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The management roles and responsibilities
Feb 21st, 2011 by Joca

I just read two very good articles on roles and responsibilities of a management team.

A CEO does only three things:

  • Sets the overall vision and strategy of the company and communicates it to all stakeholders.
  • Recruits, hires, and retains the very best talent for the company.
  • Makes sure there is always enough cash in the bank.

Source: What A CEO Does

  • Create an environment for success: Do people like to come to work every day? When they get there, do they know what they’re supposed to do, and how it connects to the company’s mission? Are people learning and growing? Are you building an enduring organization beyond you as a leader?
  • Nip problems in the bud, or prevent them entirely: Are you spending enough time thinking about your business’s vulnerabilities? Do you go into a dark cave of paranoia once in a while and make sure you’re cognizant of all the main potential threats to your livelihood? What can you do to spot smoke as an early warning detection of fire?
  • Exploit big opportunities: Do you know the top 5 things that will make your company successful? Are you constantly on the lookout for signs that it’s time to invest more heavily in them? Are you nimble enough to make those investments when the time is right…and have you developed the intellectual or infrastructural underpinnings to make those investments matter?

Source: The Three Functions of a Management Team

These posts reminded me of the two main leadership roles I try to do everyday:

  • Strategic role: set the context.
  • Tactic role: remove obstacles.
1 person likes this post.

Interesting stuff
Feb 19th, 2011 by Joca

  • Customers shouldn’t be the ones who define your products; they should be the inspiration for your products definition. (via @sjohnson717)
  • In general I think that anger is a sign of weakness and tolerance a sign of strength. (via @DalaiLama)
  • Very good article by @simonsinek: Good Marketing vs. Bad Marketing – http://bit.ly/f4kuna
  • …people spend most of their time either jumping to conclusions or else taking no notice at all of facts. (via http://bit.ly/guRxQw)
  • Different modes of behaviour on the part of the wise are to be regarded as due to differences in individuality, not of quality. (via http://bit.ly/guRxQw)
  • Anyone “software professional” who is not humble about the software business is is not actually a professional. (via @JerryWeinberg)
  • Really beautiful REAL Google Earth FRACTALS! But missing Brazil though… http://bit.ly/hja6PX (via @cristobalvila)
  • Interesting notes on entrepreneurship: http://bit.ly/dNS8ga
1 person likes this post.

It's all about the people
Feb 14th, 2011 by Joca

I just read a very good article entitled Our Priorities Reveal our Values from Simon Sinek. I already mentioned Simon in my article Purpose beyond profit. Here’s a part of the article that got my attention:

I listened to a presentation given by top executives of a large firm recently. In their presentation, they listed the company’s priorities:

  1. Top line growth
  2. Enhance shareholder value
  3. Focus on global expansion
  4. Enhance customer satisfaction
  5. Our people

I think it’s safe to say, they don’t really value their people. Or at least they don’t put their people before growth. Ironically, the best organizations I’ve ever seen, the ones that are actually more profitable for the long-term, all put people before growth on their list of priorities.

As Lou Gerstner, the man who reinvented IBM, said, “culture is not an aspect of the game. Culture is the game.”


People are People

People are People (source: Flickr)

It’s all about the people

Note that Simon wrote that “the best organizations I’ve ever seen, the ones that are actually more profitable for the long-term, all put people before growth on their list of priorities.” and in the list of priorities he presented put people in the last two positions.

When we talk about business, we’re talking about people. A company is made of people inside the company (employees) and people outside the company (customers and suppliers). In order for a company to be successful, the people inside the company must always be focused on the people outside and inside the company. The people inside the company need to understand the needs, values and culture of the people outside and inside the company to be able to interact with them in a helpful way. That’s the mission of any company. All the rest – revenue, profit, market share, stock price, etc. – is consequence.

2 people like this post.

