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Technology and Engineering Flaws 133


Hiring is absolutely critical, yet every high-tech venture I know of has had more trouble hiring than it ever planned or imagined. This leads to an additional flaw-lowering the standards. By reducing its standards, the firm risks producing both a downward spiral in quality and a bloated staff that generates no meaningful output. A pygmy heading engineering will proceed to hire even smaller pygmies.


If a person is found to be a poor hire, he or she must be dismissed at the earliest feasible moment. Negative producers3 should be terminated immediately, place holders very rapidly, and marginal producers as soon as possible.

Company X. I know of a firm(letís call it "Company X") that was having trouble staffing a new project with good people and made a borderline hire without proper reference checking. When the team discovered that the borderline individual was in fact a poor hire, they felt they could manage him by dose supervision and checking. However, he refused to ask for help, chafed at having his work reviewed, and was late- all sure signs of a bad design(er). Simulation revealed continued bugs with no evidence of progress toward a correct design. In essence, bugs were just being moved around. When Company X finally conducted a design walk-through, the engineer quit and went to a competitor, where he may or may not have greater success. Although Company X did nothing to influence its former engineer's selection of a new employer, outplacing negatively productive people with a potential competitor can do wonders for a firm's competitive lead.


If a new venture permits its technology and product ideas to leak, it risks giving both established competitors and other start-ups an opportunity to respond. It is therefore important that the staff say no more than is absolutely necessary in order to sell new


3. Negative productivity is a principle that I claim is worthy of a Nobel Prize. Normal principles of productivity assume that workers create positive output. Brooks refined the concept of software productivity to express it in terms of the "mythical man-month," and in software engineering, it is understood that different programmers vary in their productivity by several orders of magnitude. According to the principle of negative productivity, it is possible for an individual to produce bad results that others must then redo; hence, someone who is very negatively productive can keep a whole team busy with damage control, preventing the team from producing any output whatsoever.

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