Management

Charity Water – Weekly Article Dump

My 24th Birthday Wish - Charity: Water

Charity Water

We have a lot of pretty awesome people at Magnet Forensics, and every day I’m reminded just how awesome. A colleague of mine, Danielle Braun, had what I thought was an incredible idea for her birthday. For Danielle’s birthday, she’s not asking for more new clothes, for her parents to get her a car, for help with paying off tuition, or for some new fancy tech gadgets. But she’s not asking for nothing. Danielle is asking for your support with Charity: Water this year.

Charity: Water is a non-profit organization with the goal of bringing clean water to people in developing nations that don’t have access to it. Reading their mission page probably opens your eyes a fair bit about the lack of access to drinking water in other countries. They’re not about some complex and elaborate plan to revolutionize access to clean drinking water. However, they do have a simple and straight forward approach. Donate a little bit of money and they can install wells, rain catchments, and filters in areas without access to clean water. Your small contribution can make a huge impact on other peoples’ lives.

Please consider helping Danielle out with her goal of raising money for clean drinking water. A little bit goes a long way with Charity: Water.

Articles

  • Guest Post: 7 Deadly Sins: How to Successfully “Cross The Chasm” By Avoiding These Mistakes: In Geoffrey Moore’s article, we get to revisit some of the great learnings in Crossing the Chasm. If you haven’t read the book, although it’s a bit old now, it’s still a solid read. This post was a great reminder of a lot of the things the book talks about. It’s important to know where your business sits in the chasm model so that you know what you should be focusing on. Too many companies focus on the right things at the wrong times and have terrible missteps. Check it out (and the original book too)!
  • Holiday Gifts EVERY Employee Secretly Wants: Dharmesh Shah is a guy who always seems to have an awesome perspective to share. There are a few things that despite someone’s level of performance, length of employment, or amount of skill should be deserved.  Often these are overlooked either by grumpy managers or because perhaps the person may not have been a top performer. In Dharmesh’s opinion, that shouldn’t be a factor. The holidays are a perfect time to remind ourselves to recognize all of our employees’ accomplishments and treat them with respect. If you aren’t already, maybe this article is the little wake-up call you need.
  • 6 Things Really Thoughtful Leaders Do: Nothing groundbreaking here, but like the article says, this time of year is great for reflecting. Do you consider yourself a thoughtful leader? Do you observe the people around you, how they interact, and how things are flowing at work? Do you take the time to reflect on things you’ve done, how you’ve acted, or even how employees may have improved in areas you’ve discussed with them? There’s a handful of great reminders in this article that I would suggest you check out!
  • 14 Code Refactoring smells you can easily sense and What you can do about it?:  This week’s first programming article! Except… Well… This one is about the management side of programming. How do you know if your software team’s code is in a real stinky spot? This doesn’t necessarily mean your developers write bad code. It could just mean that you need to hit the brakes a bit and go revisit some problem areas in the code. This article talks about some of the warning signs.
  • What Makes A Good Manager? 7 Things To Ask Before You Promote: Does it make sense to give anyone you’re promoting a management position? Probably not. Seems obvious when you ask it like that, right? The unfortunate truth is that a lot of companies take the simple path and for anyone they want to promote, they throw a management position their way. Some people just don’t make great managers. This article talks about the qualities you want to look for in managers. Maybe the person you’re looking to promote won’t make a good manager *now*, but if it’s something they can put time and effort into building the skills and experience towards, it could still happen.
  • 10 Major Causes for Failure in Leadership: While lists of things to do are always nice, having a list of things to definitely not do is also helpful. Here’s one of them. Some of the leadership-don’ts I liked on this list were being too good to serve your followers, using your “authority”, and fear of competition. I think those are a few that are easy for people to forget, and there at the top of my list of leadership-don’ts. Read some more great points in the article!

Please take some time to help Danielle out with her goal. Any contribution helps. Remember to follow Dev Leader on social media outlets to get these updates through the week. Thanks!

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Movember Wrap-up – Weekly Article Dump

Movember Wrap-up - Weekly Article Dump

Movember Wrap-up

At the start of December, it’s time for a lot of us to shave off our glorious Movember badges from our upper lips. This year, MoMagnets did an absolutely amazing job raising money for Movember. At the time of writing, we’re sitting at just under $2400! An incredible effort by Magnet Forensics and all of those that helped with their generous contributions.