Under pressure
Feb 7th, 2011 by Joca

Jason Yip just reminded me about the “under pressure” situation:

When people are pressured to meet targets they have three ways to respond:

  1. Improve the system
  2. Distort the system
  3. Distort the data

Fonte: Jason Yip’s blog

Yip is reading what seems to be a very good book on variation, Understanding Variation: The Key to Managing Chaos. In this book the author Donald J. Wheeler, according to an Amazon.com reviewer, “provides managers a rational way to look at daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly figures and tell whether the actions they take have resulted in improvement”. It seems to be a very interesting book from what Yip’s been posting:

Understanding Variation

Understanding Variation


Well, another book for my future reading list. Hopefully it will have a Kindle version soon.

Under pressure

Going back to the “under pressure” topic:

When people are pressured to meet targets they have three ways to respond:

  1. Improve the system
  2. Distort the system
  3. Distort the data

Fonte: Jason Yip’s blog

That’s a good way to see the possible outcomes of a group of people under pressure.

I like to use balloon as a metaphor to help understand under pressure situations.

Balloon

Balloon


Here’s why:

  • there’s pressure from inside and from outside.
  • pressure from inside and from outside needs to be balanced.
  • to much pressure from the inside or to little pressure from outside and balloon explodes.
  • to much pressure from the outside or to little pressure from inside and the balloon explodes unless it is one of those balloons where the more outside pressure it gets the harder it is to explode.

Lessons learned

  • There’s no such thing as “no pressure”. A group of people needs pressure from outside (the goal, the target date, lack of resources) as well as from inside (motivation) to exist and do things, just like a balloon.
  • Inside pressure and outside pressure needs to be balanced with some tendency to have a bit more pressure from the outside.
  • Under pressure, a group of people either explode or get stronger.
1 person likes this post.

Software development, craftsmanship and how to choose a professional
Jan 18th, 2011 by Joca

Last week I read two very interesting posts in Dan North’s blog:

The first one explains why software development is not a craft, but that pissed off lots of people, hence the 151 comments so far. So Dan wrote the second post explaining some controversial points of the first one. This has 11 comments so far.

Software development and craftsmanship

On one side, I understand why some developers believe software development is a craft. I understand the motivation behind the Manifesto Software Craftsmanship:

As aspiring Software Craftsmen we are raising the bar of professional software development by practicing it and helping others learn the craft. Through this work we have come to value:

Not only working software,
            but also well-crafted software

Not only responding to change,
            but also steadily adding value

Not only individuals and interactions,
            but also a community of professionals

Not only customer collaboration,
            but also productive partnerships

That is, in pursuit of the items on the left we have found the items on the right to be indispensable.

On the other side, I tend to agree with Dan that “programming is not a craft”. As explained in Wikipedia:

In English, to describe something as a craft is to describe it as lying somewhere between an art (which relies on talent) and a science (which relies on knowledge).

Also according to Wikipedia:

Art is the product or process of deliberately arranging symbolic elements in a way that influences and affects one or more of the senses, emotions, and intellect.

According to the definitions above, I don’t believe programming is an art. Programming is a “product or process that deliberately arranging symbolic elements”. However, we cannot say that programming “influences and affects one or more of the senses, emotions, and intellect”.

As the final user, we expect only that the software works as required. It doesn’t matter how it is done.

Dan compared programming to plumbing:

Non-programmers don’t care about the aesthetics of software in the same way non-plumbers don’t care about the aesthetics of plumbing – they just want their information in the right place or their hot water to work.

Maybe what pissed off many people was the comparison between a knowledge intensive work (programming) with a not so knowledge intensive work (plumbing). If we re-write Dan’s comparison, but using surgery, another knowledge intensive work, instead of plumbing we would have:

Non-programmers don’t care about the aesthetics of software in the same way non-medical doctors don’t care about the aesthetics of surgery – they just want their information in the right place or their health issue fixed.

I don’t believe we can say that surgery is a craft, since non-medical doctor cannot appreciate the beauty of a well done surgery the same way as a non-programmer cannot appreciate the beauty of a well written code. They can only appreciate the end result.

