Thursday, 30 December 2010

Agile Myths?? No Agile excuses

My last post for the year. While I will retrospect this year on the Objectives page.. I want to mention that this year has been one hell of a year. One of the farce thing that came and strike me every time this year was the myths that surround Agile...

I drafted a few of the Agile myths or maybe we can say excuses used under the name of Agile... lets see what Agile is not..

1. A requirement document is not Agile, Agile is a discussion you have to build a feature with its flow and pro's and con's over a white board, which you then slice to develop items.

2. Agile is not a requirement that is changing every now and then. It is a requirement that is built with a smaller set of features and then evolved in later releases.

3. A working code is not a complete feature, a part of the demo-able piece that can be improvised.

4. Bad programming to meet deliverables is not agile. Agile instead is a program that can be improved and improvised. And of course same steps / mistakes dont occur again.

5. Agile is about improvising.. not making mistakes as habits.

6. Agile is not just a concept... its a mind set.

7. Agile is not testing what is written, It is testing what is not written.

8. Agile is not just about 2 weeks iterations, kick off's , plans and releases. Agile is about collaboration every day, white boards every week, demo's every few days, feed backs every now and then.

9. Agile is not CHANGE. Agile is improvement, tweaks, functional improvisation.

10. Agile is not FREEZE. Agile is define a Minimum Viable Feature and achieve it in phases.

11. Agile is not INDECISIVENESS. Agile is starting with a shorter sight to build a grand vision.

If Agile is just a process for you, You should be dead by now.. if you ain't you will surely die. Agile is a life style.

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Will products ever outdate Online Help and be Innovative?

Huh? From Management to Online help, never an easy journey... I speak because I am completely pissed off setting up my machine with a developer environment and do some pair development with my kids.. (Thanks to @rishanimates for setting up a version of eclipse on my machine that works) . So I use one of the most popular mobile development platform, dump the SDK so i can get a fresher work on some idea and then he gets stuck... we refer various online help manuals and example's available together and believe me.. what we need is what we don't get... so then a manual of 10K pages is in front of me and I have to refer to it to find that one piece which probably is not even listed there... moreover I also have to find the right word in context so I can get to the relatively closer contextual page... The whole process takes me ages and I am still left with no answer...

While doing this I am constantly reminded of Google's early year acquisition [], a bot , a service that lets me ask questions and get answers socially. Now imagine if your users asks questions within your product and get answers to them from within your product users??? well you don't need to build a unused piece of constantly maintenance needing element.

Well the day is not far... when I was reviewing a Harvard Business Archive article on How to Stop trying to delight your customers I came across Virtuoz .. a virtual agent that answers basic questions and reduces the load of your Customer Services... of course increases your loyalty points with your customers... but then why not take a step further... instead of maintaining a data of support queries... why not let the community build this data and questions? of course with a view of moderated answers?

Here is how I think it would work....

1. User adds a bot to his IM or sees a link on your application.
2. He hits it and asks a questions
3. A bit of AI and it sorts a lists of matching questions asks to confirm
4. Meanwhile goes in the back end and fetches a response to some of the answers a preview of which is up to the user to select
5. Both questions and answers are stored.
6. Admin piece to moderate and update the Questions and Answers database
7. 2nd Version to let user select an option of product area or type of question and then guides to appropriate question and answer.. like a IVR that you face on phone when you call your banks, Airline etc

Hmmm sounds yummy... then is it a question of how much time to build? well with the options available it looks to be a sweet deal... Google App Engine of course...

Have a look at XMPP Driven mechanisms I maybe the last one to think that this can work best for several products... but it sounds real and value driven...

Looking for a fresh mind to help me do this... Are you ready?

Now do you think you can enhance your help files and be more interactive with your customers... make them feel like they are getting help real time?

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

What is blocking your Innovation Path?

I was questioned by a colleague yesterday, a question I determine to answer through this blog post. The question was "do you remember of any Innovations we did in the last 2 years?". My answer is NOT REALLY. And I have no hesitation in saying this. I think while the whole world is claiming on Developers been Gods - @Scobleizer in his latest post, How Facebook is made by Developers - Techcrunch, And how Google Dev community is the maximum value driver in Innovation. While there are success stories of how developers really make the future of Innovation bright in any organization... I think many of them forget to mention the determination from the Management, The Vision to Innovate, The attitude to learn from failures, and the readiness to accept failures, the faith in developer community and last but not the least the work load on your teams. I believe there are multiple more elements that drive Innovations... many of them written in the posts previously written.

My answer to the question raised is going to come in a series of blog posts, while this post is going to be focused on the Agileness as a potential blocker to Innovation. Please note that I see Agility as a potential blocker only. So the short and frequent but shippable product takes the precedence, the Team get busy in finishing the tasks planned for Iterations, their visibility to the product and the vision is limited to the set of iterations and releases. Obviously if you are going to have a busy team of developers just working to get a feature right out of the developer machine to the customer, they are going to loose an important element of their attitudes... Innovation.

In my experience agility has all potential reasons to create enough blockages to Innovations... here is why:

1. Multiple short and frequent releases mean that those releases are focused to get small issues / bugs fixed for your customers, maybe some small features that are likely to help your product improve. This means that the focus of your team is on that release and those set of small items. Development or Product teams, both are going to fence themselves into the barriers of those monthly / 2 monthly release cycles.

2. Yes the quality and the speed of development increases with effective agility, but then it also increases the iterations in building requirements, delivering those requirements to a complete set of functional piece. All in all you are working fast and quality, but with no newness.

3. Products may have roadmaps, however the long term features that are going to be a part of your 1-2 years roadmap is not getting resourced. Majority of your discussions are restricted to what is coming in the next release, and many times it is doing something this release to win a deal. Majority of times these items that are big chunky development or Innovation pieces get outdated, Thanks to the market conditions, Technology updates or competitors.

4. If you are catching up, You are not Innovating. A major set of companies/products who tend to catch up with competition have failed to be ahead in the race, as they are always in a mode of catchup.. they are making their Teams to work on those things that the competition has and that is taking the energy out... remember this catching up never ends... I see this race for Myspace... though the new Myspace is really nice.. I believe it is just trying to catch up with Facebook... same thing happening around with Yahoo for instance. So while you are busy catching up with 1 competitor... a whole bunch of competition is busy not catching up with you instead Innovating... Imagine what would happen if you want to catch up with RT like function of Twitter, Like like function of Facebook, A gooogle like search , A Quora like simplicity.... Gosh.. you gonna be One hell of a busy Team.

5. Innovation is not copying. SAP-Oracle is a recent example. If you are busy copying features, you are taking your product years back.. because that is when those products started thinking of it, and did it. In the process of agility many people tend to copy smaller set of features into short releases... this causes Teams to defocus.

6. Innovation is not 1 person telling and other people doing. You cant just free up 1 person to tell you what your product needs... there is a whole lot to do. Agility drives responsibility of Product Innovation on a few less. This is one big trouble... if you dont have 100 ideas every moment, you are going to work on 1 Idea which is probably not well validated or Innovative.

7. Iterative Freeze is needed... One of the problem of been agile is that there is always a backlog... believe me or not.. run an eye on past few releases of your agile team and see the amount of backlogs, Technical debts... many of these are due to the indecisive, iterative feedback sets. One or the other team member will have one or the other change and this change is going to get a lolly in your backlog.

Having said this.... I also want to say that some of these issues can still be tackled to keep the Innovation momentum up in a agile Team. A few of my thoughts...

A. Have streams of development. 1 that focus on short term goals, another that is always working on Innovation items with a longer release plan. This is not catching up though. Had Facebook tried to get into the Phone market, they would have lost focus from the Social Business, the vision of which is to be Social leader and not collaborative struggler.

