Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Decision - The Reality and the Fantasy

Of all the things we do in this world we always make 2 types of decision a real one and a one based on Fantasy.. and the reason behind is our imaginative powers... we live in reality but we dream fantasies. I spoke to a colleague yesterday and upon the discussions we ended up discussing something on how we map expectations to reality...The way this happens is, we want something to happen , badly very badly without knowing the consequences or effects of what happens that is exactly what I term as fantasy thinking...

A few years ago I badly wanted a car, I went for one... When I bought the car I realized a few things that should have been taken care of before I bought the care... I found:
- I did not hold a separate parking space for my car, I had to park the vehicle far off from my home and walk almost 10 minutes every time to park it ro take it with me.
- I did not think of accidents and maintenance costs, leave the fuel hikes
- What about the borrowers, so many of my friends and relatives wanted to borrow it, resulted in other issues like bad usage

So I had a fantasy expectation of having a car..I call it fantasy expectation because it lead to things that I did not foresee or the consequences unknown. Result was definitely some bad things that came my way. In reality I was capable to buy a car, I deserved it so I fantasized my expectation. In reality this turned to have several unthoughtful consequences which I did not think off.

A similar story happened to one of a dear colleague who desperately wanted to be a Project Manager. He kept bugging me and other bosses for making him the PM. When the opportunity did not come his way, he resigned and started looking for openings and found one as a Project Manager. His have's included everything that he wanted to be a Project Manager except the readiness to be the Project manager. When he took over the role he realized that it wasn't easy, a while after I came to know from his Team mate about the disasters he made. As a courtesy to help I asked him to speak to me and he confessed-
- It was easy for him to create a rumor in the Team, but then it became difficult to handle the same when it affected him own.
- It was easy to work over others estimates than giving one
- It was not easy to handle people
- It was not easy to handle ego's and expectations
- Several things dont go right, its not about how you fix it, its about when

So in the story about the person was in a state where he expected a fantasy without calculating the reality... and this is the big thing that can change the life.

Now... Fantasy is not a fully fantasy expectation or decision... its a decisions , expectation that can turn real with the step of time... In Other words fantasy decision if given time can be a well made real decision but not many do that...We make Fantasy decisions based on what we want and not what we have.. results in some real bad steps.

Another incident worth mentioning a year and a while ago I was supposed to migrate to the UK with a change in job. I was in a state of mind.. The reality said that it wont make a difference on where you want to be, it will make a difference on what you want to do... I made a decission to migrate, though in back of mind I always had this question Should I? it took a year... all the thoughts about where to say, what to do, how to do in the foreign land started getting answered as I started to visit the place I was going to be very often. Realized the pros and cons and finally the decision came of not to migrate... The fantasy for me then was A Great Job in a Great land, Great Money, Great experience... but all this made me not think over all other facts that stayed as consequences of moving... Somebody who makes a decision and move in such time, then ends up not been satisfied for long.. and then wanting to turn back... Got any friends who joined another company thinking that its a great opportunity and then wanting to come back? or someone who left the city in despair and now wanting to desperately come back?

So... how do these fantasy decisions or expectations be turned into genuine , well thought decisions?

Pessimistic Approach
1. Dont just think it your self
Involve others who are near and dear to you. Friends , Family play good role. However do not tell them what you think before you get to know what they think about it. A lot of times decisions are biased based on your thoughts. A friend left his job because he was feeling not so good and he cribbed about it to his spouse everyday.. spouse suggested to leave the organization... Friend only later realized that he missed a good thing coming his way.. and was now stuck in another deep shit.

2. Is there a list, Is there an experience
Ask if others have experience in the decision.. people who have been through can hlep you make a decision.

3. Family is driven by your decision, involve a critic too.
Family recommends good always. Critic can give you some thought for money. He may be harsh but will give you a taste of reality.

Optimistic Approach

1. Give it a time before you take it
Time heals everything... before you take a decision spend enough time, working, reworking and re-re working. I was able to change many bad decisions of mine while repeatedly working and thinking about them.

2. Do not write it off
it may be great. A fantasy decision maybe great so never write it off...

3. List down pros and cons
What else can help you make an effective decision? make it with friends and family, make it with colleagues and run it with some experts.

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Is Worrying hurting you?

A lot of your troubles start with you worrying about things. You worry about your future, You worry about your past, You worry about present. You worry if You will be able to buy the car you wanted, Or You worry if you will be able to make a vacation this year considering the work load. You worry if your colleague will get more money than you or you worry if he will make your job redundant. So many things You worry and so many times out of these you don't know if you should worry.

