Category Archives: Management

The Hiring Paradox

This article discusses why hiring good people is even more diffiucult during these rough economic times. Good read, it reaffirms my beleif that you should be striving to hire the A-team always and never settle for the B or C players.
http://blog.summation.net/2009/03/why-hiring-is-paradoxically-harder-in-a-downturn.html

Work Life Balance

I’ve just finished reading (listening to actually) David Allen’s latest book Making it all work. He makes an incredibly profound statement in chapter two; work life balance becomes irelevant if you are able to achieve pure stress-free productivity or the “Mind Like Water” state.  David Allen believes that if you are able to completely remove all the stress and anxiety associated with your day to day life you will experience deep focus and enjoyment of what ever you are doing at that moment. You will not be distracted by the minutia that normally occupies your subconscious. You will enjoy the time spent with your family at a deeper level because you are not distracted and stressed by your work. You will enjoy your work much more because of your deeper focus and higher level of productivity. He is dead on.

I can attest to that since re-implementing GTD in my life I have felt less stress and better focus in my work. This has led to a much happier and engaged father and husband at home. I have felt more energetic and more creative. This in turn has pushed me back into the gym and gotten me blogging and writing instead of watching TV.

Knowledge is king

There has been much discussion in linkedin and the blogo-sphere about choosing the right knowledgebase technology for your business. The authors are focused on which wiki, blog or version of SharePoint is best. Having deployed enterprise knowledge bases using Sharepoint and various Wiki technologies in the last few years I can tell you that the technology itself makes very little difference. It’s the information and how you plan to collect it that is the key.
You will face resistance if you plan for people to start documenting everything they know and do. People have a natural instinct for job security and will most likely not comply or do a poor job of it. You will need to plan on a way to provide benefit to the employee for documenting their knowledge. I’ve had success in the past creating knowledgebase’s of support and maintenance information. I made documenting their knowledge a prerequisite for promotion out of that role.
A more natural approach could be to make the work itself the documentation. Software developers have been embedding documentation in their work for years. This eliminates the need for separate user manuals or development guides. The code itself becomes the documentation.  Providing your employees with an archive of documents, spreadsheets, images or objects created in the past could very well be the most effective approach to documenting your enterprise IP.

Pushing the envelope

We’ve just completed 2 back to back projects with tight deadlines over a 3 month stretch. This has been an extremely demanding period, I haven’t been through anything like this since Y2K! The team was asked to deliver on extremely tight deadlines and put in a substantial amount of over time hours and weekends. We we’re successful but it came at a cost, the team is tired and generally grumpy.

I’ve drawn some interesting observations from this experience:

1. When deadlines are tight you need to manage the team closely. You need to set daily objectives and make deadlines and priorities very clear. I found doing stand up scrum meetings with all stakeholders once a day very effective. Avoid the temptation to stand over people’s shoulders and nag them.

2. You need to let people vent. People are going to get frustrated or even angry. They will want to blame somebody or somebody’s mistake for getting them into a tight deadline. You just need to listen, let them get it off their chest. They will feel better and will appreciate your attention. Avoid telling them to suck it up, but instead give them the truth about why we need to do this and what happens if we fail. Be sure to cut them off if they get disrespectful, you need to make sure it stays professional.

3. You need to stay positive. Your attitude will be reflected by those in your team. If your team sees you being down or negative they will loose their motivation and work will slow right down.

I can’t say that I was perfect during this period, but I gave it my best. One of the big reasons I write this blog is to reflect on my successes and my mistakes and learn from them.

Nine behaviours that could wreck an IT manager’s career

I came across a great article in ITBusiness.ca about the behavior IT managers should avoid. The idea of focusing on talent vs resources really hit home with me. In the fast paced web dev / agency world the difference between good and great is not about how many resources you have but in fact what type of talent you have.

Check our the whole article here: http://www.itbusiness.ca/it/client/en/home/news.asp?id=49498

Innovate or grow?

It’s been crazy lately. Lots of work and lots of meetings. There has been a steady stream of new work coming in the door. The flow of work makes me uneasy, I’m wondering weather or not I have enough people to get it all done in the timelines the client wants. I guess I should be hiring more programmers; right? That leads me to my next problem. I don’t think I can effectively manage any more people. Currently I have 10 direct reports that I manage day to day, provide feedback for and coach. I would have to compromise my management style in order to manage more people. I also don’t think we can carry any more people from a financial perspective. The only thing I could do was to innovate. We needed to figure out ways of getting more productivity out of the people we had. This doesn’t mean making them work longer hours, it means finding methods and tools that will help them work faster.

We started by looking at different software development technologies like Ruby on Rails, Grails, Drupal, Joomla, PHP etc.. At the time we were developing front ends in Flash and Flex and developing the back end in pure Java. I was interested in simplifying the Java development and enabling the reuse of code. After evaluating the options we landed on Grails. Grails is a Web application RAD framework. It is to Java what Ruby on Rails is to Python. We choose it because it fit perfectly into our Java culture and technology footprint. The team is ecstatic with the shift into a new cutting edge technology. Learning a new platform has boosted morale and improved employee engagement. I expect that this will also have a positive long term effect on turn over.

We’re now working on our second project with Grails and it has improved productivity by at least one third. I’m confident that we will continue to speed up as the developers become more proficient in the language.

Adding 2 or 3 developers to the team would not have given me this kind of return and would have cost a fortune. Our shift to Grails has been a huge success, it has bought me some considerable breathing room, it made everyone happy and it didn’t cost me a cent!