Showing posts with label team. Show all posts
Showing posts with label team. Show all posts

Saturday, September 13, 2014

The I in Team (Te-I-AM?)

OK, so we've all heard it... there's no "I" in team. However, if you squint just right, and tilt your head a little to the left... you can see there is a "ME"... which doesn't leave any room for giving credit to you. Shuffling the letters a bit, you can get tea, meat, at, ma, am, mat, mate, tame, item, and so on... however, you're just shuffling the letters, and not adding value. Do you shuffle letters and take credit, or do you really add value?

So, in this brief thought piece, please take some time and ask yourself one simple questions? Are you a team player, or do you shuffle letters that don't add value and then take the credit? I believe humility is one thing that's very undervalued and often overlooked in our society. Leaders lead, they don't focus on constant jockeying to make themselves look better for their next opportunity. That's self promotion and salesmanship, and it often can come at the expense of their team.

Yes, I hear the chuckles... if you don't promote yourself, then who will promote you? My attitude has always been, if your team's doing a great job... then the entire team should get recognized for their contributions. You'll be recognized for your contributions, if your contributions really add value. That recognition may come from above, below, or from a combination of areas. Success stands out from the crowd, or at least it should.

We become stronger leaders by promoting the "true" success of our teams, the "business value" that they add to your organization, and giving credit where it is due. When we lead by example, they we encourage our team to reflect our attitude, ethics, sense of shared responsibility, ownership, and collaboration across the enterprise. Encourage your team to work smarter, not harder... take measured risks, and publicly give the team the credit they deserve. Add value by removing obstacles, coordinating across the enterprise, keeping a pulse on your projects,... roll up your sleeves, and really add value.

You succeed and fail as a team. As a leader, sometimes we need to take responsibility for a failure to lead. That doesn't mean protecting incompetence, that's a different subject, and outside of the scope of this brief piece. Taking responsibility means that you're willing to take measured risks as part of a continuous improvement process. Your staff should be confident that you support them. If they follow best practices, yet misjudge mitigation of a risk from the introduction of changes in your product or processes, they should be confident that they aren't going to become a sacrificial lamb. Risk should be managed and mitigated, not completely avoided. You should publicly acknowledge any incident; explain clearly what happened, and how you plan to mitigate this risk to prevent a recurrence of a similar event in the future.

Let's go back to business value. I like to use the perspective, as draconian as it sounds, if I owned the company, would I be willing to pay another staffer out of my own pocket for doing EVERYTHING that I'm doing? What does the company get back? If I wouldn't pay me, then why am I doing it? (And if you're honest, you already know you have some of these activities, we all have them.) You wouldn't pay a lawn-care company a million dollars to mow your one acre lawn, no matter how good it looks. You'd pay the market rate, and expect a well manicured lawn. You wouldn't want the workers swimming in your pool while they are on the clock, surfing on your computer, or any other of other things that don't improve the looks of your lawn.

There are activities that add value such as team building, because they teach staff to be more productive as a group than they could be as individual workers. I'm definitely not being critical of these type of activities. I'm also not talking about professional development, research, and networking. These are all highly valuable activities that lead to improved skills, processes, methods, and communications. I'm talking about activities that really add no value.

Finally, leaders try to hire people who are the most qualified for their open positions, are capable, share their approach to team work, have the same level of commitment, and take pride in their contributions. Leaders focus on ways to provide stretch opportunities, give frequent constructive feedback on opportunities for improvement, and provide examples where staff are leveraging their strengths. Leaders challenge their team to excel.

So in summary, here's a few thoughts.
  1. Lead by example, not by words.
  2. Promote the accomplishments of your team
  3. Look for continuous improvement and innovate, while mitigating risks. When you fail to mitigate properly, accept responsibility, and use it as a learning opportunity.
  4. Recruit, hire, develop, and retain the best staff.
  5. Focus on continuous process improvement and employee development.
That's it for this brief piece. Hopefully it causes you to think critically in one of the areas I've covered. Ask yourself, are you adding value in all that you do for your team? No squinting is required - approach this with your eyes wide open... be critical... and reflective. Do you see an I, me, or a team?

