Stop Blaming Others. Take ownership of your own team members… at the least!!!

Hiring good people is not easy. It doesn’t matter what role you are hiring (Architect, Manager, Tech Lead, Developers, Automation Engineers. Don’t question me why I have not mentioned manual testers in this list :(), it takes a while to find the right person.

Hire MeI am involved in Hiring people for the last 10 years and my average is 40:1. Unless you are lucky and know someone for the job, you may have to speak to 40 candidates before finding 1 Good guy. This average has not reduced in the last 10 years and I don’t see that reducing. It means on an average to get one good guy into the system, it takes approximately 40 hours (at the least).

After you spend so much time and on board a member, there is still no guarantee that the person whom you hired will work.

If it takes so much time to hire and on board a member, why not we spend time with those people, keep them motivated and retain them in our own teams. This is a question I get every time when I hear a good guy leaving.

I have heard multiple good people leaving off late and my frustrations has gone to its peak last week.

I recently heard a manager saying a good team member is leaving because this guy heard someone else talking for 10 minutes, got frustrated and leaving. I know that, I am a naive person. I don’t manage team members now. But, this immediately came out of my mouth.

Really…. Really…. Really…. Really….

May be, it could be just a triggering point. But, this guy would have left even otherwise. Why can’t this manager see this coming?

More than 1 million employees can’t be wrong, so bosses take heed of this. A Gallup poll of more 1 million employed U.S. workers concluded that the No. 1 reason people quit their jobs is a bad boss or immediate supervisor.

People don’t leave jobs, they leave managers. 

If it takes so much time to hire a person, why don’t managers generally spend time with their best guys, motivate them and retain them?

After thinking for a long time this is my conclusion. Generally not every manager gets involved in Hiring. They don’t even speak to candidates and spend enough time before getting them on board. Otherwise, stand in the road with a board “I am hiring” and whoever comes in their way, offer them a job.

When you don’t spend time in hiring (like spending 40 hours), you will not even know what is involved in getting a good guy work for you. It’s someone else’ blood. Why should I care in that case?

Worried People

Guys… Let us stop blaming others. At least let us take ownership for our own people. Start spending time with your team members. Speak to them (1:1 – Once in a month) and understand them. Be available, honest and transparent. Help them resolve their day to day issues. Trust will automatically build. 1 Lac here and there will not become a major issue.

Better Bosses, Better Retention!

Happy Learning!!!


Image courtesy

Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Ambro / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

How long did it take to build ….?

I had a wonderful opportunity to listen to and Interact with Hubert Smits couple of weeks back. One of the questions he asked during the interaction is “how long do you think it took to build empire state building (the tallest one when it was built in 1930s)”? There were answers like 10 years, 7 years, 20 years etc.

Empire State
He replied saying 400 odd days with 3400 workers… Immediately the follow up question was to complete the architecture and design? He said “No…” to complete the entire building.

I couldnt believe it immediately. Went and searched in Google and found links confirming the same.

http://history1900s.about.com/od/1930s/a/empirefacts.htm
http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20070510175905AAyRbD9
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Empire_State_Building

Some of the things which i could take as a lesson from this
1. It requires meticulous planning. I am not talking about creating a plan here… Continuous Planning.

2. The architect had previous experience in building something of this sort. But again, every project is unique in nature.. The risk management capabilities of this construction was beyond what we can imagine(identify, monitor, mitigate and track).
Women

3. The architects produced the initial design in 2 weeks, based on their previous experience. But, they would have refined it continuously as they built every floor.

4. Though the architects had previous experience, they would have ended up in new challenges every time. The design and development would have gone through iterations to address these challenges and not based on a big design upfront.

What this confirms is that even an industry which is considered to be the oldest, builds things iteratively and not based on one single plan. Hmm… now we are almost near end of 2013 and we work in a modern industry. But these practices are still @ a level where people only talk about it in most of the places.

Now… i will come back to my favorite place. May be after 50 years, someone might be writing about Belandur flyover. How long do you think it has taken to complete the incomplete Belandur flyover?

Happy Learning!!!

Image courtesy of

vitasamb2001 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
stockimages/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

A few good men

I met some of my ex-colleagues yesterday and we had a great time. Whenever we meet, one of the topics which always used to come out was how engaged all of us were sometime back.

ManagerWhile returning back home, i was thinking about what made all of us so engaged during that time. Even though some of us are doing some great stuff even today, but the engagement part is not the same.

 

“Many people are unmotivated, not because they have a great reason to be, but rather because they have not been given a great reason to be motivated & engaged.

Keeping the money part aside, some of the things which i could see as a difference

1. Great set of colleagues. I think it really matters with whom you are surrounded with. When you are surrounded with knowledgeable people and people who really work, it automatically spreads. When you are surrounded with people who come to office keeping their brain at home, CGO’s, News readers and As…..s, i guess there is no way people are going to be engaged.

