Who is your sidekick?

As Batman has Robin, as Maverick has Goose, as Frodo has Sam… chances are you need a sidekick.

On one hand, a sidekick will be at your side whenever you’re in big trouble.

sidekicks

On the other hand, a sidekick is someone you can train as your replacement.

If you don’t have a sidekick, you’d better look for one.

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Don’t give up, don’t let others give up, and absolutely never make others give up

“Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t–you’re right.”
Henry Ford

Don’t give up.

Don’t let others give up.

And most important; Don’t MAKE others give up.

Like a tennis player who always run an extra step and returns one more ball, this resilience will give you an extra chance to get your project’s goal. As an individual contributor, you always have the option to never 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.

Finally, as a boss or a leader, you have the power to MAKE others give up. Everyday, intended or not, you are leading by example. If you are not recognizing their good work, if you look depressed or desperate, if you just punish the one who tries to make a difference or goes the extra mile, you are setting the stage for people giving up. And there’s no bigger single tragedy for the performance of a team, that having team members who doesn’t feel like doing their best. If someone doesn’t think the work is worth the effort, they won’t fight enough to get the task done. As a leader, never ever allow yourself to make your team give up.

Never give up. Don’t let others give up. And absolutely never MAKE others give up.

Winning is overrated

OK, Jason. Failure is overrated.

The lessons learned from doing well give you a better chance at continuing your success. (Jason Fried, signalvsnoise.com)

But winning is too.

Sometimes you have no other option that losing. Your competition is far stronger than you. You are an amateur playing against a professional. You are in bad shape this season or in a wrong mood today. Or you don’t have enough experience… yet.

You are going to lose. But you won’t get shaper, nor stronger, you won’t reach pro level, nor acquire enough experience just by quitting.

Sometimes you just need to lose, and losing while making your best effort is far better than winning by default.

Short run vs long run

Lisbon is quite a beautiful city, with a beautiful past.

img_20160727_222553941_hdr

It seems that Marques’ pastry shop was thought, many years ago, as a business in the long run. So long that, at least, one other store has taken over.

Very few business, if someone at all, will today be built on stone. Flexibility and fastness have overcome stability and steadiness.

You will need many work hours, and a municipal permit, to erase Marques’ name from the main entrance. But you can replace the Stradivarius nameplate in a matter of minutes.

Sometimes you just can’t chose betting on robustness, and have to work on speed and readiness for change instead.

But I can’t help thinking how nice it must have been working with Mister Marques.

 

Design vs UX when lives are on stake

My old Nissan Primera dated back to 1997. It’s air-conditioner control panel looked like this…

aa_primera

You can think it’s kind of ugly. In fact is kind of ninetish and was quite common in every brand, with some tiny differences. You have three controls.

  • Where do you want the air to come from (left).
  • How cold do you want it (center).
  • How strong do you want it (right).

Nowadays the cars have changed. They usually incorporate a screen that works as standard output for whatever you’re setting in the car, from the time and date to your favorite radio channels.

And, unlucky of me, its the output to the air-conditioning system too.

Let’s check how this systems perform in two basic scenarios.

  • Use case #1: Finding out the current setting.
    • 90’s design: You just give a quick glance to the operation panel. With some experience, you even don’t need to do it visually. You can check the current settings by touch. From one to three steps.
    • 21st century’s design: You need to push the ‘temperature’ button. Then you look at the screen to see the current value. Then you push the ‘speed’ button and look again at the screen to see the current value. Finally you push the ‘direction’ button and check the value on the screen. Six steps. And as the buttons are seamlessly integrated in the dashboard, and the feedback is visual only, there’s no way you can tel how the system is operating without looking at it.
  • Use case #2: Modifying some current setting.
    • 90’s design: You know what roulette you need to modify just looking at the labels around the roulette. You locate the value you’re aiming for and move the roulette to this position. Two steps.
    • 21st century’s design: You need to locate the button you need to push to set the roulette on the proper operation mode, e.g. ‘temperature’. Then you push the button. Then you grab the roulette and move it while looking at the screen so you can see the feedback for your action. Four steps.

So to change one setting you needed four to eight steps with my old car, depending if you didn’t want to take your sight out of the road, while you must perform sixteen steps with my new car.

The advantages of the brave old system are:

  • You can use it without looking at it.The controls shape, size and position allow easy location and manipulation, by touch.
  • You can see the current settings, every time, at a glance. Since the control is a roulette that maps with the available settings. With some practice, you can even find the current setting out by touch, while looking to the road.

The beautiful design is always the one who is thought to be operated, not to be seen. The beautiful design is the one that offers the best user experience, specially if the most important thing to do is staying focused at the road.

Quote on accepting blame

Rita Hayworth playing Gilda (via wikicommons)When they had the earthquake in San Francisco
Back in nineteen-six
They said that Mother Nature
Was up to her old tricks
That’s the story that went around
But here’s the real low-down
Put the blame on Mame, boys
Put the blame on Mame

Gilda Mundson (singing on 1946 film Gilda)

A leader is eager to let team members make their own bets.

A leader is willing to accept the blame when some of the bets go wrong.

If you want the team to grow, you need both sides of the equation.

So be always ready to sing the song.

 


Related:

Ride the quality roller-coaster

You’re absolutely eager to keep the quality level of your product. If you aren’t, all the things I’m going to say don’t really matter, because in a few years your product will become a failure or you will have left your current employer.

So if you continue reading, I will suppose you’re absolutely determined to keep the quality above standards. Period.

Ok. You’re not going to play with quality. But there are three other variables around you need to deal with:

  1. Cost
  2. Functionality
  3. Time to market

Imagine this three variables as the base of a pyramid. Quality is the top of this pyramid. And we’ve just said you’re going to keep this pyramid as high as needed.

So every time you are told to reduce costs (e.g. less people in the team), to increase scope (e.g. you need to add some new thing your product needs to do) or to speed up (e.g. it needs to be done for the next fair), the shape of your product´s pyramid changes.

But remember. Quality is the top. And you’re riding on it. Each time you adjust one of the three (cost, functionality, scope) you will need to adjust at least another one (probably the two of them), because if you don’t, the fourth (quality) would be the one that suffers.

Every time some sort of manager, client representative, sales guy, whatsoever, asks you to change cost, functionality or time… don’t ever say yes, until you’ve decided which one of the other variables is going to compensate for the impact of the changes.

 


 

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