B. Leave Agile teams with lull releases. Yes everyone wants CUSTOMER DELIGHT. But keep a set of releases empty.. so your teams get time to breathe...this breathing period can really help them Innovate.

C. Small inputs can turn into Big Innovations.. Promote and Provoke your agile team members to Innovate.. Appreciate the items they do on their own... If they are taking you away from your product vision, Guide them but dont reject them hard. Recently a developer bought a cool module for customizable design and formatting. This input was bought down with a statement that it is not needed for the product, Disappointed developer kept another cool Idea of real time previews undisclosed.

D. Make agility your strength, not your weakness... Break up your Innovations into smaller phases, instead of going on a all out war on it. If you are able to get a cool thing for your product increasing the customer UVP.. even if it comes in phases.. Your speed can get things in time, your attitude and quality will give perfection to your Innovation. people will like it. As YT said...Think whatever you do is your Version 1.0 while 2.X is waiting in queue.

E. Imbibe a Innovation culture... Not a THIS IS NOT YOUR JOB CULTURE. If Facebook is successful it is because it has a great Team to support great Ideas and great vision. Unlike Yahooo whose better technology just cant be met by its product ideas and vision. Unlike Myspaces scalability that just is useless as the product doesnt have a great usability and vision further. Unlike Zoho's apps whose Technology is just not able to catch up the cool features and usability of the product...

Now.. that you are one hell of a Agilist.. take a step back, retrospect how Innovation is going in your Team.. and take a leap to improvise the Innovation process.... Let Agility be your glucose in this short sprint.

Monday, 29 November 2010

Is your code demanding Euthanasia?

Been a while on the blog... I am spending some of my time reviewing the styles and mistakes developers do while coding. The blog post was awaited, but the only reason I write it over today is the movie I saw 2 weeks ago. The topic revolved around Euthanasia - Mercy Killing . No I don't advocate it nor I have any reason to promote it. The only reason I write the blog post is the reason defined above... During my review of the code and coding standards and general mistakes programmers do while writing the code, i found places (bunch of them) where thoughts limited to today and tomorrow are aligned. This unfortunately is true for some really popular open source frameworks too. With all this in action I am forced to say that their code sooner or later would demand a Euthanasia...Though I want to say that every single line of code needs to evolve... there is a huge difference between refactoring and re-writing.

Many of the products undergo re-writes, many of them between 2-5 years of the first line written... I remember of one that happened 3 years ago[I don't want to discuss it in this forum]. When these products undergo the process, they are simply killed, there is no scope of donations of working organs too. When you speak to people whose code may be on a verge of death, they may well stand to defend it, there will be several excuses and arguments but the reality is... in the fast paced product development we are building a baby who years down is going to ask for Euthanasia. So what really determines your code needs that? What makes you realize it is moving towards that? How to stop it? How not to add to its troubles?

So many questions... here are a few of my cents, for the coders, product owners, stake holders, technologists

Your code will demand Euthanasia if :

1. You are writing your code for today or a feature limited to today.
2. You are a coder and you only see the SRS document and nothing beyond..
3. If you do not follow coding standards, just so you can deliver in time..
4. You are not re-visiting some legacy code in pieces once every few weeks or months at the least.
5. You believe in quick development and no code reviews
6. You only talk about code quality, but when it comes to writing it... you are arguing about the if's and then's...
7. You think

Email.from = "";

is what you think a good way of writing code.
8. The elements of your program are requirement document and hard work only.
9. You have not evolved it more than once over a period of time. Be it days, months, weeks, years.
10. You think scalability is only adding servers, robustness is writing interfaces doing same things, re-usability is copy and paste.

Many many more , small but such things... lead your code to Euthanasia.. today or tomorrow.

So what should you do to help your code?

1. When you write it, make sure you see the future of it and past of it
2. Make sure you review it yourself, and then get it reviewed by at least one another eye
3. Make sure you create robustness by checking boundaries
4. Make sure you evolve, refactor
5. Make sure you sandwich it in multiple test scenarios and unit tests.
6. Make sure you document it, so when some one discovers your dinosaur age code, he wont run away from your company.
7. Make sure you have applied the best possible standards.
8. Make sure you own it. Re-visit it some times just to see if you can improvise it, even if it is not most required.

Well We all are responsible to save our code from asking for a Mercy killing... our hard earned credits to best performing features deserve a long lasting code too...

Monday, 15 November 2010

Hire - Only if you find the fire

Hiring is always a challenge, You never are sure if you have found the right guy or not. This quest of convincing yourself that you did not make a mistake in hiring someone, never ends. never ever ends. Its not just about the technical skills or the ability to deliver in a person that determine whether you have found your right guy... its the attitude...A few weeks ago we have been doing rounds of interview to fill in positions in our teams for some products , believe me this is the toughest part of the life cycle, finding and hiring.

All through these weeks you would see
1. Those glossy resumes - That lack lustre of talent
2. The tremendous talent on paper - That crumbles like dust, the moment you ask a question
3. The terrific blabbering that gets one shortlisted through the HR cycles but the answer you are looking for is lost in those rounds and rounds of talks without meaning

ufffff... so much really. Yes its hard to find the right people... specially when you have to think of building a future with and for them... so then what should we look for in those 2 - 4 hrs of discussions we have with someone who we don't even know? while we know that we are thinking of building foundations of great future with them...

When we go hiring... we look for the following:

Will vs Want
Is the person willing to work on what you work or wanting to work on what you work... makes a tremendous difference... if somebody is just going to take working with you as a job, he may be looking out for a change in next 2 yrs. So then how would one WANT to work with you if he doesn't even know what you do? Leave it to the person, let him find about you, let him explore you... I like those interview's very much where after we are done with our part of discussions the candidate grills us about the product, company, role , challenges , what's and how's...

How much you know v/s How well you know
We had a chat a day before about a candidate not knowing certain frameworks that we use, question arised because one of our team members asked a question "He doesnt know X, Y and Z, so what is he going to do then?" . My belief is that it doesn't matter on how many frameworks or technologies you know... if you know the ones you have been working on very well then you are fit to do a task as long as you can begin with those skills. Eventually I remembered that even our architect's were not aware of certain frameworks that we use, when they joined us...

Want v/s need
Again... a lot of guys want to work on new technologies... it doesn't matter what you want... because every one wants matters on what you have done so far to fulfill that want... that passion determines the fire within you. I hate people who claim that they are switching jobs because there current products / companies do not let them work on new technologies... "If your passion is your own liability, how are you going to be an asset for the team you work?"

Cool v/s Calm , Fire v/s Heat
How cool you are with the attitude, yet how calm you are when it comes to patience? How much fire you have to make something happen is important than how early you start cribbing.

A few of the things that form critical element on our evaluation when we hire... a few more things that we look at are listed here..... HOW TO FIND A RIGHT GUY just in case you want to read through....

But just before you release your offer... take 5 mins, think over , rewind the interview process.... and find if this person has the fire that can help your Team shine... I also think that it makes sense to video record the meeting so you can go back and view the video again and again and find out if the guy you are going to hire is the one with most and best FIRE within.

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Teach you Customer Services rep to help your product succeed

Triiiiiiiiiing Triiiiiiiiiiiiiiiing... "Hello, Good Evening. I am XXXX speaking from YYY, How may I help you?- From the other end

"I am Sameer, and I am calling to enquire about the letter I received from your company about the added bonus for my holiday package, that I have to confirm...
blah blah blah... several questions later.. a simple answer "I am very sorry Sir... we are not informed about this package or bonuses, I will check with my Senior and get back to you in a few days"
I said OK. 3 days later.. I make another call... A different CS rep, but the same answer... the system however shows that I have made a enquiry and am awaiting a reply... today morning I make another desperate call and this time after speaking to 3 levels of CS I am still un-answered... as the CS reps and their seniors are not aware of the product they have launched and the several features around it.... I was a happy customer a few weeks ago, now I am seriously thinking if I am in SAFE HANDS or I am using the RIGHT PRODUCT or not.

