Tuesday, 27 May 2014

The Agile Vacation

My 5 min talk on why Agile can be used for anything is now posted  -- not bad for first time in front of 300+ people if I do say so myself. :-) 

See all the slides on-line at http://www.slideshare.net/Leyts/ignite-waterloo-agile-vacation?utm_source=slideshow03&utm_medium=ssemail&utm_campaign=iupload_share_slideshow 

Sunday, 25 May 2014

When you Hire Smarter do you Really?

An article -- http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/231911 -- I was reading on the 'Entrepreneur' web site read a great quote, "The best investment you can make is to hire people you can trust to take things off your plate." That is so true, and especially with experience as a people manger, it amazes me the attitude of some people.

The reason companies hire is because there is already have too much work for the person doing the hiring with existing resources. That shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone but surprisingly all too often it is. The following examples are some of the surprises I’ve heard or overheard in the last 30+ years. And yes, in the examples I overheard, I did appropriately challenge the speaker. I can’t guarantee that it helped; just that it happened.

Employees (prospective or otherwise):

“You're here to help me be successful.” No, it's actually the other way around. You’re here to help everyone be successful do doing to the best of your ability the role you were hired to perform. As a direct report to someone, your manager will in turn help you help them be successful by using the skills you espoused as within your possession during the interview process. You must sow before you can reap anything. BTW, everyone in a company of two or more people is a direct report to someone else; even if you’re the President and CEO.

“I lied to you because I didn't think I could trust you, and when I was fired that proved I was right.” No, you were fired because you lied to my face and proved I couldn't trust you.

“I'll work with you but I won't work for you.” No, if you're a new hire with relatively few years of post college work experience and someone is going to take a chance at giving you a job, damn right you're going to work for them. A smart business is not an autocracy but it ain't no f@#king democracy either.


“I gave you the job; now you're on your own.” No, if you're going to be a people manager, manage your people. You don't want to do that? Okay, maybe it's you that's in the wrong position.

“I was here first, I know better.” No, because if you're the smartest person in the room about everything that needs to be done then you're hiring idiots .... or maybe it's somebody else that's the idiot.

“I expect people to leave their outside lives at the door, and behave in a professional manner while in the office.” Professional (aka 'ethical')? Certainly. Leave their lives at the door?! Really?! You do know you're actually hiring people not robots; right? Sure, to the best of a person's ability they should manage their emotions rather than the other way around. Empathy is a critical factor in leading and managing ... bear with me here ... P E O P L E.

All these people and many others haven’t a clue when the term “servant leadership” is used. It does not mean the leader becomes the servant. It means the leader provides a service in their role as a leader to create something bigger than themselves. And from yet another article “Learning from and acknowledging mistakes requires the humility that Level 5 Leaders display. Level 5 Leadership, according to Jim Collins (no relation), is what separates exceptional leaders from all others.”

Knowing all of this perhaps I was then somewhat overly surprised when I read another article -- http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/232914. This article labels flexibility and drive as personality (78%), cultural alignment (53%), and then skills (39%) as the areas for job opportunities in the future. This actually scares, yes 'scares', me.

Yet from reading this article I further appreciate what I've been hearing some senior economists say over the last year - "there will never again be a company that lasts for over 100 years". I hope the article is a misinterpretation of the study. If charisma and group think are valued more that skill and respecting each others' individual differences then the probability is a whole lot smaller towards ever creating in the future innovations like the iPhone, object oriented programming, or a flexible process that will leave Agile in the dust the way Agile has waterfall.

I listened to a Sr. VP at Google tell a crowd of wannabe employees about a year ago that he didn't care if somebody was the best programmer in the world if they didn't have the skills to get along with those they needed to work with. There is a lot more damage that one developer can create that would more than offset them writing code day in and out. And everyone deserves to feel good about going into work every day they go.

Okay, not everyone, not those who have the perspective that it's all about them and anyone else left can have whatever scraps are left-over.

Not those to manage to what I call the "dumbest common denominator". The perversion of the 'no kid left behind' strategy in the 70s and 80s created class agendas where mediocrity flourished. This was 'easier' than empowering the best and the brightest to go as far as they could, to leverage their own innate talents to go beyond on their own, and use that extra bandwidth available to the teacher to help the stragglers get over the hump. This is the premise of apprenticeships that have worked the world over for hundreds of years. This also opposes the short-sighted mediocrity of unpaid internships. Now of course anyone who can afford to do this may actually be the most qualified for the role, however, those who cannot are never even given the opportunity for those people or companies to ever find out. And as my statistics professor said, “you can’t prove a negative.”

I still have some hope that some of today’s leaders and those into the future are seeking principles over popularity (personality) but if this second article is correct that is not the case. And if that is truly indeed the case, all I have to say is "may god help us all". History has given us examples with companies like Nortel, Enron, MCI Worldcom, NCR, and many too numerous to mention that when popularity and charisma become paramount the company doesn’t last long. Certainly each of those companies thought they were making the best decisions when they started hiring charismatic individuals over those with more valuable ‘skills’. No one intentionally makes business decisions to proverbially slit their own economic throats, but when they do make decisions that do just that then everyone suffers from stockholders to the least skilled laborer to some degree.

So this is where we come back full circle to where I started this post. Hopefully you are hiring smart rather than mediocrity. Hopefully they can do things you can’t or better than you. And if not that, hopefully you are hiring apprentices who are willing and able to learn.

What does this all have to do with project and program management? Well, the same as any other management role; to get things done through other people. Hopefully, most of those people are smarter than you in what they were hired to do. And hopefully they equally recognize that you are smarter than them in what you do as well.