Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Don't copy if you can't paste!!

A popular motivational speaker was entertaining his audience. He Said : "The best years of my life were spent in the arms of a woman who wasn't my wife!" The audience was in silence and shock. The speaker added: "And that woman was my mother!" Laughter and applause.

A week later, a top manager trained by the motivational speaker tried to crack this very effective joke at home. He was a bit foggy after a drink. He said loudly to his wife who was preparing dinner, "The greatest years of my life were spent in the arms of a woman who was not my wife!"

The wife went; "ah!" with shock and rage. Standing there for 20 seconds trying to recall the second half of the joke, the manager finally blurted out "....and I can't remember who she was!"

By the time the manager regained his consciousness, he was on a hospital bed nursing burns from boiling water

Moral of the story: Don't copy if you can't paste!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

How does the Customer influence of Quality ?

Most definitions of ‘Quality’ are very esoteric, quantitative, or routinely bookish and highly cliched. We struggle to connect those definitions to everyday life objects, actions and experiences. We all say that we want quality, but how do we really relate our daily actions to those theoretical definitions? Do these everyday actions effectvely demonstrate our love for a specific aspect of quality - something that we would not have done otherwise? Of course, we surely do several things. Choosing brands is one - in our mind, a great brand invokes strong emotions of reliability, safety, childhood memories, family bonds, hygiene, fairness, value for money…the list is endless (and another endless list for negative emotions that lousy brands invoke !). Apart from choosing a specific brand, does our behavior refelect what we consider as ‘quality’ in everyday life.

In my view, Quality is that differentiator in a product or a service that:

  • makes me drive a few extra miles just so that I could buy or experience something I really like even when other, relatively cheaper options are available nearby. (= willing to sarcifice reasonable amount of time and effort to get something I truly value). There is a great water park on the outskirts of Bangalore, known as Wonder La. Even though some options are available within 10-15 kms of where I live, I am willing to drive ~50 kms and perhaps pay 2-3 times what I would pay at some other place, I still make it a point to only visit that place. Why ?
  • makes me choose one over other even when, everything else being rather equal, the one I choose might be costlier but not exorbitantly priced. (= availability of other alternatives, freedom and ability to choose what I want). Actually, it even need not be costly. Sometimes, the best things comes at the most unbelivable rockbottom prices. But sticking to the point here, the key is freedom and ability to choose an option that I like and at the price-point that I am willing to accept at this point in time.
  • makes me patiently wait in a line for my turn to come (= sacrificing my comfort to get something that I believe is worth it). Many of us would recall the news stories about people lining up overnight to get the first few iPhones. Another recent example is Tata Nano - more than half a millions people have already booked at car at something like $78 booking amount even though only about a fifth (or is it a tenth ?) of them will be able to get the car this year - and that too after a 3 month wait!
  • makes me pick up a product blindfold (= blind trust, but not trust blindly; reliable everytime). Why is it that anyplace, anytime, you can choose a Toyota car blindfold, or that none of the copycat Post-Its come anywhere close to the real Post-In Notes ?
  • I can recommend to my friends and family (= what is good enough for me is good enough for people I care)

I am very comfortable with these ‘working’ definitions of quality. They tell me what is it that a customer is willing to do (and equally important, what s/he is not willing to do) in terms of concrete actions in order to get a quality product or service. These represent a customer-centric view of what s/he desires and not what the manufacturer or the service provider does assuming that is going to create a quality product or service. In most cases, a manufacturer’s view and a customer’s view of quality is aligned, but quite often, there is a serious misalignment as well. I believe it is high time we rewrote the philosophy of quality keeping such customer-centric view in mind. Perhaps, a new type of GQM model could be created that identifies customer’s behavior as the goal to be achieved, and strives to align all internal steps and checkpoints towards the end-customer behavior!

So, does your quality model encourages you to ‘just do it’ because that’s what the process manual says, or it is backed by customer-centric view of What is Quality.


Monday, May 4, 2009

Secrets to be the best Project Manager!!!

Qualities of a good Project Manager / Secrets to be the best Project Manager.

This mail provides you a scale of 11 marks to let you rate and measure your manager against it and find out whether you are working under a right person or not ? To succeed as an IT manager, and to advance one's career into the executive sphere, one need some very specific traits--11 to be exact. From needs assessment to team building, these are the skills a manager need to be at the top of your game. Basic qualities to be a suitable manager are

· The ability to assess, acquire, liberalize and reciprocate needs

· The ability to build, maintain and retain the team

· The ability to implement change management processes

· The ability to implement a client service mindset

We might have realized that in recent times, many good IT managers and a few excellent ones. I've also seen a fair share of poor managers. I believe there are 11 traits that must become the core competencies of any IT manager who wants to have a successful IT management career. While some may argue that there are more, or other, skills that are just as important, I believe from my years of experience that these are the most crucial traits managers need today.

