekt re und ein bisschen was mitgenommen habe ich auf jeden Fall.

  10. says:

    This book goes way beyond its title Slack is not just about the myth that working at 100% capacity is effective In fact, I think Slack was just an excuse to tie together a raft of ideas Other key topics are systems thinking, communication, leadership, fear in organisations, flawed project management accounting, organisational learning, ineffective processes, empowerment, scheduling, trust, change, risk management, and the observation that in the modern world, no organisation can afford to remain in stasis.There are two forms of slack in the book individual and organisational my terms Individual slack is setting a sustainable workday Overtime leads to wasted time on unnecessary activities which is supported with data Organisational slack is the reserve of time and money that is needed to ensure a project can succeed even if it is hit by obstacles and failures along the way.The situation without slack is this An over optimistic, aggressive schedule, set by managers afraid of showing weakness An ignorance of uncertainty caused by a can do attitude Staff torn between projects as an anomal of cost accounting, with no regard for the nature of their work or their larger contributions to teams Increasing use of overtime leading to tired, disillusioned staff, who eventually quit and take their knowledge with them And then, no capacity to train the replacements, or fix the problems that caused it.The book is of a critique than a training manual But it has one key message it s critical to use slack to learn Perhaps, then, the only failing of this book is the absence of a bibliography to say where to go next.So I ll have a go, in case it is helpful Aside from the scattered references in the book, here are some useful follow ups The Goal Managing the Design Factory The Mythical Man Month Essays on Software Engineering, 20th Anniversary Edition The New Economics for Industry, Government, Education 2nd EditionI also have a copy of a book I haven t yet read, but addresses some of the issues in Slack In case I forget to return here and add it to the list Knowledge for Action Guide to Overcoming Barriers to Organizational Change

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