Monday, June 11, 2007


I recently finished reading Peopleware. I can't recommend this book highly enough. There are dozens of insightful observations about how teams can be influenced to succeed - or fail. Peopleware should be required yearly reading for managers.

A lot of the suggestions that the authors put forward are rarely implemented in most companies – probably because of their counter-intuitive nature. The only company that I’m familiar with that tries to manage in the Peopleware style is Joel’s Fog Creek Software.

One of the chapters that I found particularly interesting dealt with measuring an individual’s job performance. Instead of using the performance data to precisely promote people, or precisely fire people, the authors suggest that a company should only use performance data to benefit the individual. The idea here is that “individuals are inclined to do exactly the same things with the data that the manager would do. They will try to improve the things they do less well or try to specialize in the areas where they already excel.” The authors postulate that due to the extreme sensitivity of performance data, it can only be accurately collected and measured if workers do not have any fear of management seeing the rating and potentially using it against them. Sounds like an intriguing idea to me.

Peopleware is a quick, interesting read that enumerates the myriad ways that current management principles and incentives don’t align particularly well with people’s intrinsic motivations. Any employee will find numerous ideas for improving the way their employer does business