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!!!

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Make your Team Innovative, but wait invest first!!!

After my post yesterday on Independence - A way to empower a colleague over a chat asked me..."Do you think Independence only will lead to new Ideas, Innovations?" The answer I am very sure about.. "NO". I believe Independence is a vehicle that you give to your Team to reach the milestones faster.. how they drive it, how they handle speed and consequences is built using a culture... We all call it Company Culture that's one thing that drives Innovation... Some say that cultures with freedom and Independence drive Innovation, I disagree.. even red carpet company cultures can drive strong Innovation...

A few years ago I worked with a company where I was not supposed to access any social networking web site, however I was building one... The Team of 15 developers was building something that they could not compare with the competition.... quite a few developers raised this issue, they were blocked to use chat tools, social sites, forums and god knows what not.. I only realised how Innovative people can be in such red carpet zones, when I found that they have figured a way to proxy requests using a custom made java app... only in a few years of time that type of product became one loved by red carpet companies, people called web routing.

So how does one build this culture so people can innovate? Well its an investment, and if you need to reap the benefits of Innovation and Innovative teams you need to sow the seeds of investment first....

1. Encourage your Teams to interact more, if they aint doing it, Ask them to do it.

2. Remove the fear, The fear of failure or complexity is a killer. Kills anything on its way.. let them wander freely...

3. Celebrate failure, Learn how to fail. If you do so, you would be able to find the reasons of failures and improve..

4. Encourage people to get off their desks, meet informally. If you think that is not working out well... organize small events in office where they can be fun and casual.

5. Think long term. Your Innovation is not finished in next quarter. Tell them that you are looking for beyond future

6. Involve as many people as you can, when you share Ideas and innovations... more the people, more the benefits.

7. Learn and encourage the art of brainstorming. Train them to jump into conversations, debates

8. Find ways to learn and share the learning's.

9. Find problems, Share problems, find ways to work out... make them work.

10. Reward both individual and groups. Innovate Innovation heroes

11. Remove blockages that stop people from communicating , innovating.

12. Train them to think above growth, money and success

13. Learn to say " I failed". learn to say "No" . Learn to say "I will"

14. Ensure that they understand that only thing secretive at workplace is "Agatha Christie's novel kept in the library"

A few things that you can start with to foster a Innovation culture or as well build a company culture to Innovate...

Remember to make Best Products , best processes , Best People... you need to invest first!!!!!

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Independence - A way to empower

Leadership or Management, its all about vision, goals and success. Leadership take a long term destination to achieve broader goals, Management helps achieve it. One of the key elements of this piece which we call achieving Success is "Team". Its the Team that really decides the fate of a successful leader. A quote from the famous movie Armageddon where Bruce Willis tells Truman...

" I am the best, because I work with the Best"
So if this Team is so important, how does one ensure they become best? I found a way all through the past few years... the word Empower. A theoretical meaning says "to equip, to supply with necessary things to achieve a goal, to enable , to permit" a practical meaning much more than that...A Team that is empowered can make decisions, can do things right and can build a powerful ground to achieve organizational goals.

In a team lunch we recently had for the new members of the Team, I asked "How does it feel like to be with us?" he replied "Amazing!, I have never seen such level of Independence, in all the companies I have worked with" another colleague replied "I begin my career where my Boss let me do a lot of things on my own, demos , meetings, development and so many other things, I feel that I got those days back". I am thrilled that the Team that is merely 3 weeks old, realize the culture we imbibe in people "Independence" in narrow lanes, Empowerment on a highway.

I realized the importance of Independence when I took up my first job... Teaching I was supposed to teach a class of 10 people on computer topics "Microsoft Excel" to be precise. It was my first day and first ever experience of taking a lecture, my Guide and Sr. tutor chose to sit along with the class to see how I do. The class lasted for 40 mins, I shivered the whole time, fumbled. She walked to me and said, next time she would not need to be in the class as I was doing good, she also let me design my own breakups of the lectures. Believe me this inspired me so much and helped me to a level that it wasnt difficult for me to train corporates in a very short span of time.

A small piece of Independence can help empower the Team members to take complex things to ease. Interesting isnt it?

