Category Archives: leadership

Books from last quarter – part one.

I read or listen at least one book per two weeks. I want to share the list with you. First of all it is always worth to recommend good book. Second I hope you could help me. Please write your suggestion into comments. Thanks and happy reading.

This quarter list:

Crossing the charm

The must read for everyone involved in high tech industry. From the book you will learn about five stages of technology adoption, and how you need to have different attitude for marketing and selling.

 

 

Key Takeaways:

  1. “Early adopters” want a change agent. “Early majority” looks for productivity improvement for existing operations (you need to be better somehow).
  2. Elevator Speech Template – “For …. (target customers)  , who are dissatisfied with  ……..(the current market alternative). Our product is a  ………….. (new product category) unlike ………………(the product alternative). We have assembled …………..(key whole product features).
  3. segmentation, segmentation and segmentation.
    1. Enthusiast – “Name it and frame it”
    2. Visionary – “Who for and what for”
    3. Pragmatist – “Competition and differentiation”
    4. Conservatism – “Financials and future plans”

What Got You Here – Won’t Get You There

Some time ago I had a training it was great and helped me get better. The most used phrase during this training was the title of Goldsmith book – “what got you here, won’t get you there”. This book is must have! I will just put one key takeaway here, because you have to read this book to get “Twenty Habits That Hold You Back”.

 

Key Takeaways: The only person who stops YOU from the being on the top is YOU.

Flawless Consulting: A Guide to Getting Your Expertise Used

This book is must read for consultants. Want to know how to deal effectively with clients? Read the book. Author by using illustrative examples and case studies help us understand all aspects of consultant job. The book is also for non consultant, as each of us is a consultant at some point in our lives. Finally “Flawless Consulting” is less about how to consult and more about how to communicate.

Key Takeaways:

  • You have to manage the relationship – it is essential to good implementation.
  • Ideas about contract and getting commitment
  • Watch out for unrealistic expectations! (people think you should transform everything overnight)
  • You need to learn them to be able to solve their own problems after you’re gone.

Kobe Bryant. Showman

Creator of the bestseller Michael Jordan. He wrote another great biography of Kobe, who broke into the best basketball league at the age of only 17. Kobe was not only proud of himself eg. when he was asked about Jordan he answered “I’m going to be better than him”, but also extremely hardworking. He always was first at gym, and finished as last one. His live wasn’t easy but through hard work he was one of the best NBA player.

Key Takeaways:

  • Hard work is very important to your success.
  • Shows how our decisions creates our opportunities.
  • Being on the top isn’t dream, you must work even harder.

Critical Business Skills for Success

This course have five parts:

  1. strategy,
  2. operations,
  3. finance and accounting,
  4. organizational behavior
  5. marketing.

Every part is led by business professors from top business schools. In each part you will learn about everything from key terms through methodologies and case studies.

Key Takeaways: It is 60 lessons so it very hard to get key takeaways gere. This course brings MBA experience for you.

Free: the future of radical price

The book is about pricing models which give products and services to customers for free (referred to as “freemium”). The strategy works to attract users and then up-sell them at  premium level. Chris Anderson explores this idea as business strategy for today’s  companies.

 

 

Key Takeaways:

  • Sooner or later every company need to figure out how to compete with “Free”.
  • If the price is zero, we all are irrational (it is proved in other books) and take decision much easier.
  • “Generation Free”: Growing up post-Napster, younger generations find copyright irrelevant.

Designing Bots – Creating Conversational Experience

This is very important book to me, as I’m in conversational interfaces business right now. Ideal for designers, product managers and entrepreneurs – you will find out  what works and what doesn’t on real-world bot examples. Author is co creator of Slack messanger so he guide us through different bot platforms based on his experience. If you are interested in conversional interfaces use for your business, than this book is must read.

 

Key Takeaways:

  • Personality is important, but more important is to keep it consistent across the experience.
  • First things first: Define your bot’s purpose and core functionality.
  • Mainly there are two types of conversations, task-led and topic-led.
  • Use platform specific rich interactions (buttons, images, audio …)
  • When possible do not fall into bot-amnesia.

Next Quarter

Next in Queue 🙂

  • Small Data(audiobook)
  • Meaningful
  • What’s Stopping You?
  • Principles (audiobook)
  • The Entrepreneur’s Toolkit.
  • Black Swan  (Andrzej suggestion)
  • … and … feel free to make your suggestions….. in the comments

Grail Quest to find where went our productivity to (part three) ?