Ability to assess needs : All IT managers need to know how to assess the needs of their company as it relates to their technology responsibilities. It doesn't matter what level you are; you have to be able to discover what the real needs and issues are so you work on the "right things." Too many managers develop an "IT agenda" because they don't make the effort to discover the objectives and tangible issues of the company. Developing the ability to quickly assess the technology for your area of expertise positions you for more responsibility. Managers who develop initiatives that "miss the target" because they lack strong assessment skills cost companies hundreds of thousands of dollars. Assessing technology needs plays a major part in helping your career advance.

Ability to create a vision : To lead, you have to identify your target and create a vision for your staff of where you want to be. To lead, you have to take charge and point the team to the desired destination. Managers who can develop and articulate a vision to their staff can accomplish great things because people will follow them. Communicating a vision tells those around you that there is focus and that you are committed to take the organization to a specific destination.

Ability to create the plan : Once they know where they want to be, successful managers know how to develop a plan that will get them there. That means choosing the right priorities for the situation and developing plans that are aggressive but achievable. Planning is an essential ingredient for a "high achiever" manager, but too many managers fail to plan. Instead, they react, accomplishing much less than what the organization is capable of. Having the ability to develop a plan that addresses company goals and objectives positions you for more responsibility. Planning denotes a sense of being proactive vs. reactive.

Ability to build the team : Successful managers know the importance of building a team that has depth as well as skill in critical areas. A successful manager must know how to improve an existing team, as well as how to build a new one from scratch. Every good manager I've seen has the ability to build the right team for the issues at hand and can anticipate what will be needed in the future so that the team is prepared for new challenges. Strong career managers are effective career builders of people. They understand the importance of career and use career building as a tool to develop a stronger team capable of operating more independently.

Ability to focus the resources : Focusing IT staff, money, and technology resources on key priorities of the company is essential to achieving success. The technology resources must be focused on initiatives that are in sync with company needs and objectives, and they must deliver in a productive, cost-effective manner. Career-minded people at any level understand the need for strong focus.

Ability to implement a "client service" mindset : A high level of client service is essential for any IT organization. Successful managers create a culture that places customer issues first—whether the customers are internal users or external clients. Great IT managers know the reason they have careers is because people need the technology and support services that they provide, which is why successful IT managers build excellent client relationships.

Ability to manage projects : The cornerstone of any IT manager's j o b is that the organization can deliver project initiatives in a predictable and cost-effective manner. Effective project management discipline must be a key part of any manager who expects to succeed. Regardless of your career direction, strong project management skills will enhance your opportunities.

Ability to implement change management processes : Technology, by its nature, demands rapid change. Every IT manager needs to be able to understand how to effectively implement change, whether it's swapping out a PC, upgrading an entire network, or developing and installing new software. Failure to manage change effectively will cripple any manager.

Ability to lead and motivate : IT organizations don't get a lot done unless they are motivated. IT managers who can create significant momentum by virtue of strong leadership and motivation techniques always achieve more than those who can't. Getting things done through others is a key skill required for management success.

Ability to communicate effectively : Successful managers can communicate on many different levels with all types of people. More than ever, career success is highly dependent upon effective communication skills. Getting your message across to technical staff as well as non technical clients, being able to manage expectations effectively, and "netting out" issues and project status with senior managers are necessary skills that prevent many managers from achieving high levels of success. IT managers who achieve the greatest career success are those who can communicate effectively with all levels of people: employees, peers, internal and external clients, vendors, and senior management.

Ability to track and measure performance : It's important to set objectives and be able to measure your progress. Successful managers establish specific measurements that tell them and others how well the organization is doing and provide feedback that helps managers "zero in" on issues that will improve the organization's performance.

In conclusion
The best managers, and the ones with successful careers, have each of the above-mentioned skills, and their competence transcends the technical organizations and companies that they work for. Granted, there are other skill and career traits that promote advancement and success, such as working proactively, having strong follow-up skills, and being able to negotiate with vendors successfully. But when you dig down into the core competencies of a successful IT management career, these 11 tend to stand out. Forging a successful IT management career is one of the most challenging feats in any company, because the role is constantly changing and being heavily scrutinized by all. Developing each of these 11 traits as a core competency within your personal makeup will help you achieve much higher success levels and will position you for greater career responsibility.

To be a successful Lead Professional in IT Industry!

A team lead is like that spicy middle stuffy part of a sandwich where in the breads at either side get toasted to crispy and the middle part just enjoy the warmth, but the goodness of the sandwich is the taste of the middle pack. Thus in a project the overall success of the project is how better or best the lead coordinates the team and get organized the higher management. The most challenging among all hierarchy of roles in an IT workforce is middle man, the lead. So here we present a strategy of how you can best lead a project. To be a successful team lead :

 Always maintain a two column check list of all your activities to do on a note pad copy with a pen intact thats handy at all times. One column for Project related activities and the other column having program related operational, management and administration activities. Project related activities can be network issues, application issues, tasks, Follow ups, pending tasks, Short term and long term road maps.

