Measuring and managing performance in organizations

is an excellent book by Robert Austin (isbn 978-0-932633-36-1). As usual I'm going to quote from a few pages:
When outcomes are revealed so slowly, learning is difficult.
The difficulty of verifying quality is heightened when production activity is largely mental, hence not directly observable, as in many professional settings such as software development.
Empirical work on human motivation (Frey, 1993; Deci and Ryan, 1985, McGraw, 1978) has shown that external motivators often crowd out internal motivation.
Alfie Kohn (1993) observes that measurement connotes comparability which, in turn, fosters competition and even unfriendly feeling between workers, thereby undermining any sense of common purpose.
You manage things, and you lead people. You control things, and you release people. [Ed Tilford]
There is reason to question whether the two intended uses of measurement [motivation and information] can be decoupled in real settings.
W. Edwards Deming, often considered the father of both the Japanese and the American quality movements, has declared performance measurement "the most powerful inhibitor to quality and productivity in the Western world".
Dysfunction's defining characteristic is that the actions leading to it fulfil the letter but not the spirit of stated intentions.
Measured performance trends upward; true performance declines sharply. In this way, the measurement system becomes dysfunctional.
…conclude that no measurement system can be designed to preclude dysfunctional behaviours.
…motivational measurement is, by definition, intended to cause reactions in the people being measured, while informational measurement should be careful not to change the actions of the people being measured.
Russell Ackoff draws a careful distinction between organisms and organisations (concisely paraphrased here by Mason and Swanson): … organisms are comprised of organs that only serve the purpose of the system, whereas organisations are comprised of purposeful subsystems with their own goals.
The quality of a product or service is usually much harder and costlier to measure than its quantity.
If there is a single message that comes from this book, it is that trust, honesty, and good intention are more efficient in many social contexts than verification, guile, and self-interest.
The inclination to interpret control narrowly is due to what might be called a standardisation reflex.
Engineering control does not ordinarily assume self-interested behaviour on the part of components of the control system.
Almost all experts strongly agreed that the primary reason to measure in software development was informational rather than motivational.

do more deliberate practice

This is one of my entries in 97 Things Every Programmer Should Know

Deliberate practice is not simply performing a task. If you ask yourself "Why am I performing this task?" and your answer is "To complete the task," then you're not doing deliberate practice.

You do deliberate practice to improve your ability to perform a task. It's about skill and technique. Deliberate practice means repetition. It means performing the task with the aim of increasing your mastery of one or more aspects of the task. It means repeating the repetition. Slowly, over and over again. Until you achieve your desired level of mastery. You do deliberate practice to master the task not to complete the task.

The principal aim of paid development is to finish a product whereas the principal aim of deliberate practice is to improve your performance. They are not the same. Ask yourself, how much of your time do you spend developing someone else's product? How much developing yourself?

How much deliberate practice does it take to acquire expertise?
  • Peter Norvig writes that "It may be that 10,000 hours [...] is the magic number."
  • In Leading Lean Software Development Mary Poppendieck notes that "It takes elite performers a minimum of 10,000 hours of deliberate focused practice to become experts."
The expertise arrives gradually over time — not all at once in the 10,000th hour! Nevertheless, 10,000 hours is a lot: about 20 hours per week for 10 years. Given this level of commitment you might be worrying that you're just not expert material. You are. Greatness is largely a matter of conscious choice. Your choice. Research over the last two decades has shown the main factor in acquiring expertise is time spent doing deliberate practice. Innate ability is not the main factor.
  • Mary: "There is broad consensus among researchers of expert performance that inborn talent does not account for much more than a threshold; you have to have a minimum amount of natural ability to get started in a sport or profession. After that, the people who excel are the ones who work the hardest."
There is little point deliberately practicing something you are already an expert at. Deliberate practice means practicing something you are not good at.
  • Peter: "The key [to developing expertise] is deliberative practice: not just doing it again and again, but challenging yourself with a task that is just beyond your current ability, trying it, analyzing your performance while and after doing it, and correcting any mistakes."
  • Mary: "Deliberate practice does not mean doing what you are good at; it means challenging yourself, doing what you are not good at. So it's not necessarily fun."
Deliberate practice is about learning. About learning that changes you; learning that changes your behavior. Good luck.

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