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Dealing with Efficiency Experts

Has anyone here been evaluated by “Efficiency Experts” in your company?  We are going through the process for the second time now.  Frankly I find it degrading and humiliating to go through this process.  I work in a small internal development shop for a mega corp., so technology is not their first line of business.  The “experts” they have brought in don’t even have any experience with technology or software development processes. 

Some of the activities that we go through is to be monitored by our mgr or one of the “experts”.  When they monitor you they sit right behind you while they take notes while you do research or write code.  Now they are having us make a daily list of everything we do hourly.  To top this off we have daily meeting with our mgr to discuss the previous day’s activities and what we will accomplish the current day.  Any activities like phone calls and emails must be logged as ‘distractions’ from our specific activity coding, project estimates, etc.

Through all this, my attitude has gotten very bad and cynical.  I have become way too open about it.  Yea I know I am probably marked, but the word on the street is that the list was already there, they brought the experts in for justification. 

I didn’t think this really happened in the real world.  I just thought it was in the movies (Office Space, the Two Bobs). 

Has anyone else gone through this experience?  What have you done?  Is it right to be treated as a child when you are supposed to be a ‘professional’?  Do other ‘professionals’ go through this?  (All Office Space references kept to a minimum please)


Monday, May 24, 2004

What ... no TPS reports?

Monday, May 24, 2004

But ask yourself, is this good for the company?

Monday, May 24, 2004

It may be time to pull a Milton...if you don't give my stapler back...w-well, then...i'll just have to burn the building down...

Anon-y-mous Cow-ard
Monday, May 24, 2004

Time to start removing all the comments from your source code and introducing the drunk man's coding walk ( i.e. make each function as difficult to understand as possible.)

And yes, this is complete crap for treating professional staff. Why don't you join a union and get their adviser to have a word with the pricks.

They're probably getting ready to send your job to India anyway.

Monday, May 24, 2004

That's very funny AnonX, until you realize it's not a movie.

Efficiency experts maybe make some sort of sense when analyzing factory works, BUT even there, their work has been shown to be a bad influence - workers going through the minimal motion given them become bored and can not use other positions to reduce muscle fatigue. Repetitive stress disorders like carpal tunnel are the natural result of the work of the efficiency 'expert'. Frankly, I thought those guys went out with rollerskates at the skirt stop and drive in movies.

The mere concept that efficienry experts have any business dealing with professional design work is so absurd that I can hardly believe it is happening to you. You have my sympathy. Pretty much any negative thought you are having  about this process is completely justified. It also speaks very poorly as to the intelligence or common sense of your management. The company will probably fail in a few years.

Dennis Atkins
Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Also, someone recently pointed out to me a neutralizing effect upon such testing called the "Hawthorne Effect".

It's kind of a psychological "Heisenberg effect" that bears upon surveys and workplace efficiency observations. The act of stopwatching an employee results in a modification of their efficiency and performance, so the observed performance is not realistic.

Stupid @$$hole company... gotta agree with Dennis.

Bored Bystander
Tuesday, May 25, 2004

I hope I live long enough to see the silliness of corporate America(pick favorite nation) dissolves and we live in a Star-Trek style culture where we try to discover new ideas and create.

These guys are 'efficiency' guys are probably trying to justify their jobs.

Berlin Brown
Tuesday, May 25, 2004

> These guys are 'efficiency' guys are probably trying to justify their jobs.

They would have already done that. They're probably getting paid about 10 times what the developers are getting, and yet they don't really create any value.

Me And The View Out The Window
Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Seems like an excellent way to test management. See who plays along with the stupid efficiency experts idea without critique and fire them.

Jan Derk
Tuesday, May 25, 2004

"Any activities like phone calls and emails must be logged as ‘distractions’ from our specific activity coding, project estimates, etc."

Are you allowed to fill your log up with Efficiency Expert-related distractions?

10:32 - EE enters cubicle, begins taking notes.
10:34 - Distracted by EE peering over shoulder
10:35 - Distracted by EE peering over shoulder
10:38 - EE apparently in some form of respiratory distress
10:39 - Distracted by EE peering over shoulder
10:50 - EE answers cell phone loudly

Jimmy Jo-jo
Tuesday, May 25, 2004

You could always ask your manager to share the results of the survey with the team.

Not in a sarcastic way, just make it look like you're genuinely interested, then when it turns out to be a BS you can look disappointed and say you hoped it'd provide more insight.

Steve Jones (UK)
Tuesday, May 25, 2004

"Are you allowed to fill your log up with Efficiency Expert-related distractions?"


The same goes for firms that insist on keeping track of hours in a timesheet. Always allocate 15 minutes per week for filling in the timesheet.

If management want to burn cash on pure overheads, let them account for it.

Steve Jones (UK)
Tuesday, May 25, 2004

If there's a team meeting regarding the experts, and you have the personal collateral to do it, ask for the results of this equation:

[(Incremental productivity gain, if any) - (Productivity time lost to efficiency expert)] * salary - (cost of efficiency study)

Betcha it's a negative number. ;-)


Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Thanks for everyone’s comments

My thoughts are in line with most everyone has said.  Most of the time I try to be a ‘team player’, so I was looking to see if there are any real benefits of these yahoos.  Having learned from past experiences, I think being a ‘team player’ and going with the flow is an express ticket to the unemployment line

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

When I was a kid, the best adult I knew was an efficiency expert.  Not a rich guy by any means so I wouldn't assume that these guys make 10x a developer.  He once told me how he went to help out a slaughter house.  He said that all the guys rotated through the position in which you zap (kill) the cattle except this one guy who liked it so much he always wanted to do it.  Funny thing is, ways in which he actually made them more efficient never entered the story.  I kinda got the impression he knew his job was BS so the only point was gathering funny stories.

