Posts tagged ‘Management’
Oh it’s been a while since I’ve posted and so much has changed. I’ve recently taken on a new role with my existing employer to lead an organization that is focused on the full life-cycle of IT – IT projects and Application Support, plus corporate collaboration/knowledge management just for fun because I love it! It’s been 60 days in my new role, so it’s time to get back into writing….
In a recent team meeting, I introduced my new team of project managers, business analysts and quality assurance analysts to the practice of peer reviews. Their first question was “what is it” and then their fears of exposure came to light. Fair emotions as who likes to be judged? Like many teams, this team puts their heart into what they do. So yeah, who is going to enjoy the idea of being in front of their peers and judged for something they put their hearts into? Not me. As this was not my first time introducing this topic to a team, I was prepared. I believe it’s good to let the teams get this initial reaction out of their systems – then I move them towards the ultimate goal of peer reviews – learning.
Peer reviews are a great way to extend knowledge across your team members without the formality of training. Formal training is a must-have on many topics but there may be functions that you feel your team could come to alignment on without the expense of time or money related to training. I am also not a believer that every process should conform to a specific standard as sometimes creativity used to build deliverables can be a strength to the team. But how do you share these creative, superior deliverables with others on the team so they might learn or be inspired to try something similar on one of their future endeavors? And if you do have a situation where you do need 100% conformity to a standard, peer reviews can be a safer way to apply these policies than having an audit process (especially one done by a manager) defined.
Establishing a strong peer review process can be done with 3 guiding principles:
- No judging – by anyone
- Everyone plays
- Measure what counts
No Judging – By Anyone
Many groups in IT think about peer reviews and think of code reviews. This is a chance to make sure standards are applied and good design practices utilized. While this is definitely an option, you can also consider making peer reviews more about learning. My recommendation, if applicable for a team you are growing, you might want to consider asking the team to use the model for the presenter to gain insight from their peers about other areas of the business they might be more knowledgeable about than the presenter. The presenter can also look at the opportunity as a way to grow the business acumen of their peers and to share a technique they used that their peers may not have used before on a project. But in this model, there is no judging – no tracking the number of mistakes made by the presenter. No notes taken on the fixes made – unless the presenter wants to record them. An additional concern often raised is that the presenter feels exposed if their manager is in the room. Easy to solve – don’t be there. I have never sat in a peer review meeting for one of my teams. If not having me present eases the pressure on the presenter and perhaps reduces the desire of some of the audience to show off their knowledge, then it’s an easy thing for me to do for everyone. In reality, if I am managing this team, I have access to the deliverables and I can review them anytime. What is more important to me when growing a team is that the team feels supported by each other so they turn to each other in both the peer reviews but also through unstructured methods.
Participating in the peer review process should not become a burden for your team. I rarely make this a requirement before the finalization of a deliverable. Learning should be easy – not another hurdle for your team. But if learning is important, you need to know that it’s happening often enough for your team to be growing (both as a team and in their knowledge). So consider the frequency that peer reviews should occur, and how often you want to make it required for your team members. And depending on the size of your teams, it may not be feasible for everyone to participate in all reviews. This is a decision you have to make depending on the make-up and maturity of your team. I typically opt for optional engagement BUT each person has to participate in at least 1 peer review process per month, quarter, etc.
Measure What Counts
In my model, peer reviews are about building a sense of team, knowledge of methods that can be used in deliverables, and a start to alignment in some processes. If this is what counts, then this is what should be measured. Sense of team can be measured through how participation is occurring. I do ask teams to track who is participating in each meeting so I can look for trends. If your team members embrace this model, you’ll see that they are excited to join the meetings, and not avoiding them. You will have outliers but those might be addressed case-by-case to find out why they are not joining the discussion. Knowledge of methods can be explored in 1:1s by asking your team members as they produce deliverables if they are applying anything they have learned in a peer review session. This is a great way to introduce approach planning as well if you do not discuss this with your team members already (don’t just start a deliverable but what model/methods will you use as a first step). Finally, alignment which can be harder to measure. This may be something you have to analyze by reviewing several deliverables. You also have to wait for a period of time to let the peer review model work. You may also have to seek feedback from your team in regards to areas that are very out of alignment that they would like to work on. Once they have seen various approaches, they may be the first ones to speak up and mention that they feel a certain amount of alignment would benefit their audience. How great would this be versus having management require alignment? While I am not shy about requiring certain things, if I can let my team come to these concepts on their own without putting our audience/business at risk, this is method has a much higher and faster adoption rate than management telling them to do it. And in this case, since I am managing a set of PM/BA/QA team members, doing a role that I have done in the past, it may be seen as me forcing my way onto them, which is never popular. This way, they are finding their own way – as a team.
Peer reviews are nothing new though I have not seen them exercised across all areas of a business nor even all areas of IT. They are a great tool for building stronger teams, awareness to new methods, and better deliverables. If you take a very intentional approach to introducing this topic with your team, you are bound to get great results.
