Samstag, 30. April 2016

Are work flows / standards and creativity ennemies?

As a generalist, I have been working in different domains and jobs so far, and I am again and again shocked about how chaotic software is developed. Software development, that is so expensive and success-critical, is developed somehow ad hoc. Often, this is because the programmers are either asocial divas who do not accept any orders from others (that´s what they call the requirements), or autists who can not integrate in a team or egocentrics who do not want to integrate into a team because then their own merits are not well visible. And the good programmers know they can decide how they work because they are indispensable. In other domains, where people are more easily replaced, the pressure to keep to standards and deadlines is much higher.

When I was young, I believed the prejudice that work flows and creativity contradict each other. Standards kill creativity etc etc. But this is not true. Working systematically is a well-known strategy used by successful, productive bestseller authors. Literature magazines, bus timetables, each publication of a club or political party is written with more care than some critical software. And a lot of work is for the dustbin because requirements were not defined in advance or the requirements were wrong. Standards help us to get the real and complete requirements early-on and to be productive and reliable. Currently, I am participating at a work flow of the EU for assessing research project proposals. It is organized like a production chain, but it is OK. I know exactly what to do when, and I know that my results will be used, nothing is for the dustbin. Although the form of the work is like a work chain, the content is highly intellectual, and this is no contradiction.

My own office and work is well-organized (time management!) and it is good to know at any time and any place what the most important work to be done is right now and here. This helps me to concentrate on the content, not on the organization. When you work in chaos, you are always searching for something, you make sub-optimal decisions and most of your work will not lead to a useful result. It might be painful at first to keep to rules and work flows, but it soon becomes a routine.

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