Chaotic thoughts about processes and people

Time after time, it’s the strong feeling growing in me:

Processes are much less important than people who set and handle them. Even more: we’re speaking processes, but meaning people.

As far as I see, the process is just a tool created by the exact group of people to achieve defined goals.

From such point of view, the right process is just the implementation of the visions of the right people.

I think, that is the root cause why the processes in different companies has different level of success.

From another side the quality of a process and achieved results depending on the people who perform it.

As a result, even similar processes can produce different results. It makes hard to reapply the process to another environment.

I think the company culture plays a big role here.

This point brings to live another old idea to remove the human factor to make the process stable.

It makes sense, but what I see everytime I want to implement it

It’s really amazing how many efforts do you need to make an human-independent process.

Probably the cost of this approach is the biggest factor why it’s not applied everywhere and we’re still working with human-based processes.

In general, there are a lot of open questions. Some of them I want solve:

  1. How to build a stable process, but with room for creativity?
  2. What technics is more effective in building stable human-dependent processes. What books are describing them?
  3. How a company culture should grow to motivate the people for accurate process execution? How to do it without pressing and checking?

Meetup. Right format

In my previous post, I’ve described some initial thoughts about employees Communities. At the bottom of the article, I’ve identified the list of problems we’ve met during our long way to build effective Communities.

Let me share now some solutions we’ve found. I hope it will save you time if you’ll decide to make similar things.

I’ll start with Meetup since it plays a really big role in Community processes: it makes possible to share knowledge, select the most professional employees, identify trends and directions for investigations, etc.

So

What is the best format of the meetup?

In the beginning, we’ve selected “training”-like format:

  • We should prepare and share only high-quality content during meetups. It will be more positive feedback from participants, it will be more informative and effective.
  • To share such kind of content we will need around 1 hour
  • Our goal was to involve as many participants as possible. In other words, we wanted to make our communities as big as possible.

After some meetups, we’ve realized that the selected format doesn’t work. Reasons:

  1. Presenters are not happy to prepare detailed and complex content. They didn’t want to spend their time even for money. After some meetups, they skipped the opportunity to present something.
  2. Such kind meetups were rarely since we’ve searched for presenters and they spend a lot of time to be prepared before the meetup. After some time they were not regular till the total cancelation.
  3. Employees and Reporters have no opportunity to join 1-hour meetups during the working day. After the working day, they prefer to go home and spend this time with the family. Before working day – they prefer to sleep in their beds.
  4. Our goal to build a big community from scratch is not real: meetups/communities were made without a special “friendly domestic” atmosphere, it was no discussions, participants were afraid to share their small topics, etc.
  5. Profit from high-quality content was not so big as expected. We realized that to make it work it should be in training-format, but it needs much more efforts: it needs practical parts, dedicated trainer, well-prepared materials, budget.
  6. When we’ve tried to build a big community – not all community members were motivated to play an active role inside of the community. They worked even as de-motivators.

After all of these facts, we’ve made our key conclusions:

Meetup is not a training

The key goal of the Meetup is not to educate or train, but give a communication point to discuss and share ideas, knowledge, ask for help or consultation, etc.

Meetup should be easy to perform. No prepation needed!

It should be easy to share knowledge. Even small topics make sense for the meetup. No preparation is needed. You need to share the knowledge/questions/results which you already have!

Meetup should be informal

Meetup should have “open” atmosphere which should grow smoothly with community size. Only motivated employees should participate. No needs to grow the community by employees who are not motivated. The community should grow naturally. Even 4 employees enough to start.

Meetup should be short and regular.

We decided to move with 30-minutes meetup per week or two. Short meetups easy to perform since you need not prepare different content, they are not boring and don’t need your time during the working day. Regular meetups provide the feeling of community, live process. It motivates to participate and makes it clear. It makes the people organized.

The last note for today:

Meetup should be online

The offline format is not scalable and works just if you have a single office. In other cases, you need to be scalable to involve motivated people from the whole company, record it if needed, etc. It’s even simple to organize. We’ve tried to organize mixed (offline+online) meetups, but it’s increasing complexity: it’s hard to speak with the community, if you provide both options people prefer to join in online mode, you need to prepare the room, projector, microphones. As I said before – it should easy, not like this.

