Leveraging the Frog in the Pot

July 1, 2010 by · Comment
Filed under: Leadership, Process, Quality, Teamwork 

Everyone has heard of that metaphor of a frog in a pot of water: put the little guy in hot water and he’ll jump right out, heat the water gradually and he’ll just hang out there. The gradual changes are too subtle for him to perceive them and do anything about it. This explains why a lot of team environments are the way they are, and might even give us an idea about what we can do about it. Read more

Pushing Too Hard

May 24, 2010 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: People, Quality, Teamwork 

We often make commitments to get things done within a given timeframe. Whether the time constraint was handed to you or you chose it is moot, as long as you have agreed to the commitment. If that time commitment is firm, and you find that it is not looking possible at some point, strange things start to happen. Read more

Focus on the Craft

April 2, 2010 by · Comment
Filed under: People, Quality 

In his book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell provides a rule of thumb that people will get good at their craft after they have spent 10,000 hours plying it. He talks about the Beatles and their years in small clubs in Germany, Mozart and his long tenure in music, and describes the early years of Bill Joy and Bill Gates as well. I’ve heard similar 250,000 word rules for writing (I’m well past that mark and think there’s still lots to learn), and the practice time put in by some of the sports greats is legendary. Seems there is something to all this: that time – lots of time – is an important part of becoming good at something. Raw talent or innate genius will only get you so far. Read more

High Cost of Success

March 26, 2010 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Leadership, People, Project management, Quality 

In all kinds of projects, despite all the theory behind project management best-practices or ‘branded’ methodologies or lifecycles, I would say that the majority of projects get done with more than a little ‘seat-of-the-pants’ effort. In construction circles you will see ‘as built’ notations on the drawings, in many projects you will see a lot of scurrying, sprinkled with some long hours, and a dash or so of frayed nerves. The project gets done, we declare success, but at what cost? Read more

Planting Seeds

December 22, 2009 by · Comment
Filed under: Leadership, Quality 

When it’s time to act as a catalyst for change in an organization, the last approach you want to take is the old ‘bull in a china-shop’ method: taking charge, giving orders, ignoring feedback, making demands. While you may end up delivering the proposed changes and maybe even an accurate analysis of what really needs to be done, you will fail in the end. There will be massive overt push back and passive resistance, and you will likely sour the team’s attitude toward change in general. A better approach is to think of yourself as a farmer, and to plant seeds. Read more

Where Do Lessons Go?

December 13, 2009 by · Comment
Filed under: Project management, Quality 

A good part of a formal closing for any project is a discussion of lessons learned. An even better approach is to get the stakeholders together to gather these lessons, both good and bad, in the form of a comprehensive retrospective. Unfortunately, in most cases, these lessons learned would be more appropriately called “things we should learn but are doomed to identify as lessons again on our next project.” Read more

Precision With a Wide, Moving Target

November 30, 2009 by · Comment
Filed under: Leadership, Quality 

One of the requests that I don’t think will ever go away in training and mentoring is the request for a recipe. Many people in this YouTube world of short attention spans aren’t interested in taking the time to understand topics in depth, they just want to know what will work, and simply apply it. Sorry, but I don’t think that makes for things more complex than chocolate brownies or IKEA furniture. Read more

Top of Mind

November 14, 2009 by · Comment
Filed under: Leadership, People, Process, Quality 

A few months ago, I posted some data that suggests that when we compare performance against different approaches to developing software, no particular brand stands out. Each approach appears to provide some net value in some area of performance, but there is no clear winner in the broad-based “this is the best way to develop our products” competition. There might be a couple of well known effects at play here. Read more

Best Foot Forward

November 7, 2009 by · Comment
Filed under: Leadership, Process, Quality 

There are many approaches that teams can take to improve. One thing that any team needs to understand before they should even try to get better is to understand why they would even bother to do so. There needs to be a clear and compelling reason for doing something different than they are currently doing, or any attempt to change is doomed to failure. Usually, that ‘why’ is sitting right under their noses, hiding in plain sight. Read more

Control and Management

October 20, 2009 by · Comment
Filed under: Leadership, Process, Project management, Quality 

The terms Control and Management are often used interchangeably for a variety of activities in product development: configuration, change, risk, process, and so on. From my perspective, there is a difference between the attitude (implied or expressed) with these words, and for a couple of reasons, I tend to lean towards management over control. Read more

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