  • Independence to work in their own ways , but within the boundaries

  • Independence to make decisions, to make those decisions better

  • Independence to execute , and yield good results

  • Independence to build strong self, while helping others to be strong

Independence makes a lot of things better. Helps in empowering the Teams to be more strong, more powerful, more effective....

So how does one give more Independence to the Team?

1. Assign tasks that will allow your subordinates to grow and take on additional responsibilities. let them decide the execution paths. This will build a lot of confidence in them.

2. Explain them the task and the goal of the task and what is it that they can achieve out of it, let them decide what is best in it for themselves.

3. Challenge and get Challenged. Ask questions that will help them realise and be more effective if they are falling apart. Let them ask questions so they know what is it.

4. Trust their decisions, stand by it.

5. Be a part of criticism and appreciation wherever needed.

6. Help them when they fail, but help let them succeed after they fail.

After all an empowered Team member is what can make life easier for a bigger piece of your Team.

Monday, 23 August 2010

Stop fitting pieces, You may break!

Of the busy work schedules I took my time off to meet the old time friend @aranhas007, he had been off lately very busy with doing some product development and we discussed on some cool ideas. One of the stuff we ended up debating on was FourSquare v/s Facebook Places.. yes the location driven services.. the question came in where we asked "Do fitting successful pieces into a product succeed?" I doubt looking at what Google tried in the last few years through Wave , Orkut and Buzz... it doesn't seem that you can club successful pieces and make one big hell of a product.

A serious given thought reminds me that whoever tried to do such thing never succeeded in making it big.. for various reasons... A lot of people think that cloning or replicating or milking a small idea is an easier thing to do, because all you got to do then is follow a model and execute... sigh!!!! if that had worked I would have read a biography of a few legends and would have by now qualified to become a Noble prize winner. Well cloning failures not only applies to product but also companies and their models...

A few days ago I heard a few comments while discussing organizational cultures, comments like
"In X company one is allowed to do this, that and this. Why don't we learn from them "

"People in X company get Y and Z, and they can also do X"

"Why not take good parts of Google, Microsoft and become one great company?"

Well that doesn't work. Does it? Steve Jobs when doing any announcements to his product family would wear the regular turtle neck with his denim, while Microsoft CEO would be in a suit...
Now can you make a Steve Jobs wear a suit on the launch and get a Windows out?
Well no its a different culture, model and process... you cant just fit 2 odd things together.. even though some law say that "Opposite poles match"

So why does this bringing together small pieces not really work?

1. Models are different
If the models and types of products are different, they ain't going to let you succeed instead they are going to add up to the Technical and maintenance liability. For instance just because the location driven services are hot, you cannot buy one service or build one to your product that is purely a non-content product!!.

Business, Development and Product Models define the vision and future and they cant be built in pieces from various successful models.. they have to be unique in order to succeed. A NON - REPLICA in other words...

2. Size
Size of the user base, company , executors affect the ability to join pieces. A smaller company or Team will find it easier to adapt to building or fitting in multiple pieces as opposed to a larger one. It does matter when it comes to adapting and executing with results when the time between former and later is too short.

3. Culture
This is a driver. Try making a few traditional SDLC developers execute a lean process. You will find resistance. The culture to adapt change is key. If this culture exists and prevails in your system it is possible to achieve some level of success in fitting in pieces. The culture to build, FAIL, and Change need to exists and most of the time some of these do not. People who have been able to join pieces of successful models and succeed, have a great culture that is blended with ability to FAIL, LEARN and CHANGE.

4. People
Finally , you can replicate products, ideas, tools , processes.... what made all these are the people.. and it is not easy to replicate them.

Now if you are thinking that you may pull a Agile + Waterfall + Six Sigma to build a very strong process for your company.. you maybe wrong.

If you are thinking that you will bring a twitter and a Youtube together to build a new realtime streaming product, You maybe wrong.

If you are thinking to bring Senior Managers from 10 different companies to make your company successful. You maybe wrong.

You maybe able to utilise small pieces to build one good thing, but you cant just pull a great future out of it. It has to evolve and evolve and become one unique thing to succeed.

Thursday, 12 August 2010

And you become a Project Manager!!!

One stormy windy night, when lightening strikes the roof, you are deep in sleep with a dream that takes you to a deathly hallow... sound of serendipity all over your ears, voices of shallow deaths all over the world.. a dark cloud starts covering the world and with a bang there strikes a lightening right at your left foot... gives you the power of a Knight and makes you take the oath as a Templar.. there with a bang the time stops... and there


Well not really... its not that dramatic, nor that simpler to be a Project Manager... but then how does one really become a Project Manager?

