Skip to main content

Combining Productivity with Creativity

If I may state the obvious, high productivity is good; low productivity is bad. That applies both to individuals and to projects. A number of factors affect individual productivity. Internal factors such as a person’s basic sense of self worth and the amount of discipline they bring to the workplace directly affect their output. Workplace environment and their supervisor’s management style can directly affect personal productivity.

The perfect business analyst would appear at work, immediately put their head down, and come up for air eight hours later, having generated prodigious amounts of high quality output. The reality is that most people only spend a fraction of their work day actually doing productive work. It is hard to maintain the needed focus, and people find many creative, and often unconscious, ways to avoid it. There are techniques that individuals can apply to significantly reduce this wasted time. The business of bringing systems into existence is by its very nature creative. But most of the time, IT professionals tend to behave like plodders. We all get creative inspirations, but few of us recognize or act on them. Those who do so regularly are seen as creative geniuses.

A manager’s personal style has a direct impact on the productivity of their staff. While I think a supportive style works better that an aggressive one, there are plenty of the latter types around. Unfortunately, we are programmed to respond to fear and intimidation, so it can work. But when an aggressive manager’s behavior turns outright abusive, disaster will result. I once had to rescue a contract where the program manager had driven off every single first and second level manager and senior analyst on the contract within six months of taking control.

The ability of a project manager to effectively utilize the capabilities of the staff assigned to them can have a huge impact on the quantity, quality and timeliness of the work products of the project team as a whole. In some respects this is just Management 101. The key to real success is a combination of deep knowledge of what team members can do, combined with a great deal of flexibility in making and adjusting work assignments, including a willingness to jump outside of normal schedule when roadblocks are encountered. In addition, better results can be achieved if people are used in multiple roles.

My personal favorite is to use the same business analyst(s) who have elicited requirements to do system testing. Who else is better qualified to know whether a system has met its objectives? Quite a few immigrants come to America every year to work in the IT industry. These individuals tend to be hard workers, and can be very productive, but linguistic and cultural differences can be barriers to achieving that productivity. A supportive manager who is sensitive to these differences can work with these individuals to overcome these differences and realize their full potential.

John L. Dean is a seasoned IT professional with many years experience, including systems engineering, systems analysis, requirements analysis, systems architecture and design, programming, quality assurance, testing, IV&V, and system acquisition, equally split between technical and management. He has worked both the contractor and government sides of the fence, has been an employee of large (IBM, CSC, Booz-Allen, MITRE, ACS) as well as very small companies, and is currently an independent consultant. He has a Masters degree in Operations Research from Clemson University. You can reach him at [email protected].