Sunday, December 18, 2005

Fire Indispensable Personnel

I alluded to this gem in a previous entry:
"If a programmer is indispensable, get rid of him as quickly as possible."
Gerald Weinberg wrote these words in The Psychology of Computer Programming, published in 1971. It singles out programmers, but it probably applies outside of the software realm and to many other roles on a product development team.

In a 1998 interview, he elaborated:
"Over and over I've seen organizations suffer enormous costs when something tragic happened to an 'indispensable' programmer, or when that programmer started making demands because management 'couldn't do without him' (or sometimes her). The lesson is elementary risk management—which unfortunately many organizations still don't practice. To reduce this risk, you don't have to actually get rid of the programmer, but you do have to get rid of the indispensability."
Weinberg is one of my favorite authors on leadership and facilitation.

1 comment :

Mark Stringer said...

Weinberg is amazing. I have his secrets of consulting on my desk right now as we speak. And he puts his finger on a very important problem (I wrote something about this myself here)

But I worry about having to fire this indispensable programmer. Because firing people causes enormous amounts of bad feeling. Certainly you need to do all you can to prevent indispensable people and if you're got them, pair programming is an excellent way of making them less indispensable.