Friday, March 24, 2006

UPS workers go Agile

An interesting story on Business 2.0 today looking at some unconventional business practices. This one about UPS caught my eye:

How does UPS keep 220,000 drivers and package handlers on time? Wireless transmitters, reliable trucks, and a world-class logistics network are critical, of course. But managers have their own safeguard against slack. Every morning, and often several times per day, managers gather workers for a mandatory meeting that lasts precisely three minutes.

The talks start with company announcements, from benefits updates to bulletins about software upgrades on drivers' handhelds. Then managers go over local information: traffic conditions or customer complaints. Every meeting ends with a safety tip.

The meetings ensure that workers are always kept in the loop, and the 180-second limit helps enforce systemwide punctuality. If drivers are late to start their routes because meetings run long, they'll earn overtime pay and deliver fewer packages--exactly what UPS strives to avoid. The practice has proven so successful that many hourly office workers now start their days with a three-minute huddle of their own.

The same article mentions Bloomberg's new Lexington Avenue headquarters in Manhattan which resembles a cross section of a beehive, with workers exposed on each level:

CEO Lex Fenwick, who sits at an open desk on the sixth floor surrounded by some 125 sales and customer service staffers, doesn't mind the praise he's received for the striking design. What he cares about most, though, is the view he has from the catbird seat. "I know quicker than any piece of damn software when we have a problem. I can see it right in front of me when it happens," Fenwick says. "I watch the phone calls; I see the stress level on faces. Someone can look at me and say, 'We've got a problem.' What does it allow me to do? Get on someone to fix it in seconds. The communication this setup affords is staggering."

Never underestimate the benefits to communication by co-locating your team.

And the finally an interesting business model (nothing to do with agile, just interesting):

Since its launch in 1998, Honest Tea has become the top bottled-organic-tea brand in the United States. Sales have climbed an average of 65 percent per year, and revenues recently hit $10 million. What's its special brew? A funding formula gave the founders zero equity until they doubled the company's value.

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