Is this the same experience you get when you get in touch with a Customer Service representative? Well maybe yes.. So what's the deal about CS representatives not able to detail features of the product, explain or answer your queries around the feature? The answer is really simple.... While various companies are using SOCIAL MEDIA to improvise the customer services experience for their customers a major set of products and companies still choose to go with the traditional mode of handling customers... The CS still relies on a user manual, a support call, an online help.. many times they are there on the hot line just to SOLVE CUSTOMER problems. But can they solve customer issues if they themselves are not aware of the product?

Well the answer is NO... Your customer services dept needs to know, How to use the product, what it is made for, and provide tips and tricks to the customers when they need it. It's very important that the CS knows the in's and out's of the product and is more or less as close to the development and Product teams as the computers are close to Geeks. So how does one really get their CS to know what's and how's of their product?

1. Discuss requirements with them, pre development phase
2. Involve them in early stage demo's, right when the product are in the design phase, even wire frame phase
3. Have a development stream for the issues they face.. A set of developers that work only on problems that they face as hot calls. These are not bugs.
4. Free them up from regular hot line's, Ask them to explore the product. A weekly session where a product wire is discussed with product Management, CS and Development teams is the ideal way to help explore to correct details.
5. Ask them to write user manuals, online help
6. Ask them to conduct demo's for the customers..
7. Plan 2-3 product demo's for the customers... so as many customers and end users get trained on your product
8. Wire them with super roles, so they can learn to get around.
9. Ask them to write a FAQ of issues and resolutions.. half of the CS time can be saved and knowledge shared if the CS teams shares the data of problems and resolutions.
10. Swirl the CS Teams on project set ups, so they know and document how and what customers use it....

Well these are very few but individual ways of getting your CS Teams to know the best of your product... so the next time they receive a call from an angry customer... he keeps the call, just to open his mailbox and write back to say..."We love your product"...

I thought of putting a few case studies of some successful models, where end users were very happy about the products they use, and I am sure the CS plays a very important role here...

1. Amazon : Amazon has a very aggressive development model, they begin writing a release note. Of course the release notes are not key here, what is key here is that the documents attached with the release notes of the product feature is definitely a part of the CS Training material. So if your CS is writing the user manuals, online help, training material even before the product is ready.. your CS is surely an empowered Product Team.

2. Oracle - Autovue : I have always received emails about webinars conducted by Oracle's Autovue team.. many times these webinars feature very specific training to end users on how to use certain features of the product. I realised in one of the webinars that one of the CS Team members I was dealing with earlier was a part of such webinar.. Amazing isnt it?

So does your CS Team know your product well? Can they also sell Happiness to your customers? Can they convince the customer that they can quickly solve their issues and even if not.. they dont let them go unanswered? Well if the answer to any of your question is NO... You need to work on a strategy to make your CS aware of your product... Go rush, cause you are very late. After all they are the face of your company....

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Where is your Chief Happiness Officer?

I started my day today answering a phone call from an old time friend, who was pretty unhappy about his current job and was re-locating in search of a great new job to another city. I was forced to think about the general unhappiness that gets created in the day to day cycle at any organization... some people unhappy about work, some about roles, some about compensations, some about environments, some about everything and some about nothing... with me recently having the performance appraisal reviews with most of the Team members, I understand how for certain member a small piece of unpleasantness leads to unhappiness...Then it forced me to review my role into the Team and company.... I see that every company has

CEO - To Manage the Executive actions
CFO - to Manage the Finance piece
CTO - To Manage the Technology piece
COO - To Manage the Operations piece...

Why do organizations not have the CHO? The Chief Happiness Officer? The Executive who can make strategic decisions to keep the employees Happy... Yes.. a role strong enough to do things that would work towards improvising the behaviours, attitudes and help support the employees be Happy... Some argued that the Human Resources should take of this... I strongly disagree.... Human Resources is purely designed to handle recruitment, resource policies etc a few of the tasks that Human resources do, keep them so busy with these tasks that issues related to people and their happiness is not even close to get attended... Smaller companies can afford to have their Sr. Managers take care of Happiness and HR things... but for bigger organizations... a must have is a role that will strive to create Happiness against all odds in the Team.

So then what is this role going to do? Lets define the responsibilities of the Chief Happiness Officer :

1. Responsible to ensure Team delight.
2. Should be organizing a chart and a plan for Team events, including Lunches and Dinners and Parties and outings and workshops
3. Should ensure work place and work culture is kept pleasant
4. co-ordinate effort to organize cross location and Team integrations
5. Primary responsibility is to bring smile on faces in the company
6. Organize sessions for Team building and delight spreads...

Want to add more? Now do you find anyone in your Team who does that? Well you dont need to Hire a new person right away for this.... but if you want to work the way great companies work... its important that you keep your people Happy..... and compensation, benefits, perks and goodies are not the only way to keep people Happy.... Go make one of your team members who is passionate about spreading happiness.. and make him your CHIEF HAPPINESS OFFICER... if you dont have one.... BE ONE

Monday, 8 November 2010

Build to the end and decide when to Release....

Attended the iDilute meeting last weekend, a meeting with some 6-7 odd highly energetic and intellignet brainstormers... One of the topic of discussion was around the success of various startups and products in todays competitive markets. While brainstorming products , methodologies , product management and development teams.. we discussed the best approaches that work for each of them. One of them i couldnt just stop myself from wiring over here... A topic that gets you in the war zones... How to decide your release dates...

Release dates Huh?, I believe a very instrumental element in the success of Product Management and ofcourse development teams.. So how do most of the products or companies define what they are releasing and when? Simple... They analyse the market, they find the feature that their customers like / need / want , They define the spec, they estimate , they plan a release date, they create a WBS , they scope and descope the features and wants and must haves, they start working on it and on the scheduled release date they release it[Most times this is a changed date]. In the middle a lot of things change... sometimes requirements, some times markets, sometimes products and sometimes visionaries... most of the time its time that changes, its customers demands that changes... a major killer in this approach is that the expectation changes... I realise when we started working in August '09 on the product we launched this year.. the expectation was to have a JUST new UI, when it reached towards its mid-phase the expectation changed to a MOST POWERFUL UI, when the delivery date neared the expectation was we are building THE MIRACLE PRODUCT. In the end satisfaction when compared with expectations is always 1: 1 milion , and you know which way it goes.... So then how do companies like Facebook work? How do they keep up to the expectations of their customers? How do they bring great features consistently and effectively... This meeting enlightened me of a smarter way they work... One of the attendees who also happens to be an ex-employee of #FB explained the approach of "Build to the end and release" i.e. Work on your product/module till it has neared the completion and then decide when to release it.

Smart, isnt it? pull a roadmap, punch an estimate for every feature [As a project] start working with the plan, be as much agile as you can, define requirements , evolve and once it is ready.. go ahead and say it is going to be ready in XXX days... then let the product team plan the communication and the release date.. Well so much of headache's it avoids for strong , disciplined agile teams...where features are built by what they are meant to do and not by how much we can fit in to the neck of development time available... The quorum debated over this, almost half of the attendees been the traditional managers for whom the only way to complete the thing was to plan it to th end... yet.. I found some real good points in this approach...