Software Developers

Software Developers

Surgeons

Surgeons

Software development as a “proper profession”

But I believe that when our focus is on whether programming is or is not a craft, we are loosing sight of the real question:

… there should be a way for passionate, skilled programmers to differentiate themselves from the mainstream commodity bodies, and also to recognise one another, and demonstrate their value to potential employers. What could that be, and how could we make it work?

As a buyer of software solutions, wouldn’t you want to know your systems were being built by master craftsmen rather than day jobbers? You’re paying for this and you deserve some kind of reassurance. Let’s figure out how to provide it.

So the problem is how do we know a software developer is really good for the task at hand?, the same way that when we visit a doctor we want to know if the doctor is capable to fix our health problem the best way possible.

How to choose a professional

At the beginning of the first post, Dan mentions that programming is a young career with:

… a structured model for advancing through levels of skill and ability, be it studying for a law degree and articles (working for a legal practise) or the years of undergraduate and medical training a doctor undertakes before specialising. The latter has clearly-delineated ranks, from junior doctor, via a brutal regime of 80-hour weeks, to consutant.

Conversely there is no minimum entry requirement for programming. Some people naturally have a flair for it (two of the best programmers I know never went to college), some teach themselves out of books, others just tinker until they get something working. A programmer’s skill and ability is only as good as their personal reputation: there isn’t an accepted, transferable ranking like there is in a “proper” profession.

He also mention that:

The IT industry is relatively young – only a couple of generations old in fact. (As an experiment, go and find out how many of your coworkers have a parent who worked in IT. See?) It is also something of a gold mine. Compared to a lot of industries it is relatively well paid indoor work with no heavy lifting, and remember the thing about no minimum entry requirement?

But even with an “old industry” such as medicine it’s still difficult to figure out who are the best professionals. Even considering they went to good schools and have lots of years of experience, it’s not uncommon for a patient to search for second opinions from other doctor when he is faced with difficult situations like having to be submitted to a surgery or a painful treatment such as radiotherapy or chemotherapy.

It doesn’t matter how old is profession and how well defined is the structured model for advancing through levels of skill and ability of this profession, there always will be good and bad professionals. The best way to choose a professional – a software developer, a medical doctor, a plumber or any other professional – is getting references and checking her past work. And a bit of luck always help! 🙂

Lessons learned

  • It doesn’t matter if software development is or is not a craft.
  • However, it does matter how to choose a professional.
  • It doesn’t matter how old is a profession and how well defined is the structured model for advancing through levels of skill and ability of this profession, there always will be good and bad professionals.
  • The best way to choose a professional – a software developer, a medical doctor, a plumber or any other professional – is getting references and checking her past work. And a bit of luck always help! 🙂
4 people like this post.

How can we improve?
Nov 7th, 2010 by Joca

Today I just read two posts about how to improve from blogs of very diverse topics such as swimming and leadership.

The blog post about swimming is from coach Terry Laughlin:

Terry Laughlin

Terry Laughlin

Psychologists who study the acquisition of excellence say that only a tiny percentage of people in ANY discipline work purposefully and continuously at improving. The vast majority are satisfied to simply be DOING.

The blog post about leadership is from marketer Seth Godin:

Seth Godin

Seth Godin

The most important and difficult form of management (verging on leadership) is to encourage people to do better.

Lessons learned

  • If we want to improve in any discipline we need not only to practice this discipline, but we need to practice it with the clear purpose of improving.
  • Every time we practice, every time we do something, we need to find ways to do it better.
  • And even when we are not doing, but just thinking about it, we need to think on how to improve, we need to study ways to improve.
  • We only improve if we want to improve and work on improving!
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Purpose beyond profit
Oct 13th, 2010 by Joca

If you have a small kid who goes to kindergarten you most certainly have used the word purpose during your conversation about her day at school. “She didn’t do it on purpose.” is an answer we get when we ask about stories our kids tell us when some kid got hurt during their school activities. But ask your daughter if she knows what purpose means. She will probably answer with curious explanations like “purpose means bad” since the word purpose is always associated with bad actions.

