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Tuesday, 13 December 2011

4 Reasons People Don't Do What You Need Them To Do

Recently read an interesting article, here is the extract:

One of the most frequent complaints I hear from managers is that their direct reports are failing to deliver on expectations. They feel at a loss about why this is happening and what they can do about it. They are likely to eventually come to the conclusion that the person is either lazy, lacks commitment or just isn't up to the job.
On closer inspection though, there are many reasons that lead to this underperformance.
Here are four of them.
They don't know what to do - Especially in these days of rapid change and everyone running to keep still it's easy to overlook the basics and to jump to conclusions that we have spelt out our expectations really clearly when we may not have done so.  Think about someone you manage whose performance is not living up to your expectations. How confident are you that you have articulated really clearly and specifically what you want them to do? Rather than using vague catch all terms like, "present professionally in meetings" or "write up a comprehensive report" etc. you will need to spell out exactly what that looks like so that they can replicate it.
They think they are already doing it - In the absence of effective and timely feedback, people either decide they are doing fine or that you don't care about what they are doing.
Consider if you have really taken the
opportunity to give specific behavioural feedback about what they are doing that works and what they are doing or not doing that doesn't work. A simple model to use is Action Impact Desire. What action you saw, what the impact was on you, on others, or on the project and what you Desire for the future. This can be used for motivational feedback when they have done something well that you want them to repeat and developmental feedback when you want them to do something differently.
They don't understand why they have to do it
- Someone once said to me that CEO should stand for Chief Explaining Officer. Right from the top, down through the business, leaders at all levels need to paint the big picture and help people see how what they are doing contributes to that big picture. You have probably heard the story about one brick layer saying he is building a wall, while the next brick layer proudly said he was building a cathedral. How are you helping your people see how what they do, contributes to cross functional performance and ultimately to the performance of the business.
They think they could do it differently /
- On a similar vein, maybe they aren't doing what you want because it doesn't make sense to them. That could be because they don't have the bigger picture or it could be that it really doesn't make sense. They are closer to the front line than you and the chances are they will have ideas about how things could be speeded up, made more efficient, more user or customer friendly etc. Make sure you don't overlook their expertise. Create the forum and the climate that encourages ideas and debate.
Just because you are listening doesn't mean you have to implement all their suggestions but it does help you keep your finger on the pulse, eases the burden on you to always know best and develops and values your staff.
I don't believe people come to work to
deliberately do a poor job. They may have different drivers and motivators from you but your role as manager is to bring out the best in those you manage. So, next time you are feeling frustrated that one of your people isn't delivering on your expectations, ask yourself what could be getting in the way and how you might be contributing to the issue.

Friday, 18 November 2011

Reducing organisation costs - what would you do if it was your money?

In current economy, managing costs is absolutely crucial in any organisation. Many of us are having to change our spending habits at home, and in work we’re also having to focus hard on cost control. This comes at a time when the wider business needs our support to help deliver what our customers want at a cheaper price.   In most of the organisations, we spend half our life either in meetings or preparing for meetings (what a waste of time?!? Lol ).  Therefore I thought why don’t I change the format of meetings and reduce the cost and save some time (and be productive ;) .  There are few simple measures any organisation can implement and achieve huge cost savings:   ·         Avoid overnight stays. No overnight stays, hotel accommodation or rail or air travel should be booked for the same day and meetings should be arranged for the later part of the day so that attendees can arrive comfortably.   ·         Events. Large scale events and conferences should be subject to rigorous cost control. Encourage employees to use company’s internal facilities where they can. In addition, attendance at external conferences and external training should be approved in advance by senior managers providing a full justification.   ·         Making the most of teleconference facilities. If you’re not in the same building, try to use teleconferencing facilities instead of face-to-face meetings. Conference calls have many advantages – they reduce our fuel costs and environmental impact; avoid the costs incurred with non-productive travelling time; and support our employees well being.  ·         Use Smart board or project: We all print documents for meeting attendees and it get thrown away immediately after the meeting. Instead use Smart board or projector and avoid printing presentations. Advantage – reducing printing and paper costs and environmental impact (10 points for being green and saving trees!). Few other simple tricks: ·         Recruitment. Recruit people from within the company or encourage employees to recommend their friends and relative. ‘Recommend a Friend’ reward should encouraged to reduce hefty fees of recruitment agencies.    ·         Personal equipment. Any unused personal equipment (for example blackberry’s, mobiles or laptops), should be recycled for new starters/replacements wherever possible.      We all need to work together as a team to ensure that we get the maximum value for our money. Tell us what you would do if this was your own cash? We’re interested in finding out how you think we can become even more efficient.    Thanks for everything that you’ll do to help and make sure you keep the ideas coming.   Regards Krish  

Friday, 4 November 2011

Estimating story from trenches

To me, Complexity, Effort and Time are three key things we need to consider. You look at the complexity of a story to derive the effort required to estimate the time it will take you to finish the story.
To use an analogy of carrying a log of wood from point A to point B:
COMPLEXITY: “How BIG and HEAVY is the Log of wood?”
EFFORT: “How much horsepower is required to pull this log?” This is where Story point comes in (IMO).
TIME: Say it takes 2 Horsepower, “how quickly can 6 horses move the log from A to B?” And this, we all know is velocity which can only be derived after a few Sprints.
Complexity cannot be seen in isolation and effort cannot be measured without knowing the complexity.

