Sunday, 27 September 2009

wake up and smell the coffee

Currently reading The Principles of Product Development Flow: Second Generation Lean Product Development I came across this passage :

For many years, Hewlett-Packard had morning and afternoon coffee breaks. Engineers would emerge from their cubicles at the same time every day as a coffee cart rolled through the development lab. This enabled informal information exchange between teams. If an engineer was working on a tough power-supply design issue immediately before the break, and he saw another engineer that was an expert on power supplies, the conversation would turn to power supplies. The coffee break cross-pollinated knowledge across teams.

Sadly, as Hewlett-Packard became "professionalized", this coffee break disappeared. To save the cost of a coffee cart attendant, they put coffee stations as the end of the floors. Finally, they stopped giving free coffee and made it available in the cafeteria. These changes made the coffee break asynchronous, eliminating their predictable cadence. This is an interesting case where the heirs of a brilliantly designed system failed to understand the underlying logic of the system. What HP was doing was much less important than why they were doing it.

I'm sure the coffee cart attendant are never a resource on the project plan.
Nor are coffee breaks on a GANNT chart.
But don't underestimate their importance

1 comment:

anne-marie said...

ahh, the wisdom of hindsight!

I wonder what people will be saying about software testing in 10~15 years?

Somehow I don't think its going to be very complimentary.