Quotes: Meetings are toxic but so is bleach

Meetings are toxic. So is bleach. And, I hope, you wouldn’t stop cleaning your house.

Whenever a meeting is needed, you should make it as productive as possible

If you decide you absolutely must get together, try to make your meeting a productive one by sticking to this simple rules

* Set a timer.  When it rings, meeting’s over. Period.
* Invite as few people as possible.
* Always have a clear agenda.
* Begin with a specific problem.
* Meet at the site of the problem instead of a conference room.  Point to real things and suggest real changes.
* End with a solution and make someone responsible for implementing it.

DHH & Fried, Rework. “Meetings are toxic”.

But take into account that a productive meeting is not the same for everyone involved.

In order for you to feel a meeting was a great success, which of the following should happen?

A. In a good meeting, a decision is made.
B. In a good meeting, various viewpoints are discussed and debated.
C. In a good meeting, a formal stamp is put on a decision that has been made before the meeting.

The large majority of Americans responding to this question chose option A. The French, however, largely chose option B. And most Chinese and Japanese selected option C.

Erin Meyer, The Culture Map, “The big D, the small d”

What is the meeting for? Why are we meeting? Having in mind what are the expectations for the meeting will be a key step into making the meeting a productive one.

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Quotes on productivity and distance

“As the distance between two people increases, the information communicated between them decreases dramatically – even more dramatically when they’re in different countries.”


Managing the Unmanageable (Mantle and Litchy

“The bulk of the hassle in adjusting to remote work exists as soon as you’re not sitting in the same office. The difference then beween sitting in the same city, the same coast, or even the same country is neglibible. Once you’ve formed good remote working habits, the lack of proximity between coworkers will start mattering so little that you’ll forget exactly where people are.”

Remote. Office not required. (Friend and DHH)

Is productivity inversely proportional to the squared of the distance?

Distance matters, not for the sake of distance itself. Distance matters because it makes harder having ocasional personal interaction. And distance matters because it makes harder to overlap.

Good news is, the more passionate and profesional people are, the less distance affects. And working remote will allow to hire the best passionate professionals in the world


Related: “[..]is hard to find a passionate person who lacks one or the other. Find the ones with passion and you can count they’ll bring their interest and professionalism with them. ” (Interest + Professionalism = Passion)

Jenga: turning competitive into cooperative, and finite vs infinite games

We are used to playing competitive games. Football, indians and cow-boys, poker or rock-paper-scissors are all competitive games. Whether I win and you loose, or the other way around.

jengaCompetitive games are useful for learning things like getting more than your fair share during a negotiation or like killing the enemies of your people.

For the last decades, war has decreased and Toyota taught us about the importance of win-win negotiations for sustainable business. You need to teach a new set of skills for cooperation instead of competition. That’s why you need more cooperative games… or turning our competitive games into cooperative ones.

Jenga is a tradicional basic game. A group of people take turns for removing little wooden bricks from the bottom of a tower and try to put them on top of it. The first person making the tower fall, loses.

In this competitive game:

  • You want everyone else to fail, so you’ll make moves that let the worst case scenario for the next player.
  • You are interested in the shortest possible tower. The faster someone fails, the easier you win.

How about turning competitive Jenga into cooperative Jenga?

Let’s say the rules are changed so the goal is building the highest possible tower between everyone. The rest of the rules are left the same. Now:

  • You want everyone else to succeed, so you will do moves that facilitate the next person move.
  • You are interested in giving advice, support and assistance to the others, so they make moves easier for them and also easier for a sustainable growth of the tower.

With Cooperative-Jenga you get longer games, cooperation and team building and a way of working based on sustainability and on helping others.

Help, cooperation, long-term thinking, sustainability… against rivalry, individuality and seeking for failure.

What are the skills you prefer learning and practicing today?