Recently I came across a dear colleague who put this on her IM status "Worrying works! 90% of the things I worry about never happen…". A lesson that I always thought worked for me... what I worried about, never happened, I learnt this a sweet way and then I put it in my public diary that worrying doesnt make life easier.. You dont stop worrying though, stop worrying about the fact that you are worried... In other words start looking at your worries with a suction pump and a blower.

Lets take this general example in your life...
1. Your credit card is over limit and you have mortgage cheques coming in.
2. You promised yourself to buy a new car
3. You worried that your colleague will get the promotion you eyed on
4. You worried that because the economy is bad, you will be fired
5. You worried that because of the financial crunches you will not be doing all that you wanted to do...

In a general scenario... a human starts putting all this in one small head and then gets worried about everything.. yes everything.. Results are here:
1. He is frustrated and the frustration results in arrogance and abrupt behavior at work, on colleagues. Specially with the ones who think are responsible for it.
2. You are non co-operative with a few
3. Your face is frowned and body language dull
4. You start spreading negativity about everything
5. You discuss issues with your spouse, who in turn gets worried that if you loose job what will happen.
I still leave the sleepless nights, frustration , anxiety and other side effects all of this had on you...

Now with the same worries if you prioritize them by 3 rule principle...
1 . When : Put the impact of your worry...

A. I will die Immediately if -
B. I will die in a few weeks if -
C. I will die in a few months if -

Now put your worries in the 3 when's...

A. I will die Immediately if -
None really?

2. My Family will die if will hold :
1. You are cashless and you have mortgage cheques coming in.
2. You worried that becuase the economy is bad, you will be fired

3. I need not worry if will hold :
1. You worried that becuase the economy is bad, you will be fired
2. You worried that becuase of the financial crunches you will not be doing all that you wanted to do...
3. You promised yourself to buy a new car
4. You worried that your collegue will get the promotion you eyed on

So in other words... there is nothing that will kill you immediately? then for the things that you are not getting killed by today, why worry about them? Now take the ones that you are going to be immediately hurt by or hurt in a few weeks...

2. What

What can I do with them?
1. You are cashless and you have mortgage cheques coming in.
Can I borrow from friend, family and return them when I have enough?
Can I put it on hold with the bank?
Can I use my savings?
Can I call the bank and tell them to hold?

2. You worried that becuase the economy is bad, you will be fired
Can I go talk to my Boss and ask him whats happening?
Can I ask my Boss if I am good?
Can I review myself on what I have done so far and then review myself if I am doing good?
Can I see how much time I will have if the worst comes to hit me?

If you ask yourself these questions maybe you are half worried already? Now take the impact of the what and when... can I see how I can resolve them?

3. How
If you have answers to the first 2, I think you already have answers to how... so thats not hard anymore... Now lets take the 3 principles and see what we actually did with them?

Now the items that we didnt take to far from the 1st principle... lets see how we handle them?
1. New Car? - Well I can wait because if my job exists today or tomorrow I will have it.
Promotion? - Well I am doing the best here, I am sure it will come through with some time... waiting is better than getting fired?
Collegue with negative intentions? - Well how far did anyone go with negative intentions? People who do best will continue to do best.

So for some of these issues

1. We Put first things first
We prioritized. Lot of times we worry of everything that is running in present.. if we prioritize the best ones to worry about, I think we resolve half the worries there...

2. We put things that we can handle
I had a debate with a friend who continuously cribbed about the government on how they are unsuccessful and prices of commodities are going high and how politicians are dirty.. I asked him 2 questions.. "Can you change the prices" "Can you help anyone do it?" 1st was a no second was a yes... he participated in a campaign , now he feels happy that he did something and he has one less thing to worry about.

3. We went with an attitude that everything will be all right in phases
Negativity kills. A lot of people tend to spread negativity without knowing facts. Its the negativity that makes you more and more worried.. if we leave the negativity aside the bigger part of worrying is gone. They say bring 2 powerful nations to debate on world politics and we are at a world war.

4. We simplified things
We simplified items ourselves... Dont involve others in doing this as they would complicate things for you.

5. We stopped comparing
Huh? My money - his money will never end. Humans are never full and satisfied. Even Adam and Eve were not, result known to everyone. But then decide the Have's carefully and stop comparing. Because you will always have 1 less a thing than the other.

6. We trusted selves and others.
Bring trust into yourself first. Insecurity is outcome of self confidence on a fall. We trusted our Bosses , Ourselves our family to get out of this.

Now that you just found one way to be less worried, why not take a chill and help others getting less worried?

