Do you work to earn money?
May 31st, 2011 by Joca

Do you work to earn money? Or do you work to solve someone’s problem and earning money is just a consequence of the good work you did solving someone’s problem? Earning money is one of many indicators that you’re doing a good job, but you need to know what problem are you solving and why.

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Revenue is like food
May 19th, 2011 by Joca

Recently I read a very interesting post written by Martin Fowler on the three pillars that serve as direction to ThoughtWorks. The three pillars came from Ben & Jerry’s mission statement:

Ben & Jerry's mission statement

In his post, Martin used the phrase “revenue is like oxygen – you need it in order to live but it isn’t what you live for” as a metaphor to explain the sustainable business pillar. I really like this metaphor but I would like to propose another one to help explain the sustainable business pillar:

Revenue is like food:

  • you need it in order to live but it isn’t what you live for and;
  • eating too much or too fast or the wrong food can make you ill.

Too much revenue: how come too much revenue is bad? Well, there are many ways that too much revenue can be harmful. If you sell at a price too high, a person may buy one time, but she’ll have the feeling that she paid too much and she probably won’t buy again. Or if you sell more than what your able serve, your customer won’t be happy. Or you sell something you are not capable of delivering, again you won’t make your customer happy.

Growing revenue too fast: how come growing revenue too fast can be bad? If you are not prepared to sell fast, you may hurt your business by providing your customer with poor product or service. They won;t be happy, they won’t return, they won’t tell their friends good things about you.

Wrong revenue: is there such a thing as wrong revenue? If you have revenue due to the causes explained in the two items above, they can be harmful to your business. Besides this, other examples are revenue from an unethical sale or revenues that can create cash now but many operational problems in the future.

Next time you are chasing a new revenue, remember the analogy with food – your business need the revenue to live, but it doesn’t live for the revenue. Is this revenue enough for your business or are you trying to put too much food in your mouth? Are you acquiring this revenue at the right pace or you are being too fast and your company won’t be able to cope with the demand? Is this a good revenue or it may hurt your company in the future even providing some cash now?

P.S.: If you like this post, you may like Purpose Beyond Profit. And if you like analogies, you may like Leading is similar to being a doctor.

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Leading is similar to being a doctor
Apr 27th, 2011 by Joca

Those who has been following my posts know that I like to borrow ideas from medicine and relate them to software development an management. Below are two posts that make comparisons between medicine and software development and management:

The surgery

By the end of February/2011 I was submitted to a cervical spine disc replacement surgery like the one shown below (it’s just an animation with no actual blood):

The result is in the x ray images below:

frontal x ray

frontal x ray

x ray side view

x ray side view

The doctor did the surgery on February, 25th. However, the healing process will take months. According to the doctor, it can take one year until all the symptoms that motivated the surgery disappear.

The comparison

What caught my attention is that the surgeon only did an intervention but all the healing process is done by the body. The same happens when a doctor prescribes a medicine, which is also an intervention, but again is up to the body to actually heal itself.

Leading a team is quite similar. The leader should do some interventions when necessary but is up to the team to do the work in order to get to the goals.

Agile leadership

Leadership is topic that I really enjoy studying and discussing. It’s one of my top topics in this blog with more than 40 posts so far. And I already discussed about agile leadership in some of these previous posts:

In one of my reading session on leadership I found an interesting comparison between leadership and gardening made by Jurgen Appelo, who writes frequently about agile management:

I often compare managers to gardeners. An unmanaged garden is typically full of weeds, not beauty. From a biological perspective, there’s no difference. Either way, the ecosystem in the garden is self-organizing. It takes a gardener (authorized by the owners of the garden) to turn an anarchistic garden into something that the owners will enjoy. Likewise, it takes a manager (authorized by shareholders) to steer self-organizing teams in a direction that delivers value to the shareholders.