1. We all know that our poject costs overshoot the budgets - If you tell me you have always managed within budgets, I have to say you are lying.
2. We all know requirements change - Even if your spec writer is your own customer who wants what he writes.
3. We all know that we like to change and tweak , sometime reform what we built - Even if we say that there exists a CR procedure
4. We all know that we change scope, time or cost to achieve what we planned - Even if we say we did it right.
5. We all know that there are a bunch of angry , unhappy customers sitting there - Even if we write testimonials on our websites.
6. We all know we are atleast 10 years late - Even if we claim we are the first to reach there

When we know we do all of this...then isnt build until you done and then fix expectations a better approach? I remember how much i cursed this approach when one of the Product contact we use was not telling us the release date for the third party viewer software we were using for the Version 20 of their release... I wondered how they managed millions of users and hundreds of big clients... only to learn this year, that if you have to give out quality, you have to accept facts of development attitudes.

Now.. back to reality? Will this approach be adapted by smaller companies? By companies who has a shouting customer who will not renew their contract if X thing is not delivered by Y date? Well the decision is not on can this be done... the decision is Do we want quality....

I wish to trigger this some day, maybe not today... tomorrow definitely.

Thanks to the iDilute forum.

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Romancing Confusion!!!

To enlighten your souls, I had to confuse you by putting such title... Indeed you are confused now on why you landed up on this blog, and are reading it... when all you were expecting is either a porn star giving a blow job video or some Management Guru giving some Gyaan (Knowledge) on Project Management...

BTW its not bad to be confused... for those who think been confused is a sign of being an IDIOT, or Unprofessional.. I want to tell you that IT ISN'T. Confusion is a state of mind where evaluation of creativity or decisions begin. It is one thing that lets you explore good and bad things of your decision or action.

A girl after been proposed by her boyfriend is confused whether she should marry or not.. makes her creative juices in mind think of several things and help her make a decision with which her mind is ready to accept it. A confused state of mind is that state of mind where you dont know what is the answer to a problem, issue or a situation.. This is the situation when you think more creatively on the solutions.. The confused stage is a situation of mind like the duck travelling over a pond... one set of mind is telling you that you are confused and the other set of mind running miles and paddling hard to find a solution...

There would have been no great Inventions if the Newtons and Einsteins were not in a confused state of mind.. If Columbus was not confused on the way to discover the world he would have never reached a coast.. Confusion brings the creativity within you out to be recognized by a smarter solution...

So if you are confused about your new product feature or Idea, Romance this confusion.. let it remain for a while so that it lets you think creatively and take a wise decision.

If you have a confused brain in your meeting room, be it.. because maybe he is thinking smartly and is the next Evan Williams..

Of course don't let confusion take over everything.. because if you do that You are going to be tagged all over your life as an IDIOT...

Romance your confusion and try to make love to the solutions of your problems... Confusion is a state that will show you the right path.

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Clear Ownership

So much depends on this one element called Ownership. When one takes up the ownership he defines himself to a spectrum and to ensure that the ownership results in an output that fulfils and extends the organizational goals. When the same ownership is enforced, it results in a potential and disastrous failure.

When you are working with the products, there has to thus clear definitions of Ownership. The Product Owner for business requirements, The developer for Quality of the code and product, A project manager for the Project Management and the entire Team for the USP and success of the Product. Empowered teams are more prone to take stronger ownerships... they are the ones you would find doing more than what is expected at the cost of there own times, they are the one who you would find fighting for the betterment of the product.

Cultures that have tried to entrust empowerment of Teams have resulted in better results at the same time cultures that have taken the path of control have failed mid-term. Next time you work with a Team.. remember....

Empowerment brings the sense of Ownership. Clear Ownership is a result of Trust and effort put behind the empowered Teams....

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

The 25th hour

Do you ever feel that you have 1 hour less in the day? and that if you have had 1 hour more you could have done much much better?

Do you think that the 25th hour is what keeps you away from doing and getting things done?
Do you think that if you get extra hours you would get would help you complete all your pending items?
Do you think that stealing such an extra hour from your schedules is what will make you an effective time organizer?

Well if the answer to any or all of the above questions is YES.. then you are thinking like ME and believe me YOU ARE COMPLETELY WRONG... Of the last few months I have realised that there is no EXTRA hour which is the 25th hour in the day which will help you complete your tasks. This 25th hour comes at the cost of :

1. Your family time
2. Your rest time
3. Your sleep
4. Your exercise time or your leisure time

And in an attempt to make those extra hours available you sacrifice and disorganize yourself so much that the 24 hours become too less.. Anyways to conclude.. if you want to be a better time planner... make sure you do not depend on the extra hour.

However there is a 25th hour in every day. Many of us dont realise this, many of us dont care or bother about it. Many of us dont want to benefit from it. This 25th hour is that part of the hour where you are at your best in whatever you do.

I get this 25th hour every day.. and this is the time when I am at the best of my spirits. I use this hour to pray, read , learn , write and prepare myself for the next day which is going to bring a big bunch of challenges to me. This is that part of your day where you do things that can be finished in days and hours and months and years.. in minutes..

Well for you guys who find it challenging to manage your hours for your hobbies and passion, there is never an extra hour for you, but you look it with the right attitude and keep patience there is always that 25th hour waiting for you.. All you need to do is FIND IT...

Monday, 6 September 2010

Why Yammer works!!!

A few months ago we ignited a YAM into our system, a system where collaboration was key.. we had our development Team split between Pune, Chennai , Brentford, Wales, SFO and our product teams split in Germany, France and US. You can imagine that with such a distributed development Team it is not easy to manage effective communication and collaboration. Forget about effective at certain times even communication is not easy...

Yammer came to be a respite to our Team.. A microblogging platform, that works for your organization, has a set of handy apps to help you effectively use it at the same time has a cool set of Integration. Though we havent found ourselves to be the spamming users of Yammer we have definitely seen ourselves to be using it effectively.

Now no matter where our Team are we tell each other :

1. What we are doing
2. Where we are stuck at any point of time
3. We share some special Team moments , some announcements and sometimes even jokes and laughs.
4. We now know what our colleagues are doing
5. We know where they are stuck
6. We now have an easy way then sending an email and waiting for X person to respond.
7. We found a way to YAM now instead of asking someone to ask someone to ping someone...

Yammer is really effective and helps collaboration smoother and in easier way. There are Desktop clients for both Linux and Windows that let our developers across platforms use it. We got Black berry client for it, we have the browser version for those who dont want there CPU leaks to such apps, we sometimes switch to twitter and put a #yam to keep our Team in touch.

In the last few days we are using Groups effectively. So within the organization various groups like OPS and Project Teams now use groups to update. We now intend to use communities effectively where the Idea is to bring the Customer Services , Sales, Operations, Marketing everyone involved under different communities.. this would make them more collaborative and give more visibility of what is happening around.

How to set Yammer for your Team?
1. All you need a valid domain and email address on the domain to start with.
2. Visit
3. Create a Organization with your valid email address.
4. Receive an invitation and confirm.
5. Fill in your Profile details as in Age, Sex etc.
6. Invite other users with the email addresses that are on the same domain, wait for them to join.

How not to fail Yammer for you?
1. Keep on updating it.
2. Chat , Interact do not spam.
3. Use the apps and tools like gtalk integration, RSS feeds , BB app, Desktop app as you surely would not use the browser version for very long.
4. Dont be a spectator. Be interactive.
5. Yammer is not to monitor people. It is to interact with them. So if you are a manager use the tool to involve.
6. Share , Share and Share

Well if you are a development Team, Distributed .... You surely gonna like this.
Yam baby Yam.

