Windows To The World

Every Process Can Be Improved

Whether you're streamlining decision-making, gathering customer feedback, developing new products, or just going about the things you do on a daily basis, look for ways to make things easier and automatic.

At Microsoft, one of the dull low-level tasks involved in creating software is to do "the daily build." The person doing the daily build takes all the different "code" (written programs) from the programmers and puts it on one computer, making sure it all works together. For years, this was performed by an entry-level person and regarded as grunt work. One manager changed that and, in doing so, made the process more efficient.

This manager gave the daily-build responsibilities to the people writing the code. Each day all the programmers would give their code to one "buildmeister," who put it all together. If the code didn't work together, the person whose code was found to be the culprit then became the buildmeister as a punishment, until someone else's code screwed up the system. The benefits of this were:

  • No one wanted to be the buildmeister, so there was extra incentive to hand in quality code that didn't break the system.
  • The unpleasant task was shared by everyone in the group.
  • Higher-level people were doing the task. They wanted to spend as little time on it as possible, so when their turn came, they tried to think of ways to automate the task of buildmeister and did so successfully.
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This article was originally published in the June 1998 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Windows To The World.

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