Years later he died when his abdominal aortic aneurysm burst.  He was diagnosed by the doctor and normally this is considered a surgical emergency.  Unfortunately the doctor decided to have him come back later in the week for the repair.  The burst occured before the scheduled repair.

In retrospect I wonder if the surgeon was trying to fit this guy into the schedule in the most efficient manner.

name withheld out of cowardice
Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Your company is almost certainly working towards a downsizing.  Taylorism is only useful for jobs that machines could be doing, and even then it tends to only annoy people and make them unionize.

Definately track the time that the EE takes out of your day.  Perhaps it might be good to test their stamina by putting in a couple 14 hour days in a row.

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

When I got my first job the time and motion guys had just left, but the waves remained a long time.

Just out of school, January 2nd 1970 with a few months to kill before going up to University. One of the many factories near where I lived made brake parts for most of the major automobile manufacturers and as I already played for their chess team the captain decided to get me a job so there would be two of us from the factory on the team and we wouldn't lose free use of the social club.

I was assistant scheduling clerk. My job was to help the scheduling clerk, one Arthur Dixon, who had been in the factory some twenty years together with a blue pin-striped suit from Burtons he'd bought with his first week's pay packet. Our job was to take the last months sales figures for each part (there were about three thousand of them and they all had a card in a massive card index that lived in a moveable trolley and where we would take away the sales and add the new stock and keep the total up to date) and ise that figure to decide on the order for the next month.

The powers that be had decided some years before that all of this should be done by computer and indeed had bought a mainframe which occupied the bowels of the office block and employed a sysadmin/programmer/Gary Glitter type who would occasionally come round to visit our offices accompanied by a bevy of mini-skirted, sluttish, sixteen year-old school leavers who put the figures from the sales invoices into the punch cards. (Those of you who missed out on the era of punch cards will never understand why all surviivors of that era have a look of permanent nostalgia about them).

Now the problem with the computer was that it was dumb (though when Arthur went on an overtime strike later that year and part of his work went to the line managers we realized that there were humans even dumber). A guy in the warehouse would get one letter of the part number wrong, or the boss would put his hand up the girl's skirt just as she was transferring it to the punch card and the computer would order 1,500 brake shoes for the 1952 Morris Oxford, and there would be crashes all over the motorways because you couldn't get any brake shoes for the Ford Cortina.

So, it was decided that whilst the computer department ironed out the mistakes (that is to say until the company finally went into liquidation many years later) the orders would still be done manually in parallel with the fifteen people in the computer department entering the data into their mainframe.

This of course strengthened Arthur's contempt for the new-fangled and unproven and as a result he no longer even bothered to fiddle with the assorted calculating machines that Management had bought for us in a fit of modernization and which stayed unused and dusty on the shelf behind us - the machines, that is, not the managers, alas!

He did all calculations in his head on the perfectly reasonable grounds that it was qucker. I did the same, but, as he often pointed out, the difference was that he got them right.

Just before I started the time and motion experts came round, sat next to everybody, and timed their job. Their job was simple, although deadly boring. Every set period of time (maybe every twenty seconds) they had to put a tick in a box if a person was "working". Working had been defined as using a calculator, or writing, or talking on the telephone or whatever, but doing mental arithmetic didn't count. They calculated that Arthur worked 7% of the time, the lowest percentage by far in the whole company. His morale didn't improve.

If you are a coder and you get the descendants of these guys sitting next to you at 13.5 LOC a day industry average you're stuffed. My adivice is to make copious use of the REM word; if you're in India, don't forget to enters the comments for the Guiness Book of Records afterwards.

I'll bet one thing; no efficiency expert will have read all the way down to here.

Stephen Jones
Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Anyone remember the movie "Jabberwoky" where Michael Palin played an "efficiency expert"?  There's a lesson there...

Terry Gilliam
Wednesday, May 26, 2004

The Rise and Rise of Michael Rimmer is another classic.

Starts off with a white coat timing people in the toilet. Pretty soon he's running the company, and then the country. He conducts surveys for everything, even to choose his wife ( he lets the people choose his wife for him.)

The film closes with Rimmer running the country as dictator.

Not McKinsey
Wednesday, May 26, 2004


A shepherd was tending his flock in a remote pasture when suddenly a dust cloud approached at high speed, out of which emerged a shiny silver BMW. The driver, a young man in an Armani suit, Ferragamo shoes, the latest Polarized sunglasses and a tightly knotted power tie, poked his head out the window and asked the shepherd, "Hey! If I can tell you how many sheep you have in your flock, will you give me one?"

The shepherd looked at the man, then glanced at his peacefully grazing flock and answered, "Sure."

The driver parked his car, plugged his microscopic cell phone into a laptop and briskly surfed to a GPS satellite navigation system on the Internet and initiated a remote body-heat scan of the area. While the computer was occupied, he sent some e-mail via his Blackberry and, after a few minutes, nodded solemnly at the responses. Finally, he printed a 150 page report on the little laser printer in his glove compartment, turned to the shepherd, waving the sheaves of paper, and pronounced “You have exactly 1,586 sheep."

"Impressive. One of my sheep is yours." said the shepherd.

He watched the young man select an animal and bundle it into his car. Then the shepherd said: "If I can tell you exactly what your business is, will you give me back my sheep?"

Pleased to meet a fellow sportsman, the young man replied “You’re on.”

"You are a consultant." said the shepherd without hesitation.

"That's correct," said the young man, impressed. "How ever did you guess?"

"It wasn’t a guess," replied the shepherd. "You drive into my field uninvited. You ask me to pay you for information I already know, answer questions I haven’t asked, and you know nothing about my business. Now give me my back my dog."

Patrick FitzGerald
Wednesday, May 26, 2004

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