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Slack: Getting Past Burnout, Busywork, and the Myth of Total Efficiency [Paperback]

Tom DeMarco
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)

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Book Description

5 July 2002
If your company’s goal is to become fast, responsive, and agile, more efficiency is not the answer--you need more slack.

Why is it that today’s superefficient organizations are ailing? Tom DeMarco, a leading management consultant to both Fortune 500 and up-and-coming companies, reveals a counterintuitive principle that explains why efficiency efforts can slow a company down. That principle is the value of slack, the degree of freedom in a company that allows it to change. Implementing slack could be as simple as adding an assistant to a department and letting high-priced talent spend less time at the photocopier and more time making key decisions, or it could mean designing workloads that allow people room to think, innovate, and reinvent themselves. It means embracing risk, eliminating fear, and knowing when to go slow. Slack allows for change, fosters creativity, promotes quality, and, above all, produces growth.

With an approach that works for new- and old-economy companies alike, this revolutionary handbook debunks commonly held assumptions about real-world management, and gives you and your company a brand-new model for achieving and maintaining true effectiveness.

Product details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Broadway Books (A Division of Bantam Doubleday Del; Reprint edition (5 July 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0767907698
  • ISBN-13: 978-0767907699
  • Product Dimensions: 20.4 x 13.2 x 1.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 140,413 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
THE LEGACY of the nineties has been a dangerous corporate delusion: the idea that organizations are effective only to the extent that all their workers are totally and eternally busy. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index
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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
4.7 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
36 of 36 people found the following review helpful
By T. D. Welsh TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
It's about 100 years since Frederick Winslow Taylor introduced the philosophy of "scientific management", with its offspring such as the time-and-motion study and the mythical man-month. That's about how long it takes for a big idea to soak into the awareness of managers everywhere - especially those who are more committed to looking good than to managing well.
Tom DeMarco, co-author (with Tim Lister) of the magnificent "Peopleware", has done it again. Although "Slack" runs a little over 200 pages, you will probably read it in less than four hours because it is actually quite hard to put down. You will keep on thinking, "Yes, I've seen that!" and "Those words ring a bell".
In the course of his consultancy practice, which has taken him into many organizations including Apple, HP, Lucent and IBM, DeMarco has noticed a lot of counterproductive management behaviour. Many acts and policies that look good in the short term lead to corporate death in the longer term. More specifically, it is always possible to squeeze out a few more percentage points of "efficiency" - but only at the cost of damaging morale, precipitating burnout and losing the flexibility without which sensible decisions cannot be made.
Faster isn't always better. Effectiveness matters more than efficiency. People are not interchangeable "resources". Without challenge and growth, the best employees soon leave. Overheads are not necessarily bad. Consciously or subconsciously, we already know these things. DeMarco just hammers them home so we will never forget them again.
I really have only one quibble with "Slack". DeMarco has no business criticising Dilbert and his fellow engineers for "giving up" on their pointy-haired bosses.
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A true 5 star management book 12 Oct 2001
Tom Demarco debunks much of the macho management practiced in many organsiations and encourages us to take a more considered people orientated approach. Slack is about using the time that naturally exists in ana organisation and using it to encourage change, or, to put it another way, do things better.
We have probably all tried to meet aggresive schedules and failed, well I have. DeMarco shows us why this is, why it will always be and how to take the pressure of ourselves and others and have altogether a more successful company.
He looks at practices such as management methodologies and recruitment methodolgies. I cringed at the latter. yes, i too recruited the perfect candidate but ignored the fact that he could n't do the job. One of the big messages in this is that it is people that count and that it is better to work together rather than against each other.
Heresy for the hell raising managers but Demarco makes so much common sense I would now like to face some of those past hell raisers and give them a dose of DeMarco.
Well Mr DeMarco you have given me a lot of ideas.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Perceptive Insight into Management Culture 9 July 2002
The ideas contained in this book are simple but revolutionary. Popular notions such as "busy is good" and "management equals total control" are examined in turn and dismantled. But there are also many positive suggestions to help those people with the responsibility of managing intelligent workers.
I was particularly drawn to the arguments relating to efficiency vs. effectiveness, and exposing the idea that "working long hours is the only way to get ahead" for what it is - a myth.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
What means Cultural Management in the business context? Tom DeMarco shows in his new book, that Cultural Management become more and more important in the industry or the business world. In this world of lean companies with low structures and high efficiency, most of the people have no time for creativity and open minded thinking. But, to be fit for the big changes of the next years or to become a learning organisation, it is important to create open spaces for thinking and creativity. So Cultural Management in the business context means: the support and management of creative processes, the management of people with several concepts of living and thinking, the management of different cultures, means to create, implement and manage an open minded and creative corporate culture.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars demystifies overhyped management fads 7 Mar 2004
"Slack" is the first book by T. DeMarco I've read. I had great expectations after a management consultant recommended it, and after having read it I must say this book is a valuable source of information and advice. The concepts are discussed with a direct style and Mr. Demarco clearly speaks out years of experience in the field. Personally I have learnt quite a lot from "Slack", and I think it is a must read for managers and lower rank knowledge workers alike. After all, as Mr. DeMarco clearly explains, natural leaders exercise influence even without strictly following the lines in the org chart.
I'm looking forward to reading "Peopleware" by the same author.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A book to give to your manager... 30 July 2005
By Amazon Customer VINE VOICE
Excellent read!
Very easy material to read and understand. Its obviously a pet topic for the author as you feel the points he makes are coming from a personal perspective. Often spills over into some soap-box ranting, but this prevents the material from being dry management material.
Definitely one of those cases when you've read the book try to get your manager to read it, and then their manager, and so on. Maybe then some of the good, sensible, and obvious ideas might appear in your workplace.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A brilliantly insightful book
I had a copy of this a few years ago but foolishly lent it to a manager who I thought might appreciate (read "benefit from") it. Read more
Published 11 months ago by Colin Main
5.0 out of 5 stars Too true - but who will listen?
This book articulates what many of us who have been slogging away in the corporate world for years have thought. Read more
Published 17 months ago by Mr J R Cadle
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent
While the point the book makes could have been made in a fraction of the size, it is an insightful observation on a very important company flaw. Read more
Published 20 months ago by koalillo
5.0 out of 5 stars Book
Good book which I needed at time for college course I was doing.

Probably dated now however, but if author has anything recent would be worth taking a look!
Published on 4 Nov 2011 by HenryLafferty
5.0 out of 5 stars Even more pertinent in the current downturn
Slack by Tom DeMarco. Dorset House

Another superb piece of work from the legendary Tom DeMarco. Read more
Published on 28 Feb 2010 by Alan Lenton
2.0 out of 5 stars Review
I had expected more out of this. Not very scientific in its approach, and I find the text is largely based on the authors mere opinions.
Published on 5 May 2009 by Persson Erik
4.0 out of 5 stars Nice airport read
Very elegant case against 'performance management gone mad' type of management. Something that most of us know already but are unable to sell it in quantifiable way.
Published on 29 Mar 2006 by Jarek
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