Purpose is a difficult word for kids, but it shouldn’t be for grownups.

What's the purpose?

What's the purpose?

However, we forget this word, specially in the business world, where we tend to think that the sole purpose of doing business is to earn money and be profitable.

Earning money and being profitable is not the purpose of business. It is one indicator that the business is doing ok. And it is one out of many others such as customer satisfaction, employee motivation, process effectiveness, etc.

Here’s an interesting list of 6 good reasons not to use profit as our primary purpose:

  • Profit is an output and a symptom of success, not the cause.
  • Profit is temporary and can be wiped out in an instant.
  • In tough times, profit can be hard to come by.
  • You need more purpose than profit to make it through.
  • Profit doesn’t motivate the salaried staff who make success happen.
  • Customers don’t appreciate being seen just for their revenue.
  • Consumers are increasingly focusing on values and contribution to society when choosing who to do business with.

Source: Matt Stocker blog

What is the purpose of doing business if it is not being profitable?

Well, that’s a very important question, and if we don’t know the answer, the business may be in serious trouble, even if it looks healthy now because its profitable.

Purpose: The Starting Point of Great Companies

Purpose: The Starting Point of Great Companies

According to Nikos Mourkogiannis, author of Purpose: The Starting Point of Great Companies, there are four main types of purpose and he cites examples of companies that have each type of purpose:

  1. Discovery – rooted in intuition that life is a kind of adventure. Example: Apple and their goal to always come up with the new / most innovative products (esp. in comparison to Microsoft who clearly follows a different path).
  2. Excellence – implies standards and purports the belief that excellent performance in our role in life represents the supreme good. Example: Warren Buffet.
  3. Altruism – a purpose built in serving its customers in a way that is beyond standard obligation. Example: Wal-Mart, Body Shop.
  4. Heroism – demonstrates achievement (often with a charismatic and visionary leader). Example: Ford, Microsoft.

Source: Wendy St Clair Pearson review

Purpose and Mission

Purpose and mission statement seems to go hand in hand with each other. So it is that Wikipedia defines Mission Statement as the written statement of a company’s purpose:

A mission statement is a formal, short, written statement of the purpose of a company or organization. The mission statement should guide the actions of the organization, spell out its overall goal, provide a sense of direction, and guide decision-making. It provides “the framework or context within which the company’s strategies are formulated.”

Source: Wikipedia

There are two very interesting videos showing how important it is for an organization to have a purpose.

The first one is from Simon Sinek’s 2009 TED talk about “How Great Leaders Inspire Action”. I purposely set the video to start at 1m33s so you can view the exact point where Simon explains how important it is to know why a company does what it does. He argues that all companies know what they do, some companies know how they do what they do, but very few companies know why they do what they do:

The second video is an animated version of Daniel Pink’s TED talk about “The Surprising Truth About What Motivate Us”. In this talk he explains that knowledge workers need three things to be motivated – autonomy, mastery and purpose. Again I purposely set the video to start at 8m41s so you can watch the explanation about purpose. If you have the time, I’d recommend watching the full video:

From these two videos it is clear that knowing a company’s purpose can be very beneficial for the company. When the purpose is clear, we will have better chances of attracting employees, customers and complementors aligned with the purpose. Consequently we will have better chances of getting things done on time, on budget and with quality.

