What Developers Want

If you are a Development Manager here are 5 things that your Developers will thank you for.

1. Quiet: Developers want and need quiet uninterrupted time to write code and solve problems. Remember those “thought problems” in school? Every development problem is a thought problem, on multiple projects simultaneously. The need for continuous hours of quiet, uninterrupted code writing is crucial. Uninterrupted means absolutely uninterrupted. Do all you can to restrict direct access to Developers.

For the definitive answer on quiet, and why it is craved by Developers and not a management priority, see Paul Graham’s post: Maker’s Schedule, Manager’s Schedule.

2. GSD: Cut the non essentials and Get Stuff Done: Read Getting Real, by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson (37 Signals, now Basecamp).

3. Trust: One good Developer will accomplish more than 10 average Developers. Find your top-10 Developer(s). Trust him/her to guide you in the right direction. Don’t manage by committee or consensus.

4. Flexibility: Developers are unique individuals. Developers will get more done working at home than when working in the office. They will thank you if you can solve simple life problems, like suggesting work at home while waiting on a delivery. Learn the unique ways to reward each developer.

5. Professionalism: There are 2 types of Developers: (Type B) those that go home after 8 hours and (Type A); those that code at home, read about development, go to meet-ups and conferences, teach others, and contribute code to the open-source community. Promote and protect your Type A professionals.

One last idea for the non-Developer Development Manager. Learn how to code and learn the language that your Developers speak. If you take this as a homework assignment to do on your own time, you will better empathize with the Developer who is working after hours, or the one on call for production code.

“One really good person will get done in a day what ten not-so-good people will never get done.”
~James M. Spitze, SCC Sequoia

On-boarding – Key to a Great First Impression

You really can’t overemphasize that first day at work experience. When I arrived at my first professional job, my new manger eventually came to meet me. The next words as we walked on were: “now, where am I going to put you”. I realized that he hadn’t thought about me after the interview and had done nothing in anticipation of my arrival. I definitely didn’t feel welcomed or that I was part of a team. I’ve never forgotten that first impression.

As a hiring manager you can make sure a new team member is expected and welcomed. After all, they have just gone through a grueling job search process and chose you over another job somewhere else. Have a clean desk with all the equipment they will need and introduce them to everyone, even if they previously interviewed with everyone. Have an on-boarding agenda that lets the new person spend time with each team member and start them immediately on a first project. Arrange for lunch on the first day and make sure they find their way around. Introduce them outside of the immediate team and with other people whom they will work with. Consider an after-hours team meetup with the new person before their actual start date. Do all of this is in addition to HR’s on-boarding process.

“Life is not a dress rehearsal.”
~Rose Tremain

The Power of the Monthly Report

The Monthly Report is a lost art. We may have been too quick to abandon this artifact or, possibly, it was never a part of your company culture or personal habit.

Consider the positive returns gained from a small investment of time in creating a monthly report. As a checklist-driven person I see obvious benefits of documenting where you’ve been, even if you are the sole reader of your very own monthly report.

Benefits:
A monthly report is a report card to yourself, your management or to your company. After all, if you believe in what you are doing and that you are doing a good job at it, why wouldn’t you want to share that? By periodically looking back you can track your progress and trajectory. Are you heading in the right direction? Are you meeting goals, deadlines, and any required administrative check-offs?

People love recognition. If you can recognize the achievements of others it has a powerful effect on future performance. Recognition, especially in writing, is an awesome productivity tool in itself. The Monthly Report is a great place to regularly share team successes.

A summary of monthly reports automatically yields quarterly and annual reports. Collectively these reports are irrefutable personal leverage at performance review meetings.

And – possibly most important – monthly reports are key to updating your resume.

Format:
Keep the report format simple. A monthly report can be as simple as a list of dated entries in a journal. If the report is to be shared/upward you might establish a consistent format, with meaningful metrics and results. If monthly reporting is too frequent, consider keeping notes and creating a summary every few months.