In Part one we talked about problems with productivity, when adding more resources, introducing better processes like scurm don’t help. In Part two we focus on Work In Progress, when paradoxically  the more we want to do, the less actually work is done.

In order to fix Work in Progress of the team, we often what to help them. Let us split the team, so people are more focused on their work. Another fix is adding more people to the team (increasing the amount of work done).

Is that right?

Unfortunately, the truth turns out to be brutal and it is quite different. You may find that for some reason the work goes even slower: more people/focus but smaller WIP.

Why is that?

To be able to synchronize, you need to communicate. Quite often we do not realize how much time is wasted to communicate to each other. If you want to check the easiest way to do this is to measure the number of meetings. If you have a central system for booking rooms, just prepare and look at a simple report: the number of meetings per employee.

At one point I even investigated this matter and came to the conclusion that the more people in the meeting, the more expensive it should be to book such a room. The idea of course has not been realized, but if you want to provide such service, than I will be happy to try out such reservation system.

Everyone complains about the meeting, and then it turns out that anything in the company can not “moved forward” without meeting. Personally, I love my calendar today, because I do not have more than five hours in meetings per week. And even this is too much in my opinion.

Sometime ago I had conversation during a conference with one guy. He told me that, they had a “customer service center” in which they have KPI: “how many calls per minute”  and it was something about 10 calls per minute.  Well, as usually happens, someone “upstairs” stated that he has an offer from a company that can do it much more effectively. So their call center was canceled and all work was outsourced to the outsider. The first reports allowed “the board” to celebrate success. The new company supports about 100 calls per minute – 10 times better efficiency. Great decision!

You probably already feel trick here … because I wouldn’t tell a story here if it would not show another problem affecting our productivity. It turned out that customers called a dozen times for one problem. The operator wanted to handle (according to his KPI) them as soon as possible, very often by riding the client of. Client had to call several times to solve his problem, as a result the client were much less satisfied with the service. Not always the number of customers served goes in hand with quality of service.

The first quick lesson – what you measure is what you get. Measure more calls per minute, you get more calls per minute, It does not mean better service and in many cases things goes worser.
The second lesson is more important. It is worth looking for the problem at the source. Go to the source and start solving the real problem. Many times we use  “tricks” to cover it – We can call it Failure Demand.

An example from IT sector is a team that increases its velocity (sounds good) but does not provide any value. WTF? It can easily happen when there are more and more bugs which even increase velocity (every bug get a certain amount of story points). This leads to the situation when the team only do bug fixing (by the way bugs was introduced by the team), so no additional value is delivered.

Quite often a remedy is to try to move part of work (eg. bug fixing) to different team, so development team can focus on delivering business value. We can introduce a team (QA) that will fix some of the errors, or will test whether the errors have been fixed, and so on. Sounds familiar?

In this way, specialized teams are born.  Now the “poor” developer can produce even more code. The testers are testing instead of him, the release managers do deployment instead of him, the incident managers react to production problems instead of him …. and so on…..

This leads quickly to a situation in which the developer does not feel responsible and does not understand how his bad code affects the whole organization and work of others. The developer become detached, which become huge problem for organization.

Looking at the work of teams that improve some “developers pain area”.  When we move work to different team, than it causes developers to increase their bandwidth. More developers bandwidth increases Work in Progress (WIP) in pain-killer-team. This causes  these teams to become a bottleneck. The whole organization focus on them, because they do not cope with the amount of work – so they (eg. testers) are the problem not developers.

Interestingly – it hides the real people responsible for delivering the poor solution. Introducing such teams sooner or later creates siloses, which is very bad for organization. Furthermore we aren’t solving the right problems, and we are creating even more bottlenecks and more detachment in the organization.

You can also look at that as local optimization destabilizes the workflow on a global scale.

