RE: 60 Hours per Week at Level 1 Process Maturity

Subject: RE: 60 Hours per Week at Level 1 Process Maturity
From: Andrew Plato <intrepid_es -at- yahoo -dot- com>
To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com
Date: Fri, 3 Sep 1999 17:10:42 -0700 (PDT)

I wanted to bring this discussion out into the open, since Anthony made a very
good point here:

> I throughly enjoyed reading your posting. I agree with you that
> productivity in the software industry is measured by creative ideas and
> designs -- not in lines of code.
> But I disagree with your opinion that established processes hinder creative
> thinking. A while back, I was watching a PBS special on creativity (forgot
> the name of the program). It mentioned that creativity is best excercised
> within the confines of a structured process. I agree with this. Many
> consider me to be a very creative person. At the same time, I love to use
> structured systems analysis techniques. They provide a framework in which to
> express my creativity.

I know the PBS series you speak of. This show's whole concept was predicated
on the notion that productivity is the same as organization. The show argued
that companies were oppressing people to work ridiculous hours and then not
paying them for their contributions. They equated this to management was
providing a chaotic environment, demanding results, and then not paying off
when product was delivered.

The show also argued that companies should be more receptive to the needs of
individuals and create a structured environment that allows each individual to
excel without working a lot of overtime.

For those of you with a nose for the political side of this argument - this is
exactly what labor unions preach. Organized, structured labor environments are
better for workers because they establish set metrics for what people need to
do in order to get paid. In other words - do X amount of work, and we'll pay
you Z amount of dollars. Do X-1 and you won't get paid. Do X+1 and you will
still get Z dollars. Why would ANYONE do X+1, when X would get you the same

The problem with this arrangement is that it works only when things can be
easily measured. Even then it does not promise any from of ingenuity. Why work
hard to create something new, when it will only yeild the same amount of

While there are plenty of companies that do not compensate their employees
well, there are just as many organizations that set high standards and
implement "profit sharing" systems. This sets up a simple contract between the
company and employer - you make this company profitable and you will reap the

The answer to this little political conundrum is a great big "depends". There
are many industries where it is virtually impossible to measure productivity.
As we previously discussed, the software industry measures productivity in
terms of creativity and ingenuity.

If you're measuring the number of engines an assembly line worker produces,
then a well-organized environment would be beneficial. But in software
development, the benefit of organization is highly questionable. Since we
agree that creativity and ingenuity are the halmark of a sucessful software
company, fitting the rules that apply to factory workers to software
development does not work.

Creativity is at best a spotty and inconsistent endeavor. Trying to "plan" for
creativity is an absurd notion, almost totally counterintuitive to human
patterns of thought and invention. Never in the entire course of human history
has creativity stemmed from a well designed process plan. Talk to any artist
who ever lived and none of them will say they "planned" out their best work.

I think what is getting confused here is the notion of a structured goal versus
a structured environment. It is true that creativity flourishes when people
share a common and well-defined goal. Likewise when an artist has a clearly
defined vision, he/she can usually express that vision in remarkable ways.

But having a clear vision is not the same as having a structured and ordered
environment. Most "process plans" aim to build a well organized environment.
What they fail to do is create a well defined vision. Without vision, order is

For example consider the difference between these two statements:

A) All technical writers must produce thoughtful and useful documentation that
delivers accurate technical information to our users.

B) All technical writers must use FrameMaker 5.5. Images larger than 40 K are
forbidden. Writers will schedule a meeting with each engineer for one hour to
ensure they have the correct technical details about their document.

A) consists of goals. B) consists of rules and regulations.

What if a writer could meet A's goals by NOT meeting with the engineers for one
hour? Under a "B" environment, this writer would have failed and been
chastised. In an "A" environment, the goal is more important than the

Again, I think the problem is that we become deluded into thinking that
organization is inherently useful. It is not. Organization for the sake of
organization is a waste of time and energy. Why organize something that works
well in a state of chaos?

Furthermore, true creativity comes from those people who have a crystal clear
vision and implement that vision sucessfully. Merely "following the rules" and
getting a job done well is not same as creativity. Part of creativity is often
NOT following the rules.

This is yet another area where corporate consultants and "process freaks" have
bent our notions of what comprises a "creative" atmosphere. I cannot claim to
be an expert in business processes, but I have never once seen creativity ooze
from a well-ordered process manual. Likewise, there are plenty of chaotic
environments that are equally uncreative. The formula for creativity is not an
empirical, measurable thing.

However, one thing that does seem to consistently be true about creative
individuals and companies, is that they possess a strong and clear vision.
This is why a person like Steve Jobs can turn a company around and make it
profitable. Mr. Jobs has a strong sense of vision and from this springs his

Of course, we could debate the merits of creativity inside a structured process
from now until the end of time.

However, returning to my original point - I am not saying that order or
"planning" is wrong or counterproductive. Planning and developing effective
processes can be very comforting. For large organizations where individuals
have little voice in the direction of the company, well-ordered processes
provide the illusion of control, responsibility, and accountability. Without
these processes, most people would leave because most people require a defined
environment in order to be productive. However, rarely do these environments
yield the kind of earth shattering creativity that comes from chaos.

So while Anthony's idea of "a framework to express creativity" may sound
logical. I do not think it is creativity that is expressed in these
environments. This is merely competency at learning and manipulating abstract
concepts. Just because you can learn a system and manipulate it, does not mean
you can create.

To put it another way, many people have learned to use a computer and do coole
things with it, but very few can build one from scratch.

Andrew Plato
President / Principal Consultant
Anitian Consulting, Inc.

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Bid and sell for free at

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