My ‘stache didn’t quite get to where I wanted to this year. It was close, but it was another connector-less Movember for me. I was almost able to get some twisting done for some not-so-legitimate connectors. Oh well… Here’s what I ended up rocking for most of the month:

Movember Wrap-up - Nick's Final 'Stache

My final Movember creation: The Anti-Connector.

Matt Chang definitely took the lead for raising the most of all the MoMagnets members at over $700! Mica Sadler is sitting in second at just under $400. That’s nearly half the team’s total between these two beauties. We also had a very gracious contribution from our CEO that I wanted to call out. Thanks so much, Adam!

There’s still a bit of time left before donations are closed for the 2013 Movember season. We have until the 9th to get some final contributions in! If you’re feeling generous, please visit our team page and make a contribution. Every little bit helps, and we greatly appreciate it!

Articles

  • Top 5 Reasons People Love Their Jobs and How You Can Love Yours, Too: Some great points on why people love their jobs. Some of these may be pretty obvious, but it’s important to be reminded about what keeps people engaged. Among the top things: the work culture, the amazing people you get to work with, and autonomy. If you’re trying to create an awesome place to work (or if you’re looking for an awesome place to work) then these are probably things you’ll want to focus on!
  • 5 Things Zapping Your Company’s Productivity: Ilya Pozin always has some interesting articles. This article takes the perspective that some of the fancy perks or awesome processes you have in place may actually be hindering productivity. One common theme that was brought up under two separate points in this article is that sometimes people need a spot where they can work in peace. People like having an fun collaborative culture, but many personality types require some quiet time in order to buckle down.
  • Reduce Your Stress in 2 Minutes a Day: I’m not the type of person that truly believes doing one tiny thing for only a moment every day is going to have an enormous positive impact on your life. However, I do think that if you can take the time to try and do a few little things here and there, that overtime, you’re likely to have more a positive outlook. In this article, Greg McKeown shares a few tips on relaxing and trying to regain some focus. I don’t think it’s anything that’s going to be life-changing, but it never hurts to think about different ways to catch your breath.
  • Building a fast-failure-friendly firm: This was a pretty cool series of slides put together by Eric Tachibana that I thought was worth sharing. There are lot’s of articles on failing and why it’s important–especially for innovating. This series of slides provides a high level perspective on how you can approach failing… the right way!
  • Code Smells – Issue Number 3: This is an article I wrote about Code Smells. This entry talks about the use of exception handlers to guide logical flow in your code and alternatives for when your class hierarchy starts to get too many very light weight classes. As always, I’d love to get your feedback. If you have other code smells, or a different perspective on the ones that I’ve posted, please share them in the comments!
  • 5 Bad Thoughts That Will Throw You Off Track: This short little list is worth a quick read through. There are a ton of things that distract us every day, but the distractions you can easily control are the ones that you cause. Examples? Don’t take on too much at once. Don’t try to make every little thing you do perfect. It’s a quick read, but well worth the reminder!
  • Not Crying Over Old Code: Another programming article for this week. As the article says, the common meme for programming is that your old code is always bad code. However, there should be a point in your programming career where old code isn’t bad, it’s just different than how you might have approached it now. If your always experiencing your old code being bad, then maybe you’re not actually that great at programming yet! Or… maybe you’re just too damn picky.
  • Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me When I Was Learning How to Code: This article by Cecily Carver is something I’ve been hoping to come across for a while now. It’s another programming article–a good read for experienced programmers but incredibly important for newbies to check out. Cecily covers some of the roadblocks you experience early on, like code never (almost never) working the first time, or things you experience throughout your programming career, like always being told of a “better” alternative. I highly recommend you read through this if you dabble in programming, or if you’ve ever considered it.

Please visit our team page for MoMagnets and make a Movember contribution if you’re able to! Remember to follow Dev Leader on social media outlets to get these updates through the week. Thanks!

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Performance Reviews – Weekly Article Dump

Performance Reviews - Weekly Article Dump (Image by http://www.sxc.hu/)

Performance Reviews

It’s almost the end of the year, and performance reviews for many companies are just around the corner. This will be the first time for me sitting on the other side of a performance review. I’m excited, and to be honest, a little nervous about how it will all play out. I know our HR manager has done an excellent job putting together our initial take on performance reviews, but it’s still going to be up to me to ensure that all aspects of a performance review are communicated properly to my team. It’s definitely going to be an interesting time of year!