Even though I like this comparison, it considers that the gardener/manager has to constantly interfere, which I don’t believe is an appropriate behaviour for a manager. In my view, a manager’s interference should be done only when needed and, after the interference, the team should work by itself to solve things out with little or no intervention by the manager. Hence my comparison to a doctor who interferes only when needed by prescribing change of habits, medicine, physical therapy and / or surgery and who let the body do the work and be in charge of the healing process.

Next time you are in a team, either as part of the team or playing the role of leading the team, think about the leadership role similar to the doctor and the team work similar to the healing process carried out by the body. It helps understand the roles and responsibilities.

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On purpose and happiness
Apr 13th, 2011 by Joca

I just finished reading Tony Hsieh’s Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose, an interesting book on Tony experience as entrepreneur and his findings along the way.

Delivering Happiness

Delivering Happiness

The first thing he noticed is how important it is to have, to understand and to maintain a company culture. This is something I already covered in the posts below:

After the company culture topic, Tony discussed happiness and how it is connected with purpose. I’ve already discussed happiness here in the post named Hector’s list of happiness where one of the items of the list is “Happiness is feeling useful to others”. On another post named Purpose beyond profit where I mentioned the importance for a company to have a clearly defined purpose in order to be successful. What I found quite interesting in Tony’s book is the final chapter, “End Game”, where he wrote about his research on the topic of heppiness and the connection between people happiness and company purpose. First he explained the three type of happiness:

The pleasure type of business is about always chasing the next high. I like to refer to it as the “Rock Star” type of happiness because it’s great if you can have a constant inflow of stimuli, bu it’s very hard to maintain unless you’re living the lifestyle of a rock star. Research has shown that of the three types of happiness, this is the shortest lasting. As soon as the source of stimuli goes away, people’s happiness levels drop immediately.

The passion type of happiness is also known as flow, where peak performance meets peak engagement, and time flies by. Research has shown that of the three types of happiness, this is the second longest lasting. Professional athletes sometimes refer to this state as “being in the zone”.

Higher Purpose
The higher-purpose type of happiness is about being part of something bigger than yourself that has meaning to you. Research has shown that of the three types of happiness, this is the longest lasting. What I find interesting is that many people go through life chasing after the pleasure type of happiness, thinking that once they are able to sustain that, then they will worry about passion and, if they get around to it, look for their higher purpose.

3 types of happiness

3 types of happiness

Based on the findings of the research, however, the proper strategy would be to figure out and pursue the higher purpose first (since it is the longest-lasting type of happiness), then layer on top of that passion, and then add on top of that the pleasure type of happiness.

Source: Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose

Then he goes on explaining fractals, rough or fragmented geometric shapes that can be split into parts, each of which is (at least approximately) a reduced-size copy of the whole (source: Wikipedia):

Computer made fractal

Computer made fractal

Real life fractal: Jupiter

Real life fractal: Jupiter

Real life fractal: leaf

Real life fractal: leaf

Real life fractal: lung

Real life fractal: lung

Real life fractal: tree

Real life fractal: tree

And then he explains how similar the three types of people happiness are to the three elements that is found in great companies, just like in fractals:

I think the parallels between what research has found makes people happy (pleasure, passion and purpose) and what the research has found makes for great long-term companies (profits, passion and purpose) makes for one of the most interesting fractals I’ve ever come across.

Happiness and business

Happiness and business

Source: Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose

So here’s a few questions for us to think about:

  • Do I know what’s my higher purpose?
  • Do I know the higher purpose of the company I work for?
  • Are these higher purposes the same?
  • If not, what should I do?
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Delegation levels
Apr 4th, 2011 by Joca

Just found a very good article on delegation by Jurgen Appelo.

Here’s a very concise summary. The main idea is that delegation is not a binary decision where you either delegate or don’t delegate. There are other levels of delegation between those 2 extremes and each of these other levels should be used depending on the context, i.e., the issue to be solved and who will be working on the issue.

