Prescription for increased agility

Recently, a colleague of mine loaned me her copy of Tom DeMarco’s Slack: Getting Past Burnout, Busywork, and the Myth of Total Efficiency. I really enjoyed reading The Deadline: A Novel About Project Management, and Slack was a good read–just not as engaging as The Deadline. Bottom line: efficiency doesn’t matter most of all; effectiveness does. In the author’s words, efficiency is the act of optimizing the present steady state only at the expense of the future. “Slack is a prescription for building a capacity to change into the modern enterprise.” DeMarco defines slack as the “degree of freedom required to effect change.” Here are some more gems from this book:

  • “Most of the things you can do to increase pressure don’t change people’s behavior in any meaningful way.”
  • “People under time pressure don’t think faster.” -Tim Lister
  • “Extended overtime is a productivity-reduction technique.”
  • “The more highly adapted an organism becomes, the less adaptable it is to any new change.” -R.A. Fisher
  • “Leadership is the ability to enroll other people in your agenda…It is success in the absence of sufficient power that defines leadership.”
  • In our new economy, stasis is nothing more than an object of nostalgia.”

Update 12/1/2008: For more of my book reviews and to see what else is in my book library (i.e. just the business-related or software-related non-fiction therein), please visit my Books page.