Slack: Getting Past Burnout, Busywork, and the Myth of Total Efficiency

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Crown Publishing Group, Nov 27, 2001 - Business & Economics - 240 pages
3 Reviews
To most companies, efficiency means profits and growth. But what if your “efficient” company—the one with the reduced headcount and the “stretch” goals—is actually slowing down and losing money? What if your employees are burning out doing the work of two or more people, leaving them no time for planning, prioritizing, or even lunch? What if you’re losing employees faster than you can hire them? What if your superefficient company is suddenly falling behind?

Tom DeMarco, a leading management consultant to both Fortune 500 and up-and-coming companies, has discovered a counterintuitive principle that explains why efficiency improvement can sometimes make a company slow. If your real organizational goal is to become fast (responsive and agile), then he proposes that what you need is not more efficiency, but more slack.

What is “slack”? Slack is the degree of freedom in a company that allows it to change. It could be something as simple as adding an assistant to a department, letting high-priced talent spend less time at the photo copier and more time making key decisions. Slack could also appear in the way a company treats employees: instead of loading them up with overwork, a company designed with slack allows its people room to breathe, increase effectiveness, and reinvent themselves.

In thirty—three short chapters filled with creative learning tools and charts, you and your company can learn how to:

∑make sense of the Efficiency/Flexibility quandary

∑run directly toward risk instead of away from it

∑strengthen the creative role of middle management

∑make change and growth work together for even greater profits

A innovative approach that works for new- and old-economy companies alike, this revolutionary handbook will debunk commonly held assumptions about real-world management, and give you and your company a brand-new model for achieving and maintaining true effectiveness—and a healthier bottom line.


From the Hardcover edition.
 

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LibraryThing Review

User Review  - ennui2342 - LibraryThing

A quick, but powerful read. Tails off a little towards then end - I felt the section on risk management could have been dropped. However, really makes you question the value of some common wisdom ... Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - jorgearanda - LibraryThing

An informal and lighthearted argument against mindless efficiency. DeMarco's main claim is that a humane workplace makes business sense. It's a short and convincing book, but if it was half as long it'd be twice as good. Read full review

Contents

Prelude
Part OneSlack
1Madmen in the Halls
2Busyness
3The Myth of Fungible Resource
4When Hurry Up Really Means Slow Down
5Managing Eve
6Business Instead of Busyness
18Management by Objectives
Part ThreeChange and Growth
19Vision
20Leadership and Leadership
21Dilbert Reconsidered
22Fear and Safety
23Trust and Trustworthiness
24Timing of Change

Part TwoLost but Making Good Time
7The Cost of Pressure
8Aggressive Schedules
9Overtime
10A Little Sleight of Hand in the Accounting Department
11Power Sweeper
12The Second Law of Bad Management
13Culture of Fear
14Litigation
15Process Obsession
16Quality
17Efficient andor Effective
25What Middle Management Is There For
26Where Learning Happens
27Danger in the White Space
28Change Management
Part FourRisk and Risk Management
29Uncommon Sense
The Minimal Prescription
31Working at Breakneck Speed
32Learning to Live with Risk
Afterword
33The Needle in the Haystack
Copyright

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About the author (2001)

Tom DeMarco is a principal of the Atlantic Systems Guild, a New York--and London-based consulting practice. His clients include Hewlett Packard, Apple, IBM, Bell Laboratories, and many others. He is also the author of seven books on management and technical development methods, including The Deadline, a business novel, and Peopleware. In 1999, Tom was awarded the Wayne Stevens Prize for lifetime contribution to software engineering methods, and he continues to work in areas of organizational change, project management, and litigation. He divides his time between New York City and Camden, Maine.


From the Hardcover edition.

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