India Enterprise

Vivek Wadhwa's article on Techcrunch shows the growing entrepreneurship in India and I just cant agree more... India Inc is growing, and this is not just in the field of Information Technology and Entrepreneurship but various other streams... A change is midway and this change is really very very significant and of course overwhelming... This also reminded me of Sunil Khaire a dear friend and I believe one of the regulars at my blog, who sent me an email that was a snippet of the blogpost written by the famous Bollywood / Hollywood director Shekhar Kapur.. labelled A Blackberry Addict. It shows Enterprise India all over... start your day and have a quick interaction with the milkman and end your day driving back to home through the security gates of your neighborhood. India is automated many places, moreover the attitude of India at grass root level is turning highly enterprise...

3 events happened in the last few days and I can just tell you that the effect is not just at building new products and technology ... but at a granular level.. and the contribution to India Enterprise is coming from many sections of society.

Event 1 :
Morning 03:00 AM.. drizzles outside, everyone at home fast asleep.. my phone kept on silent mode, lucky enough kept very close to a steel glass starts vibrating and the effect been a bit high wakes me up.
I pick the phone "Heeeeelllllo"..
from the other end "Sameer, I am very sorry I have to call you now" - A friend from my school time
"No problem, what's up?" - Me
My Friend : "You wont believe this, I am very near to your place and am stuck on the road, I was planning to drive out of city for some personal work, and this car has just given up"
Me : "Alright, where are you I am coming, maybe I will find someone garage mechanic to see if he can help"
My Friend : "Dont worry, Just come along, I called XXXX CS, The mechanic was here and they said it needs the car in the workshop and it wont fix now. And anyways 3 AM its not going to happen. I will push my travel back, you just pick us and drop us home"
Me : "OK"

On my way to pick him up, I knock the doors of a scooter garage, this 19 yr old kid has been amazing, he had got me fix my flat tyres 3-4 times, he had fixed our 2 wheeler almost 8-10 times, he is reasonable and he seems to know the nerves of the engine welll....

We 2 reach the destination, I get this guy look at the car, inspite of resistance from my friend. He checks the car, tries to give a kick start, does a external ignition.. no luck. My friend who is in a bad mood.. says.. get us home, let the car be here... bit worried about leaving the car on a highway with the mechanic from the Car company, who said he will tow it. In the meantime.. this guy opens the bonnet, lets the oil pipe go loose, drops a few drops of oil on the road. Pulls the oil vein back to the source and asks my friend to try the ignition...

Booooooooooooooooom... The car starts. Cant tell you how happy I was, it just saved me a 20 mile drive 2 ways in the early morning hours.

My friend asks him : "How did you do this?, the Car company could not fix it and they were going to tow it to the workshop for some serious work"
This guy replies "Next time when you are filling oil, make sure you shake the vehicle for a while"
Me "What?"
Him "Yes, every time the petrol pump guys put the nossel in, they get some air in the fuel tank, this air accumulates and with it reaches the point where it is just about to enter the engine, it creates a vacuum and then you have such trouble"
Me "Are you sure"
Him "Yes"
My Friend "This is not given in any manual's... will this vehicle be up and running"
He : "If they knew this, we guys would have died hungry"

Amazing, a few million worth car, who has a trained engineer could not get this fixed as opposed to the 19 yr old school drop out, who shows how much he knows about the core of the system.

Event 2 :
A couple of our product Managers were in the city for having critical discussions, as usual we order a working lunch for 3 days, but this day we get late in discussions forgetting to order... we decide to go order some wraps, as they could be quick... Elite trigger in mind.... Fasoos a tasty wrap joint that has bunch of branches in the city... and I know that they have something called Tweet2Order.. I tweet them my order and 25 minutes a delivery right at office with some awesome food. 1 week ago a friend used there on the wheel delivery and he get some delicious food delivered to the Railway station as he missed lunch before traveling and he could get some real food in the Train instead of waiting for a station to get down and pick up some food... Isn't this amazing?

Event 3 :
As a weekend gateway, Family decides to take a drive to a one day trip to a beach. Early morning we get on the roads, kids holding there Nintendo DS to keep them entertained. 10 miles on the highway, the gadget gets off... we think its the charger.. so we pull up a converter so the gadget get's charged... 30 miles kids start screaming... now we need to look at something that will help us get that gadget working or atleast find a way to convince the kids that it wont be available any soon. We stop at a electrical shop to check if they have a replacement battery. A man in his late 40's attends me.
Me : You think you have a Nintendo battery?
Him : No, I don't think we have this
Me : OK.. do you know anything that I can get around.
Him : Not in this town or any nearby place.. you have to go back to Pune.
Me : OK... Thanks.
Him : Show me, let me take a look if I can get this working.
Me : No its OK. its expensive and I have got it from US. I dont want it to be damaged. I will find a way to get it fixed.
Him : Don't worry Sir.. It wont be bad
Me : OK..

I hand him the device. He opens it, takes a soldering machine, does some checks, pulls a string or 2.. Meanwhile I ask him a few question and learn that the guy has not even finished his 2nd grade of studies, he could not even read or understand the instructions given on the device... eventually except the local language he could not even speak anything. He focus while I blankly look at him... 30 minutes , he adds a attachment like looking device which looks like to me as a bunch of alkaline batteries. Booooom it switches on. He charges me 200 bucks, 50 as his consulting fees, 150 as the cost of device. He tells me that I should use a converter from X to Y volts only as the device is meant for a low voltage and in India the plugs give more volts. Hmmm.. I think of the Wii, Xbox, Blackberry, Playstation 3 of which had been purchased in the UK or US. Did the guy just saved me a couple of thousands and ofcourse the effort to search for a service center? moreover the potential stress....

Isnt India Enterprise growing in all sectors? We have more knowledge about the Technology and this knowledge is effectively put to work. Isnt this a sign of growth.. maybe near future will see many innovations that would come out of this knowledge and service control. This is simply amazing... India is on its way.... The RIGHT WAY

P.S : The post was drafted in September, but edited with a few more additions that happened across October..

Saturday, 4 September 2010

Focus on your competition to FAIL!!!!

A lot of people think that keeping your competition in view is necessary for your business to succeed, a majority of this lot thinks that focusing on them means focusing on yourself.. in turn your too much focus on competition leads to SHIT your own quality...

Today I tweeted about something and could not stop myself from focusing on writing this blog away... I put my tweet below

When your focus is on competition, your quality is going SHIT. 5 yrs later#wadeshwar seems to have lost touch#pune #foodie

Yes.. After a long time, I took my time to shop for kids on the other side of the city. We happened to spent all our afternoon shopping hence hungry stomach's we decided to take a food break. Eventually of the Fergusson College Road specials like Vaishali Restaurant , Roopali Restaurant we chose the Wadeshwar (The first time I had been here was almost 5 yrs ago). The first few times and the few years later whenever I had been to this place I really enjoyed the food.

Now that the area surrounding this restaurant has further been crowded with several fast food restaurants, it seems that the competition on this road has tremendously increased. Eventually the competition has also changed the menu and the service.. in order to attract and accommodate crowd the sitting arrangement has been compressed, menu changed to challenge the competition... Finally I see that the authenticity and the ethnicity of this restaurant has been converted to a mix of the whole lot of restaurants that surrounds it. Terrible I must say.

It is no different to what is happening in the world of Internet... Google in attempt to focus on competition created by Facebook ended up investing and failing Buzz, Orkut. Facebook in order to take up the location based market ends up building Facebook Places (I believe this will fail). The Apple Ping is up to tackle change possessed by Twitter and Music world...

The result of all this focus is copy-over of features , unrequited competition, Race to cover market share and what not... but surely they don't realise that

1. Over the years Google is no more the ONLY favourite for people
2. Facebook grew but the growth is nearing the beginning of a negative line
3. Twitter growth is no more rocketing...
4. Be it Microsoft or be it Apple they are not sky rocketing or going to stop rocketing sooner or later...