Happy Team

2. A transparent and honest manager, who really cares, gives feedback and helps others grow. Also, when you see your manager putting his best effort and he is truly trying, it really motivates and inspires others. It all starts from the TOP. The same way when a manager can spot a bad apple quickly rather than promoting him or praising him, the work environment become a great place automatically.

3. A great work culture. With a great set of people and good practices, this automatically happens.

I concluded my thought with this. If a company has the right set of practices to hire good people, constantly improves on it, and promotes a good work culture which is transparent and honest, i don’t think there is no need for a separate HR organization promote employee engagement.

The value differentiation for any company always was and always will be PEOPLE.

“If you work in an urgent-only culture, the only solution is to make the right things urgent.” - Seth Godin, author of Linchpin

Happy Learning !!!

Image Courtesy
Ambro / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Marin / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Why no new blog posts these days?

Its been a while since i posted anything here. I was on my way back to the hotel today and was wondering what made me stop blogging.

Energy Level Down

IMO, to do anything in life regularly there are 2 important factors. First, Motivation and then Discipline.

I think i lost the motivation to write and probably thats why i didnt even login to my blog for close to 3 months. This is my “Current state of mind” for whatever reason.

Hope my mindset changes in the positive direction soon and i will start blogging on a regular basis.

In between, I recently became active in twitter. Probably, It’s easier to tweet than post. :)

Happy Learning!!!!

Image courtesy of stockimages / FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

I “Post Master”

Delegation, A topic which cannot be missed in any management books. The message is don’t try to do everything by yourself. By delegating to others (who is capable of doing), you can groom the person, help him to grow and one can focus on the most important tasks.
Delegation
But, what is the key here?

  • Don’t do everything by yourself… It doesn’t say don’t do anything at all
  • Delegate to a person who is capable. “Horses for courses
  • Follow up in a regular interval, check if things are going OK and whether the other person needs any help.

Check here for the 12 Rules for delegation

But People are different. They take only what is important for them. Anything and everything can be delegated to others…

I recently spoke to someone (Let us call him A) who took over an account from another manager. This account is a crucial account and there is a struggle to fill the key position for this crucial account for a very long time. There was no progress made for about 7 months till A took over and suddenly in the last 1 month, there is enough progress that has been made, which is visible.

How come someone couldn’t do anything for 7 months and there is a sudden change in the last month? You can say “Luck“… But that’s not the truth. The Previous person delegated his work to someone and probably that someone delegated it to someone else and this chain could have extended further down and no one had any accountability.

Post MasterBut, since its a crucial thing, A has personally started working on it and because of that things have started moving, and the progress is visible.

Did A do anything different in this context? No, A just did his work and nothing else…

Delegation is important. Delegate when your plate is full, or you know someone else is ready and he can do the job so that you can do something more important.

Don’t Delegate because you have a person and you don’t want do anything at all…

If you do so then you can proudly call yourself as “I am a Post Master….”

Happy Learning!!!

Image courtesy

Ambro / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Dundee Photographics / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Do i really need a Daily Standup?

Sendhil shared this presentation “Observations from an old warhorse” by Fred George recently. I found an interesting topic he discusses in this talk, The Daily stand up meetings. A Must watch Video.

The purpose of the Daily stand up meeting is to facilitate the feedback cycle, promote communication and help in re-planning.

Scrum suggests that there are three things which gets discussed in a Standup meeting 

  1. What was accomplished yesterday,
  2. What will be attempted today, and
  3. What problems are causing delays

Fred George talks about what is more important to look at in the Standup meeting.

The most important thing for the person facilitating the development is to attend to When someone says “No Updates” or “Couldn’t get anything done yesterday“.

These are the people who are stuck because of
Exhausted

  • A complex problem,
  • Story was too vague,
  • Bleeding edge technology,
  • Gone into a tangent with design,
  • A/C was too cold,
  • tube light was not at the right place,
  • or for whatever is the reason.

Check this link for a sample list of impediments

These are impediments and it has to be addressed immediately so that people can move forward and meet their commitments made on a daily basis.

Another place to look at is the Individual Burn chart. If the hours are not reducing then it means that people are stuck and attention is required.

Team LeadDuring the Standup  Open the Plan or Stand next your Scrum Board/Kanban Board while discussing, mention the story so that everyone has the context.

If the meeting is used for the right reason, for sure it improves the communication and gives effective feedback.

Don’t spend too much time on people who could get things done yesterday. Listen carefully when people say i couldn’t get things done yesterday. Addressing their impediments will help them move forward and can get the results.

Happy Learning!!!

Image courtesy
Ambro / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
digitalart / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Release Planning and Schedule Monitoring : Myth or Real

In the previous post, we looked at the issues with estimation and for sure it’s clear that there is no way one can estimate accurately.