I’ve started doing a little bit of reading on performance reviews. From what I can tell, the general consensus is that most performance review systems are flawed and nobody knows the perfect way to do them. That’s kind of scary actually. So, like anything, I started questioning all the aspects of performance reviews that I can think of. So things like: What’s stack ranking? Why do companies stack rank? What are alternatives? What about leveraging teammate-driven reviews? etc… There’s a whole lot for me to learn, so I need to start by questioning everything.

With that said, how do you do performance reviews? Have performance reviews been working at your organization? Do you stick to “the norm”, or do you have your own interesting spin on performance reviews that make them effective for your organization?

Articles

  • Employee retention is not just about pizza lunches and parties: On the surface, things like candy stashes, catered lunch, and all other shiny perks seem like a great way to get and keep employees. However, keeping employees engaged is the sum of what attracts them to the company and what keeps them motivated while they’re working. Recognizing their accomplishments and giving them challenging and meaningful work is an awesome start.
  • 7 Reasons Your Coworkers Hate You: The truth? You probably know at least one person at work who does at least one of the things on this list. The harder truth? You probably do one of these yourself. It’s a pretty cool list put together by Ilya Pozin. I’d suggest a quick look!
  • How To Inspire Your Team on a Daily Basis: In this article by James Caan, he echoes one of the things I wrote about recently. You can’t expect to have a motivated team unless you lead by example. You really shouldn’t expect anything from your tea unless you are going the lengths to demonstrate that your dedication to the team and the team’s goal.
  • humility = high performance and effective leadership: Michelle Smith write about how humility is actually a great leadership characteristic. A couple of the top points in her article include not trying to obtain your own publicity and acknowledge the things you don’t know. The most important, in my opinion, is promoting a spirit of service. You lead because you are trying to provide the team guidance and ensure every team member can work effectively.
  • The Surprising Reason To Set Extremely Short Deadlines: This one might not be the same for all people. I think that anyone that tries to apply this as a blanket statement is probably setting themselves up for failure. How do you feel about short deadlines? Some people tend to work really well under pressure and having short deadlines. For those that do, this article offers a perspective on why. Under pressure, you operate creatively given your restricted set of resources, and you don’t have time to dawdle and let things veer of track. Interesting to read.
  • Eliciting the Truth: Team Culture Surveys: Gary Swart talks about something I think is extremely important for all businesses. Maybe your work culture is established, but where did it come from? It’s easy for people to get together in a room and say “we want to have a culture that looks like X”. It’s harder to actually have the culture you say you want. Gary suggests you do a culture survey to actually see what your work culture is like because… well, who knows better? A few people sitting together in a room, or everyone in the company?
  • You Are Not a Number: With year-end performance reviews and the like coming up, I thought it would be interesting to share this short article by Dara Khosrowshahi. Do you stick to stack ranking? Do you have in-depth conversations with employees about their performance? Have you tried switching things up because the canned approach just wasn’t delivering?
  • Which Leads to More Success, Reward or Encouragement?: Deepak Chopra analyzes the positives and negatives of using rewards and using encouragement as a means of driving success. The takeaway from Deepak’s article is that using rewards is not a sustainable means to motivate your team, and actually tends to create separation within the team. By leveraging encouragement, you can empower your team to work together and self-motivate.

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Deloitte Companies to Watch – Weekly Article Dump

Deloitte Companies to Watch - Weekly Article Dump

Deloitte Companies to Watch

Another impressive accolade for Magnet Forensics! Deloitte has placed Magnet on their top 10 companies to watch list! To qualify for the list, the companies need to be operating for less than five years, be based out of Canada, and put a large portion of their revenue to generating intellectual property. Our CEO, Adam Belsher, had this to say about the award:

“We are honoured to be named one of Deloitte’s Companies-to-Watch. This award recognizes the hard work and dedication of our team. We’re thankful for the success we’ve achieved, and we’re incredibly proud to be contributing to the important work done by our customers who use our solutions to fight crime, enhance public safety, protect companies from fraud and theft, and ensure workplace safety and respect for their employees.”

