Getting Stuff Done Leads to Happier and More Productive People

finishI have good days and not-so-good days. I’ll bet you do too. My good days are the ones that leave me feeling a sense of accomplishment. That happens when I get something done — finished, not just “worked on”. My bad days are the ones that leave me wondering what I did all day.

You see, it’s not simply a matter of being busy. I have a lengthy backlog of work — more than I will likely ever finish because it seems to arrive faster than I can finish it. I’m always busy but I crave more. I need to be done. I need to finish stuff.

If you’re like me in this regard, and I suspect you are, your job satisfaction and productivity have a direct relationship to how much work you get done — that’s finished, acabado, fini, finito, fertig, consumandam. How often do you hear people bragging about what they spent time on? Rarely, right? They brag about what they accomplished. What they completed. What they got done!

We all need more good days. People are energized by finishing. We derive job satisfaction from finishing a major task — accomplishing something of value. All of us should be finishing something significant every day — every single day.

Another Reason Why Waterfall Doesn’t Work

That’s a huge problem for software developers in traditional development organizations. They are forced to spend days, sometimes weeks, working on documents and diagrams. After all that work, they’re forced to wait for some bureaucratic approval process to complete — it’s hurry up and wait all over again. Or, they may be forced to summarize the documentation in a PowerPoint presentation and deliver it to a committee. As each day passes, ‘just shoot me now’ becomes more and more appealing.

Productivity declines. Output volume shrinks. Quality suffers. Managers are oblivious because people appear to be busy as progress is being recorded in weekly status reports.

Management 101

The secret to better morale, improved productivity, and superior results is unbelievably simple. Let your teams finish something. Note the word ‘finish’. I didn’t say “do something”. I said “finish something”! Stop creating busy work. Dump the approval cycles. Remove the impediments.

In addition, when your team needs something from you such as an approval or an upgraded development tool, make it happen. You’re putting a lot of pressure on the team and some of that pressure will push back on you. It’s only fair that you respond quickly.

Improving morale isn’t brain surgery. It’s common sense. To create more good days define simpler accomplishments, remove impediments and get out of the way.

photo credit: jayneandd via photopin cc

Updated: March 14, 2013 — 10:01 pm

1 Comment

  1. Oh wow, did you hit the nail on the head. I often struggle to convince organizations I work with of this phenomenon. It seems so simple, but it doesn’t stick for long.

    I recently tried to come at this from a different angle. Did you know that the cost of replacing an employee is around 20% of their annual salary*? I’ve just opened a survey that relates release cadence (seeing your work delivered) with employee satisfaction. I want teams to have this information to convince them that getting things done is part of keeping their people.

    If you’re willing to post the survey link so we can get a sufficient response it would be immensely helpful. I’m including partners in the report (which is completely free and open).


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