Does your team use any form of peer reviews? Are they known for being judgmental or do they facilitate positive experiences in learning and team building? Share your stories as I would love to hear about your experiences so we can all weave them into our next opportunities to introduce this topic!
Not many people have spare time at work. Shocking, I know. But I was recently asked by someone who wants to move into management how to best spend their working hours. I was lucky to have some great mentors in the past, and based on their feedback, I have found a few tricks for monitoring how I spend my time.
Key to measuring/monitoring anything is to have facts for tracking. If you are serious about this, you will have to log how you are spending your time. I use my Outlook calendar for everything – as do many people – so it’s fairly easy for me to reflect.
For a manager, I recommend that you consider People, Processes, and Projects when splitting your time. All three of these areas of focus are critical to your team’s overall success so I split my time with 33% in each area. This can vary week by week if something comes up, but overall, an even third to each area tends to keep things balanced.
People – 13+ hours per week
As a manager of people, your job to help them maximize their contributions to the company both in the short-term and long-term. If you are not having weekly 1:1s, reconsider. This is some of the most valuable time you will spend all week! By helping them work through options for how to tackle assignments, coaching them on overcoming a difficult situation, or talking about training that will help their long-term development goals, it is time well spent.
Under the area of people, I would also include relationships that you should be fostering with others such as internal clients, vendors, or peers. Spending time talking to your clients about their needs on a regular basis will pay off in fewer surprises and their support when issues arise. Vendors may not require weekly attention but I try to rotate the time I spend with each vendor based on the role they play in our organization. Peers are critical. There are not many things our teams deliver without the help of others. Scheduling time with your peer managers to discuss overlapping functions (Business Analysts & Project Managers, App Dev & DBAs, etc).
Processes – 13+ hours per week
In this area, I include both the processes that my team uses to perform their work as well as the tools. This is not work that you need to do alone. You can schedule time to consider the short-term effectiveness based on feedback, or you can use the time to elicit feedback from your team. Either way, evaluating how your team is working is critical to maximizing their productivity but also can help improve relationships with others or improve team morale if they are frustrated with an existing process.
Projects – 13+ hours per week
This area may not come as a big shock. You should spend time addressing projects that your team is supporting but also considering the long-term pipeline of work. Developing a forecast and schedule can help keep things running smoothly on your team. It is also a great tool to use when your boss swings by and drops a bomb on you about that new thing they need your team to undertake.
By looking at your calendar for the past weeks, you should be able to evaluate how you are spending your time amongst these 3 activities. You may not realize where an imbalance exists – or this may confirm a hunch that you already had. Consider how you can adjust your activities to help spread your time across all areas that are important to you so when you leave at 5pm on Friday, you know that you’ve given all that you can to help your team deliver their next win!
I worked in an organization once that had their managers spend an extreme amount of time on Excel and PowerPoint. Their job was to build operational reports about system performance, open tickets, project milestone trends, average hair loss of middle-aged people, you get the idea….
Measuring performance is important. You can’t get better if you don’t know where you are starting from. How much time should you really spend measuring? At what point should you spend less time measuring and more time making things better? Measure What Matters.
Determining what your want to resolve within your organization is critical. Make a list and throw it all on there. Involve your teams, your clients, anyone who has some stake in the game. Then play a game of word-association. Which topics are duplicates? Which ones are related? If you can group them into logical topics, then you can plan a little easier. Which ones are short-term wins? Which ones are game-changers that will make for lasting gains or allow you to tackle other areas? Try to narrow it down to a Top 5 based on priority and where you have the resources to work on the areas.
Can it Be Measured?
Once you have figured out your areas of improvement, you can assess how you will measure each of the areas for current performance. Not only do you have to review what tools you have to measure but what data is relevant to measuring the impact of the changes that you are making. For example, you want to improve MTTR (Mean Time To Respond) – so how are you going to capture the Response? What is considered a Response? An Email? Are you going to have your teams log the response in a tool? Is this really feasible? Be careful about what you decide to measure and how you measure it, as you may face resistance from your teams if you are asking them to work extra hours to log data to measure a change they are not totally on-board with in the first place. Doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t tackle it, just means that you have to address it in a different way.
Measure What Matters
Once you have a measurement plan in place for your Top 5 issues, then you are ready to decide on which ones to tackle. Not all of them at the same time – pace yourself! They are all going to make a difference (based on your initial assessment) so which ones do you have the resources to tackle now? Which ones do you have the resources readily available to work on the change? Pick your 1 or 2 efforts and then launch your effort.
Put down the email. This is a project. It has a defined start (today) and a schedule, and a scope. What is your overall objective for improvement? What is your timeline for making the change? What milestones do you want to achieve along the way? Build your team of people to help with your effort and get their buy-in during your launch meeting. Help them see how this change is going to make things better for your Customers or Employees. Why should they invest their extra time (ha!) on this effort. They need to be advocates for the change so they have to be bought in from the start. Take the time to host a Kick-off Meeting to launch your effort. Get your team excited about taking on this new effort and the difference that they can make to the organization. Explain the measurement plan and how it compliments the project milestones and the team’s ability to track their progress. And post the progress – let others see the great work that your team is doing!