The seven levels are:

  1. Tell: You make decisions and announce them to your people. (This is actually not delegation at all.)
  2. Sell: You make decisions, but you try to “sell” your idea to your team. It is delegation by informing your people of your motivation.
  3. Consult: You invite and weigh input from workers. It is delegation by consulting your people before coming to a decision.
  4. Agree: You invite workers to join in a discussion and to reach consensus as a group. Your voice is equal to the others.
  5. Advise: You attempt to influence workers by giving them advice, but you leave it up to them to decide what to do with your opinion.
  6. Inquire: You let the team decide. And afterwards you inquire about their motivations, or you ask that they actively keep you informed.
  7. Delegate: You leave it entirely up to the team to deal with the matter, and you don’t even need to know which decisions they make.

The author made a nice image to illustrate the 7 levels:

The 7 levels of delegation

The 7 levels of delegation

Here’s the author explanation on why he created the 7 levels of delegation:

The Seven Levels of Authority improve upon the four “leadership styles” of Situational Leadership Theory by clearly distinguishing between informing and consulting (as suggested by the RACI matrix). It also adds an extra final level which is not covered in Situational Leadership Theory, because in Agile Management this final level is the ultimate goal.

If you have time, the article is worth the time investment. It gives more details on each level as well as provides examples that show where and how to apply each level.

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4 types of company culture
Mar 23rd, 2011 by Joca

I just found an interesting presentation by Lloyd Taylor. He was Director of Global Operations for Google for 3 years and after that he was VP Technical of Operations at Linkedin for another 3 years.

His presentation was done during one of the SVDevOps meetup in the beginning of the year, but it has lots of elements of organizational culture, which he based on the book “The Character of a Corporation: How a Company’s Culture Can Make Or Break Your Business“. The presentation is quite short, only 26 slides long and the culture related slides where he talks about the 4 types of company culture are only 13 (from 3 through 16).

For those interested in watching Lloyd’s presentation, there’s an 1 hour video at Vimeo:

Lloyd Taylor: “Hacking Your Organization” from dev2ops.org on Vimeo.

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Responsibility, accountability and authority
Mar 18th, 2011 by Joca

In last 2 weeks I had a chance to review and reinforce my understanding of responsibility, accountability and authority.

One can only be responsible and accountable for something she has the required authority to deal with.

For instance, a product manager cannot be responsible for defining revenue projections of a product if she doesn’t have the authority to drive the revenue generation strategy and tactics, which normally falls under marketing and sales. Note that I’m not talking about authority in the sense of being the “boss”. I’m talking about the authority a product manager uses to lead her product. The product manager has the authority to drive the product strategy and tactics even not being the boss of anyone. This is part of her job description.

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Agile management
Mar 4th, 2011 by Joca

When we implemented agile methodologies at Locaweb, the same way that some developers asked to leave because they were not willing to adapt to some of the agile principles that we decided to embrace, some of the existing managers also didn’t adapted well to the changes in their roles and responsibilities and asked to leave.

At the time, I discussed this topic with people from other companies and they mentioned that it’s not unusual to have developers and managers leaving the company when moving to agile. I remember even someone mentioning that in average 10% of developers leave. That was back in 2007 / 2008. I’m not sure if this tendency have lowered lately, since agile is becoming more and more mainstream.

I also read – and continue to read – a lot about the topic. One of the sources I’ve been reading and enjoying is Jurgen Appelo’s posts about agile management. I’ve been reading his posts for a while, since the time he was the CTO of a dutch company. I really like the way he connects agile methodologies and complex adaptive systems theory.

Now he is 100% focused on his agile management coach career. He recently launched a book entitled “Management 3.0: Leading Agile Developers, Developing Agile Leaders“.

He also provides Agile Management courses that seem to be quite interesting:

Checkout also his presentations on slideshare. Checkout this presentation on authority and delegation:

Other posts about the same topic:

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Top 10 Mistakes in Behavior Change
Mar 1st, 2011 by Joca

Just found an interesting short presentation – 12 slides – about the mistakes to avoid when we try to change a behavior. By “behavior change” think in terms of your own behavior regarding something or the behavior of your team or even the behavior of your customers!

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Interesting stuff
Feb 28th, 2011 by Joca

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