Magnet Forensics Press & Events

The event was put together very well. It was great to be able to interact with individuals from the other companies and share success stories. I even had a chance to meet up with Stephen Lake of Thalmic Labs and have a good chat with him. I’m going to name-drop him everywhere I go because he’s my old university room/house mate! He also happens to be a incredible person that if you have the chance to meet, you absolutely should. Here’s some coverage on twitter of us talking with our founder Jad Saliba:

We enjoyed the whole night, and we were grateful for Deloitte putting on the event. The entire Magnet team is very proud of our achievements.

Articles

  • What comes first: employee engagement or great work?: A short but interesting article on employee engagement. The author claims that most employees probably start of at their position very motivated and engaged. Over time, an employees engagement drops if their leaders are not proactive in keeping their engagement levels up. By proactively acknowledging the success of your employees, you can keep your team engaged and producing great work.
  • Great Leadership Starts and Ends with This: Jeff Haden put together this quick little article about an answer an audience member gave about what the key to leading people is. Caring. Overly simplified? Well, the individual went on to say that regardless of all of your strategies, plans, and experience, if you can’t prove that you truly care about your team then they aren’t going to buy in. I’m never one to buy into something so absolute, but the takeaway for me is that team members cannot be looked at entirely as resources. Sure, the people on your team affect productivity and in that sense are resources, but forgetting to acknowledge the human side of things is a recipe for failure.
  • 9 Ways to Win Employee Trust: In his article, Geoffrey James put together a great list of nine things to help build trust with your team. I wouldn’t say these are groundbreaking things, but it’s important to be reminded about them. Try reflecting on his list and seeing if you actually do the things you think you do. You might be surprised. Some of the top things on the list for me are ensuring employees’ success is number one on your priorities, listen more than you talk, and walk the walk. Great list!
  • Lambdas: An Example in Refactoring Code: I put out this programming article earlier this week and had some great feedback. In this article, I talk about a real world example of how using lambda expressions in C# really helped when refactoring a piece of code. Some people have never heard of lambdas, and some people seem to hate them. In this case for me, it greatly simplified a set of code and reduced a bunch of extra classes. I definitely owe it to myself to start investigating them a little bit more.
  • Executive Coaching: Bringing Out Greater Leadership: This article is all about taking charge with your leadership. Judith Sherven talks about executive coaching for leaders, but the main points I see in here are around confidence. If you aren’t confident in your ability to lead, motivate, and inspire how can you expect anyone else to be? It ends up becoming a tough balance, because you need to listen and take feedback from your team, but when you make decisions you should do so with confidence.
  • Stop Worrying About Making the Right Decision: Ever heard of paralysis by analysis? This article does a great job of explaining why you shouldn’t let that creep in to your leadership approach. It’s important to make good decisions–there’s no doubt about that. But the reality is that no matter what decision you make, there are certain unknowns that can creep in and potentially have a huge effect on the choices you’ve made. So what’s more important: making the perfect decision, or being able to adapt effectively?
  • Appraising Performance Appraisal: Steven Sinofsky‘s article is a bit of a beast, but it’s a great starting point if you’re reconsidering performance appraisals. Even if you’re totally content with your performance review system, it might be worth reading to spark some ideas. Steven does a great job of pointing out some common pitfalls of typical performance appraisal systems and comments on some things you really need to try and understand before sticking to any one system. I’m not well enough versed in the performance review and/or human resources side of things, but this article certainly has enough to get you questioning the common approaches.
  • Tab Fragment Tutorial: Shameless plug for my Android application that I put out on the Google Play store. It’s the end result of the tutorial I wrote up over here. I think it’s going to blow past my legitimate application for converting units!
  • Does a Good Leader Have To Be Tough?: Deepak Chopra has some seriously great articles. In this article, he analyzes the pros and cons of being a “tough” leader. In short, there are positive takeaways from being a tough leader, but there are a lot of negative aspects to it. Deepak suggests you consider a different approach from tough-soft leadership. By focusing on a hierarchy of needs to be a successful leader, toughness is only one aspect of leadership. A pretty solid read, like all of Deepak’s articles.

