Hitchhiker's Guide to Software Architecture and Everything Else - by Michael Stal

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Pseudo Effectiveness

Do you know these co-workers who are always answering e-mail in the middle of the night, who are in their offices until midnight, who have so many contacts to customers, who have an infinite list of activities, who have their mobile phone directly integrated into their body, and who always tell you about the big work overload they have?  All those unknown heroes who always sacrifice their spare time on the altar of the god of infinite work?

Of course, many of us in the IT world are more busy than it proves to be healthy or effective. But occasionally people only claim to be active and involved, while in fact they are not. Unfortunately, it is not easy to differentiate between actual effectiveness and that kind of pseudo effectiveness. Sometimes, the one who does the job gets not promoted while the one presenting beautiful slides about the work results of others is.    Of course, you may also refer to the Peter principle in this context :-)

Why do I discuss pseudo effectiveness in this architecture blog? As an architect, you might experience high impact if there are people with high pseudo effectiveness involved in your projects. Think about outsourcing sites where you have the feeling that productivity is very low. Think about developers or architects who have the same skill level, but whose work results are completely different in terms of quantity and quality. Also think about job promotions where you got the gut feeling of being ignored while in fact you did an excellent job in contrast to this other guy.

But be aware of the fact that all of us are somehow guilty of pseudo effectiveness. A little chat with co-workers in the cafeteria, some daydreaming in front of the workstation, some Internet surfing. All this may count up to a significant amount of time during the day. But as you might remember from my previous posts breaks are important. I claim that productivity significantly drops when ignoring such kind of work-life balance.

How can you detect real pseudo effectiveness? The only way is by analyzing actual productivity. For which tasks has the person been responsible for and what are the actual outcomes? In this context, the goals should be defined in such a way so that there is no space for pseudo effectiveness. Someone who needs a week to write a simple letter may seem very active, while in fact being very ineffective and inefficient.


  • While thinking about pseudo effectiveness I remembered the 80-20-principle. Doing many things a day does not automatically lead to success. Pareto should mean for us doing the rights things. Thinking about what the right things are for me and my job and my situation maybe can reduce the amount of time I have to work.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:57 AM  

  • Obviously you are right. Some people are more effective than others. But how should we measure effectiveness, when we CannotMeasureProductivity?

    I'm just starting my professional career but my guts tell me that you will actually just know how "effective" your co-workers are. Not because of measurement but because people doing a similar job tend to be able to apply magic productivity metrics to work done by others.

    But since these "magic" performance indicators can not be expressed in numbers but are only a mere feeling, it will be hard to couple them to things like variable salaries.

    By Blogger valentin, at 6:39 PM  

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