Thursday, 25 March 2010

Innovation - Unsold Truth

If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses. — Henry Ford

You may have read this a million times, almost every time you have read an Innovation related post. Then you have a whole lot of lobby that speaks about Innovation, everywhere. Then there is a whole big lobby that is there to cut the topic off and it asks you to stop talking about Innovations. Eventually the word innovation is a bit unclear to several of those individuals that work together as an organization. A few facts that are usually lost when we speak about Innovation are:

1. Who for?
2. What Problem it solves?
3. What is the solution?

Who do we Innovate for?

Now the question comes. Who do we innovate for? Ask this question to a group and they will say “Our Customers” reality is the statement Henry Ford made above… Your customers are not really looking for Innovations. They are more interested in finding solutions to the problems they face when working on your product. Now if you can convert your thought of Innovation to something like “I will bring X ways to solve Y problem that my customer faces doing Z without me being a Mr. Fixit”. Innovation is nothing but an Idea that has been put to implementation for a reason that it solves a problem. Innovation is not affordable if done for luxury as the target audience is limited to a very specific group that wants to extract values out of those innovations.

Now thinking in that lines If Innovations don’t come out of real need, then those innovations are hard to get a platform. If Innovations don’t come with passion they go in dust bins. Innovations come through source of Ideas by one or more people who are thrived to take them to reality. Just Ideas don’t make great Innovations… because if that was the case then the world would have been a great place? Yes… God had an Idea to create a beautiful thing called Human being, he failed to implement it. Innovation is about making one’s job easy it results in making several other people’s job easier.

Think of Innovating for yourself, your customers will get a value out of it. A friend of mine working for a electronics company mentioned that a group of engineers in his company innovated something called as a Coffee Drill where a robotic component would visit desks and supply coffee, saving the Teams frequent visits to the Coffee house that wasted a lot of there time and of course the effort of the administration staff that had to keep a track of coffee used. The component was done as a part of training assignment for the new joinees and was developed in a month… Win Win… only later they patented it to be sold to other companies…
Now… think of the problems your want to solve… Innovation is on its way

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

How do I learn "How to Fail?"

One drawback of my entire career has been that "NOBODY TAUGHT me to FAIL" Yes nobody taught me how to fail, like several others I learnt it on my own... some say it is great, you get your experience "hard way", some say "that's life".. I always felt and wanted to know if there was a way to learn how to fail... Its very important to know this as we keep on failing in our own way and that too in an untrained way...

So for those curious minds in there who are looking with a cross eye and for those of you who think that why in the age of "Learning Success" somebody wants to learn "How to Fail". Here is why I feel so:

Years ago when I founded TechShepherds, there was a vision "Success". Years later when I defounded TechShepherds ( around 2 years later) I realised that I was late to fail. Those days were the most painful days, because you stopped your company for whatsoever reason but there was a label of Failure, There was some money gone and there was a credibility that was at stake. Years later I worked for a company that spent millions and millions to work on a product, they spent years before they realised that it was time for them to scrap it as they were too late. In other words they were slow to fail?

Now you get the point!!!!! Yes it is important you know how to fail, if you know how you would decide when... I had a friend who co-founded a company 2 years ago, he went ahead with his partners and a investment of $20K to start working on a product... they built a Rocket in terms of the work they were doing.. a social network with enterprise base... They spent 3 months before they realised that the idea was too old and not fit for the market... they changed the product to move away from Enterprise Social network to a Local Social network. Result they saved the troubles to build and sell something that they saw was moving towards an end. In other words they saved a few hundreds of Bucks, They saved some partners and some money of Investors...

So how to find out that you will fail and then decide to fail fast?

1. You are working against a force that is well equipped financially, technically and in terms of value drive.

2. Things are no longer the way they used to be. You are in the 60's and the world has moved to 2010. Markets have changed, people too.

3. You can grow but your growth can never be of 200% for a period longer and consistent.

4. You are depending too much on your ideas without exploring debates , discussions and suggestions from outside world.

5. You dont like new Ideas anymore

6. Your Product is not improvising anymore...

Wait a while... Review yourself.. Identify the Failure that is coming to you... And Fail...

Yes Fail. So that you can take the lessons and improve, but at the same time you avoid making blunders...Earlier you know about the failure, earlier you learn and earlier you improve... In other words you learn how to fail... In a way that will help you and others with you...

Friday, 19 March 2010

Teams, Collaboration and Yammer

One of the challenges we Project Managers face in our routines and project cycles is a lack of communication. X knows something that is missed out of communication to Y and so on. Everyone in the Software Teams need a way to communicate with the ton with ease... We all then start relying on our time killer Emails... Yes we send emails to aliases and then we rely on emails back.. responses that come from specific groups.