1. You take your vision to the next level and give every project participant a feel of ownership of the project.
2. You tell them what, when and how of the future of the project is going to be.
3. You communicate effectively and timely.
4. You communicate to your team and alert them when they are going to make a mistake.
5. You stop them to think, You kick start them to march
6. You share the same page with every one on the project
7. You make them believe that it is achievable
8. You make them execute in the way it is most beneficial
9. You think every moment of time that 1 line of code you would want to write
10.You start staying over night to plan tasks for others for the next day.
11. Your list of TODO is always bigger than the size of your monitors
12. Your mailbox is full of unread emails
13. Your calendar buzzes you every 2 hrs about a meeting that starts in 15 minutes
14. You buy gadgets to ease your job, You dont use it because they are an effort to setup.
15. You think of Orange , Green and Red all the time
16. You start your day early and you end it late.
17. Weekend is a extra day you get to complete the pending tasks
18. You are always busy, when it comes to friends and family
19. Until the moment of failure, you believe you will succeed
20. You drink coffee like water, and water like coffee
21. You think Lunch hour is the best hour to send the pending email responses.
22. You think meetings are a waste, when they dont expedite the project
23. You always feel you are short of resources
24. You think you need to know what's involved and what's not involved in the project.
25. You started to like this word DONE.

If you see the above few symptoms in you, You bet you are turning to be ONE HELL of a Project Manager.... but wait.... remind yourself of those things that takes you away from been a Project manager....

1. You hold a weekly status update with the Team and next day you fire a email to check status of your Team
2. You call in , walk to , or chat with one of your team members 5 minutes to 5 about something very critical that you told him/her that you wanted to discuss in the morning
3. You schedule multiple meetings with your Team members who are on tight deadlines. Just to ask same questions.
4. You cannot make a decision and you think that pushing the decision on others court will get you away from it.
5. You want your Team to think out of the box and code and develop fast, even if requirements are not defined or present.
6. You think every one is wasting their time, and everything was supposed to be completed yesterday.
7. The only thing you want to hear is "It is Done"
8. When one person in your Team quits, you think the task can be handled by the person next in the alphabetical order
9. You like to change the resources, scope, budget but not the time
10. Quality means BUG FREE to you
11. You have a meeting with Project Teams, just so that you can summarize in black and white on what you want them to do.
12. You look and ask for only those options that you know are not feasible
13. You assign someone 2 tasks at the same time 1 with highest priority and then check on the other task every day
14. You think you are the one working hard than anyone else.
15. You switch on teams tasks depending on the angry emails you receive
16. You compare the planned date Vs the Actual date

If any of the above symptoms are nearing you, You need to get into a meditation mode and think of Project Nirvana... because these things are just going to turn your project into a miserable experience....

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Manage your vision

A lot of us are visionaries, not all you can say but many. Of people I have met in my life quite a few have been visionary.. They had Vision to grow, Vision towards various things.. they inspired me, they got me think of how to become one. I learnt from them and then tried to do the same.... but then over my last discussion with one of the developer I realised that vision is like a stray dog.. it can be a good guard of your neighborhood, but if left alone it can be one hell of a menace...

Yes.. I mean it.. like your dog your Vision needs a caretaker. Vision needs to be managed too, like our finances, like our spouses, like our expectations.. Vision also need to be managed and that too with more care... You very well know what happens when you don't manage your finances.. you are one bankrupt person end of the month isnt it?