In conclusion:

  1. Workload up to 100% and the need for faster work has the opposite effect. The “worker” must have a moment to think and “sharpen the saw”.
  2. The more rules, the greater the focus on those rules. This causes us to blindly follow the rules and stop thinking, because rules do it for us (or at least we are safe). These are huge opportunity lost.
  3. The more work, the greater loss on context switching. This leads to the fact that everything takes longer. The cost of delays is increasing and many projects will never see the production environment.
  4. Hiding the problem (temporary solution) usually causes the problem to return with increased strength, and the cost of removing multiply (sometimes in exponential manner).
  5. You need to have time for unplanned work.
    • If you do not have time because of (#1 – you are fully loaded),
    • or you do not think because you have rules (#2),
    • the “business” comes with next projects (unplanned), so you try to juggle between the projects (#3),
    • so you need to hide many things because not time to solve real problem.(#4)
    • This brings you to (#5) no time for unplanned work. The whole tightens the loop on your neck. R.I.P.

What can we do about it – the solution:

  • Always have some loose time.
  • The less the rules, the better –  see experiment England Town turn off traffic lights
  • Control the WIP and respond when it’s too much. Reduce the amount of work is better than slow down or even blocking the entire system. Remember: I love Lucy candy video.
  • Solve problems at the source.
  • Remember that always something happens, you have to have time to react.

And thats all Folks!

By the way, as Tech Rebels we help companies go through technical hurdles. Just hire us, and we will bring your organization to next technical level.

Grail Quest to find where went our productivity to (part two) ?

In Part one we talked about problems with productivity instead of great support from community, adding more resources, introducing scurm or other lean processes.

We end up with resource efficiency (engineers), today we follow the next problem with throughput.  In every company there are more project, more important things to do than people.

The number of projects we are working on (WIP) is growing. Worst of all is when the project with V.I.P. priority shows up guided by C-Level (board, owner). I saw the company that had assigned more than one project to developer.  I saw the company, which switch from the “only one important” project to another “only one important” project.

As you can guess the work of developers is not easy in such environment.

It reminds me my sister current problem with “developers”. She decided to build a house and so she hired a “crew”. Quite soon, she noticed that the work was not going as fast as she had expected (as scheduled). It turned out that “Team” has learned that from time to time they have to wait for materials (eg. cement, bricks, etc.), or her (the client’s) decision. So the team worked on more than one construction site (sells time to different client) to be fully utilized and to fulfill needs from different clients. Theoretically, a brilliant idea, in practice susceptible to all kinds of “deadline missing” or unforeseen events both positive ( bricks came earlier) and negative (delay in owner decision).

This causes a lot of tension between clients and  the “team”.  It ends up in losing trust. You probably smile now: how many times IT (“team”) is taking orders (“additional work”) from different departments: marketing, sales, CTO, CIO (“clients”).

IT tries to juggle from project to project, so they appear to move forward. Usually not fulfilling its promises, and many of the solutions are makeshift. This situation negatively affects mutual relationships. On the other hand developers themselves are also unhappy because many of their solutions are not implemented,  has poor quality, with technical debt growing exponentially (this is story for another post).

The conclusion is one: it is necessary to control the amount of work performed at the same time. Switching the work kills your productivity. It makes many things “not production ready yet”, and the code not on production is WASTE.

With greater focus we can deliver things much faster and in efficient way, and after delivery move to the next task. We may say that the more things you do at the same time, the less things are done.

Here we have “Little’s Law“, the law is completely unrelated to IT, but it is useful to determine the relationship between work is progress (WIP) and the speed of execution (Lead Time). We can define it as follows:

WIP = λ * LT

Where:

  • WIP = how much task is to do (work in progress)
  • λ = how fast new task comes
  • LT = how much time the task is in queue (on average)

Assuming we have constant processing speed.  As λ can be assumed as proportional to our throughput, which gives us the relation LT = WIP / Throughput. We can conclude that the more tasks we have, the longer it takes to finish them.

Please watch this movie now. After that even my grandmother understand WIP.

This movie reminds me how often we try to accelerate the development of software. We announce deadline and watch if developers can do it (even they are saying it is impossible). The quality of this software is very similar to that what you have just watched. In the end Project Manager comes and say: “hmmm you did it, let’s go faster” 🙂

“Deciding what not to do is as important as deciding what to do.”

Steve Jobs

Let’s remember this: it is worth paying attention to the amount of simultaneous work and the pace of adding a new one.

In this part we focus on work in progress. It shows up from both direction. From the team, which try to utilize their time, and from clients, who tries to push as much work as their can. Stay tuned for final third part.

By the way, as Tech Rebels we help companies go through technical hurdles. Just hire us, and we will bring your organization to next technical level.