Home > Great Links > Link train–10X Productivity–Part 1–10X-ers or Superstars

Link train–10X Productivity–Part 1–10X-ers or Superstars

I was reading “Super-star programmers – Difference engine: Wired for speed” in the Economist’s science and technology blog, I found the link via Prismatic. I found a bogie of links from this article and referred my book-shelf for a few classic books on the topic of productivity.

Peopleware: Productive Projects and Teams (Second Edition) by Tom DeMarco, Timothy Lister

Rapid Development: Taming Wild Software Schedules by Steve McConnell

“Super-star programmers – Difference engine: Wired for speed”

…best programmers generally outperform the worst by a factor of ten, but that there was at least a tenfold difference in productivity among software organisations. Within individual firms, the difference in performance was only 20% or so. Clearly, the brightest programmers tended to congregate in places that had a reputation for attracting talented people; where the challenges were enticing, and the conditions conducive to good work. In many cases, that meant leaving large software companies to join smaller ones or to start their own

from Super-star programmers – Difference engine: Wired for speed http://www.economist.com/blogs/babbage/2012/06/super-star-programmers

It lead me to “Thrust, Drag and the 10X Effect” blog in Venkatesh Rao’s web site .

…Thrust items create high value. They are autotelic: they involve a mindful state of flow as discovered by Mihaly Csikzentmihalyi, which emerges when you are just beyond the edge of your current skill level, and have internalized the performance standards of the creative field, so that you are able to continuously monitor the quality of your own output via internal feedback…

…Generating thrust means you have to be capable of some sort of mindful-learning deliberate-practice behavior.In other words, you need a thrust engine…

Unfortunately, thrust engines have a lifespan (generally between 7-10 years). You have to get through an initial starter-motor phase, hit an ignition point, and then keep the engine running until it wears out. You’d better have another engine starting up by that point, or you’ll be in trouble

from “Thrust, Drag and the 10X Effect” – http://www.tempobook.com/2011/10/25/thrust-drag-and-the-10x-effect/

I also searched for Joel’s article mentioned in “Super-star programmers – Difference engine: Wired for speed” and read that. The article is titled “Hitting the High Notes”

…The real trouble with using a lot of mediocre programmers instead of a couple of good ones is that no matter how long they work, they never produce something as good as what the great programmers can produce.

Five Antonio Salieris won’t produce Mozart’s Requiem. Ever. Not if they work for 100 years…

from “Hitting the High Notes” – http://www.joelonsoftware.com/articles/HighNotes.html

Peopleware – Productive Projects and Teams, Chapter 8 – You never get anything done around here between 9 and 5

Three rules of thumb seem to apply whenever you measure variations in performance over a sample of individuals:

  1. Count on the best people outperforming the worst by about 10:1.
  2. Count on the best performer being about 2.5 times better than the median performer.
  3. Count on the half that are better-than-median performers outdoing the other half by more than 2:1.

Rapid Development – Taming Wild Software Schedules, Chapter 2 – Rapid Development Strategy

Since the late 1960s, study after study has found that the productivity of individual programmers with similar levels of experience does, indeed vary by a factor of at least 10 to 1 (Sackman, Erikson, and Grant 1968, Curtis 1981, Mills 1983, DeMarco arid Lister 1985, Curtis et al. 1986, Card 1987, Valett and McGarry 1989).
Studies have also found variations in the performance of entire teams on the order of 3, 4, or 5 to 1 (Weinberg and Schulman 1974; Boehm 1981; Mills 1983; Boehm, Gray, and Seewaldt 1984).

Some of my own thoughts on the same.

There is a possibility of building a 10X-er or a team of Super-stars, A High performing team (HPT).

The need may be because

  • Only a High performing team of 10X-ers can build the complex product / framework needed.
  • The High Performing team can build a product 2.5 times faster than a median / average performing team.

Hiring and maintaining a High Performance Team

  • If 1 in 4 people are capable of 10X productivity the hiring effort roughly quadruples.  If the recruitment team is not 10X then we may not be able to hire people for a High Performance team.
  • Running a team of 10X-ers requires a manager who is a 10X-er.
  • Running a team of 10X-ers requires more effort from the manager (may be 10X).
  • If your sales team estimates a project based on a HPT of 10X-ers and the delivery team is average or worse the estimates may be off by 2.5X or 10X or worse yet the delivery team may fail.
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