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Slack: Getting Past Burnout, Busywork, and the Myth of Total Efficiency Paperback – April 9, 2002
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From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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* 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.Read more ›
Tom DeMarco, co-author (with Tim Lister) of the magnificent "Peopleware", has done it again. Although "Slack" runs a little over 200 pages, you will probably read it in less than four hours because it is actually quite hard to put down. You will keep on thinking, "Yes, I've seen that!" and "Those words ring a bell".
In the course of his consultancy practice, which has taken him into many organizations including Apple, HP, Lucent and IBM, DeMarco has noticed a lot of counterproductive management behaviour. Many acts and policies that look good in the short term lead to corporate death in the longer term. More specifically, it is always possible to squeeze out a few more percentage points of "efficiency" - but only at the cost of damaging morale, precipitating burnout and losing the flexibility without which sensible decisions cannot be made.
Faster isn't always better. Effectiveness matters more than efficiency. People are not interchangeable "resources". Without challenge and growth, the best employees soon leave. Overheads are not necessarily bad. Consciously or subconsciously, we already know these things. DeMarco just hammers them home so we will never forget them again.
I really have only one quibble with "Slack". DeMarco has no business criticising Dilbert and his fellow engineers for "giving up" on their pointy-haired bosses.Read more ›
This book is in sharp contrast to practices that have plagued the workers for decades; women who sewed in sweatshop factories in the early 1900's were carefully monitored on how long they took to make bathroom breaks. Even now software is available that can count every keystroke a worker makes (to check on their efficiency.) The dream that careful monitoring and structuring of the workplace to get the maximum "juice" out of workers is disproved in this book.
This isn't even totally new information; a very old study found that brightening the lights in a factory improved performance. Then another study found that DIMMING the lights also improved performance. In other words, people are not machines. They need downtime, change, meaningful work and mental breaks or they burn out. A very timely and helpful book.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Really useful recommendations to managers. Some of them are not obvious, which makes it interesting to learn. Read it and change your company!Published 1 month ago by Evgeniy
Not enough data or evidence to support the main idea. Half the book is filled with unrelated chapters with generic management advice.Published 9 months ago by Bill Papantoniou
I found the author's insights on the importance of building in slack essential and his focus on effectiveness vice efficiency instrumental. Read morePublished 9 months ago by Christopher Alexander
Best management book I've ever read for managing teams of knowledge workers. Very down to earth advice, and Mr. Read morePublished 11 months ago by L. Hale
Theory of Constraints, but for people and people managers.Published 12 months ago by Anthony Mastrean
Definitely worth reading for anyone seeking to change the culture of an organization of people who use their brains to work.Published 12 months ago by Amazon Customer
This was on a "what's our CEO reading" list from several years ago. I don't think many of the principles from the book made it into our work environment/culture... Read morePublished 13 months ago by M. Deibler
Really liked this little book. Great read even if some of the examples feels like they are outdated and at times a bit too American. Read morePublished 17 months ago by Magnus Siverbrant