Many such examples where it is clear that if you are busy keeping your focus on competition, you are going to end up creating a SHIT for yourself.

Friday, 3 September 2010

A Healthy environment!!!

The success of your teams depend on how healthy environment you create for them to work. A healthy environment is where they speak there mind without hesitation, where they move around without fear, where they challenge , where they question, where they ask, where they demand.

A healthy environment empowers freedom , Innovation , fun and laughter.. above all it develops a respect within.. The Team that likes each other is the Team that moves forward. The Team that loves each other is the Team that knows how to win.

A healthy environment spreads the positivity in the Team and helps people understand and achieve greater goals.

So if you are a part of any Team.. see how you can build a healthy environment.. an environment where problems and issues are seen as opportunities. Where troubles are seen as a way to gather experience, where pressure is seen as a way to relax, where learning is seen as oxygen, where Innovation is seen as life.

Lets build one for ourselves, and one for all of you wherever you are!!!!

Thursday, 2 September 2010

Marry your blog first!!!

Kari and me discussed a day ago on how to manage time to maintain the blog. I realize that yes it indeed is.. very very difficult to manage time to keep the spirit and the blog updated. But in the end it is your commitment towards your blog that defines and shows how much you value it and how much time you spend with it. While I am in a humorous mood these days and also am understanding the dynamics of great relationships.. I thought it will be easier to put blogs and relationships together...

So the Seth Godin's , Arrington's and Om Malik's are those names in the Internet world who have married to there blogs.. and believe me they are very successful marriages. These are the guys who take blogging like marriage and blogs as their wives, result? you see quality post, medley gaps, but a very successful venture.. In Internet world a lot of people call these people Professional blogger.

So what is it that keeps this marriage going?

They are like those romantic moments of a married life, more the comments more the motivation, more the affection more the love. Of course you improvise on your marriage every time by putting efforts. Your coming home early, you buying gifts, those candle light dinners, those weekend outings and the cuddling post sex is what keeps the romantic momentum up. Similarly quality of posts, guest posts, accurate and timely information results in more and more interaction.... result ?

Visitors on your blog is like the time you spend with your spouse in marriage... the more the better. Every second spent on your marriage spouse increases the bonding, helps you strengthen the bonding and of course results in a successful marriage...

Well marriage is about satisfaction... some times you may not have everything going great, things would be bad , relationship strained.. but in the end its the satisfaction of having someone who loves you and waits for you, cares about you. Blogging is similar... sometimes you write for your satisfaction, people may not look at it, not read it, not like it ... but you care for your blog because you value it... the satisfaction of having something of your own keeps you going...

Well there are many other things that let these successful marriages of blogs reach heights... but lets also talk about those things that try to break your marriages...

So what stops you from keeping your blog up?

Many Wives dont work

2 blogs? 3 blogs? well its a disaster.. like you cant have many wives at once, you cant control multiple blogs at once.. though they stay on your input, they are very demanding... have a blog with 100 visitors, stop blogging within a very short span of time you would fine the page views and visitors going down... You have to spend time time on the looks of the blogs , structures, posts etc etc.. this demands a lot of time.. so while wives require lot of money (kidding), blogs need time... think of duplicating this and imagine the pain!!!!!

Affairs kill them
A lot of people who cannot hold on to their blogs is the reason of there involvement with various things... Social networks, chat tools, micro blogging sites and many other things...

I call Twitter as the glossy girl friend that gives the pleasure of marriage, but not the perks of it.. so if you see blogger turning twitterer's understand that they have fallen to the lucrative looking glamour of twitter. (I still advocate it ;))

Future - Kids, Money
One sign of successful marriage is future, kids.. A successful blog results in goodwill. The Arringtons and Scoble's started there blogging careers and are Internet celebs.. A lot of other blogger have turned not only in celebs but also do there living on it...

Now that we have known a bit about relationships and blogs with the limited wit and humour I have... lets find ways to keep our blogs running and let people learn from our experiences, share knowledge , enlighten people and succeed together.

For those of you who are still bachelor's in life... Go Marry your blog and be committed to it...I just want to say one thing... I Love Blogging

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Appraisal and Performance Criteria

I must have got at least a few stares and a few comments from friends that the post around How to handle Bad Appraisal was a employer perspective and very little thought was given for how one feels like when the appraisal goes wrong.

I felt it was not a employer perspective, instead it was a perspective on how one should cope up with such situation no matter what you are employee or employer... anyways, since I deal with development Teams more closely .. I also got a question that said that usually the Key Result areas or the performance evaluation critieria's are not made very clear, bench marks are not set , there are no clear definition of success and fail parameters and thus when it comes to appraisal time the developer / engineer thinks that he was the best and did the best and the Manager thinks that there was good work done, but there are a lot of things that did not go well.... So here I thought I would put together a few questions that can be used as indicators to one's performance . These questions would help define cleared goals and/or also in turn help a better appraisal process....

1. Attitude

Q. How does he/she perceive his/her job?
Q. How does he/she perceives he/she role in the Team?
Q. Do he/she stand by the Team, helping them on issues and small troubles?
Q. Do he/she needs to be called for help? or he/she walks by to help others?
Q. How does he/she take change?
Q. How does he/she work in absurd condition? tight deadline and power outages or urgent work needed to be solved but machine is slow, or long hours and so on.
Q. For a failed commitment how does he/she react? Blame on others, things, accepting mistakes, or retrospecting to improve?

2. Understanding

Q. How well does he/she understand the requirement and makes other understand it?
Q. How well does he/she adapt to the project and helps other adapt?
Q. How much of self time is spent on exploring the requirements?
Q. How much of value does he/she add to the Project?
Q. How many challenges or questions are raised by he/she
Q. How much depth is the understanding? like a high level feature understanding or a detailed scope?

3. Communication

Q. How does he/she communicate with the Teams.
Q. How frequently does he/she update about the actual progress to others?
Q. How much time is spent by him/her on the interactions related to project tasks with the Team?
Q. How well the person says YES or NO?
Q. How well does he/she explain the reason to those YES and NO

4. Reaction

Q. How does he/she react to a changed requirement at the last moment?
Q. How does he/she reacts when he/she is not center of attraction?
Q. How does he/she react to immediate and drastic change?
Q. How does he/she react to negative changes?
Q. How much of cribbing, whining, crying does he/she get past a task he/she is not supposed to do?

5. Skills

Q. How fast does he/she do his/her work?
Q. Are the core competencies utilized best?
Q. what are his/her best skills? Does he/she improvise on them?
Q. Does he/she document what and how he/she is going to do the task?
Q. Does he/she demonstrate frequent and consistent improvement?
Q. Does he/she actually do things instead of just talking about them?

6. Quality

Q. Is the quality of work done good?
Q. How many iterations happen when he/she does some work like estimation? Plans etc?
Q. How many bugs are created on the work done by him/her?
Q. How much of re-engineering and rework has been done on the task done by him/her?
Q. How much self initiatives are driven by him/her in improving the quality of the product?
Q. How many bugs are caught during the testing, by the customers, by him/her self?

7. Organization

Q. How does he/she manager his/her time?
Q. is he/she planned and organized?
Q. How is his/her desk kept? clean, dirty?
Q. How well does he/she plan the meetings and other times?
Q. Are the estimates given by him/her met? if not why?

8. Ownership
Q. Does he/she care about the module and takes he/she is doing?
Q. Do he/she take responsibility and show authority on his/her task?
Q. Is he/she passionate about what they are doing?