If you want to plan and monitor a release, the first thing one should know is the pace in which his/her team is running and the second is where we stand as of now. All the management care is if you cannot complete it tomorrow, when you can complete.

Obviously, one cannot go to their senior management and say it will be done whenever it is done. I am sure, we all need our jobs :).

Monitoring

But is that an excuse for the manager’s to sit idle and do nothing saying my developers are not giving any estimates or say I have got you an extension whenever you asked for. For sure, most of the managers rely on their techies to give the real picture. But isn’t that we all have some brain and we should put our brains to some use?

In one of my previous posts i have talked about my view points on this “Are we there yet?

There are two things one as a manager can implement, which can help him make informed decisions.

CYCLE TIME

As a manager one of the tools that can come handy for monitoring is the cycle time. Cycle time is the time that takes to complete a feature/story/task from start to end. Now classify your stories/features/tasks/whatever you have, in the format of small, medium, large, and extra-large.

Cycle Time

Calculate the cycle time. What one should be more interested is on the Average. Display your average time takes to complete the Features on a White Board. Build a Trend chart on the same so that everyone knows how things have changed (whether you are spending more time or less time) over the course of the development.

What if we realize that we are taking a lot of time to complete a feature?

There are two things one can look at.

  • How much time is spent at each section (Analysis / Development / Acceptance)
  • The Lead time to move a story from one section to another

This will give you the complete insight and all possible optimizations can happen after that. This will not only expose the problem within engineering team, but also the time spent in requirements. Say for example: If you see your team members spending most of the time in Analysis, i am sure you know where to optimize.

What are the benefits of doing this?

  • As a manager, one is not only dependent on the team to get the estimates. 95% of the teams are into brown field development and this will help big time.
  • Everyone in the team knows how much time approximately it takes to get anything done (since the average time and the trend chart has been displayed). If you are the Product owner, it’s easy to plan for releases by seeing the average time taken and the trend (whether it’s taking more time or less time).  Will it still be accurate? May be or may not be. But then you have some way to predict (using the Velocity Chart, Cycle Time and Cycle Trend) rather than just shooting at the dark.
  • Oh, this works for Brown field. But ours is Green field. Sure, you cannot change the estimates given. But even in your Green field you still need to plan for releases and this will be very helpful even in that case.

What are the downsides of it?

  • Project status will be crystal clear for all the stakeholders. People can make informed decisions.

VELOCITY CHART

Check this post from Johanna on creating project dashboards to display progress

Create the Line chart with Markers in Excel sheet which displays

  • Total Number of Features to be delivered in the duration of the project in X Axis and
  • Duration of the project (Week wise or month wise) in the Y Axis

Velocity Chart

(A Velocity chart for one of the projects i managed in 2009. This Snapshot was taken sometime around 26-Jul-09)

This will help you see the Features done on a week wise or month wise and the features left on a weekly or monthly basis. If there is a new feature or a set of features added on a specific period it will also show you a spike of the remaining features and anyone with common sense can understand what is going on in the project. If you need the project to be done on time, then most likely the Features done line and Features Remaining line has to meet in the middle.

What are the benefits of doing this?

  1. First, it gives a clear status on what is going in the project, how many features done, how many left and how many are newly added etc.
  2. Second, it helps the manager in clearly showcasing the changes that happens in the project. So no need to defend saying features added or modified is troubling the guestimate. In other words it helps in CYA…
  3. Third, the manager do not have to go to a techie to ask where they stand if he/she has to give a monthly update to the stakeholders.

What are the downsides of it?

  1. Project status will be crystal clear for all the stakeholders.
  2. Manager has to work. Apart from giving GYAN to the team members saying they need to be disciplined with their code, Manager also has to be disciplined in creating, updating and maintaining this which is quite some work. Of course, one can always find an executive assistant to do this. J
  3. Manager cannot blame someone else when things go wrong.

This sounds good. But how will it help me solve my estimation problem?

One may not get rid of the issue with estimates completely. But if this data is captured organization wide and have some way to classify data, you still have some scientific way to estimate rather than guesstimate  Of course, I do understand that every project is unique and the complexity varies.

An almost immediate thing which you can expect is

  • Oh, we don’t have such tools in our organization or project.  You don’t need a tool to do all this. You can do it using Excel sheet. Immediate response would be i don’t know how to create a line chart in Excel. All you have to do is type “Line charts in Excel” in Google and click “I am feeling lucky”. Of course one needs to read it which is beyond the scope of this post :(
  • The other thing is oh, we are not agile. For sure, you don’t need to be agile to do this. Anyways most of us who claim that we do agile do not anything about agile.

IMHO, it is all about bringing in some discipline within the environment, and with a very minimal change everyone can gain.

Happy Learning!!!!