 


Related:

  • The short game, the long game and the infinite game (Seth Godin): “In the infinite game, though, something completely different is going on. In the infinite game, the point is to keep playing, not to win. In the infinite game, the journey is all there is. And so, players in an infinite game never stop giving so they can take.”
  • Don’t give up, don’t let others give up and absolutely never make others give up. “When a colleague is in trouble or has failed, you can always show up and offer some help, whether it represents a helping hand, a good piece of advice or just listening to some whining. As a team member, you always have the option to support the rest of the team.”
  • Assertiveness (John Welford): “To be assertive is not, as some people imagine, to be overbearing and aggressive, but to be straightforward, open and honest. It means that you relate well to people, able to express your needs freely, take responsibility for your feelings and stand up for yourself when necessary. In conflict situations you seek, where possible, to reach a ‘win-win’ outcome, in which the needs of all parties are fully acknowledged.”

 

Team’s organization: using a physical whiteboard or being digital

You are working in an agile team, so you probably find a good idea using a kanban panel, a lean comm-cell or something like that.

Great.

But…

what if you are in a remote team? Lots of applications solve this from a technical point of view. Whiteboard emulators, with virtual post-its and sharpies on colours you can’t even name.

should_we_use_a_whiteboard_while_working_remote

And then the problems arise. You are discussing an issue and the panel is not there, directly visible. Maybe the application is not open, so you need to log in, and maybe your password expired yesterday night, so you end up discussing without looking at the board.

Maybe the team is not 100% remote, and a part of the team is co-located while others are remote. Then, the people at the office find convenient having a physical panel, so they can interact easily with it even with the computers off. Nice idea, but then the remote workers can’t watch it, can’t update it.

What could we do? As many times, the answer is… it depends.

  • team 100% remote: go digital. 100% digital. Everybody meets in front of a screen, so it’s convenient to have 2 windows, one with the IM/videoconference software, the other with the board. And while working, the board must be open. Always.
  • team 100% colocated: go with the whiteboard. 100% physical. You benefit from the size, the fact that is always present and the easiness of manipulating items.
  • part remote, part co-located: this is the hard situation. Best case scenario is going digital with a big screen (MS-Surface?) always on, so the colocated people still benefit from the 100% co-located scenario, and every meeting with the remote colleagues will benefit from having online app. If can’t afford a Surface, a 45″ screen will do the trick with an small computer (arduino?), a mouse and a keyboard permanently attached, on and open so you can easily manipulate it.

And as always, try, inspect and adapt. Plan, do, check and act. You already know…


Related:

  • Remote. Office not Required (Friend, DHH): “Feeling like a second-class worker doesn’t take much.[…] There’s also the annoyance of having every debate end with ‘John and I talked about this in the office yesterday and decided that you idea isn’t going to work’. Fuck that.”
  • Combining Lean with Agile: the developer perspective (Kris Hoogendoorn): “Above is a photograph of our Scrum board before we embarked on our Lean journey and a picture of our Lean Comm Cell today. You can immediately see how Lean has transformed our daily stand-up. Instead of just focusing on progress with the Scrum board, we now focus on three additional aspects every day”
  • Kanban Boards, Atlassian. “Regardless of whether a team’s board is physical or digital, their function is to ensure the team’s work is visualized, their workflow is standardized, and all blockers and dependencies are immediately identified and resolved.”

 

Building bridges, not walls

On one hand there are walls. The people at Troy, the people at Jericho, build walls millennia ago.

antigua_muralla_zaragoza

A wall used to keep your family, your business, your house, your art and your temples safe from strangers. At night, everyone belonging to the community, gathered inside the safety of the city walls.

But then artillery came in, and military air crafts did it too. And walls were reduced to dust or became touristic attractions. Walls are not a shelter anymore.

On the other hand there are bridges. People have been building bridges for millennia. Ancient Romans built bridges still in use today.

With a bridge you can safely cross through a river and go to the next village. You can use it to go visit your parents, or to reach the market to buy some goods you don’t have on your own town.puente_de_piedra_zaragoza

Strangers will make use of the bridge to connect to you. To reach your village, and your business and your loved ones.

