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.”

 

 

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It is MY fault: Harvey Specter on Leffert’s Law

The Lefferts law of management: It is your fault

Suits, the TV series, narrates the happenings of a New York legal firm.

Mike is a young rookie with lots of potential, but a lack of business knowledge and real experience. Harvey is an admired, goal-oriented professional, that gets the hardest part of the work done, in search of a sidekick who can take on his legacy in the future. Thus Harvey and Mike develop a protégé-mentor relationship since the moment they first meet.

We don’t have to wait many episodes to see Mike, the mentee, spoil a negotiation for an important client, after being late filling a form.

Mike is worried about Harvey telling the client the mistake was Mike’s fault.

Harvey: You think that’s going to be a walk in the park?
Mike Ross: Hey. Harvey. Did you tell him it was me [my fault]?
Harvey: Why would I do that? I’m responsible for you. It was me [my fault].

Mike was worried about what the client could think of him. But Harvey didn’t tell the client that it was Mike’s fault. Not because Harvey is good people, not because he wanted to preserve his mentee’s reputation.

He didn’t told the client it was Mike’s fault… because it wasn’t.

Even if Mike had been late, it really doesn’t matter. Harvey, nor any mentor, should expect Mike to behave exactly the way he is told. Mike needs to learn by himself. For doing so, he needs to learn from success, but also from failure. He needs to learn to make hard calls with incomplete information during crisis.

And that’s precisely why he needs a mentor in the first place. He needs someone who advice, lead and guide him. He needs someone who can own his mistakes while he learns from them.


  • Related: The Lefferts law of management on ScottBerkun.com “If you have the title ‘manager’ in your name you should tend to absorb blame for what’s going on, while distributing the rewards. When all else fails, be the fall guy.[…] Being passionately accountable creates a shield for others and makes it safer for them to invest more personal responsibility in their work.”
  • Related: Who is your sidekick. “On the other hand, a sidekick is someone you can train as your replacement.”

The additional croquette and why you should keep your workers informed and motivated

I was having some tapas with five of my friends from college.

We arrive to that big fancy bar.

Before ordering, someone realized something strange happened with the menu…

  • 6 croquettes: 6 €
  • additional croquet: 0,75 € each

It was an obvious mistake, we agree. If you would order six croquettes you’d pay 1€ for each one. And then, from the seventh on, you would get a 0,25€ discount.

But we were having fun, so it couldn’t hurt to ask the waiter about it. So we ask him if we could order six “additional” croquettes instead of the six pack.

He told us, “if it’s in the menu, you can ask for it”.

We explained him that it should be an error, that if we ordered only additional, they were making less money.

“I only work here”, he answered.

In the beginning, he didn’t know about the menu. But in the end, he didn’t care about the profit.

Please… please, please, please… If you are a boss, a manager, an owner, keep in mind that your workers make the profit. Keep in mind that they need to understand how this profit is made. But, above all, keep in mind that they need to care about it.

Inform them. Motivate them. Good news is that both things are strongly related.

Great bosses will want you to work less

Not more.

Great bosses leading successful companies won’t want you to work more.

They want you to be more productive. To bring better results in less time. Since…

Productivity = Work done / Time spent

Dilbert's Pointy-haired Boss asking you to work 178 hours a week

When some kind of (pointy-haired) boss asks you to spend more time at work, they are asking to increase the divisor. Increasing the divisor, by itself, will only DECREASE productivity.

Some other type of boss (not as pointy-haired but still kind of) could ask you to increase both the divisor and the dividend. The trick then is that if you would spend an extra 20% time at work, you would need to get at least a 21% increase in the work done to be more productive. This could seem plausible… but by definition extra work is done AFTER you’ve work your normal hours, so it’s unlikely that those extra hours would be the ones getting the most work done.

And all of this leave great bosses with the only strategy able to let them increase productivity. They must make sure to leave alone the divisor. The people is working as much as they should. So they need to INCREASE THE DIVIDEND. More work done in the same time.

How can you accomplish this? Let’s see some strategies:

  • Automation. Every time you need to have something done several times a week (or a month, or a year), please, automate.
  • Change the point of view. People shouldn’t wonder how many extra hours do they need to get this work done, but how is the best way to have this work done in as few hours as possible.
  • Remove obstacles each time tech people is stuck doing other things than their work. E.g. blurry requirements, old-fashioned hardware difficult to work with, dealing with licenses that expired, tough procedures to ask for holidays or reporting progress, …
  • State clear channels for communication. Avoid email lists. Define information radiators. Death penalty on the bosses who arrange long meetings with everyone involved.
  • Focus on focusing. Everyone working in one task at each time, until it’s done.