“I’m trying to free your mind but I can only show you the door.”
~Morpheus, The Matrix

Website Activation

Where’s Waldo? How to activate a website with a contest!

I’d like to share a technique once used to activate a new website and get 100% of existing clients to happily switch over to a completely new version of the website.

  1. First we launched the new website and kept the old site running.
  2. Next we promoted the new website from the old one using a “Where’s Waldo?” contest.
  3. If you found an image of Waldo on the new site you could enter a drawing for prizes.
  4. Every day we would give hints about where to find Waldo – and over a period of time directed everyone to the major areas of the new website.
  5. Once a week we would announce the latest contest winners, which would bring more clients over to the new site.
  6. After users found their way around the new site, they didn’t bother to go back to the old one.
  7. We also discovered that our particular client base loved contests and awards.

I can’t take credit for this idea. My friend (and he paid me to add this: creative genius, wine connoisseur, dog lover, philanthropist, master of irony and all around trend-setter) David Pearson came up with this idea that we used for a large insurance agency portal implementation in 2004. In 2005, the website was awarded recognition by A.M. Best as the top Insurance Agency Portal website in the U.S. Our Where’s Waldo website launch technique was part of the presentation leading to the award.


“Sales reps are coin operated.”
~Mark Vayda




Maintaining Technical Currency

It’s essential to stay current in your career, especially if it centers on technology. The #1 way to stay up-to-date is to become and remain a practitioner – learn by actually working with specific technologies “hands on”. Second – continuously track state-of-the-art changes. And third – expose yourself to as much information as possible about specific technologies, related businesses, and information from people who are driving change in technology.

Here are some ideas and resources to consider in maintaining technical currency: Continue reading

Whose Generation

Every generation is labeled. Each generation is a product of their culture, disciplines, education and shared experiences, just like every generation before. The current generation always gets a bad rap. Let’s not condemn it if we don’t seek to understand it. Here are some of the comments I’m hearing:

  • Time has more consideration than money
  • Some are uncertain of the American work-ethic after parent’s corporate experience
  • Instant communication is a given – so are instant decisions
  • Email is one of the slowest forms of communication
  • An abundance of knowledge and entertainment, 24 x 7
  • The current generation actually do multitask
  • Typing is learned along the way – not a class you take
  • Being digital is just normal
  • Most processes are born digital – not automated after-the-fact
  • Some question the corporate employment model; 1 in 3 U.S. workers now freelance (2014 stat)
  • Work -> Save -> Retire is no longer an option
  • Quality of life has value over quantity of stuff


“Being rich is not about having a lot of money, being rich is about having lots of options.”
~Chris Rock




Ground Hog’s Day 2.0

The hallmark of a true professional is the ability to treat each person and situation with the same enthusiasm and interest as you did the very first time. This means that you will repeat yourself any number of times on the same or similar topics with the same or new clients. This is especially difficult for developers, who are trained to get to end point as efficiently as possible and, specifically, don’t repeat yourself (DRY principle).

I’ve recently put myself in someone else’s shoes – practicing patience and empathy. All I asked was that they do their job at the same quality level that I do my job. Is that too much to ask? It may in fact be too much to ask if the other person is put into an untenable situation, with no support from the company they represent. Imagine if you lacked the wherewithal to make a difference and had no control over your time or schedule and did not have the tools and resources to get things done. This person is responsible for delivery and installation of expensive equipment. However, the very company that stands to lose from a bad customer experience almost guarantees failure upon final delivery. Why so much emphasis on selling instead of delivery and service?

If you don’t support your team all the way to delivery of the end product you may in fact have a broken process. What kind of feedback loop do you have in place to find out what the customer experience is really like? I highly recommend that you follow your service or product to the end delivery point to see the results from your customers perspective. If you use 3rd-party sales, delivery or service reps then it is even more important to monitor final delivery results and follow up after the sale and delivery. A “Voice of the Customer” survey is not nearly enough to ensure customer satisfaction and good word-of-mouth referrals.

Repeating a broken process on a daily basis will not eventually fix the process.

“Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.”
~Sir Winston Churchill