Lessons learned

  • Profit is not the purpose of doing business. It’s just one of many success indicators.
  • It is easier to succeed if we know the company’s purpose.
  • When the purpose of a company is clear, we will have better chances of attracting employees, customers and complementors aligned with the purpose.
  • Consequently, when the purpose of a company is clear, we will have better chances of getting things done on time, on budget and with quality.
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Feedback ou a realidade é o que se percebe
May 15th, 2010 by Joca

Essa frase, a realidade é o que se percebe (reality is perception), é uma frase bastante conhecida. Mágicas e ilusões de ótica são baseadas nessa frase. Aliás, pesquisando imagens para esse post acabei encontrando uma ilusão de ótica impressionante:



Esse vídeo é do Prof. Kokichi Sugihara e ganhou o prêmio de melhor ilusão de 2010 pelo site The Best Illusion of the Year Contest. Quem quiser ver mais movimentos impossíveis pode ver esse vídeo de 13 minutos.

Mas o que realidade e percepção tem a ver com feedback?

Certa vez ouvi de um ex-chefe que “tão ou mais importante do que o que você é, é o que você parece ser”. Isso me acordou para o fato de que por mais que eu me esforçasse em fazer as coisas certas do jeito que eu achava certo, isso não era o suficiente. Eu precisava saber se as outras pessoas achavam que eu estava fazendo as coisas certas do jeito certo, ou seja, eu precisava de feedback.

O feedback é um dos maiores presentes que uma pessoa pode te dar. Não devemos contestar um feedback, pois é a forma como a pessoa que está te passando o feedback te enxerga. E se ela te enxerga dessa forma e não for a forma como você quer ser enxergado, então você terá que entender porque essa pessoa te enxerga dessa forma e como mudar.

E por que dar feedback?

Estou lendo um ótimo livro sobre liderança e gestão de pessoas chamado Behind Closed Doors: Secrets of Great Management. Recomendo a leitura para qualquer pessoa que lidere ou pense em liderar pessoas algum dia, e também para quem nunca pensou em liderar pessoas mas que tem um chefe, assim poderá avaliar se seu chefe está agindo da melhor forma. 🙂

rdbcd

Vou deixar a resposta da pergunta “porque devemos dar feedback?” para Johanna Rothman e Esther Derby, autoras do livro:

Giving feedback, especially on poor performance or touchy interpersonal issues, is hard. Preparing for a difficult feedback conversation can stillmake our palms sweat. But we do it anyway. Why? Because the cost of failing to provide feedback far outweighs the temporary discomfort of giving feedback. Managers who fail to give feedback lose trust and productivity. When managers fail to give feedback, problems fester and resentment builds.

A manager who tells a team member that he or she needs to improve is giving the person a choice and a chance to improve.

When managers don’t do their management job – providing feedback and addressing performance problems – team members resent the nomperforming person AND the manager.

Como dar feedback?

Feedbacks positivos são sempre muito fáceis de dar, mas e os feedbacks negativos, ou seja, aqueles que sabemos que vão incomodar ou chatear a pessoa? Esse são os mais difíceis. Como dito acima, podem fazer nossas mãos suarem…

Aqui vou novamente pegar emprestadas as palavras da Johanna Rothman e da Esther Derby. Abaixo estão suas guidelines:

  • Be specific. No one can act on hints or vague feedback. Telling a person “This report is exceptional” may impart a glow but doesn’t help the person understand what was exceptional. “The table of contents made it very easy for me to find what I was looking for in this report” is more likely to result in more exceptional reports in the future.
  • Provide feedback as close to the event as possible. Waiting until a year-end review is not helpful. Even waiting until a quarter-end is not helpful.
  • Don’t label the person; describe the behavior or result. So instead of saying “Your work is sloppy,” say “I noticed the last set of release notes contained typing and spelling errors.”
  • Don’t blame the person; describe specifics. Instead of “You never test your code,” say “When you checked these last three changes in, you didn’t test the changes.”
  • Check to make sure the feedback recipient agrees that your description (observable behavior or results) is correct. When the feedback recipient doesn’t agree with your data, he or she will check out of the conversation and certainly won’t change behavior.

