Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Life in the slow lane... (for toddlers and team members)

Last week I was taking my younger daughter to daycare and decided that since I had extra time that I would let my younger daughter walk on her own rather than strap her into my back carrier. She'll be 2 in December and seems like all she wants to do these days is walk (she was a late walker so she must be making up for lost time). She was thrilled that I let her walk and loved the morning stroll. I got a kick out of watching her walk to the subway, she stopped at all of the flowers and touched them, picked up leaves and dropped them to find new ones, tried opening gates and going up steps. It was a true pleasure to take a slower walk with her, and not only was it great for her to get more practice walking (she's a cross between a zombie and a drunken sailer when she walks and even more when she tries to run) but also for her to get a chance to take in her surroundings and not be rushed off to daycare.

This reminded me of something that seems so crucially important with software developers, designers, QA, anyone involved with the project...which is getting the opportunity to 'slow down' and learn something new. Seems like everyone in this industry is getting pushed along and constantly pressured to get as much work done in as little time as possible, since that is what appears to be the most 'productive' way. After reading Peopleware: Productive Projects and Teams and Slack: Getting Past Burnout, Busywork, and the Myth of Total Efficiency I completely see and understand how pushing people to their limits can have the reverse effect on productivity and actually cause more harm then good. Not to say that it didn't seem obvious before, but those books helped put some numbers behond the theories.

I've heard that Google programmers are all encouraged to pick up a side code project, try something new, research something, or build something that's never been built before. Sometimes the end result becomes part of one of their applications, sometimes it doesn't. But, even if it doesn't directly contribute to one of their applications, it can have an incredibly positive effect on programmers morale, creativity, loyalty to the company and productivity while they are doing their other work.

If we get past the idea that we need to make sure people are working 100% of the time and give them some time slow down and learn something new, I'm sure the payback will be totally worth it!

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