A well-oiled decision making machine

I’m helping a buddy with his site, doing some analysis of the analytics to see what’s working and what isn’t, and to try to identify some places where he could bump up the site’s revenue a bit.

The whole things feels quite luxurious. It’s a side project for him, and I’m just doing it for fun, so there are no timelines, no pressures, just long, leisurely dives into some data.

It feels so decadent, this abundance of time.

It makes me stop and realize just how fast the team really moves some days. How quickly we encounter information, analyze the options, make choices, and then DO. Problem, data, tradeoffs, choice, action. We run through that at light speed, dozens of times a day.

Over time, I think it’s made me and my team incredibly efficient problem solvers. We focus in on exactly what is happening. They bring the technical information, I bring the product and client knowledge. We weigh options, pick, and then DO. Clean and targeted, and ending with action.

We should spend a little more time reviewing our choices and actions, but overall, I’m pretty proud of this little decision making machine we’ve created.

Don’t be a silo

I know this is a joke. An intended exaggeration. But it is frustrating nonetheless.

As I was watching a show on Hulu last night, this commercial kept playing for an online K-12 school. One of the “students” was saying how awesome it was that she could do 5 classes in one day on the days she felt like doing a lot, and none on the days she didn’t.

Which is great. But then it kinda isn’t.

That’s really not life, for most of us. We don’t get to do whatever we want to do, and only when we want to do it.

We work together. We accomplish things as teams. We need other people to support and inform and help us, therefore we must do our work at roughly the same time to be efficient. Just because you don’t feel like doing your work on some days doesn’t alleviate your responsibility to do it. Your team is counting on you, so you do what you need to do on the appointed day.

Perhaps it was just the combination of this illustration and that commercial, but I got peeved. I feel it furthers the notion that developers are delicate flowers that should never be interrupted, that their concentration should be preserved above all else.

I totally agree that devs need long uninterrupted stretches of time to do work to be most efficient. And I strive to provide that. But to be effective as a team, you have to be willing to stop and talk to your team. And the daily standup is that method.

Sometimes, you have to subjugate your individual needs to better the team. That’s what a team is all about. Being pissy about a standup means no information gets transferred into other brains, which makes you a silo, and if you go on vacation, the work comes to a halt because you couldn’t take 15 min a day to have a very short conversation. You are not that important, that you should be able to bring a team down by taking a vacation.

Do the standup. Support your team. Don’t be a silo.

Accountability, responsibility, and trust

One of the fascinating things about agile team structure is the delineation between responsibility and accountability. While I may be in charge of making sure something gets done, I may not actually be the one to perform the work. I am accountable to a task without being responsible for actually doing it.

As a scrum master, I may be accountable for explaining and improving the team’s velocity, but I do not directly impact the velocity – I am not responsible for the work done that creates or alters the velocity. Only the development team can be responsible for the estimation and volume of work that is completed.

It’s an interesting paradigm, to separate who is held to the fire for something from who will actually do that something. That takes a huge amount of trust within the team – to trust the responsible party will do what they say they will do.

And if there is no trust? That’s a huge problem if a team member doesn’t fulfill their responsibilities. Which gets exacerbated if there are no reciprocal dependencies between us – if mutually assured destruction is not an option, albeit a last resort, clearly.

If I am accountable for things that you are responsible for, and you never fulfill your responsibilities, then there is a problem. A foundational breakdown of trust and responsibility, fracturing a team from the inside.

Be on the lookout, team leader, for small breaches that may lead to larger collapses. Defend your team vigilantly against actions that erode trust.

The cost of what you want

An excellent point:

When you stand and petulantly demand some course of action without regard for the bigger picture, you immediately place yourself into a tiny little box. This person doesn’t understand the full scope of what he is asking, so I can disregard this particular request. Sure, you might know what you are talking about (might even be right in absolution), but the fact that you present your case in isolation makes it less compelling to the person you are trying to influence.

Instead of just taking the free ice cream, try a simple acknowledgment of the associated costs. By placing your request in context, you do a couple of things. First, you demonstrate that you are informed, which lends your position more weight. Second, you highlight that you understand the other person’s position, which helps build rapport. And finally, you open up a conversation about costs and tradeoffs, which is typically the core of the problem in the first place.

via DZone

What are you demanding from others without regard to what it will cost them?  Is that why you’re not getting results?