8 Months ago we switched to Yammer, The core idea was the remote teams that we were working with in the UK, France , Germany , US , Chennai and Pune needed a common way to communicate.. a way that doesn't restrict us to certain tools and software's, yet allow sending message to many at a time, yet allow getting responses from many at a time, yet have a thread and a link to replies, yet have a phone, Black berry , Desktop or web application that can work for anyone and everyone, yet allow sharing files and pics and above all be available from anywhere, everywhere all the time.

To our luck Yammer has turned out to be quite a relief as people can ask for quick answers / doubts to a bigger group and get answers and updates all the time. I would recommend Yammer for collaborative teams due to the flexibility and the app support that it provides with ease. Above all an unadministered domain in Yammer will cost you nothing, It can miraculously change the way your team interacts...

Ignore those chat sessions that will happen, but can be really a lifeline to the diminishing integration you are facing in your teams... So if you like Yammer don't hesitate to Thank me for it.. and get your colleagues to read more of this blog as I am more keen to share the Project Management tools that worked for us and in what way....

There are other similar collaborative tools that I gave some try but could never switch as Yammer did what we wanted... but in case you are interested go on and look for Socialcast , Shoutem

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Is Micro Management coool?

Ask this to a seasoned Manager and he will say NO. Ask this to a theory manager and he too will say NO.. In fact ask anyone and they will say NO. Nobody wants to be micro managed. However a big chunk of Managers are micro managing things. They dont want to be micromanaged but they want to micro manage.

In fact a lot of Managers think that the tasks are only done when micro managed. In the list of Micro Managers I am not the one less accused, Yes in the past I have been oftenly accused of micro managing. Though I disagreed to a certain level, I agree that that I do MICRO MANAGE. So the question... Is Micro Management cool?

Well the answer is not NO.. it is Yes and No... Yes more diplomatic. You need to micro manage not always though. I dont criticize micro management and I dont endorse it too. I believe in micro managing self when working on potentially high risk elements... so what do you think all the TADA lists are for? what was post it made for? and the answer goes on....

But yes.. think of that member of your team who gets out of focus the very moment when he sees something more exciting? Or think of the most dedicated member of the team who is just doing his task on and on and on... Well you need to micro manage for good and bad reasons... its you who has to decide who, when and how much.

So whats your take on Micro Management?

Monday, 15 March 2010

What Problem are we solving here?

A few years ago when a developer was requested to build a feature or a module he would be worried about the content of the document that came in to him as Requirement Specification document. Things changed… with the running market he started worrying about the time, scope and quality of the feature. Are we moving so fast that now the developer’s have to worry about the eligibility of the feature? Yes indeed… I was asked a question 2 times once by my 6 year old when I was trying to fix his pedal scooter and next by a developer who was about to work on one of the important features in the Product that I am working on.

The question was simple “What are we trying to solve here?” Answer most complex…When @aranhas07 started working on his product for Social Intuition, He had a problem each one of us face in the social world in mind… but when I look back and forth I see tones of products made every day making news on @Scobleizer and @Techmeme or @mashable I don’t really understand if they really are there to Solve a problem or to create one?

Do we answer this question before we start working on something important or so called important thing? Well the answer is NO it is thought but perceptional.. Yes one entity’s perception make him think that this is a problem and then a solution is designed around it... In process others really miss what is much needed or required... We spend millions and millions solving a problem which actually is not a problem…

Talk about the Iraq war (No WMD’s were ever recovered) or talk about the appointment of a bowling coach that got Indian team in a big mess a while ago. As Managers we always plan a lot of work.. but in process we plan work that comes through perseverance or perception. You let your teams spent millions and years on something that probably is not a problem but you are trying to solve it.

Once a sales consultant for a leading product made a big comment on the salability of a product saying since this product doesn’t allow robustness in letting multiple users connect to the system at the same time this product needs a big change as all the customers are asking for the said feature… The team went on creating a plan and effort and finally spent millions before a new developer got in and who asked... why are we building all of this? Can we not make the login web driven and leave other things on the rich interface? A management review was done and solution brutualized…

Next time when you begin to spend your important time on something don’t hesitate to ask these questions to yourself, your stake holders, your Managers, your CEO’s... For one thing can come out of it that they may not know what problem they are trying to solve…

The next few questions can actually help you work towards a solution than an issue..
1. What is the Problem?
2. Who faces it?
3. What are the workarounds?
4. What are the options available?
5. What can we do to make the solution generic?
6. Is the cost worth building a solution?
7. What are various options in the solutions?