Well these are just those few questions that you as a Manager needs to ask yourself when you are putting someone on a performance appraisal. Pull these questions, customize it to your Team and let them answer these for themselves.. Your development Team's may get the best answers for themselves... Keep a lot of scope for project or release driven retrospectives as they are the best indicators of how one did...

In the end remember this is just one way to know what improvements you need to pull over for your Team instead of having a discussion "I did everything you asked me for, now why is it a bad appraisal?" or "You did OK , but not great"

Monday, 30 August 2010

I really dont want to be a Millionaire PERIOD

Surprised? Well don't be... When I say it, I mean it.. I am sure you would agree if you have to face what Me and a few of my friends and colleagues had to ...

I begin my Monday morning with the usual blues and greens and reds.. between checking mails and handling those alerting troubles, I get my phone vibrating around (I keep my phone on silent mode always) . It vibrates for a while and finishes and I happen to check it only after a few missed calls.. all dialled from the same number... Usually I am not very courteous but I decide to call back... Bingo and the Disaster stuck....

The Phone rings for a while, before it is picked up by some lady who keeps me on hold for 2 minutes and without covering the headset keeps chatting with the next door agent (I assume it was a call centre).. I am not putting in the details now as I am sure you have had enough laughs watching "Outsourced" , "Mumbai Calling" and of course reading all those funny call centre stories over Internet and Chetan Bhagat's.....

So after a few minutes of wait, I am transferred to a lady with a husky voice.. Huh? These days you can take all the pleasures over voices.. specially when those voices are dusky and husky it feels like a glass of whisky...The lady in the other side whom I am now going to call "The Miracle Woman" (since she is going to change my life by all those virtual Miracles) I hear
"Sir, Congratulations... I am XXX calling from XXX bank and I am calling to change your life and make you a millionaire"

I never heard this line before.. so I was taken back by curiosity...

Me : What is it?

Miracle Woman : You are chosen by our bank and are offered a Lifetime free credit card "

Me : Wow.. Thank you very much. But I am not interested and I am busy too.

Miracle Woman : Sir, This offer is one of its kind and you don't have to pay anything for your lifetime, above all it has XXX facility , you get a 55 days interest free period, blah blah blah

Me : I am Sorry. But I am not interested.

Miracle Woman : But if I tell you some more details I am very sure you would want this card desperately.

Me : (With all the curiosity ) Is it? And what would that be?

Miracle Woman : With this card you will also get a addon card that too life time free, a cash back on every purchase anywhere, discounts, points that can be redeemed with several gadgets etc.

Me : See its lucrative, but I already have a card and I am happy with it.

Miracle Woman : That is excellent. If you have one you would not need to submit any documents, I would just need your last months statement and a print of your card. This card is given to only VIP's and having it will enable to you to access some 5star hotels in various cities.

Me : I get indebted with all these cards, enforces me to use it and go in debt. So I am sorry I wouldn't want it.

Miracle Woman : Don't worry Sir.. we also have our Bank offers and we can extend you a personal loan of up to 20 lakh rupees (2 million INR I guess?). You will be a millionaire and a very special customer to us. We also offer Auto loans in case you want to buy luxury cars and for special category cars like Benz and Audi and others we give more special discounts. We have home loans, Medical loans , Education loans.

Me : Woof.. So I take a credit card , and to pay my bills for those purchases I take a loan. Interesting. And you have one loan for everything?

Miracle Woman : This is a life time offer Sir, dont loose it. You may never get a chance to hold this VVIP card that only Bollywood celebs hold and above all be a Millionaire, buy a car , House, Have yur kids study abroad..

Me : Hmmm.. you making me a Millionaire madam.. and I only have to submit my last months credit card bill??? Thats so easy... But I am sorry I am not interested.

Miracle Woman : Well.. you loosing a great opportunity... but in case you need you can call us. I will call you next month to see if you have any other requirements...

Me : No, wait..

Dang!!!!... phone kept. I had no clue and I am surely going to wait for another call when my life is a mess on a Monday morning.

Anyways.. leaving the conversation.. when the entire world is shouting that there is a RECESSION, ECONOMY IS DOWN.. where are these banks getting money from to offer to Me and so many other people in this universe? If they have so much money and want to make each one of us a MILLIONAIRE, whey he hell do we have economic issues? Anyways.. I dont want to be a Millionaire like this... but wait, there are several such Miracle Women waiting to call you today or tomorrow and change your life, Make you a Millionaire...

Want to be one?

Nobody wants to be the Pizzaboy

Funny isnt it? You would ask Why would one want to be in first place? and anyway's what is a Pizza boy doing on this blog? So to drill it down.. Yesterday it rained heavily in Pune, started through the day and those heavy lashes of rains almost cleaned the city every few minutes... While the roads appeared as if a curfew was on, the leftover vehicles that dared to be on the roads could not avoid those bumpy rides saving way out of the potholes. While it was a necessity for some of us to be on roads, for almost 15 minutes on the road we raced a Pizza Delivery Boy who kept stealing the first position from us every 2 minutes and 2 blocks..

I wondered how this guy would keep himself motivated to rush through those traffic lights, rains, potholes above all he has to keep his delivery within 20 minutes or else the Pizza has to be delivered for free and that cost on missing goes directly from his pocket. No wonder not many wants to be that Pizza boy... for good or bad reasons.. the Pizza boy job is one hardship that doesn't pay of well.

Same thing applies to the development Teams.. there are one or maybe 2 Pizza boy's in every team.. these are those guys who own the product, do all the hard ship , maintain the quality of the product and are concerned about it. The hardship and effort of these development Pizza boy's is not just limited to maintaining the good worth of the product, but they also have to ensure that they help the other's in delivering on time, they have to make sure that they dont loose the time and the Pizza is delivered hot and to the hungry customer in time.

Wow... Now when you name hardships like this... who wants to be the Pizza Boy? Unfortunately the answer is not going to be soothing to anyone.. call on this and people would not hesitate to step back..

So how do we turn our Teams, into those Pizza boy who come right within time to deliver you the chilly hot pizza in time, when it is raining or you have loads of guests around? Lets find out.... we write a post following this to build the Pizza Boy Attitude....

Saturday, 28 August 2010

How to take your Idea to the next level?

Since we are doing so much talks around Innovation, Innovation Killers... thought it may make sense to put this one on as well... How to take your Idea to its right destination... Well this blog post is not the bible and may not be really fit it to your Idea or Innovation... but it will definitely give you pointers that will help you to do so....

This also comes with the fact that Raju (one of the dear readers) made the following comment on the blog around Innovation Killers...
When it comes to innovation killers, i would say the individual himself is the first killer. A viable seed will shatter even the hardest rock for survival. Problem is, "Innovation" is not considered as a means of survival unless we are pushed to corners with no options of 'conventional' survival methods.
I certainly agree with this fact.. many times this push to avoid Idea/Innovation comes from the Innovator himself. He waits, He is afraid, He doesn't want to risk, He doesn't care or he doesn't have time... So how does one really take his Idea from an Idea to Innovation? Or simply how do one take the Idea/Innovation to the next level....

1. Ideate / Document
Lot of Ideas die in the journey t takes from the thought itself to paper and then Implementation. The reasons are different... someone during the Adam-Eve era had an Idea of social networking.... it only took 1990's to build a Facebook. Wish those guys had documented the Idea.. they would have build something better by now ;) Not that FB is bad... but by the time it evolves it is going to take a few hundreds of years to make it perfect ;)

Well out of fun part.. the moment you get the Idea.. be it Shower or your bathroom or your bed or while you are doing some shitty work where you don't have ways to document... just pull a reminder and document your idea where you can remember it.

Before you take the next step to promote or share your Idea... make sure that you yourself become passionate about it... Keep the Idea hammer you..