Image courtesy

ddpavumba / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The Estimation Myth

My discussion with Sendhil on this topic started after reading the recent blog post from Ron Jeffries on Estimation is Evil.

I had a wonderful opportunity to listen to Linda Rising (Author of the book: Fearless Change: Patterns for Introducing New Ideas) at the Agile India 2013 Conference recently on this topic Deception and Estimation – How we fool ourselves.

If you are a Manager or a developer or a Tester or Director or you do anything related to Software, listen to this talk. To me, Linda is one of the masters of storytelling. Watch this video and you will understand.

My version of the example on this: 

Count BeansHave you ever been to a local salon/barber shop on a Sunday?

In India, we don’t have the concept of taking appointments yet with local salons and the salon will be crowded with people. If you enter the shop say @ 10 AM, you will see at least 5 guys waiting and at the max the local shop will have 3 people working. Now the shop owner or the leader of this 3 will look at you and say 10 to 15 minutes sir.

You know for sure there are only 3 guys working and there are 5 people waiting to either get a haircut or shave or head massage etc… How in the world they will be able to finish the 5 + 3 in 15 minutes and attend you? If you are a logical person, who wants to leave they will still persuade you saying wait sir… it will be over very quickly and you most probably end up listening to this and spend few hours of your Sunday in his shop.

What does it communicates to us?

  • First of all we don’t have any clue on how much time it will take to complete a specific task (even with the guy who is doing the same thing his whole life) – > (Developer, tester)
  • Second, we as humans always want to communicate to the other person in the way he feels comfortable  -> (Manager)
  • Third, we as humans are always optimistic (even when we know that things cannot be achieved in a specific time) – > (Client)

Linda in her talk refers to a research where in as humans

  • If speak for ten minutes there will be 3 lies at least in that.
  • We are tuned to say and accept lies right from childhood. Example she quotes is that a Grandparent gives a gift to their grandchildren. Even though the child, doesn’t like it, as a parent one excepts their child to say “It’s a very nice gift and that’s exactly what they were looking for” :)

So how does it translate to our software projects?

  • If you are developing software for whatever period, there is no way you will be able to provide an accurate estimate.
  • If you are a Manager, even when you know that you will not be able to meet the commitment, you will still persuade your client saying that you will be on time.
  • If you are a Client listening to your vendor or to your own team, even when you know that it will not be done on time, you will still accept saying that it will be done on time.

In his book “The Mythical Man Month”, Frederick Brook mentions all Programmers are optimists. The underlying assumption of scheduling is that “all will go well”, i.e., that each task will take only as long as it “ought” to take. It’s a book (bible) for everyone who is into software business.

So much has been said / discussed about this topic. But even 30 years after Frederick Brook has written the first version of his book, nothing has changed. We still believe in the same model.

Young boy countingThe other side of the equation is that if I don’t know the numbers I will not know how much I need to spend and when I can go to market. How will I get bid for a RFP? How will I give a number to my CEO so that he approves the budget?

As a Manager, it is very clear that one need to still give estimates as the Top Management/Middle Management with whom you are dealing with doesn’t understand this and they need an estimate. So as a manager, one do not have an option, other than giving their gut feel numbers.

But is there anything that can be done which can help us and in turn we help the senior management and top management to make some informed decisions?

Let us see it in the next post…

Happy Learning!!!!

Image courtesy

nuchylee/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Arztsamui / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The immortals of Meluha

Last week Seema and Jawad talked very high of this Novel “The Immortals of Meluha“. I don’t have the habit of reading Novels very regularly. I inquired more about the Novel and they were surprised that i didn’t know about “The Shiva Trilogy”.

The Shiva Trilogy is a three part Novel and the third part is due this month. There was a very good deal in Homeshop18. I immediately  ordered the combo (1st and 2nd Part) and to my surprise got it delivered in 2 days.

I started reading the Novel yesterday and couldn’t put it down. I finished it in two sittings.

There is only one word i can use to explain the feeling. “Awesome“… Its been more than 2 years since i have read a complete novel or book (First to last page) in one single day.

Om Namah Shivaya!!!

My special thanks for Seema and Jawad for recommending this book to me.

Happy Reading!!!

How Long Does It Take To Build A Native Mobile App?

Found an interesting info graphic on How Long Does It Take To Build A Native Mobile App?

From the Post

In a survey of 100 native mobile developers, Kinvey determined that creating a fully functional and polished app takes a team about 18 weeks from start to finish. That includes both front-end design and user interface as well as back-end integration like push notifications, user management and authentication, caching and sharing through social channels.

I know what many app developers are thinking when they hear that: “18 weeks?! Who the hell are these turtle-slow developers?” On the other hand, enterprise developers are probably saying: “18 weeks?! We are only halfway through by that point.

Original Link here

Good One.