Amid the hot competition for tech talent, companies focus on creating a culture that not only attracts the best people, but will keep them happy and productive. As retention remains a major issue, this Forbes post by James Slavet of venture firm Greylock Partners offers some valuable insight. He offers five "metrics" to "improve the company at an atomic level."
"Flow state percentage" tops his list. He's talking about that state of being "in the zone," where we're creative and productive. We look up and hours have gone by unnoticed. Yet most workers deal with constant interruptions of meetings, emails or co-workers who stop by to chat. In a previous post I pointed out how meetings chop up developers' days:
Managers' days tend to be divided into hour increments, while those that paulgraham.com calls "makers" deal in half-days. A 3 p.m. meeting can cut the afternoon into two small blocks of time where it's hard to get anything done.
Slavet also takes on useless meetings, but his point about "flow state" is that constant interruptions take a serious toll on R&D cycle times and costs. He says that in an ideal office, programmers and other knowledge workers can spend 30 to 50 percent of their days in uninterrupted concentration. But he adds that most offices don't come close to creating that environment. He advocates that companies be aware of their flow state percentage and wall off some days with no meetings and allow developers to hang signs that say, "Go away, I'm cranking."
Tech workers embrace challenge and learning, two of Slavet's metrics. He talks about the "anxiety-boredom continuum" suggesting it lean a bit more toward anxiety. Zynga's demanding delivery schedule might be going a bit too far toward anxiety, but failing to challenge workers can have equally disastrous results. As for learning, he says:
... try asking your team this question: how did you get 1 percent better this week? Did you learn something valuable from our customers, or make a change to our product that drove better results? As your team gets into a learning rhythm, you can review this as a group. 1 percent per week adds up.