1. have post its and posters around your house and room so you can be reminded.
2. Talk to yourself about it , every time you get time alone.. don't worry what people call you when they see you speaking to yourself.. cause they are going to laugh at you now but later talk about you, when you become an Einstein.
3. Focus , Focus and hammer and hammer your Idea to yourself.

An idea that is developed and put into action is more important than an idea that exists only as an idea.- Buddha

2. Share
Your Idea is a dead meat if it is not shared. The first step when you have some Idea in your mind is to share it.. with a small or large forum of people you like , trust. Sharing of Idea is the usual step that gets skipped out in process of Innovation... People fear there Idea will be stolen, or somebody else will take credit for it, or it will be mis used... Ideas are never stolen.. they only evolve....The fear of Idea getting stolen avoids the sharing of Ideas.. hence if you choose a forum that can be your parents, spouse, close friends, Team members that you trust on would be the right way to get feedback...

Every brain that listens to your Idea and speaks a word about it either as a feedback or as a critic is a value add to the Idea..

Don’t worry about people stealing your ideas. If your ideas are any good, you’ll have to ram them down people’s throats - Howard Aiken

3. Brainstorm

Just sharing the Idea is not enough. It has to be brainstormed. Pros and cons, Issues and uses, UVP(Unique Value Proposition) of the Idea needs to be brainstormed.. Unless this is done the Idea will never take a good shape. This brainstorming can be done with the same group that you shared the Idea or even slightly bigger forum. One or few brainstorming sessions on your Idea can make that Idea one Killer Idea.

If you have an apple and I have an apple and we exchange these apples then you and I will still each have one apple. But if you have an idea and I have an idea and we exchange these ideas, then each of us will have two ideas - George Bernard Shaw

4. Find the right Sponsor
Whats the use of having a great Idea, if you don't find the right sources to get it to its destination. If you have a great Idea find your Manager, Team member, colleague or even Yourself. This person is the person who would help you succeed with the Idea. He is the one who is going to invest in your Idea. If you have an Idea about building a Software , or a Feature in your current software.. discuss it with your Product Owner, Manager and get some resource for it. If it is process driven find your Team , colleagues who would help you implement it.. if it is a individual task find free time for yourself so you can have time to implement what you want to Ideate.

A sponsor-less Idea is difficult to get through... find the right people who would finally put there bucks on your Idea..

The air is full of ideas. They are knocking you in the head all the time. You only have to know what you want, then forget it, and go about your business. Suddenly, the idea will come through. It was there all the time - Henry Ford

5. Know when to quit
Ideas can be so addictive and mind controlling that they dont let you fail.. the passion towards that Idea never lets you go away from it and the thought that success is next block will keep you going... this is a good sign of passionate behaviour. But if you want to succeed in a right way then you should define on when to stop your effort on your Idea.

A developer wanted to build a framework, he went to the Product Team demanded that he wants to spend his initiative on such framework. The Product team gave him 3 months. Few months post the initial time lines he had planned he was not able to deliver it, he became so passionate and defensive about it that he would not get off it.. Eventually the Team started taking it as a issue and finally decided to call it a quit as similar frameworks in market had already erupted and they would have helped the product without doing any inhouse work.

One has to decide the right time to call it a quit if the Idea is not triggered well... because all things dont end like the Fool's Gold.

New ideas pass through three periods: 1) It can’t be done. 2) It probably can be done, but it’s not worth doing. 3) I knew it was a good idea all along! - Arthur Clarke

6. Keep it Alive
If the mother of the child doesnt trust the child, no one would ever... Trust your Idea. Work on it. Keep it alive if it is getting delayed, Keep it alive , Give it oxygen and blood. No matter what happens no matter even if your Idea fails to launch, Even if you have to stop in the middle , even if it has failed to convince other, even if it has failed... Keep it alive.. Evolve it and make a better launchpad for it.

Thursday, 26 August 2010

You dont have license to Innovate

So while in the past few days we are talking about Innovation and ways to build culture's to Innovate.. we left out one important point "Blocking Innovation". While those passionate souls bring Ideas and are keen to Innovate, there are bunch of evil souls that stop them from doing it... this block doesn't come for a reason.. some times it is for Jealousy, Unawareness, Non Risk taking approach , Willingness, No passion towards goal.. above all self ability...

So lets list down the way people deny Innovation in teams, organizations...

Ask for it, Document it, What next?
A lot of cultures ask people to throw ideas, when these ideas start flowing through.. the Innovation Managers do not know how to manage them. Ofcourse when you get bombarded with 10's and 20's of ideas you would not know how to map it to your Product Vision... then you wiki it and there is no way in future to extract it and implement it.

Many times this goes to another level.. a lot of people do not know how to validate if these ideas are good or not.. When they do.. they do not know how to approach it to a destination.

How to solve this ?
Build a process to list down ideas, form a way to evaluate and validate them. Every idea listed needs to be categorized and find a way to delegate this to the right authorities and people who are empowered to help this goal succeed.

Dig the well when you are thirsty
A lot of times you would see requests for Innovation coming when your product is in bad shape, sales are not doing well or things are not going well all together.. All of a sudden you reach office and you would see that all Sr. Managers standing in the work area with all the office walls loaded with Innovation posters and all of them demanding Innovation from the Team in the next quarter...

A while back a friend worked for a company who was building a Travel portal. The business was dripping down in a span of 1 year.. everyone in the Team was asking the decision makers to reform the model, the decision makers chose however to increase inventory instead of increasing effort on SEO, building semantic web product etc... All of a sudden when the business hit the ground.. the management decided to re-engineer the product and the marketing strategy.. Result it was too late to build it back as other players were already running fast with their models.

How to solve this?
Regular evaluation of Innovation in the Team. Form brainstorming groups, create channels to ideate. Bring decision makers with right stats on Innovation Quotient.

Cant afford to fail now

A big bunch of stake holders and decision makers do not want to risk anything not with the figures, business, product thus the risk analysis Teams are formed and these teams do not let Innovation happen. Risk taking abilities and commitment to succeed drives Innovation away.

Resistance to change
Some people just dont want to change. Any new thing in the process is a threat, a problem, an issue and a potential problem. Hence you would find Innovation dying everyday where people are allergic to change.

If it has to happen, It will Happen
A lot of time people just dont want to initiate it. The thought behind is let things go as they are going .. it will happen. This attitude of lay back causes Innovation to die even before it is born.

Just block it
Why do things when they are working fine? Why introduce new things when every thing is good? Wonder what happens?

Budgets, Figures
Extra investment is what gets your profits down. If it can be done by the same people who are already in or even less, then Innovate. I am sure this is something you have been hearing very often. Budgets, dollars and figures always put Innovation on back seat.

Idea created, assigned to someone in Technology further there is nothing. Innovation dies if no ownership exists. I worked in the company where the Sales Manager would bring several small ideas every day to the Team, however there was no ownership in guidance on how , what , when and where... Taj Mahal was never built by the labourers... there was a vision and ownership.

Excessive Pressure
Excessive pressure to deliver always cause Innovation to fail. If your teams are in tremendous pressure to achieve the routine goals of the Team.. Innovation cannot happen when the mind is full with thoughts of survival.

Innovation Teams?

Managements form Innovation teams , dedicated teams to handle Innovations in the organization.. this is a good thought theoretically, but practically it can turn a killer in way to Innovate... Either these teams take monopoly on Innovation.. thus removing the group part of Innovation Or the others in the company start relying ONLY on these Innovation teams.

Now if you are coming across such lame excuses , reasons that stop Innovation in your Teams... wake up, Invest and Build the Culture to Innovate!!!