Non-Managed vision is creator of bigger problems. It leaves the implementers and the visionary un-satsified. A while back I got a chance to work with a Sr. Executive had a vision to do something really good in field of technology and open source market. He kept on bombarding his thoughts on himself "I need to do this" "I need to do that".. this lasted for quite some time before he realized that he cant do it all alone and he had to rely on others to convert his vision to reality.. he chose the best ones that were available, formed a small start up unit and tried to get his vision on track... In a span of 1 year his creative team of five was left with 2 including him. The only person left believed that they could achieve everything they thought. Great ideas, Exceptional vision.. yet the path and approach screwed it up... when he gave up he told something in one word "Never carry luggage of ideas on your journey, you will not be able to decide which ones to keep and which ones to throw up and in the end you will be left with just luggage"

So to bring you back on track... today I had a chat with a Developer who is involved in a Knowledge Transition on one of the legacy products along with our Architect. During the discussion we discussed the approach and how to handle the transition. We started discussing and discussing and perforated our vision to smoothify the whole transition... in process we started adding things that would smoothen the life of the product to some extent.. soon I realized that visionary thoughts had taken over the plain and immediate needs and we started asking
"I want this" , "Like this" , " By this period" blah blah blah... the confused developer looked at me and said "I surrender"

Yes.. its very important if your vision is not managed.. so how does one manage his her is my view...

1. Snap a grid of your vision, split it into major sections.. work, personal, technology and so on.. every single concept, phenomenon, idea or thought put them into the bucket..

2. Keep on adding comments and keep your vision in a evolving mode.

3. Dont just throw your excel sheet at some poor soul.. Vision is easy to cook, hard to digest.

4. Find the right time to bring the right elements. You will not want to think of building your muscles when you are down under high fever..

5. Put a review date to each of the items in your vision list / lists. Visit it religiously.

6. Dont hesitate to strike them off.. A huge list may give you a feel of visionary but in reality it will also make you look a non-organized executor.

7. Vision is futuristic , but has to be linked to present tense.. so dont burden your present or future.

Now if you too are a visionary or have some or the other items in your vision.. check your vision, form it well, organize it and better "MANAGE IT" before you destroy what exists.

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

How to handle a Bad Appraisal?

There is a time each year when each one of us undergoes the very very critical thing in our professional lives... Performance Review and Appraisal. Believe me it is as much of a hell for the person under going it as it is for the person doing it. Performance review no matter how much ever clear definitions of Key Result Areas are, how much ever clear review a performer undergoes through... Performance review can be most depressing. Though the name is suggestive enough to be inspiring, in reality this is the most critical phase that see's low moral for a lot of employees.

I have undergone a few really bad performance reviews and undergone some of the best ones.. Here I wish to share the experience and things to do.. so for those who come under such situation can maybe get some help handling the situation...

1. Dont gather conclusions, gather facts

The immediate and worse issue of any bad appraisal is the fact that the employee draws immediate conclusions to them... X person was favoured. Y is a useless manager, Z things were not considered correctly and so on. Conclusions drawn in haste cause a mental trauma in the post bad appraisal period. In the influence of quick drawn conclusions the intention of appraisal is missed out and you forget to enjoy the real benefits you draw from the whole process.

2. Speak up, Open up and ask questions without been defensive

A lot of bad appraisals happen because the employees are not communicative enough. It is important that post bad appraisal a clear time is given to thought and the reaction to the appraisal is communicated to the Appraiser in the best possible way. If certain task done by you had issues try to ask for what and how. Getting defensive is the worst mistake a lot of people do.. causing a wrong impression in the mind of the appraiser. Stand back, take time, collect the details of the points that affect negatively and communicate more on those topics, rather defending on what best things you did.
3. Comparison is outdated

The misery of a bad appraisal is a conflict that arises between colleagues. A developer working in my team earlier would not care as much about his own appraisal as he would for the rest of the people in the Team. Resulted in his best appraisals also sounded like the worst of his own appraisal. Comparison of reviews and appraisals is a waste of energy and effort.

4. Mobs are destructive

A bad or good review when discussed in a mob turns ugly. This is such a topic that when it meets the group it turns like ammonia smelling from a rose. I once gave a real time example to a friend on how mob can be destructive in making, drawing and converting a good thing to a worst thing....

A friend of mine wanted to discuss with us when he wanted to marry a girl he liked.. he wanted his friends to suggest him if he was doing a right thing.. and he raised this when everyone met together and were drunk... To the likes and dislikes of each soul he got several questions.. a few of them made him take back his decision and in turn loose the love of his life. The questions and suggestions he got ranged from "Is she a virgin? How is it possible?" to "I think she dominates you" and "I think she is less beautiful than your ex"... whoa... how destructive can a mob get on sensitive topics? Well I would put this topic for future sometime on why...

