Productivity Now

The economy is in a bit of a tailspin now. We can help ourselves. If you wait for the Wizards of Washington to help, you might wait for the wrong team. How do we get ourselves out of this jam?

We need a simple way, a simple feedback loop, for telling if we are productive, if the seemingly “brilliant” ideas are actually useful and whether this group or that group is productive.

How? Measure productivity by team. The team is the unit to be measured (not the individual, and not a larger group). There are many reasons to measure by team; the main one is that only the team can create enough useful knowledge to create (or produce) a new product.  Seven people, plus or minus two.

Measure it in short iterations — probably two weeks, maybe a week, or a month at most.

Ask the team to improve.

If the team is not producing enough (say, compared to their cost), disband them. Assuming no one is dysfunctional (when inside a team), then have each person join a team or start a new team.  (If the same person is on two failing teams, he probably needs to look elsewhere. But we are not primarily looking for failure — we are mainly looking for success.)

All those who aren’t directly producing, why is it that we need them? What value do they add? (Yes, they often should join a team doing real work.)

Some teams can fail. That is, that can take on too big an innovation. They can try to climb too big a mountain. These ‘failures’ are not always bad, especially if they lead to a big success, but you will generally find that the team gets creative and productive. They find something to sell that customers actually want, even to customers now.

To do this well, you have to measure productivity. I know there are lies, damn lies and statistics, but you need some metrics to make business decisions.

What I am recommending is Scrum for close to the whole business. I would recommend Scrum in the context of Lean thinking about the whole business.

Get on with it. We have a bunch of people to pull out of this economic cycle. Much as we enjoy Scrum, we didn’t get into this just for ourselves.




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