 

 


Related

 

 

Gimli, son of Gloin, on software development

How to measure the productivity of a software developer has been an ongoing debate for years.

They studied professional programmers with an average of 7 years’ experience and found that the ratio of initial coding time between the best and worst programmers was about 20 to 1; the ratio of debugging times over 25 to 1; of program size 5 to 1; and of program execution speed about 10 to 1. They found no relationship between a programmer’s amount of experience and code quality or productivity. (Steve McConnell, Rapid Development)

Imagen de Legolas y Gimli en la peli de 1978

Gimli le explica a Legolas la vida del programador

From the number of lines of code written to assigning function points to each part of the code depending on complexity, there is a whole set of proposals out there.

Consider both points above together – your coworker codes 25 function points in one day, but they’re all simple validations (if text box “a” is not a date, throw an error…)

In the same day, you stared at the screen for six hours, whiteboarded a lot, then rewrote one line and deleted fifteen other lines, making a major part of the data processing engine faster by two orders of magnitude.

So he wrote 650 lines and 25 function points, you wrote *negative* fourteen lines of code and no new function points.

Who’s “better” ? (Joel On Software Forum)

J.R.R. Tolkien, in The Lord of the Rings,  was so kind as to take some time to explain, through the words of Gimli the dwarf, the most complex and marvellous part of a software developer’s work.

We would tend these glades of flowering stone, not quarry them. With cautious skill, tap by tap – a small chip of rock and no more, perhaps, in a whole anxious day – so we could work, and as the years went by, we should open up new ways, and display far chambers that are still dark, glimpsed only as a void beyond fissures in the rock.

Don’t hire firemen nor heroes

Andrea: Unhappy is the land that breeds no hero.
Galileo: No, Andrea: Unhappy is the land that needs a hero.
(Bertolt_Brecht – Life of Galileo)

A firemen feels confident, useful and brave during a fire.

A hero without anyone to rescue feels under-used and undervalued.

If you work with firemen and heroes, you’ll spend all day heroically fighting fires. That means you will work on mitigating the urgent instead of on solving the important.

If you have the chance to hire any of them, please don’t do it. And if your staff includes firemen and heroes, you should better train them to do normal, easy-paced, work flow, or get rid of them.


Related:

  • Don’t be a Hero (signal vs noise, DHH)Being a hero is all about sitting aside all costs and winning anyway. That’s not a prudent way to drive everyday development. […]Every time you play the hero card, you’re jeopardizing the next game.”
  • The Hero Complex (Making things happen, Scott Berkun) “If things work out well, the survivors look on their heroic efforts as a large part of why they succeded.[…]However, there are bad habits hiding behind this logic.”
  • Fast vs Cheap vs Good and the Covery Quadrant “Finally, quadrant 2, non urgent and important things, is what will give you the chance to offer good and cheap (in the long run). What quadrant of the matrix are you willing to live your life into?”

Fast vs Cheap vs Good and the Covey Quadrant

GOOD CHEAP FAST: You can pick any two

As the sign says, you can offer three kinds of service:

  1. Good and Fast (and expensive)
  2. Good and Cheap (and slow)
  3. Bad, but cheap and fast

The sign says you must choose one of the three. Please, don’t.

If your company needs to be able to keep pace in the long run, if you want it to be a great place to work in, you simply CAN’T AFFORD the cost of offering cheap and fast BAD service.

Bad service will give you angry customers in the long run, when they’d forgotten about how cheap and fast you were, but everyday remembers how bad you were.

Fast and cheap is easy to do, as long as good is not a requirement. Besides, there always be one competitor out there who is willing to offer cheaper and faster bad service than yours.

By the way, here is Stephen Covey’s matrix.

sin-titulo

Quadrant 1, the important and urgent things, is what allows you to serve good and fast.

Quadrant 3 is representing cheap and fast service.

Nevermind about point 4. Just don’t do it.

Finally, quadrant 2, non urgent and important things, is what will give you the chance to offer good and cheap (in the long run).

coveygoodfastcheap

What quadrant of the matrix are you willing to live your life into?