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Article Summaries: Weekly Article Dump #17

Article Summaries: Weekly Article Dump #17 (Image from http://www.sxc.hu/)

Articles

  • It’s official: Video games make your brain bigger: I don’t have much time for video games anymore, but this is still totally awesome news. It’s in. It’s official. Video games can actually make you smarter. How great is that? If you’re like me and you find you don’t have much time for games any more, it might be worth picking up a hobby game. It’s a great way to relax provided you don’t get too addicted to it and apparently it can make you smarter. Perfect combo!
  • The myth of the brainstorming session: The best ideas don’t always come from meetings: I thought this article was pretty interesting because we do a lot of brain storming at our office. Sometimes I like to think the sessions go smoothly or that they’re productive. When I contrast them with particular cases that are a bit out of our ordinary approach, it seems like there are certainly some factors that improve the outcome.
    We’ve been dabbling in some personality tests to understand team dynamics a little bit better. To the article’s point, extroverted personalities almost always overrun introverted personalities in a brainstorming meeting from my experience. It’s really unfortunate actually and clearly not really fair if everyone is supposed to be getting their ideas out. In order to get the best results, I think that everyone needs a way to get their thoughts out, and sometimes it’s not doable if you have certain people overrunning others.
    The article also touches on a fear of judgement concept that I think certainly holds true. In a recent brainstorming style meeting, instead of having individuals put on the spot and discuss their opinions, we white boarded them all at once. There was anonymity aside from when the person right beside you writing could peek at what you were putting down. The results were much better than any of our previous meetings of this style. I can’t be entirely sure that the whiteboarding was the reasoning, but it’s definitely something I’d like to try again in the future.
  • Matt Chang – Team Magnet Recognition: This is a post I put out earlier this week. As part of my attempt to recognize the amazing team of people I work with at Magnet Forensics, I decided to write up about our superstar customer/tech support. I know I’d never survive in a tech support role, so I have even more respect for Matt Chang being able to do such a good job. He’s been a great addition to the team, and he makes our troubleshooting of customer issues infinitely easier. Thanks for all your amazing work, Matt.
  • 6 Talent Management Lessons From the Silicon Valley: In this article by John Sullivan, he discusses talent management in the valley. The fundamental idea here is that it’s all driven by innovation. Some key take away points from the article is that innovation is actually a more important goal than productivity and the ability to move fast has a huge affect on this. Additionally, people who innovate want to have an impact. Sharing stories about how previous feats have proven to have a great impact can also be a great driving force.
  • Quality & Agility in Software: Session With Paul Carvalho: This is another article I put out this week about Paul Carvalho who came to speak to our development team. Simply put, the time we had with Paul was packed with information and activities. Every second we spent with him felt like we were absorbing something new and useful. It was far too short. We had lots of great learnings to take away and bring to our own drawing board. We’re excited to be implementing some changes in the upcoming week.
  • Rather than Whine, We Can Learn from the Boring Aspects of a JobMohamed El-Erian reminds us that even the most interesting and glamorous jobs have dull moments. We shouldn’t whine or avoid these situations–they’re vital stepping stones. It’s not realistic to assume you can cut every corner and take every shortcut to get exactly where you want in your career and in life. You have to work hard at what you do and embrace even the small things that can seem boring and monotonous.
  • Fragments: Creating a Tabbed Android User Interface: This is yet another one of my posts that I shared this week. This is my first Android tutorial, and I’m pretty proud of it! It’s very basic, has lots of pictures, and all of the sample code is available to download. I’m confident that anyone interested in picking up Android programming would be able to follow along. Even experienced programmers looking for a way to get a tabbed user interface using fragments in their Android app should find some benefit too! I just found out today that my tutorial made it into the Android Weekly Issue #76, so that was pretty exciting. You can download the app too (it’s pretty basic) to see what the end result will be. Check it out and let me know what you think.

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Quality & Agility in Software: Session With Paul Carvalho

Quality & Agility in Software: Session With Paul Carvalho

Quality And Agility

Last week, at Magnet Forensics we were fortunate enough to have a very talented quality expert come in and talk to us. Paul Carvalho was able to bring a great deal of information, perspective, and activities to our development team that truly proved to be an eye opener. We were all extremely excited to get to sit down and hear what Paul had to say.

There’s lots to read about Paul over at his STAQS site, but I’ll re-iterate some of it here. Paul has held many roles when it comes to software development. He’s been a developer, a manager, a tech support person, and part of quality assurance. He certainly has a full perspective on software development. Coming from a science background, he does a great job of explaining why things are a certain way or why you’ll expect results given some conditions. This made understanding his approach to quality and software much easier for me to get a handle on.

It felt like we covered so much, but I want to provide a high level of the take away points that really stuck out for me.

Quality: What Is It?

