June 5th, 2013

I’d like to extend a giant “thank you” to Colin for writing up notes this time!
Topics that Made the cut:
  1. Elitism
    • Hiring great people, focuses on ‘top performers’ creates a community of elitism
    • Creates a “Don’t embarrass us” culture
    • Seems unhealthy
    • Concerns
      • Long term not a good strategy
      • Not a healthy culture
    • if you have a culture of learning in addition to having really bright people
    • what keeps people aligned? pulling in the same direction? vs ego competition
    • keeping the focus on having to produce something. It’s not how smart you are, it’s what you produce
  2. Building good communication between dev (product) people and sales people
    • Challenges we face between biz dev and product people
    • In an agency you are courting many clients. Sales team had different goals and focuses and desired outcomes. because of that sales and biz dev had to address different clients based on those wants. if they don’t communicate the promises made are much larger than the product people can produce
    • its easy to make promises for other people
    • product company vs agency
      • product management main problem is how to communicate effectively with sales
    • Has to come from a strong vision, pushing hard on exec team to hone vision and buy-in, if not, every request will pull you in a different direction
    • Taking sales managers out to lunch all the time
    • We’re all people! let them know you’re a person too.
    • Engage early and often. Constant communication (not ‘cliche’ communicating)
    • Sometimes issues with sales incentives. The incentives don’t align with the vision, product. Sales compensation is sometimes kept way too secret.
  3. Play
    • Structured play – e.g. lean coffee feels like play
    • Live in a culture to teach them “play time, and that’s not serious time” – Never stop playing!
    • Play is engaging
    • Language does matter, (corporate culture) meetings and rules, here is a process – “I hate the word process”
    • Time spent playing with kids is amazing for me too, ideas, flow
    • Certain amount of play that you encourage. Culture of environment, casual environment, room to play
    • Play is learning
    • Anyone been in an environment where play is explicitly part of the culture
      • Youtube example, playground in mid building (slide etc), Google office similar (slide)
      • One of the things we did, shuffleboard table, just decided to do a tournament. When I participated it was easy, relaxing, didn’t think about relationship building, it just happened
    • Work play into structure of what you do, but also just take a break. Be careful, don’t make this an obligation, a ‘play program’ doesn’t work. It’s not play if you are forced.
    • I really like intertwining the two, happier when they flow together. The work is play, the play is work.
    • Really important method of non formal communication. Finding where people are, supporting what they do, and communicating.’breaking break’ I tried playing cards and pingpong, it was the best way to discuss challenges, connecting with people
    • Play in a corporate culture is important, focused group activities, but also individual play, creating a culture that makes it ok to take an hour break to be more productive, or coming in late etc.
  4. “My team overcommits!”
    • My dept is on a new program, trying to learn scrum. I’m a team member, watching every iteration committing to about 150% too much, repeated every iteration. Other teams working overtime to ‘fix it’. Why aren’t we communicating clearly about what we can do?
    • As a PM I would rather have you under commit, and hit that so I know what you can do.
    • For us we went through the same thing, most important thing was driving home commitment isn’t “lets try to do a whole bunch” it’s about committing to what you can do. It’s ok to building extra QA, or unknowns, add buffer.
    • I started at a new company about 8 months ago. Trying to get people to commit to less. Trying to let go a bit. If you have the same velocity for a while maybe you aren’t pushing yourself enough.
    • Estimating is an important part of the process, comes with failure early on. You use the history to figure out what you can do. Actually rewarding committing correctly.
    • Business being able to plan for sure.
    • A place I worked at in the past. Struggled with this, velocity, key meeting “We don’t care that you do a lot, we care that you do what you say will do.” team eval on making commitments. After a few months it became a cultural team.
    • The way I was taught was to learn to estimate better. Track metrics.
    • Story points are set by the product owner. (Key scrum violation). Product owner likes to set stretch goals, gets in the way.
  5. Safe space
    • What makes a space safe? how do you do that?
    • All I look at is people. Other people care about space explicitly.
    • Is it a place where people can voice concerns? e.g. gender balance in tech. Lots of interesting men I could invite, I just didn’t.
    • If this is the culture you want, go after it. Commit.
    • Safe space, on the onus of the leadership to establish communication. How transparent can you get?
    • If you don’t feel like the environment has the tools to make meaningful change. How far can I go as a leader if I can’t even voice my opinion? How democratic can we get?
    • Both interpersonal or being able to raise your hand.
    • How do leaders respond to things they don’t like?
      • At sprint reviews, CTO gets really upset when things weren’t done, pushing on metrics, really focused people on finding a way to say they were done when they weren’t actually done, affected clarity.
      • Are you encouraging people to say it’s ok when it isn’t.
    • A culture to fail quickly. Failure is ok. You get what you measure.
    • Never seen a place where “all” truths are ok. But maybe “enough” truths are ok.
  6. Shared calendaring
    • How do people deal with? Family, across devices?
    • Google calendar, when my wife is on the computer and using google calendar it was great. Commitments, babysitting, etc. Calendar putting paper on the fridge.
    • Big issue – physical location, vs ‘one true representation’
    • Issues with syncing, work calendar vs personal
    • Getting everyone to agree on how this works.
    • Equality of access, everyone needs similar tools (laptop, smartphones..)
  7. Onboarding new group members
    • New members aren’t productive, they don’t understand the process, they are afraid.
    • Seems like on boarding starts with institutional knowledge.
    • new hire checklist, happens on first day. go to this wiki page, read it
    • In lean startup e.g. culture of teaching people that’s it’s ok to fail early. e.g. first day you are coding something. If it’s bad enough where you can break it, that’s on us, we need a better process.
      • Your first day you do something productive, e.g. check in production code. (usually small, e.g. fix a typo. Scary, exciting)
    • You are hired for a year no matter what you do! (they don’t do that any more, Toyota)
    • Gave you the keys to work with the whole system on the first day. (e.g. could ruin everything)
    • Non software onboardings:
      • coffee shop in bend. Onboarding is 2 week training. Tasting, making, art, etc. Indoctrination.
      • New seasons article, read told for first two weeks, wander around the store and help out. After that they go through disorientation. “explain how this works” teach them how they were wrong. VP level, doing every job to appreciate.
      • Manager at perl REI – does every job in the store frequently.
    • Curious about – What is the real problem? Is it too long to integrate?  – People are afraid when they start, they don’t know, they are afraid to do something wrong, look foolish
    • Connect with culture, BoK (knowledge base)
    • Different schools, school context, different ways of bringing people in. QA, buddies.
    • Buddy system is good, but being buddy has to be important (not just a distraction), software: Pair programming in an XP shop, important. First job is to remind buddy to give back when they are the buddy.
  8. Competition vs Cooperation (and excellence)
    • What does management incentivize? rewarding teams encourages cooperation.
    • Friendly competition – different than ‘have to make the other person lose’
    • Layoffs – hugely competitive
    • beyond cooperation – collaboration – one goal everyone is moving toward
    • Incentives in place drive how people operate
    • Edward Debono – Surpetition (book)
    • Alfie Kohn – In Control (book – education context)
    • “software is a team sport” but my team is competing, the company is competing
    • food cart example, ‘pods’ draw more customers
    • bias at this table? seeking balance, competition is the default