Your Business Is Thriving If…10

  1. Your business consistently gets more leads than your current business capacity;
  2. No matter with which project team your customers interact, their delight level is almost the same;
  3. You take 4 week summer vacation and do not get any ‘urgent’ call from the office;
  4. You have generally happy employees. Their lives are balanced, they are able to produce their best and enjoy their life at fullest;
  5. ‘Department Wise Headcount’ report is topped by Operations department (not support departments such as HR, Admin or accounts);
  6. You don’t think to open new geography every quarter – percentage of your repeat business is very high;
  7. There’s only ONE version of mission statement across the organization;
  8. Consistent Organization specific Enterprise Environment Factors – that extends sense of predictability in projects execution;
  9. Even if you pay similar to what market pays, people are thriving to join your organization. Keywords here are culture and experiences;
  10. People in the organization prioritize their work by ‘Importance’ not by ‘urgency’.

 

Are You Limited by Your Own Creativity (Which used to work earlier but now not)?

Though it brings rewards in the end, most of us are afraid of challenging our own thought patterns as if it were an invasive brain surgery.

We’re designed this way, right?

Wrong.

But yes, we’re conditioned this way.

Few weeks ago I had a weekend discussion with one of my friends who shares a rare frequency and runs a successful design firm.

We talked about building the business, creating a-list teams and providing a-class customer service.

He was discussing with me about a customer feedback: designers working with his firm were otherwise very good but lacked innovation. He said that it was true for even their Chief Designer who had experience as little as 18 years in the design industry.

Conclusion was to hire a fresh (but brilliant) design graduate whose job would be to passionately challenge each one of the designs that the design team come up with.

Last week, I meet my friend again to hear the good news that his customer is very happy with recent design innovations that his team produced.

It worked like a charm. Why?

Because the beginning of the end of any great endowment is: “Falling in love with your own creation”.

Sure, you’ve to believe in yourself, your vision and your abilities. But, at the same time, following the same way of thinking just because that’s the way you’ve always done it, is the sure-fire way to attract devolution at the lightning speed.

The decision of bringing in fresh talent to challenge generated healthy conflict. The conflict was to challenge their designers’ fixed way of being and to ensure that only best comes out in the end.

Sometimes, it’s better to have someone in your team who has eyes to look at the things from fresh lens.  Maybe it’s good to have ‘No, but, Can we not…?’ kind of people rather than yes-men.

Photo Credit: livingonimpulse‘s Flickr Photostream

Stop Being a Hero

Photo Credit: kchbrown's Flickr photostream

When you were a child, your grandmother told you, “You’re special, you possess a unique charm; you’re like a hero!”

First, you laughed…then you consciously started liking it and eventually started believing that you’re a hero… someone very special.

Then, after years of education, you became a software professional and got a good job with one of the top IT organization, but still, in the back of your mind, you have treasured the old image, “I’m a hero!”

That’s where the problem rests for many software teams.

Since you consider yourself a hero, you inevitably strive to reinvent everything. Right from what other team members should have done to organizational processes or what the customer should have expected instead.

Your coarse argument would be, “No one in this organization can work like me. If I were not in that team, that big problem could have never been solved.” Or “People out here do not know even 10% of what I know and I don’t think they will be able to perform the task so effectively when I am not in the team.”

Instead of being open and learning from past mistakes of colleagues or everything else around, you insist on doing everything on your own; at the cost of the client or the organization.

You spend most of your time in beautifying your own code, debugging your less experienced colleague’s code or re-creating architecture of half-developed business application.

You need to understand that you’re not a hero. At least not at the workplace. If you become one, it is not going to give you benefits after a certain point. Reserve that narcism for your visit to your grandmother’s house.

Be less heroic. Be less special. Be more agile.  Focus more how your team can add value. Ship early; ship often rather than investing your time in less necessary artifacts in order to build a product or a service that works. Inspect and adapt. Remember, none of you is as powerful as all of you.

Want To Get Promoted? Do You Know How To Navigate Without a Map?

When the performance appraisal happens and one colleague is promoted,  many of his co-workers don’t feel good. They compare themselves with him and conclude that their boss favors only who flatters her. Always, that may not be the case. For example, read the below story called Navigate Without a Map.

Are You Willing To Navigate Beyond The Map?

Photo Credit: David Masters’ Flickr photostream

Navigate Without A Map

Background
Peter and Scott – both joined the company on the same day as Analyst Programmers. Both were coming from different background but have two qualities in common. Both were hard-working and committed to their work.

Promotion of Peter
After a couple of years Peter was promoted as a Lead Programmer while Scott did not get the promotion. Scott got very upset with this, drafted the resignation letter and went to Stella, his Department Manager. He complained that Stella does not value hardworking staff and promotes only who blandishes her.

The difference
Stella knew that Scott also worked hard for past two years but she had a point to address and make Scott realize the difference between him and Peter.

So, she discussed a scenario with Scott, “While working as a dedicated developer with an offshore client, if you reach a limbo stage when there is no work for couple of weeks. How’d you proceed?”

“I’d call the client and ask for the work”, was Scott’s reply.

Stella explained further, “The client responded that he needs to send you some task specifications but he would be able to send it only after two weeks when he’ll return back from the vacation. So the limbo stage continues. What should be the next step?”