Bridges are still in full use. Every city has been building bridges to ease communication problems. And bridges, the ancient and the new ones, have become touristic landmarks too.

A wall can’t keep your business, your team, your project safe anymore. Your best developer will be tempted by a job offer from a company who operates with remote teams in three different continents. Your competition is operating under some Asian country laws. Your Australian customer is expecting your product to be delivered right to them, no middlemen involved.

But a bridge is more useful than ever, to connect your business, your team, your project. Your best developer will be working with a supplier’s interface to integrate your product into theirs. You will need someone with a clear understanding of how things work in the places where your competition is located. You can send products from one part of the world to the other easier than ever, and you can get direct feedback from your customer in a matter of seconds.

Bridges are at least as safe, and much more productive, than walls.

How much effort are you spending on building bridges and walls?

 


Related: Burning Bridges (Seth Godin) “A bridge well-crossed gets better over time. When you need to break it down to push through, you’ve not only hurt the person you trampled on, you’ve hurt your reputation.”

 

 

What’s the song that sounds while you interview candidates?

Hiring people is starting a relationship. What’s the original sound track of your process?

Maybe you are interviewing to the rhythm of Bonnie Tyler. Looking for strong, fast and fresh heroes, because your company’s survival depends on them.

I need a hero
I’m holding out for a hero ’til the end of the night
He’s gotta be strong
And he’s gotta be fast
And he’s gotta be fresh from the fight

Heroes are handy for start-ups and rapid-growing business, where and when fulfilling short-term needs is top priority.

On the other hand you could sing Tina Turner’s We don’t need another hero.

Looking for something
We can rely on
There`s gotta be something better out there
[…]
All else are castles built in the air
And I wonder when we are ever gonna change
Living under the fear till nothing else remains

All the children say
We don`t need another hero

Companies trying to strengthen their foundations, searching for scalability and growth, don’t need heroes anymore.

heroes.pngAnd there is a third option. You can sing The Chainsmokers’ Something like this.

I’ve been reading books of old
The legends and the myths
Achilles and his gold
Hercules and his gifts
Spiderman’s control

And Batman with his fists
And clearly I don’t see myself upon that list

But she said, where’d you wanna go?
How much you wanna risk?
I’m not looking for somebody
With some superhuman gifts
Some superhero
Some fairytale bliss
Just something I can turn to
Somebody I can kiss
I want something just like this
I want something just like this

Hiring people is starting a relationship. The interview is not only a filter to separate the ones who fit from those who not. The interview is the very first big moment for making the candidate fall in love with your company.
If you are able to make him want to work with you, it would be much easier for you when/if you reach the negotiation stage.
Hiring people is starting a relationship. Take care of what sounds when interviewing. It would be your first song. And the candidate will remember it.

The subject is the message. 3 simple rules to write more efficient e-mails

  The medium is the message. – Marshall Macluhan

E-mail is cheap, both in time and in money. People can send it to an arbitrary number of people, lists, aliases… People can send it from their desktop, while commuting, while having dinner with their boss or their family.

3_rules_for_email_productivitySo now, you receive, let’s say, some hundreds of mails per week. Some of this mails require an answer from you. Some of this mails are just to keep you informed. Some of them can wait, but some of them needs an answer right now.

But you need to open them, just to tell which is expected from you.

Only if we could have a look without needing to open them.

Yes, we can.

Just taking advantage of the subject of the message.

Rule#1: Always read the subject before answering. If the subject doesn’t relate anymore, adapt it to the new theme. Particularly if the subject has become just a bunch of chars like “Re:FWD: RE:RE:RE: Fwd Re:FWD: RE:RE:RE: Fwd: Yesterday’s meeting minutes”.

Rule#2: The FYI (for your information) mark is pretty useful. Why hiding it into the body? Just include the FYI in the subject.

Rule#3: If it’s a short message, don’t even use the body of the message. Just type the message on the subject and use “(eom)”  (End of Message) to tell the recipients they don’t even need to open it.