Organisation

10x

Fred Brooks started it all. In The Mythical Man Month, he quotes a study saying

individual difference between low and high performers can vary by an order of magnitude

Since then this myth of 10x productivity difference has persisted in our industry.

Nowadays it’s best seen in the use of words like rockstar, guru or wizard in job descriptions.

But is it really a myth, or reality?

It’s undeniable that individual differences exist. Not everybody can write an operating system kernel, a concurrent collection library, or cryptocurrency protocol. These achievements are examples of outstanding technical expertise.

Like in sports, the distribution of talent is skewed, and there are outliers that outperform others.

But here’s the catch: the 10x developer isn’t working 10x faster, he’s thinking differently. The 10x developer finds new way to address problems.

He doesn’t deal with complexity better. He finds way to avoid complexity altogether. Not occasionally, but systematically, as part of his work ethics.

A 10x developer is also a force multiplier. His actions make the work of several people easier. He inspires other to achieve excellence and clone his habits. The payoff can go above 10x.

So, myth or reality?

For me, reality. But such developers are very rare. Over the last 10 years I’ve only met one.

Links

Organisation

Getting Things Done 3.0

I started reading Getting Things Done, but then dropped it. I nevertheless quite enjoyed the points about (1) building an organizational system that we trust and (2) doing the action immediately if it takes less than 2 minutes (which I had heard many time before but didn’t know it came from this book).

The book is a bit old fashioned to me. We can argue that the concepts are general, but we are information worker now and the “basket” mentioned in the book have been replaced by web applications, USB keys, and iPhone.

Building then a modern organizational system that we trust is far from easy. We need to balance different dimension that impact our trust in a system, e.g. security, reliability, perennial data format, etc. Well, the usual non-functional requirements.

Ultimately, it’s a matter of time and risk: How long will I need to re-do the work? What are the consequence if I forget this or that?

In my previous job in an ECM company, I increased my awareness about such issues. Managing the massive amount of information produced nowadays is a challenge and business case. I remember I was astonished when I read these numbers for the first time:

Recent estimates show that a typical worker will take 12 minutes to process a single document. Nine of these 12 minutes are spent searching for, retrieving and refiling the document — meaning that only three minutes are spent actually using the information they’ve found.

The average office:
• Makes 19 copies of each document.
• Spends $20 on labor to file each document.
• Loses 1 out of 20 office documents.
• Spends $120 searching for every misfiled document.
• Spends $250 recreating each lost document.
• Spends $25,000 to fill a four-drawer file cabinet and $2,000 annually to maintain it.

The volume of paper documents that organizations must process has increased tenfold in the last five years. Increases in paper volume drive the cost of paper handling higher, which greatly reduces profit margins.

(from Document Management Overview.)

And for the story, I tried first to find this excerpt using a search for “Introduction to enterprise content management” on my hard drive. No result. I then decided to locate it manually. I went to Library > Intranet, communication & ECM and … it was there! It’s funny that even though I recalled what the book was about, the name “Document Management Overview” was completely different from what I tried. Ontology ftw!

Here is what composes my current organizational system:

Topic Decision Inception year
Email – Three mailboxes: one personal, one professional, and one for garbage.
Redirection address @a3.epfl.ch as the default for long-lived communication (e.g. contact)
– BCC myself in email (2012)
2004
Source code < 2010 self-administered subversion, assembla.com for private projects
– 2010-2013 Google code
– 
2013+ Github
2005
Archival – Convertion of esoteric format (.eps,.pic) to PDF
– Recording of minidisc and super8 into .mp3 and .mov
2005
Online CV – LinkedIn (since 2005)
– Stackoverflow (since 2010)
– Xing (since 2013)
2005
Application and S/N – Store the serial number in the same location as the application 2006
Backup strategy  RAID drives is not enough if I delete files by mistake.
– incremental backup on CD/DVD
– complete backup on external HD
-TimeMachine since 2012
2007
Digital music and picture – Not in the cloud
iTune for digital music (since 2009)
– All pictures organized by date and periodic backup
Gallery with Lightroom on personal website
– DropBox for picture sharing (since 2010)
2007
Information overload – In case of too much information piles up, I gargabe collect according to these rules. 2008
USB keys Be disciplined, copy the information on a computer asap and clear the key 2008
Agenda, birthdates and contact – Google Calendar
– Goolge Contact
2008
Web identity and avatar – Avatar on gravatar
– Two usernames: ewernli and wrnli
2008
Bookmark – Bookmarks are personal
– Usage of Foxmark with centralization on my server (not in the cloud)
Organized in a taxomony / since 2013 with tags
Pocket app (since 2017)
2008
Place to visit, music to listen, movie to watch – Various Google Documents
-IMDB and Jini for movies (since 2013)
-Goodreads for books (since 2013)
2009
Other To Do Leverage Google Calendar for actions which have deadline
– iPhone Reminder App
2009
Random thoughts – Twitter
2013 self-administered blog with Liferay
– WordPress blog (since 2013)
2009
News and RSS Google Reader
– Feedly
2009
Scientific literature – Usage of BibDesk as master copy
CiteULike (until 2017)
– Mendeley (since 2017)
2009
Password and login – Password-protected excel spreadsheet 2011

Getting Things Done is to business what No Broken Window is to software development. Whenever something comes in that requires some action, either do it right now, or at least enter it in a reliable system for later (In the case of development, the system is of course the issue tracker).

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Organisation

Keep your desktop clean: a checklist

I found a post-it on my desk this morning that was actually there since several months (if not year). It’s a short checklist with questions to answer before deciding whether I will trash or retain a document.

I tend to retain too many documents (electronic and paper)  that consumes space and are useless — I will anyway never read them. This short post-it helps me in my cleaning activity. It helps me take some distance with the material and its importance.

  • is it hard to find the document again?
  • is the document important regarding legal aspects?
  • is the document up to date?
  • is the document currently/frequently used?

Then if all answers are “no”, trash it!

It’s amazing how many documents can actually be trashed according to this checklist. Free desktop again!