Paul started us off by getting us to describe what quality means. In the end, we arrived at something that provides value (where value is actually defined) to an audience (again, where audience is actually something that’s defined). So what does that mean? Quality is dependent on who and what you’re talking about, so it’s important that when you’re trying to deliver quality that you are all aligned on what exactly quality will mean.

To illustrate his point, Paul had us perform an exercise where we really only used one method of communicating some information to our partner. The result of the activity proved that even when sitting right beside your partner, you can lose a ton of information in how you communicate. So having tickets written up or having a one way communication channel is almost guaranteed to cause some misunderstanding when it comes to expectations. Part of the solution? Converse. Actually have the person describe back to you what you said. This way, you both start to hone in on what your expectations are. It was a cool exercise, and it definitely proved his point.

Perspective

We also discussed perspective a lot in our session with Paul. He had examples where simply altering your (physical) view point on something would cause you to describe something completely different. From there, we drew parallels into our software development process. There’s the old “but it builds on my machine” scenario that mirrors this really well. Paul really wanted to drive home that product owners, developers, and testers all have different perspectives on things so we need to get on the same page to ensure we can deliver quality.

Paul also asked us what seemed to be a really simple question, which for a few of us meant that it actually had to be a loaded question underneath the obvious. By showing us something on the TV in our board room, he asked us if what was being shown was a particular object. The easy answer sounded like “well, duh, yes”, but he was driving home a huge point on perspective. We weren’t looking at the object, we were looking at a TV showing a digital rendering of a piece of artwork that depicted some object. The answer was kind of abstract, but it was really cool to have that conversation about what you’re really looking at.

Awesome Agile Activity Alliteration

As a team lead, there was one activity I found absolutely awesome. I’m hoping everyone got the same take away form it that I did. Paul had us work as one big group to perform some activity. The goal was to circulate as many balls through every individual in the group as we could in two minutes. There were a few rules that I won’t bother explaining, so it wasn’t necessarily that easy.

Quality & Agility in Software: Session With Paul Carvalho (Image by http://www.sxc.hu/)

Having 15 people shouting and debating in the first planning portion made things pretty tough, but we came up with a workable solution. Paul made us estimate how many balls we thought we could get through, and we felt so poorly about our design that we said only four. We tried it out, and managed to get about 20. Awesome!

We were told to do another iteration, and he gave us another mini planning session. Again, the shouting and mayhem ensued, but we wanted to tweak our first approach. We finally organized, and when we tried it out, we doubled our initial throughput. We were onto something. The next planning session, the shouting was a little less, and we added a few more tweaks. We noticed the following problems from before:

  • We were moving too fast, so balls were dropping.
  • We were only moving one ball between people at a time.
  • Our throughput was nearing the limit of how many balls we had.
  • Our counting was extremely poor.

Solutions? Slow down. Move two balls instead of one, which should be easy if we’re going slower. Recirculate the balls instead of putting them back in the container. Dedicate one person to counting that wasn’t me (the person who would either inject more balls or get them from the end to recirculate). We shattered our previous record, nearly doubling it again. Next planning was similar. We addressed some minor pain points and decided to go for a whopping four balls at once. We added another 25 to our throughput, so we were sitting around 100.

At this point we realized we were nearing the potential maximum throughput for this design and given the time restrictions for planning, we couldn’t generate much to improve upon. We debated a completely different approach for a bit, and realized it was going to be unrealistic–but this added to the takeaway.

So, with that said, what WAS the takeaway from this activity and why did I like it so much?

  • The activity is a direct parallel to our sprints. The balls are the features we’d be developing.
  • The planning process was hectic. Everyone was involved and generated great ideas, but it took a select few “leaders” to actually pull triggers. Otherwise, nobody would agree on ANY of the great ideas we heard.
  • Dropping a ball was equivalent to a problem sneaking through or something not getting done. In terms of quality, this was like a customer seeing a bug. The more people that touched it likely meant that the bug would be smaller or have less of an impact. A cool little quality parallel.
  • We need to be continuously improving. We should leverage our retrospectives to improve our process. It’s important that we keep experimenting with our process to see if it can be improved.
  • There will be a point where we think we can’t improve anymore with our current process. If we’re not happy with throughput, it may require a completely different approach.