5. Review, Reform and Analyse

A lot of bad performances result in bad decisions and steps too... The first thing to do after a bad appraisal is to review yourself, understand what went good and what went bad. Analyse and try to structure an action path. This should include those retrospectives that you missed in your offence.

6. Calculate Growth

Review and calculate the growth options for yourself. A lot of people turn to change or hop jobs thinking that their bad review or appraisal is a step towards there demise. Try to ask and identify what and how much you mean to the Team or the organization. Check for your growth options and evaluate if those options would make you happy for future.

7. Communicate

The disaster that causes the post bad review period is the communication. Sitting with a frown face, reacting with a negative mood, not co-operating or bitching around are the symptoms that show the true professional value or ethics you carry. Communicate in a effective and direct way with the appraiser with positive and strong annotations about your expectations and also about what you intend to do. This helps in building a strong relationship at the same time concluding the ethical values of a professional attitude.

8. Dig the reality than building the dream palaces
Unlike drawing conclusions the post bad review period forces anyone to build palaces of assumptions that can very well hurt the morale not only for self but for others. A reality check is necessary.. what , How , Why and When are the legitimate questions to ask for.

9. Never spread negativity
A lot of people are due to spread negativity about bosses, about organization, about people about appraisers and many more such thing... this is the most ugly thing to do and get known for doing it.. Causes the fact that your image gets built as a Bad influence... And this impression can cause more troubles than console anything else. Bitching about people, blaming others, cribbing and similar acts are symptoms of this.

10. Stand up, Back it up
The stand someone takes in times of disasters is a stand well appreciated. Stand up and support the backend system instead of blaming it. This is the right time when your influence is seen and your potential identified.

Well of course there are quite a few more to do things that can get you out of the bad review mood.. the important element is here to assert the reality and do a check of what is good and what is bad... For a bad appraisal may just be waiting on another turn you intend to take or another path you want to draw.... or maybe you would be on another side of the table .. reading or doing a Google search for such topics on how to handle the Teams... As Managers it is important that you are motivated and prepared to handle this...

Control Vs Empowerment

We all are control freaks.. Yes I mean it.. We all are born to be control freaks.. We need as much control on things as we could get, no matter what you are doing. Don't agree?

Ask the Finance Minister isn't he controlling the economy?
Too far? Ask the Finance Director of your company for that extra dollar and see what and how he reacts?
Everyone sitting in any chair is a control freak.. for Good or for Bad.. they want to control, We want to control.

Anyways... the point is not to tell who is control freak and who not.. The idea of the post is how do we know if we are control freaks...

I had a discussion with Ani a few days ago...during the discussion he said that when 2 people get into a discussion, 1 person tries to dominate the discussion and the other gets bullied.. How would one have a fruitful discussion in such case? I agree... I have seen Managers going into discussion and not letting scope to have a discussion, result a unsatisfied orator... A meaningless argument, a odourless debate..

One of the major issues with several managers is that they think by controlling things they can do what they want to get done or vice versa... I dont believe so... A few months ago my kids were pushed into swimming classes.. the fear of drowning into water resulted in lot of yelling and crying when the tutor tried to get them even into knee-deep water.. Several attempts made to force, to throw them into water , to shout at them and to punish them to get into the swimming pool did not get them roll there hands and legs in the pool. Surf pads, floaters nothing was helping.. The tutor then caught a simple way to get them in... they were made to lay on a water bed where they could float and sleep.. a couple of days the water bed was pooled out without air and they still remained calm in water, a few days later they chose a double floater that would float them no matter where in water they would stand.. the fear started vanishing, confidence grew... result they started swimming.

The lesson I learn from this was simple...

The moment you try to force your or someone else's wish onto others it drives a human being to think that it is control, results in resistance no matter if it is for good or bad for them.
Control also has a very short life( Watch movie Matilda).
Control creates unhappiness.
Control drives dis-comfort.
Control invites dependency and troubles
Control creates arrogance
Control stalls growth

So how to not control?

Never impose
Never force
Never be pushy
Enable to make decision
Help in understanding facts and making decisions
Back up and support pre and post decision period.. no matter what the result is
Learn to listen, Learn to adapt to change
Learn to hear out

All of this will help the person do things you want him to do, on his own, realising the objective and trying to achieve the same goals... Yes that is what is Empowerment...

Control would fail, today or tomorrow... Empowerment succeeds always.