 This copy first page should contain all important information like names of team members with cell number, names of managers and cross functional counter parts with their numbers, Global telecom number and participation or moderator ID details, national free phone numbers for teleconferencing and video conferencing, emergency contacts of IT help desk, Admin, HR, Payroll, SQA, front office and security. You being a lead need to have these numbers at your fingertip.

 Maintain rigorously your calendar and task pane in Outlook to keep all your scheduled tasks and personal tasks and follow ups. This will reduce half of your stress of remembering when to do what.

 Have a firm stand on work ethics, culture, organizational disciplinary policies, corporate level confidentiality, mailing manners, reporting structure, Daily operational planning and procedure and time discipline. Never allow either regularly irregularity or Irregularly regularity of resources.

 Ensure a continuous improvement in the team. Monitor and measure their productivity. Ensure that if a resource was taking X amount of time for a task last years should at max be spending twenty percent less time to do the same work. Introduce smart work replacing hard work. Thus you give a twenty percent more margin to the business with the same work force and thus same Investment yields 20% more return on investment.

 Have a detailed meeting tracker maintained from the back side of your handy note copy. For all meetings you attend take notes of discussion headlines, action items and key takeaways. Every meeting you documented should have a header ( meeting name, attended by, date ).

 Keep record of who working on what in your team members. Maintain this probably from pages right to the centre of your handy note copy. Maintain your data in columns like Resource name, Working on , Planned scheduled, Actual forecast, Deviation, Load. One example is Prakash, Server side scripting for MM01, 19th Apr, 21st Apr, 2 days due to waiting time, 5/8 hours. This means Prakash is working on Server side scripting on MM01 scheduled for 19th but will finish by 21st with a 2 days delay and he is loaded for 5 hours out of 8 hours a day.

 Have a fair techno functional understanding of the assignments and tasks that your team members are doing so that you can coordinate and mentor them better. This also helps in linking every individuals tasks to frame your complete image of the overall progress. Thus your can predict whether the project cloud is heading towards the right direction or not.

 In the same way have a sound working knowledge of the operational, planning, budgeting, strategic, managerial and administration tasks that your manager doing so that you can adequately assist him at his crunch stress times and thus push him from behind to progress ahead while pulling the team from front to march ahead.

 Maintain a clear transparency among all stake holders. Ensure that all communications must be marked to designated recipients with CCing to all casual audiences. Any communications or conversions going into bitter flavor immediately stop the chain mail and invite all to a discussion or discussion telecom over global bridge and immediately resolve the issue by negotiating and hosting the discussion.

 Monitor all the official interactions and communications of your team to outside the team. Guide them to maintain a descent and fruitful flavored manner of communication. Always Protect your team members from any incoming threats from out of the team by shielding them. In case of any mistake your team members have done, officially confess the same as a team and not blame any individual for this. Then internally do a root cause analysis and take corrective and preventive measures.

 For an improved secondary management providing ample scope for the senior resources of team in tailoring their career path in a long term down the line, internally cluster the team in small partially operational independent segments based on Business wings and headers with equal distribution of senior and junior resources and designate the senior most of that cluster as the cluster focal. Although to the higher management you are the lead internally these cluster focals will be shouldering your activities in still lower level.

 Identify all the major periodic activities and deliverables in your territory, delegate and distribute them among all these cluster focals as they are the senior most resources of your tram.

 Make a periodic schedule of boosting the team moral with appreciations and gratitude. Ensure this not spark others ego. Identify high spirit, motivated, most energetic resources in your team, give them extra challenges like maintaining QA, internal Reviews, Mentoring the new joinees, Cross functional knowledge management activities.

 Occasionally arrange team events, distribute T shirts with Team Logo or motto, outings, lunch or dinner sessions or even short trips. This events boosts and recharges the teams and sparks their energy level thus optimizing productivity.

 Always look out and reach out for all issues, grievances, complains and any behind the wall gossips. Anything being cooked behind try to resolve them immediately and strictly never allow such things in your territory. Assure a neat and clean environment for all resources. No demarcation in terms of religion, castes, native or language difference should be accepted.

 Rotate tasks and assignments regularly among your clusters or even swapping of resources across your clusters. Thus you can maintain knowledge base multiplied with introducing work flavor across resources and making them diversified in handling assignments.

 Have a Buddy concept for all new joinees. A new joinee induction kit presentation file along with a primary buddy for any new joinee will reduce your build up time and thus will ensure any new joinee productive soonest as possible.

 Listen to every one, Invite and appreciate new new ideas from team, consider their recommendations that has business values and scope. Identify out of boundary scopes and business expansion opportunities and work out with your manager to spread into those areas by expanding your team.

 Identify noise in the project. Noise refers to any or all activities or individuals that impact your productivity. Correct them immediately. Apply your intelligence to deal with them as situational. If its controllable then all fine else gently escalate it to higher management and softly get it corrected.

 Monitor the overall team image from the birds eye view. Boost the team for cross organizational and corporate level activities and initiatives. Project them to onshore platforms, provoke them to file patrons, write white papers, associate with world technical forums and blogs or groups, increase human networking.