Why startups are forced to be workaholics — mathematical justification

Tom DeMarco and Timothy list, the authors of the cult book Peopleware about project management, which I love, claim to work more than 40 hours a week is unproductive that it reduces efficiency and is not the best way affects the result. This position always gave me a strange feeling. None of their companies, I could not and cannot afford to work only 40 hours a week. Almost all successful leaders of startups I know are workaholics.

So who is right. On the one hand, the authority of authors for me trudnorastvorim. But if the right life, where is the error in their reasoning slim. A very important question, because the answer to it depends the rhythm and way of life for the person who seeks to operate as efficiently as possible.

There is a fun parable of the two woodcutters, which got me to thinking about the effectiveness of a 40-hour work week. Two woodcutter — one younger, the older and more experienced second — bet who of them will cut more wood in a day, and in the morning went to their plots. At first, they worked at the same pace, but after an hour the young heard the sound stopped. He realized that the old woodcutter is tired and this is his chance to win, so doubled efforts. Ten minutes passed, and he heard that the second woodcutter again went to work.

They again earned almost synchronously. After a while the enemy stopped again — and the young woodcutter went to work more vigorously, anticipating the victory. This lasted for a whole day. Every hour old woodcutter stopped for ten minutes, and young continued to work. When the time is up, young was quite sure that the victory in his pocket.

However, after calculating the results it turned out that he was wrong. — How it happened. — he asked in astonishment of his more experienced companion. Every hour youre ten minutes stopped working. How did you chop more wood than me?.

— Its very simple, replied the old woodcutter. — At this time I stopped and sharpened his axe, while you continued to chop wood. I love math, so tried to describe this story in several formulas. Let us imagine, as they like to say physics, spherical in vacuum woodcutter whose axe blunts and it can be sharpened forever, and every hour sharpening increases the performance of a single tree in an hour.

We have two extreme options. In the first case, the tin man spends 1 hour on axe sharpening and 7 hours on felling of trees at a rate of 1 tree per hour. A total of 7 trees in a day. Second. Woodman spends 7 hours on grinding and 1 hour of cutting at a speed of 7 trees per hour.

The day he cut those 7 trees. Simple equation from high school will show that the best option would be to distribute the time evenly. Spend 4 hours sharpening the axe, and the remaining 4 hours to cut 16 trees. And now the big question. How many more trees will be cut this “spherical” lumberjack if will work not 8 hours per day, and 16.

Twice. No. Four times more. Because the axe is twice as sharper, and the woodcutter will work twice as long. In real life is full of situations where the result of the work is the product of several factors, and the time spent directly on work, only one of them.

Other factors depend heavily on the type of activity. The woodcutter is the sharpness of the axe, the programmer is the ability to program, knowledge of subject area, knowledge of new technologies. In a large team, an important role of communication. Can be long and well to do what they actually do not need or already implemented in the next section. The most extreme case is an aspiring startup teams, which often combines a lot of roles.

Inventing, product development, marketing, sales, design, patenting, finding investors, hiring employees, and much more, with many roles from this list, he is confronted for the first time. Well, if the team has two or three people that can take care of the work that is unaffordable 15-20 roles startup teams played at least 5-10. By analogy with the woodcutter we can find the optimal time distribution for spherical startups in a vacuum, for example, ten roles, when the total result is the product of all of them. Approximately so. Better marketing — more user of the service.

Better product — higher conversion, yield and probability that the service will recommend to friends. Good to find an investor — theres money on hiring specialized professionals, to improve the product and marketing. The answer in this case is similar to what we derived for Woodman. The time between roles to distribute evenly, and the end result is the elapsed time in the tenth degree.

Spent two times more time — got to 1024 times more result! Of course, real and not abstract startup teams in my life with such a simple dependence is not facing. There is no sense in sharpening an axe more than ten minutes. Sharper he will become. To the programmer it is important to be aware of the novelties of his subject area and is worth spending some time on reading news and articles.

But if you spend more than one hour per day and five performance five times will not grow. Nevertheless, the model shows the main trend. If the activity is heterogeneous and the result is the product of all its components, if the work twice, the result will not be multiplied by two, and a much greater number, if not a thousand, but that it is likely, 8, 16, 32, or 64. Its the curse of an entrepreneur. How can you keep and work only 40 hours a week if working 80 hours, you can achieve ten times greater efficiency?.

Why this is true for startups and entrepreneurs. The work of most people, usually built around one activity. It is not often that the result of their work is the product of several factors, and if it is, they are quickly “saturated”. For example, the programmer enough to spend half an hour a day to be informed about novelties in their field, and another hour to meetings to know what is happening to colleagues in neighboring departments. But the startups, as they say, got.

So if youre doing a startup, forget about a 40-hour week. But the book still read Peopleware, its worth it.

Source: google.co.uk/blog/can-success-failure-fifty-shades-grey-teach-startup-founder/

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