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Is there a point in story point estimation? How do we estimate accurately?

This is a relative size of the story compared to other story estimated by the same team – it has nothing to do with who is implementing it and how long it's going to take. Story points are relative estimate, so that you know that 5 point story will take approx. 5 times longer than 1 point story.
Benefits are
-          Team’s velocity can be measured

-          Allows team to plan future sprint without over/under committing and forecasting total number of sprints. As a result no unrealistic expectations are placed on the team

-          Helps team to focus on completing dev and testing in the same sprint

-          Helps teams reach a sustainable pace and due to this the business starts to believe in the team

Hours (or ideal hours) are more about time estimation. It can lead to several problems:

- Your "hours" are not the same as mine. It can be harder to make team estimate during release planning.

- It’s easier to make relative estimates and then calculate team velocity in points.

- Stories are usually decomposed to tasks for the sprint. These tasks can be implemented by different people. So total effort is not simply calculated as sum of task estimates.
Usually it's recommended to make story estimation in points for release backlogs and in hours for sprint backlog.

1. Story points are a pure measure of size and complexity
2. Story points are relative (say, with respect to the simplest story) and so have a much longer shelf-life
3. Story points are usually independent of who gives the estimate (as in, an experienced developer and an apprentice can usually agree on something like complexity fairly quickly)
4. Story points avoid the need for discussions like “what are *ideal* hours, really?” or “My ideal hours are different from your ideal hours, stupid.” These add no value.
5. Story points don’t influence behaviour (e.g. Parkinson’s Law)
6. Story points are easier to work with – especially when product owners start to wonder why “3 ideal days take a week…”
7. Story points are more fun – especially when they’re in units like gummy-bears, polar bears, or other endangered species.
Have fun

Thursday, 28 April 2011

Guidelines for home working

Guidelines for Occasional Working from Home

It may be appropriate for some employees from time to time to carry out
some of their duties at home. Such arrangements may be made on the basis
of an informal agreement with their Line/Team Manager. There are
obviously potential benefits for both the employer and the employee in
such arrangements but it is important to be aware of the implications
and of the responsibility of the parties.

It should be noted that this guidelines covers occasional work from home
only and if an employee or prospective employee requests to be
designated a home-worker further advice should be sought from the
HR\department. For the purposes of this guide, occasionally will be
defined to represent no more than 20% of working time calculated on a
monthly basis.

1. Guidelines for Employees
From time to time it may be more appropriate for you to work from home
for example to complete a piece of work with the minimum of disruption.
Please note that working from home is a privilege, not prerogative and
should allowed only when it serves the need of individual as well as

If you wish to be considered for occasional working from home you should
approach your line manager.

1.1 Essential tools for Remote/Home working

There are certain recommended tools available to facilitate effective
and efficient home working:

Category    Tools
Remote connectivity    VPN(Virtual Private Network), Internet
Instant Messaging (IM)    Skype, MS Communicator
Document Sharing    SharePoint , Team site
Remote Meeting    MS Live Meeting, SMART Board
Agile planning tool    Mingle, Mountaingoat's online poker tool

1.2 Availability and communication
Consideration must be given to the work of the individual's team and the
requirements for communication. Employees must be available and
contactable during agreed working hours.
*    Ensure VPN (Virtual Private network) has been installed on the
laptop/machine and VPN token has been issue. Please check VPN
connectivity beforehand.
*    Ensure all required and approved communication tools such as MS
Office communicator, MS Live meeting, Skype etc has been installed, user
registered and activated before hand.
*    Ensure availability of a reliable internet connection.
*    Ensure a Headphone and microphone is available to use with
communicator /live meeting
*    Ensure your IM (Instant Messaging) id is available to the team
members and you have added your team members in your contact list.
*    Update the outlook calendar and 'Out of office' response to
reflect that you are working from home.
*    Ensure your contact phone number is available to the team
*    Always update your status if you are likely to unavailable for a
certain period of time.

In order to work from home securely and safely, you need to consider the

1.3 Security
Employees must take care to ensure the security of work in their home,
this will include;

*    Security and confidentiality of company equipment and
*    No access of friends and family to work related information.
*    Protection of home computers and their links, employees must
ensure that work moved by disk does not transfer viruses to company's
*    Do not leave any work related sensitive material on your home
desk or personal computer

1.4 Display Screen Equipment
If you do work at home using a computer the Display Screen Equipment
Regulations apply and you should undertake an assessment of your
workstation to make sure it does not present any health and safety

1.5 Electrical and Other Work Equipment
Employees are responsible for the safety of the wiring/electricity
circuit in their homes. It is important to ensure that any electrical
equipment, for example laptop computers provided for work at home is
safe and regularly maintained

2.0  Guidelines for Line/team managers:

Consideration needs to be given to the role of the person who home
works. For example a Development Lead who works from home/off shore 2
days a week and this can present difficulties in having to take the role
of Proxy Development Lead on quite a few occasions.

