Friday, October 27, 2006

Work to Rule

On page 117 of Peopleware: Productive Projects and Teams, Demarco and Lister tell us about an interesting concept:
In Australia, where striking uses up nearly as much labor time as working, there is a charming form of strike called work to rule. Rather than walk off the job, workers open up a fat book of procedures and announce, "Until you give us what we're asking for, we're going to work exactly to the rule." When the air traffic controllers do this, for instance, they can only land one plane every seven minutes. If doctors were to do it, an appendectomy would take a week. Introduction of a Methodology opens up the possiblility of work-to-rule actions in still more parts of the economy. People might actually do exactly what the Methodology says, and the work would grind nearly to a halt.
Another term for this concept, apparently coined by Ken Orr, is "malicious compliance".

Don't get so caught up in processes and rules that you forget about getting real work done.

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