Don’t worry if you think that you will lose some special feelings in an online format. In the IT world, you need to be ready to communicate online. It’s a really unique case if the team is not shared. Start to work online ASAP.

Good luck! Don’t hesitate to contact me if you’ve any question.

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Even one good word

The emotion of this week:

Even one positive feedback can give you enough energy to move to your goal.

As a result, don’t skimp on a good word. Say it even “in credit”!

Perhaps it will serve as the basis for someone’s goals or dreams.

P.S. don’t hesitate to say “Thank you” at least¬† ūüėČ

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It’s a real, real-time world

In the last years, it becomes clear to me that the world was changed. The cool book The Inevitable” by Kevin Kelly confirmed my vision and structured it. Let me put some key changes which amaze me even now.

  1. The systems and things we’re doing existing just NOW in the continues flow of transformations and updates. Nobody cares how the things looked before. If the thing is not flexible and not supported it degrades very fast. Let’s imagine such a situation: the system stays 3 months without developers and users and then they are back. I think it will be really hard to recover how it worked before. Additionally, the system will be outdated. Let me rephrase: systems existing only during development and using!
  2. Flows of changes and data are becoming so rapid that you can see them in real-time. Delivery time is reduced just to seconds everywhere: communications, news, video streams, apps changes etc.
  3. The implementations of ideas or technologies are delivered and changing so fast that details are minor. What becomes important is the working idea, business model and understanding of the core principles.

To be honest, I’m not happy with some aspects since I was born in another world, but it’s totally clear that we need to accept and follow the changes to be successful.

To be a working part of human-machine interactions we’re creating, not only things we do, but we ourselves should follow the rules:

  1. If you want to manage the changes flow you need to be fast. Decisions should be made now and corrected in the future. You should be a real-time man.
  2. You should be flexible and open to changes.
  3. You should invest your time in the understanding of core principles. Details will be found during the implementation.
  4. You should be responsive. If you’ve received the request you should handle it ASAP.

I hope we don’t lose our humanity in this challenging and stressfully world.

P.S. I recommend the book from above. It provides useful ideas in a clear and simple way.

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Communities. Beginning.

Before I’ll start, let me describe our company: it’s an international IT-company with 900+ employees, providing software development and IT-consulting.

Around 2 years ago I got the opportunity to boost the technical level of the company.

A not easy challenge, but it was a great opportunity to try my approaches and visions.

In the beginning, it was different kind of questions to solve. Let me share the most important of them: 

  1. How to identify directions for improvements?
  2. How to form the team which will make it possible?
  3. How to make it work not one time, but day-by-day?
  4. How to make it work with a small budget?

¬† ¬†I don‚Äôt remember how it happened, but a wonderful answer to all these questions came from my subconscious: let’s build communities for each work area: Business Analysis, Java Development, JS Development, DevOps, Quality Assurance and so on.

Let’s clarify my understanding of the Community:

Community –¬†is an¬†open informal group of employees who are interested in knowledge sharing in a specific work area.¬†

Let me highlight few words:

Open – it means that all employees can be a part of the community. No restrictions related to experience. Why? Each person can be helpful! Sometimes proactivity and creativity of the young people are vital for the work process.

Informal Рit should be a friendly and homelike atmosphere between community members. Why? It should easy to share knowledge and even small achievements. Members should be loyal to the experience of each other and ready to help. There is no community without easy communications. 

Interested¬†– means not-indifferent and proactive. Why it’s important? An indifferent employee has no energy to get or share the experience. Such employees are more like zeros for the community. In all cases, they are welcome. Important note: be sure they don’t demotivate other community members. Such kind of people exists as well.¬†

So how communities will help with the questions from above? Let me answer in a different order and elaborate community idea.

  • How to form the team which will make it possible?¬†¬†

Let’s begin with regular Meetups¬†where community members will share knowledge, discuss trends, new approaches, problems, solutions. Here it will be possible to identify the most professional and proactive employees for other activities. Additionally, we can select the most experienced member to help with community leading. Let’s call them Community Lead. The most regular meetups members will form the Community Core. This formation will be really useful with performing of the most important and complex work.

  • How to identify directions for improvements?¬†¬†

It will be possible during meetups discussions. Especially during discussions of the new trends and existing problems. Additionally, we can send regular Newsletter with the review of existing trends, useful resources and so on. Responsible member will get new experience and share it with the whole community. All of these will cover one big goal:¬†Aligning of the company with future trends, but it’s not all. Community efforts can be applied to cover more areas: mentoring, training of employees, providing consultations and help other employees and projects, knowledge mining (research) and sharing, organizing of technical events (i.e. Hackathons), Sales Support¬†and so on.

  • How to make it work not one time, but day-by-day?¬†¬†

With the structure from above and regular activities (i.e. Meetups, Newsletters etc), Communities will become an integral and permanent part of the company. After some time it will be possible to identify, describe and support related processes to make them stable and effective.

  • How to make it work just with a small budget?¬†

The secret is that Communities are helpful not only for the company but especially for the employees themselves: they get new skills, new experience, help, field for creativity. Just for free! As a result, the company can pay just for extra efforts like community leading,  meetups organizing, newsletter preparation, but as a result get a really great profit and help.¬†

I hope the concept of communities has become more understandable and simple. 

Unfortunately, the greatest difficulties in creating something are rooted in details.

The devil is in the details

Let’s highlight the top of problems met on my way to communities building.¬†

  1. How to find initial community members?
  2. How to communicate with the community?
  3. What the best format of the meetup?
  4. Who is the best Community Lead?
  5. How to make Community processes stable?
  6. How to motivate employees to join the community?
  7. How to launch a pure technical community with many introverts inside?
  8. How to apply community efforts in the best way?
  9. How to make the community part of the company processes?
  10. How to measure community profits?

Like in movies, let’s answer on these questions in the next posts. See you!¬†

By the way: let me wish you a happy and prosperous Happy Year!

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Invisible man

What does come to mind if you need to asses your colleague? What areas do you usually measure?

Let me mention some of them:

  • Knowledge in the technical area
  • Professional approaches
  • Ability to work in the team

During my practice, I’ve detected one more important option.

But let me describe the situation I’ve met:

Due to some reasons, it was no daily stand-ups on the project. One of my team members worked for a long time on the task. The task was quite complex with different hidden stones inside.

The problem was that he provided his status only on my request. Results were hard to check and he always shifted the deadlines. As a result, after a month of work, when it was an internal assessment it was hard to evaluate his efforts and skills. He was like an invisible man for me. It was not clear how professional he is.

Another colleague was confused as well. She said a great phrase:

He has low VISIBILITY.

Yep. That is the perfect word! I’m using it now for some set of professional approaches.

After thinking let me summarize what I mean under Visibility:

Visibility is the ability of a person to provide timely and tangible information about his current work results.

Tangible means that the results can be easily checked: it could be a pull request, test case, user story, demonstration, charts, video recording, report, email etc.

Note that results of work can include even the list of blockers provided by email.

Problems we meet are the results of our work as well.

Timely means not right before the deadline but provided in an iterative way, right after receiving any tangible achievement.

What is the profit from visibility?

For the manager and the whole team I see the following points:

  • It makes it easy to check actual results and plan the future work and deliverables
  • It reduces delays in development and unexpected problems and results at all
  • It makes possible timely handling of the problems
  • The results are visible for the team and the customer
  • It avoids unpleased moments during work result assessment

For the employee itself:

  • It works as self-marketing. If your positive results are visible for management it increases your karma salary: your achievements will be not ignored and will be used during the assessment procedure.
  • If you speak openly about your problems, it’s a big chance that your team will help you to resolve them
  • If you make your work results tangible it means that they became better quality
  • It avoids unpleased surprises during your work assessment

Why Visibility is so important? Let’s imagine that the profits from above are revoked.

In the context of the situation from above, I’ve made additional conclusions:

Daily standup increases the visibility for the whole team. Avoiding this practice badly reflected on each team member.

The manager should describe to the team how to become visible. Keep it in mind that visibility is not usual for some people.

High visibility is a part of high professionalism!

Be visible!

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Good Roman proverb

You are angry – means, you are not right.

I wish to remember it in discussion.