As you continue down the road for your change effort, eventually, you will hit your goal. You have to consider how you will continue to measure the ongoing effectiveness of your change without the extra efforts. Can you re-use your existing reports to measure on a monthly basis instead of daily or weekly? Without a lot of overhead? Automating your reporting may be critical to validating that you implemented sustainable change.
Change is required of any efficient organization but making sure that you are changing the right things and not spending more time measuring than changing – is important to the overall success of your organization.
What methods have you used to launch a change effort in your organization? How did you balance the need to measure the rate of change against the additional workload to gather the data?
I have a new professor who teaches International courses with a focus on strategic management and HR. Last night, as I was preparing with my team to step in front of class to make our first presentation, the professor noted that he was wondering why we had not asked about the specific method in which we would be graded on our presentation. At that point, he pulled out forms for everyone in the class to fill out, and a very detailed form that included criteria he would be monitoring for us to complete. Yes… it was one of those “oh @#$! moments”. He noted that it must be the HR professor in him but he said that any time you start a new assignment, you should ask how you will be measured as being successful. The frustrating thing – I was just talking about this with a co-worker and offered her the same advice. I guess I should have taken some of my own advice….
So as I do when I make a mistake, I thought about how to avoid it again. Here is the points that I came up with as a “checklist” for the next time I start a new project.
1. Ask what the objective of the assignment is
It is easy for us to assume that we know the objective (often it is spelled out for us) but why not ask? There could be a complimentary objective that could also be satisfied. There may be a political objective that you should be aware of.
2. Ask about the timeline
Not only should you inquire about the ultimate timeline for completion but also if there is an expectation to hit a particular date for a defined milestone.
3. Ask about approach
This is one that I think many people neglect and will likely regret. It is a good idea to ask your boss if they have a vision for how they would approach the effort, or the format/style of the final deliverable. How many times have you turned something in to your boss (or professor in my case) only to hear “that’s nice but not quite what I had in mind”. Oops! I cannot speak for all bosses but I would not be offended if someone asked me if I had a vision for what that “XYZ report” should look like when they were done. This is especially true if the boss has done my job. They likely have been in your position to develop a “XYZ report” themselves and know what they felt was a good result. Better to ask up front then to find out later!
Three questions that will hopefully save me (and possibly you) that uncomfortable moment of finding out that you should have asked before finishing your project. What else should be asked before we start a new project? And yes… the presentation turned out great!
It is a tough job market these days. For every open position, there are even more applicants. A hiring manager, and their HR department, has many obligations to fulfill within their organization to fill the position. While I understand their responsibilities, I feel they have one additional responsibility – timely, respectful communication to the job applicants.
I have a close friend who is unemployed. He has applied for position after position, and rarely hears a thing from the companies where he is applying. Not even a courtesy email that states “Thank you for applying but our assessment does not show that you meet the qualifications for this position.”
But what is worse, is that he has had a few face-to-face interviews and had absolutely no word back from the hiring manager or their HR department. When a person is told that they are within the top 3 candidates for a position, they are likely putting some effort into the interview. Why is it that a hiring manager cannot put forth a little effort to let the person know that while they were not selected for the position?
Now perhaps a mishap occurred and the need for communication fell off the radar somehow between the hiring manager and HR. That happens. Honestly – it happened to me once. I came across a friend of one of the candidates weeks later and heard that they had never been told that they were not selected for the position. I immediately reached out to the candidates personally and communicated the status of the position. It was the respectful thing to do – even if it was a little embarrassing for me.
What’s the risk of not communicating as a hiring manager? It reflects not only on you but also on the company. Will that candidate ever consider your company as a potential employer again? Maybe they were not right for your position but they might have been a perfect fit for a future opening. What story will they tell their friends & family? How you may not have selected them but the interview process was one of the best they have ever been through? Or that you dropped them like a hot rock when you decided to go with another candidate?
Communicating with someone you have not selected for a position might seem uncomfortable. It can be kept short & polite.Dear Bob, I appreciated the opportunity to talk to you about the open position on my team. We have finished our interview process and selected a candidate to fill the position. I hope that you will consider future opportunities with ABC, Inc as they become available.
3 sentences sent via an email or letter. Yes, the candidate might push harder by responding and asking about other openings, or asking why they were not selected. If they are professional, they will just take your note as closure. If they push for additional communication, you can either reply and refer them to your HR department or your corporate website where jobs are listed. No reason to get into a long string of emails.
There is nothing easy about looking for a job – just as it is not easy to fill a position. Why not make it as pleasant as possible by treating candidates as kindly as possible.I am sure there might be reasons why hiring managers do not follow-up and I’d love to gain that insight. And if you have been through an interview process and had a great or not-so-great experience with communication afterwards – please share that too.