Summary

The whole team thought having Paul in was great. We have a ton of things to take back to the drawing board to use and try to improve our processes. I think it’s safe to say any one of us would recommend consulting from Paul. His insights are excellent, he conveys his thoughts clearly, and he has activities that are so incredibly aligned to the points he’s trying to get across.

I’m looking forward to using Paul’s techniques for improving the quality in our software and the processes we use to develop. Thanks again, Paul.

Links


Halloween – Weekly Article Dump

Halloween at Magnet Forensics

Happy Halloween

Happy Halloween, everyone! I hope those of you who were out and about with your own little ghouls and ghosts had a safe Halloween this year.

Halloween costumes were pretty creative again this year at Magnet Forensics. I tried going with my own Horse Lime attempt, but it’s difficult when not many people know what the Horse Lime actually is. Regardless, my awesome mother put together the lime portion of my costume, and I was extremely grateful for that (and yes, I’m in my mid 20’s. No judging). I think it turned out pretty damn good.

This year, Saige won our Halloween costume contest. As Old Gregg, it was hard for that to not be a sure-fire win. Complete with Bailey’s in hand, I think the only thing that could have made it better was a set of watercolours to go with it. Absolutely awesome job.

On behalf of Team Magnet, Happy Halloween!

Articles

  • Kenneth Cole’s 10 Keys to Success: In this article by Teresa Rodriguez, we get a list of 10 tips from Kenneth Cole on success. While I don’t think there’s anything groundbreakind about them, I do think they’re all relatively straight forward. My main take aways are being innovative, being passionate about what you do, and create value. This article also has a bit of background on Mr. Cole that I wasn’t even aware of, so that was pretty interesting.
  • Community is Everything: How to Build Your Tribe: This article was kind of unique. It doesn’t necessarily apply directly to startups or business, but I see lots of parallels. Miki Agrawal writes about creating a “tribe” or a community of people around you. It’s really about placing positive people in your life, or go-getters in your business for the parallel. Again, no monumental secret tips in here, but it’s a great topic.
  • Performance Recognition: Cutting the Cost of Disengagement: This one is an infographic (and not really an article) about engagement and performance recognition. There are a lot of stats in there, but regardless of whether or not I trust the accuracy, I think the general points made are sound. Essentially, there are a lot of disengaged employeed in the global work force and it hurts productivity. By creating a culture of recognizing performance, you can help boost engagement which has all sorts of positive effects.
  • Code Review Like You Mean It: The first programming article for this week. Phil Haack discusses how to actually code review effectively. One of the key topics is taking breaks from long code reviews so you can maintain focus. Another is forgetting about the author when reviewiing and focusing solely on the code. Phil even put up his own code review checklist and suggests you have your own. Personally, I think I’ve kept a mental one but it probably would help to have it solidified.
  • Converse, Don’t Complain: This article by Hiroshi Mikitani had the most buzz from the things I shared this week. It really seemed to hit home with people, and I imagine it’s for a couple reasons. First of all, if you’re honest with yourself, you probably complain. You probably chat with at least one colleague you’re really close with and just flat out complain with them. You both don’t like something, so you vent. That’s definitely a comforting activity, and sometimes we need it. The flip side is you have authority or responsibility over something that people have problems with. Nobody is voicing any concerns to you (since they are just complaining among themselves) and if they are, there aren’t solutions being brought forward.The first of this two part solution to this is instead of whining, start coming up with potential solutions. It doesn’t matter how big or small your ideas are, start thinking about what a solution might be. The second part is communication. If you want something to get resolved, you need to bring your concerns with potential solutions forward. If you only complain and vent to one person, your concerns won’t be heard. If you only ever whine about something not being correct, then you’re doing a half-assed job at trying to come to a solution.
  • Lead by Example and Emulate Ideal: This one is a plug for my own article. I decided I’d write about why leading by example is actually more powerful than some people think. You have a lot of eyes on you as a leader, and you may not realize it. By leading by example and emulating the attributes you consider ideal, people will catch on to it.
  • Keys to Productivity: I’ve sort of noticed this through my own experiences so far, but early morning and late at night are great times to be productive. When there are a lot of stresses on you during the day, sometimes it feels like you’re not being productive. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you aren’t, but it’s your own perception. Getting a head start on the ay by getting into the office early, or staying up late for your own creative endeavours can prove to feel really rewarding.
  • Build Trust Through Training, Transparency and Trials: I’ve shared articles from this series by Jake Wood before, but this is another standout one for me. