Posts Tagged ‘reviews’

In our last post we discussed the first two areas where savvy organizations are helping newly hired Gen Ys enter the workforce – – –

A) Getting them contributing (and feeling valued) very quickly and

B) Establishing clear standards for behavior so the new hire fits into the culture.

Now we’ll talk about the third area where Gen Ys sometimes need help – – – building good people skills.

C) People skills – These are hard to change because they are deeply intertwined with how we see ourselves, the world and other people.  People skills are formed, and then selectively reinforced, throughout life.  But people can change.  I have found that annual classes teaching proven inter-personal techniques for everyone is a great idea and are most effective if taught in a lighthearted, humorous style.  Humor relaxes us so we lower our defensive guards and become more receptive to new ideas.  There is evidence that such training can bring about lasting changes in how we relate to others if those changes are doable, result in better relationships and are continually reinforced.  So enlightened organizations are providing new Gen Ys with both training and with frequent nudges that reinforce the good behavior and correct the areas where they need to improve.

Frequent Feedback

Actually, that is a key point across all aspects of working with Gen-Ys:  frequent feedback. Tell them what they did right or wrong and how to improve. Our Gen Y students have told us:

  • “I cannot believe my boss waited for a year to tell me about 2-3 things I was doing wrong!  I could have been improving since I first got here but I had no idea I was doing those things wrong.  What a stupid process the ‘annual performance review’ is here.”
  • “Nobody says squat around here about what we do right or wrong until the ‘review’ and that only happens every calendar quarter if we are lucky.  I’d like to hear every month what I am doing right and wrong.  Then I can do something about it.

This need for frequent feedback goes back to the issues we discussed in Part 1 of this series of posts:  an ego that needs frequent reinforcement from others in order to feel secure.  So for the first six months, sit down every month with each new employee’s mentor and ask about the employee, how others feel about them, how well (or poorly) they are working with others, early strengths and weaknesses that may be emerging, etc.  Then meet one-on-one with each new employee, and discuss how they see themselves, their progress, fears, suggested improvements, etc.  And here’s a technique I’ve used:  schedule the 2-hour employee “performance discussion” at 4 pm on a Wednesday (“hump day”) and then continue the chat for an hour at a nearby bar or lounge where a medicinal glass of merlot or a beer will bring out the Gen Y’s real thoughts about the organization, him/herself, processes, procedures, and becoming a valued member of the team!

Choice of a Mentor/Boss

The choice of mentor is crucial but the first boss is even more so, impacting a new employee’s career perhaps more than anything else.   A poor communicator and/or insecure, overly judgmental boss can drive a new hire out the door for greener pastures.  Unfortunately, it has been our experience that the older the boss is, the more likely he/she is to make snap judgments about people and, hence the more dangerous is their assignment to supervise a new Gen Y employee fresh from college.  The difference in peoples’ perspectives usually increases with the age gap and if too wide, the two generations may not be able to relate well and no rapport is established.  Gen Y behaviors, while age-appropriate, may then trigger irreversible impressions and inaccurate conclusions in the boss’s head.  Gen Ys are still very much a “work in progress” when they leave college and often for 3-5 years after that.  Give them an initial boss who sees them that way and will help gently shape them properly.

Arranging for new Gen Ys to initially work with other Gen Ys initially also makes for an easier transition than immediately assigning them to multi-generational teams, but emphasize from the start that working well with others of all ages, not just with other Gen Ys, is essential to being promoted and given more responsibility (and more fun assignments) in the organization.

When a new person of any generation joins an organization, an unwritten agreement is formed.  Each party agrees to do their share in making the “marriage” work.  So far we have talked about what the organization can do for the new Gen Y worker.  In the next post we will talk about what the newly hired Gen Y person must do to ease the transition into that new job.

Copyright: Solid Thinking Corporation

Not that one would be able to tell the difference, but I’m writing this article while flying back to San Francisco from a great week of meetings in New York, and I’m absolutely convinced of two things:

  1. Lugging a laptop around from meeting to meeting is overrated; and
  2. The iPad makes it ridiculously easy to be just as productive on the road. (Oh and 3, as if it weren’t blatantly obvious to anyone who’s flown them: Virgin America = love.) By the time this article publishes, the iPad2 will be shipping, which will present a faster, lighter, longer-lasting experience.

Informal survey time: This flight is just about full, and looks like half of my fellow passengers are using some type of mobile device: iSomethings, Androids, and iPads. (Sorry Motorola, love the Xoom but none spotted around this nightclub-in-the-sky.) I counted maybe four or five laptops, and about 8 iPads.

The time of the tablet has clearly arrived.

Now anyone who has or does carry a laptop with them, you are with me on this, right? Seriously, it’s 2011 and the average laptop is still heavy (6lbs!). The exception might be the MacBook Air 1.86Mhz – a slick machine for sure, but make a move in that direction and $1,600 will need to make a move from your wallet. For less than half this cost you can have a fairly nicely-loaded iPad2 3G.

Now before you drop this post like a hot skillet and rush off to the Apple Store, you need to know a few things. The iPad is indeed quite cool, but a full-fledged laptop it isn’t, so some sacrifice is definitely necessary. Making the iPad your primary road machine requires having some proverbial ducks lined up first:

  1. Email.  The good news here is that the native Mail app works nicely for just about all email needs. The only drawback is that if you’re a Salesforce user, you’re out of luck for a mail-to-Salesforce sync with the iPad.
  2. Documents & spreadsheets. There is currently no MS Office for iPad. Sad, I know. However there are workarounds for working with documents and sheets: Google Docs works pretty well with iPad, and Safari’s use of HTML5 caches your work in case of a connection interruption. Also, apps like Citrix Receiver (for Xen users) and LogMeIn Ignition will connect you to your laptop or other machine back at the office.  I understand that Apple’s own iWork for iPad app is pretty good, though apparently has limitations if you need to convert to MS Office formats.
  3. Presentations. Keynote for iPad allows you to create all the decks you need, or better yet edit existing PowerPoint files. Since most meetings tend to be between two or three people, presenting from the iPad itself is a great, intimate way to talk someone through your deck. For formal presentations, just use the A/V dongle and you’re all set. Need to drop some Photoshopped goodness into your deck? There’s an app for that.
  4. Backoffice apps. Of course while on the road you’ll need to stay connected; your business juice running back in your datacenter.  Salesforce and most other CRM apps are web-based, so you’re already covered here. Connecting to your company’s systems is possible using the native Cisco and other supported VPN protocols. Datacenter providers are themselves releasing server management apps for the iPad. Rackspace, for example, just released an updated version of their feature-packed admin app for iPad, and I’d expect Terremark and the other major players to follow suit.
  5. File management. Storage space is key here, and since there (still) is no support for SD cards with the iPad2, I’d recommend getting the 64GB version. Given almost ubiquitous WiFi or 3G, both Dropbox and Google Docs are two smart ways to manage and backup files from the iPad.

If you happen not to be an Apple or iPad fan, I’d still recommend considering a tablet versus a laptop as your ‘road dog’. (Motorola Xoom is the best of this bunch at the moment, IMHO.) The light weight, size, decent-sized screen, and connectivity to your datacenter and business applications presents a compelling case for replacing that heavy old laptop. Your shoulders will thank you, too!

Quality #13: Reviews can be fun (if done right)

by Tanmay Vora on January 19, 2010

Last year, in November, I posted 12 posts on QUALITY in the form of QUALITYtweets, on Active Garage. It didn’t quite seem right to stop just there… when there is so much still left to say about QUALITY!

Here are the first twelve posts, in case you would like to go back and take a look:

  1. Quality #1: Quality is a long term differentiator
  2. Quality #2: Cure Precedes Prevention
  3. Quality #3: Great People + Good Processes = Great Quality
  4. Quality #4: Simplifying Processes
  5. Quality #5: Customers are your “Quality Partners”
  6. Quality #6: Knowing what needs improvement
  7. Quality #7: Productivity and Quality
  8. Quality #8: Best Practices are Contextual
  9. Quality #9: Quality of Relationship and Communication
  10. Quality #10: Inspection can be a waste if…
  11. Quality #11: Driving Change Through Leadership
  12. Quality #12: Middle Management and Quality Culture

#QUALITYtweet Make every review meeting a learning

experience by reviewing the product

and process, not people.

We create, we review and we make it better. Reviews are an integral part of product/service quality improvement. The core purpose of any review process is to “make things better” by re-examining the work product and find out anomalies or areas of improvements that the creator of the work product was not able to find.

Establishing a good review process in an organization requires management commitment and investment, but for returns that it generates, the effort is totally worth it. In software world, a lot of emphasis is given to formal inspections, but they work best when a formal process marries with a set of common sense rules. Here they go:

1) Reviewing early

Reviews in early phase of product development means that findings are less costly to resolve. The later defects are found, more expensive it gets to resolve those defects.

2) Staying positive

The art of review is to report negative findings (problems) without losing the positive undertone of communication. Negative or destructive criticism will only make the process more burdensome. Stay positive and keep the process lightweight.

3) Keeping review records

When a lot of time is spent on reviewing, it makes sense to track the findings to closure. Recording the finding helps you to effectively track the closure and trends.

4) Reviewing process, not the person

Always question the process and not the person. Human beings are bound to make mistakes, which is why reviews are required. So accept that mistakes will happen. How can we have a more effective process so that these mistakes are not repeated? That is the critical question.

Imagine that Bob is the reviewer of John’s work product and consider the following conversations:

Bob: “John, I reviewed the code of invoices module developed by you. Again this time, you have not implemented the architecture correctly. You committed the same mistakes that were also found in the registration module earlier.”

OR

Bob: “John, I reviewed the code of invoices module developed by you and your team. We have found some anomalies in the architecture implementation. I just wanted to know if the team had undergone the workshop on our standard architecture. If not, we should invite our systems architect to take a small workshop on system architecture so that the team has better clarity on how it can be best implemented.”

Two conversations with a totally different outlook. The first conversation tries to blame the producer where as the second conversation tries to assess the process and take corrective actions.

5) Training and more training

Reviewers can make huge mistakes if they are not trained. If you don’t invest in training your review teams, you cannot expect them to do it right, the first time.

6) Reviewing iteratively

Review often. During the course of product building, product needs may change. New ideas may be implemented. Keep review process constant amidst all these changes. Discipline is the key.

7) Reviewing the process of reviewing

Are we reviewing it right? Are we reviewing the right things? Periodically, assess the results and the benefits of having a review process. Assess how reviews helped improve product quality. In process assessment, also identify if people are heavily relying on reviews. It that is the case, it is a bad sign.

Success of any process depends on 2 E’s – Efficient and Enjoyable. Same holds true for your review processes. Review is a control mechanism, and hence the focus on getting it right the first time is still very important. A good review is just an internal quality gate that ensures that internal customers (reviewers) are happy with the final product. If your internal customers are happy, your external customers will be happy too!