Scott said, “Well, since I have no work, I’ll work on my pet project or do something else. May be I will also take some leaves. Given it is a Dedicated Developer Contract, client is going to pay for the two weeks anyways so he can’t blame it on me or the organization.”

“Well,” said Stella. “Let’s discuss the same scenario with Peter and ask what would he do.”

Peter responded, “Well, first of all I won’t come in the limbo stage because I keep communicating with the client very frequently and always make him aware about the work status. But still if that stage comes and I do not have anything on my platter, here’s what I’d do:”

  1. Optimize the code for performance – I’ll utilize the knowledge I’ve gathered in Application Performance Improvement classes I attended in the last weekend of April.
  2. Recheck the code comments and take it to the next level. I understand that there is no comparison between well-commented code and just the code.
  3. I’ll do some research and learn more about my client’s business. I’ll also prepare a document which will outline the knowledge I’ve gathered by performing the research. I’ll share that with the client also.
  4. I’ve some high level idea about what changes he wants to make in the software I’m working on. So I’ll make some draft user interface and modified architecture diagram with added application scalability.
  5. I’ll record such additional activities and submit a report to the client such that he can know how I’ve utilized my time for which he is paying.
  6. I will do…

“OK, Great! This information is sufficient for what I was looking for. You may go and continue your work, Peter.” interrupted Stella.

The realization
Scott soon realized the point which Stella wanted him to understand. He understood that Peter has an edge over him. He observed that:

  1. Peter has absolute clarity about where to go and how to proceed even when no path is given.
  2. Peter has invested his time to learn different technology verticals which are even indirectly related to his core strength by investing extra time over the weekends.
  3. Peter is a true servant leader. He’s willing to learn his client’s language (business) so that he can serve his well.
  4. Peter does not need a map to navigate. Instead he is willing to travel when there’s no map. He will try hard to improvise application’s architecture and would work on making it still better.
  5. Peter utilizes the information in a way; it becomes meaningful to the client and the organization. Most important is that he keeps all the important information in the written form.

“I want to take back my resignation,” were Peter’s words. “I’ll learn from him and be an equal or better version of Peter.”

Only hard work and commitment are not sufficient. You need to develop an ability to navigate without a map (Yes, wordings are taken from Linchpin by Seth Godin – a great read, indeed.)

We’re in a different age where rulebooks are not matching pace with the changing demands of the workplace so start thinking beyond the rulebooks, take personal risks and excel at what you’re doing. Remember, observation power is a big differentiator. And, excellent use of observed information may take you a long way.

May be that’s the reason we are blessed with two ears and two eyes but only one mouth. So speak less, observe more. Maintain a mental database of observed information, index it often and use it to navigate when no map is available.

Mini Saga – Doing Rather Than Being

Even today, many companies focus on looking-good kind of practices than actually being good.  For example,  read this mini-saga.

Photo Credit: mikebaird’s Flickr photostream

Doing Rather Than Being

Tactically lionized Steve joined a company as a VP, Sales and was on his first sales call. He had to win over an old client to initiate a crowning deal. The client was happy with the presentation but enunciated, “You can’t paint over a bad experience with good Sales efforts.”

But now the age is changed, the customer mindset is changed, they have become smarter, sharper and declared that now such companies can not keep making chump of them anymore. Either be able to add value – by bringing in Linchpins or doing whatever is necessary  – or get lost.

(Know what is mini-saga)

Smash The Problems By Analyzing, UnAnalyzing and Reanalyzing The Assumptions Attached

Every problem – regardless of its size or simplicity – ejaculates an attached list of assumptions. Many a times, assumptions are imprecise and make the problem statement ineffective or erroneous.

To effectively deal with assumptions, first step is to write them down and the second step is to make sure that most obvious and safe assumptions are not left over.

Key here is to get everything out on the paper from your head as it just helps you visualize the bigger picture with multidimensional views.

Photo Credit: Orin Zebest's Flickr photostream

Once you’ve got everything out of your head, just loop through the list, take an assumption and validate it against the problem statement. Here’s a 5 step approach to deal with the select assumption.

  1. Analyze Think inside the box. Connect with the obvious. Consider all the consequences that the select assumption offers. Consider how it relates with the problem in the traditional ways. Take the left side of your brain on the ride.
  2. Pause Take a deep breath. Record your analysis and then disconnect with the obvious for a while.
  3. Unanlyze Think outside of the box. Connect with the unobvious. Consider different ways to look at the assumption. May be this is one of the many possible ways to deal with a problem. Is the select assumption necessary at all? Is anything else out there which is being missed? Take the right side of your brain on the ride.
  4. Pause – Take two deep breaths. Record your unanalysis and then disconnect with the unobvious also.
  5. Reanalyze – Review your analysis and unanalysis. Consider the obvious and unobvious. Consider both of them with 100% of your attention. Which one way seems the most appropriate way to proceed?

This process essentially brings vital clarity to the problem.  Many times, the unanalysis part brings forth surprising results which are not thought of otherwise.

For example suppose you’re about to enter a website development business. One of your assumptions might be to have a huge list of service offerings – like most of other such companies do.

While such assumption may seem appropriate at first, try challenging it and maybe you’ll find some interesting business models – such as a “Make your own Pizza” kind of web design firm in which their customers bring ideas for the web-architects to craft and build upon – something which matters to the customers.

Power Questions: When you deal with a problem, do you attack it with the power of unanalysis also? If not, would you, now?