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

What does it take to succeed?

Team skills and culture play a critical role in the success of projects. I have a group of dedicated developers that leave their egos at the door, and work together as a cohesive unit. We are looking for ways to continually improve our overall skills and improve our processes so we can be more effective in managing our projects. We ask for continuous feedback from our customers and adjust our project trajectory as appropriate. We focus on the little things, and try to monitor the pulse on our project to expose potential surprises early, so we can work with our customers to compensate for these changes. Project success is about focusing on how we add value to our customers, and trying to improve this every day, through an iterative approach.

Regardless of the development technique to which we subscribe, if we don't add value and serve our customers, our techniques, and results, are basically irrelevant. We need sufficient process to predict project outcomes, without constraining our potential for success. We need to use common sense and moderation to identify the correct balance for our individual teams.

Here’s some of my basic observations on what it takes to succeed…
  1. A dedicated team, and an honest feedback loop – the team is organic, and should feel safe to provide feedback on shortcomings, potential for improvement, potential new techniques, and strengths that can be leveraged.
  2. An ego-less culture – staff must be comfortable to brainstorm and provide feedback, regardless of level.  They truly value each other’s opinion, and look for ways to continuously improve processes.
  3. A focus on quality, openness, and customer service.  It means sometimes accepting responsibility, even when you may not agree that you are at fault… as a way to move forward.
  4. Focusing on the customers’ project, and talking on their terms… in their language.  They need a solution which they can embrace and understand, and not a bunch of technical details which are important to deliver the solution... yet are NOT the solution.
  5. Really understanding what the customers’ needs, and asking probing questions to help define and agree up front to the project scope and document the assumptions / specifications so scope creep can be identified.
  6. Prototype to get buy-in from the customers… and work with them to adjust the deliverables, resources, or timeline as appropriate.  If the scope changes, negotiate one of the above variables to keep the project on schedule… and provide immediate feedback on impact to your customer.
  7. Put together a detailed project plan… with a clear critical path… e.g. 1000 hours out of a budget of 2000 may be 10% complete or 50%... if you can’t tell, then break the project plan down further… and also rely on feedback for % effort complete, don’t go by hours alone.
  8. Frequent meetings with your customers to show current progress and get feedback.  You’ll find that they often missed important details as you demo project progress at weekly, biweekly, or monthly meetings.
  9. At every meeting, update your timeline… if there are risks, identify them early, and discuss them with your customer.  I would want to know early if my house won’t be finished for a few more weeks… not after I have the moving van packed and I’m on my way across the state.  Give your customers the same courtesy.
  10. Evaluate new tools and techniques.  Pick some unobtrusive way to test these, and adopt new processes and techniques after you've proved their value.
  11. Find ways to innovate transparently.  One of the recent things we've done is to deploy code without an interface, and off… so we can evaluate performance with the function enabled, and not visible.  It's easier to remove this via a setting, and the customer isn't disappointed because a feature needs refactored to perform at scale.
  12. Recruit and develop your staff for success.  Get staff that share the same dedication to customer service, and make them comfortable in your environment.  Look for team players, and provide them continuous feedback.  Reviews should be a reinforcement of feedback you provide on a daily or weekly basis… and nobody should be surprised… or there is a management failure.
  13. Quality should be part of the process, as should involving customers in the testing and acceptance lifecycle.   It shouldn't be an afterthought.  If we consistently require heroic efforts, then we need to review to see where we have failed in the planning and communications process.
  14. Ownership doesn't end when code is submitted, it’s a lifecycle approach, and shared across the team.  It’s part of that continuous feedback loop.
  15. Recognize your team for their results, and make sure they get the credit that they deserve.
In the end, it’s all about finding the right balance of tools, processes, and techniques to improve the services you provide your customers.  Ask, and get feedback... and be sure that you are capable of humility and openly accepting all comments.... even those for which you may passionately disagree.  Perspective and lens are individual, accountability and goals are not... so keep your eye on the prize and evaluate against measurable results, not effort.