Working from home can be considered where there is no requirement for
close supervision or regular interactions in order for work to be
completed and where working away from the workplace would not affect the
quality of the work. Consideration must also be given to the work of the
individual's team and requirement for communication.

The team/line manager should agree with the employee, clear guidelines
of what is expected. These should include:

*    Clear tasks and objectives
*    Procedure for assessing and monitoring performance and output
*    Communication arrangements including agreement of when and how
the employee can be contacted, it should also be defined who may be
given access to the employees home phone number
*    Any training & development needs identified as a result of the
*    Details of any company's equipment used at home
*    Frequent face to face meetings, especially during team
retrospectives or sprint planning session.

These guidelines are suggestive, rather than comprehensive.
These guideline can be customised to suit your organisation.


Monday, 28 March 2011

Agile team and home working

Agile team and home working
Agile and home working seems to be at odds with each other. One is about close communication, co-location and short feedback loops; the other is about being effective with people working away from their usual office location. If terms like “Slow network”, “communication gap”, “different time zones”, “different work culture” sound familiar then you too are going through what I am going through these days.

The purpose of this discussion is to find out if a team can be agile while teams are distributed or few team members prefer to work from home. How do we create an effective and efficient team and still deliver quickly? What are the guidelines around home working?
We do have a need for people to be in the office, and it isn’t always possible. There are certain advantages and disadvantages of working away from the team.
Home working is mostly advantageous for the worker:
More Flexibility: This gives employees flexibility to sort out their personal work while at work. When working from home, your schedule at home is much easier to bend. It’s much easier to tie in your personal schedule with your work schedule when you work from home.
Less Transportation/commuting: This can help you get a little bit more sleep in the morning and have more time for yourself in the evening for activities & leisure. Arguably the biggest money saving benefit from working at home is the transportation cost savings.
Less stress & anxiety: An office can bring about a lot of competition, gossip, and backstabbing among co-workers. This type of environment takes its toll after a while both mentally and physically. Working from home will save you these headaches.
Increased productivity With all the time that you are saving from not having to commute to work, and not socialising half the day with co-workers, you end up getting a lot more done when you are working from home. As long as you remain motivated and driven, working from home is much more effective to deliver results (provided there is no distraction from family members or pet).
Closer relationship: Working from home allows you to have such freedom and increase the chances of spending quality time with your loved ones which you just cannot put a price tag on.
Broken communication: Critical key to home working is the team member remaining in full contact with the team. This presents a number of difficulties with communication. Although you are only a phone call/email away, still direct discussion with team member can be more effective.
Reduced Productivity: My team had problems when a testing team member was based in South Africa. The internet connection was very slow (bandwidth issue) and it took ages to upload or download document (test script etc). The VPN connection timed out while testing software.  Other distractions can also reduce productivity.
Face2Face: When there is a need for people to be in the office for the key meetings, such as Sprint Planning, workshops, User Stories elaboration and estimation sessions where conversation can become many voices and fast paced. In this situation teleconferencing is least effective.
Emotionless: Working from home can restrict feeling of emotions other team members are going through, especially when system is going live or found a bug which needs immediate attention or just a taste of cup-cake baked by a team member to celebrate birthday.
Increased resolution time: It takes longer to resolve problems when a particular team member is required to resolve a problem or issue.
Loss of synergy: Nothing dynamic and thus you loose the synergy of two or more people working together seamlessly in a dynamic way, especially when team members are doing pair programming.
Tools to facilitate co-location while working from home:

To overcome these problems, there are certain tools available in the market to facilitate effective and efficient home working:
Tools like Skype, MS Communicator and Live Meeting. We have had people working from home in the UK and abroad. These three pieces of software mentioned above can help to alleviate this.
Mountaingoat’s online poker tool to be good for geographically dispersed teams though the session has to be very well planned for in advance.
Use SharePoint/web based document share (i.e. google doc) for document storage and of course any web based agile planning tool helps greatly across distributed scrum teams.
SMART Board: This is something I have started using few years ago. It is expensive to buy but comes with numerous benefits. The external invitee has a pen tray with colours, shapes and an eraser to interact with board dynamically plus we can hear them over the speakers – vice versa with a microphone of course. The software provides two way interactions. Plus we can use web cam too. Consider the situation where we have developers, testers and Product Owners geographically dispersed and you want to do something simple like interact with a script, do some design clarification or even show some interaction on the front-end before signing a User Story off.
Consideration needs to be given to the role of the person who home works. For example a Development Lead who works from home/off shore 2 days a week and this can present difficulties in having to take the role of Proxy Development Lead on quite a few occasions. This is really evident at go-live when they are off shore and the team are in the office. I agree that technology can not replace human touch but we all need to compromise somewhere or other. Therefore I recommend frequent face 2 face meetings, especially during team retrospectives or during point planning session and other activities which don’t need much of interaction with others can be performed remotely and make sure you are available online to interact with the team when needed.
Any other rules?