The objective of a company is to create value for its customers and shareholders. Implicit in this definition is the yearly increase in productivity. That is, if a company wants to grow, one of the prices to pay is to increase its productivity.
What is productivity then? In simple terms, if tomorrow you are able to do what you did today faster. That’s a solid indicator of productivity and as you have probably noticed, less time for X thing usually translates to more time for Y thing.
Now. Humanity can make a marketplace out of anything, and there is indeed a marketplace of choices about how organizations can be more productive. Indeed something, something Management Consultant came to me.
But like with home repairs, while there is a market for experts, there is nothing that prevents you from DIY. But, opposite plumbing, the more your business lies in the realm of judgment (aka can’t be outsourced cheaply just like that) the more critical it is to recognize that every productivity work must start from the inside. External expert expertise (EEE) is great, but it’s a supplement to in house efforts.
Let me get you an example. I have run my company for six years, we have two products that make clients happy and we have a consulting business that makes a lot of unhappy companies very happy.
So, a couple of months ago we were having a staff meeting and we noticed that the productivity of a new product team we have chartered hasn’t increased even though the team got flying colors in showing up. What was the issue? As with many things, management, that unelected bureaucracy of every business was the problem.
While we could have consulted the oracles of the internet, we really wanted the team to do better, to ship more and to do it in a deliberate way.
This is what we came up with. Every task this team works on, requires the completion of this checklist before coding work starts:
- Feature Discovery: Find place in the UI related to the ticket.
- Code Discovery: Find place in the code related to the ticket.
- Feedback Loop: Establish a local feedback loop in the code that affects the UI.
- Action Plan: Devise action plan of least disruption with measurement.
- Identify a straightforward plan we can take right away.
- Can know how many files to touch (including create)
- Know how to test edge cases.
- Avoid a non straightforward plan we should not even start.
- Don’t know final cost of change (discovery)
- Need to research the edge case.
- Create Proof of Completion & QA Plan
- Create Distribution Plan
- Execution: Execute Changes
- Completion Proof: Execute Proof of Completion & QA Plan.
The way to productivity is hard to spot, and is hard to mechanize. What you can do is to enforce that every initiative complains with this basic principles:
- It should move the work towards real time transparency.
- When you work, it is easy to see if it is in progress.
- Discriminate between exploration and work.
- A task can’t exist in both worlds.