E aqui está o procedimento de 6 passos recomendado por elas para se dar feedback para alguém:

  1. Check whether this is a necessary item for feedback: Does it affect the work? Does it affect working relationships? If not, don’t bother with feedback.
  2. Prepare to give the feedback. Gather specific examples of recent instances of the problem. Focus on behavior or results.
  3. Determine the outcome you desire. Be ready to give corrective feedback or coaching.
  4. Deliver feedback privately. Deliver “normal” feedback (appreciations, corrective or coaching feedback) in one-on-ones. When someone is close to losing his or her job, call a separate meeting so the person understands the gravity of the situation.
  5. If you have some specific action or result you want, say it. If you’re open to a range of possible solutions, engage in joint problem solving.
  6. Agree how you’ll follow up.

Concluindo

Da próxima vez que te derem feedback ouça com atenção, sem ressentimento e sem reservas, pois é a forma como os outros te enxergam e percebem suas ações.

E se você notar a necessidade de dar feedback para alguém, faça-o o quanto antes para que ela possa ver como você a enxerga e possa agir.

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Sobre gerenciamento e motivação de profissionais técnicos
May 5th, 2010 by Joca

Há mais ou menos um ano tive a oportunidade de assistir ao curso Managing Technical Professionals and Organizations, no MIT Sloan School of Management. É um curso de dois dias, bem intenso. Normalmente nesses cursos eles dão a matéria de um semestre inteiro em dois dias, ou seja, é informação bem concentrada! Recomendo para qualquer pessoa que trabalha com alguma equipe técnica. Como somos de internet, sempre pensamos em equipe técnica como sendo a equipe de desenvolvimento de software e administração de sistemas. Mas há muito mais técnicos por aí: bioquímicos, farmacêuticos, biólogos, médicos, engenheiros mecânicos, civis, elétricos, astrônomos, físicos, matemáticos, etc.

A apresentação abaixo foi um resumo que fiz em umas duas horas para os gerentes da Locaweb sobre esse tema.

Gerenciamento de profissionais técnicos

Espremendo bem, o resumo do resumo do resumo é que gerenciamento de profissionais técnicos se resume a dois aspectos:

  • Estratégico: explicar o contexto.
  • Tático: remover impedimentos.

Para quem quiser ver a apresentação completa:

Motivação de profissionais técnicos

carrot-and-stick

Antes de mais nada, é importante lembrar que ninguém motiva ninguém! Ou a pessoa se sente motivada, ou não se sente motivada a fazer algo. Eventos externos podem ajudar ou atrapalhar a motivação de uma pessoa. Daí as principais funções de alguém que gerencia uma equipe serem explicar o contexto e remover impedimentos. E isso é importante para poder ter aquela gostosa sensação de progresso, de que estamos fazendo algo, construindo algo.

Recentemente li o artigo “What Really Motivates Workers” na Harvard Business Review que mostra uma informação importante. Fizeram um estudo para encontrar o que acontece em um excelente dia de trabalho. A resposta, em uma palavra: progresso.

great_day

E o conselho do final do artigo é:

Scrupulously avoid impeding progress by changing goals autocratically, being indecisive, or holding up resources. Negative events generally have a greater effect on people’s emotions, perceptions, and motivation than positive ones, and nothing is more demotivating than a setback—the most prominent type of event on knowledge workers’ worst days.

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Atualização sobre o tema produtividade
Apr 24th, 2010 by Joca

No final de 2008 eu escrevi nesse blog um post sobre produtividade das empresas.

Nessa quarta-feira (21/04) a 37signals postou um artigo com dados atualizados de receita anual por funcionário, com o seguinte gráfico:

rev_emp_graph

Claro que eles não falam sobre eles mesmos… 😛

E eles tb comentam que a medida mais apropriada seria lucro dividido por gastos com salário, mas que é muito difícil de conseguir os dados. De qualquer forma, parece que o que eu comentei em 2008 (“uma eficiência acima de US$600K/ano/funcionário é a norma para empresas bem sucedidas da área de tecnologia, sejam elas pequenas ou grandes”) continua válido.

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