I am now reading Peopleware, from Tom Demarco and Timothy Lister.

Since 1979, though, we’ve contacting whoever is left of the project staff to find out what went wrong. For the overwhelming majority of the bankrupt projects we studied, there was not a single technological issue to explain the failure.

The major problems of our work are not so much technological as sociological in nature.

Change “sociological” into “communicational” in the second sentence and I cannot agree more, as a field application engineer working in the semiconductor industry.

There are lots of wisdom such as the above packed in this book but what struck me most is the following part.

During single-minded work time, people are ideally in a state that psychologists call flow. Flow is a condition of deep, nearly meditative involvement. In this state, there is a gentle sense of euphoria, and one is largely unaware of the passage of time: “I began to work. I looked up, and three hours had passed.”

The phenomena of flow and immersion give us a more realistic way to model how time is applied to a development task. What matters is not the amount of time you’re present, but the amount of time that you’re working at full potential. An hour in flow really accomplishes something, but ten six-minute work periods sand-wiched between eleven interruptions won’t accomplish anything.

How come I didn’t realize this until now? I think I manage my working time half unconsciously this way, by waiting for my mood gets “up”. But strangely, when I estimate the time needed for a task, a full-attention from the beginning is always assumed. The point is not the length of time, it is this 100% focus and how I can bring my mental state into it.

It is still halfway toward the end, but I think I can summarize what this book says by borrowing a line from a consultant I met a couple of weeks ago. This guy, training presentation skills at various companies in various industries, has one conclusion on what makes a successful company or what is most important. It only gets reinforced as he gains more experience.
It’s all about people.
It is not the cutting-edge technology, not the latest CRM, not the lucrative stock options, not the gorgeous office facilities. It is the people working there.
I do not have any reason not to agree with him and propably I will never have any.

Then comes the next question: how can we define the right people? I still do not have any idea on this, but at least can say: Skill set is not the first priority.

One more, how do we define a good working environment? I think it goes down to this: You can do whatever you want to do, as long as you understand the object of the job and share it with the other members.
The whole notion of Limit (and even Permission) is non-sense. People love to work and love to contribute and love to be acknowledged without being supervised by the Big Brother. Maybe I am a bit optimistic but why not aiming high?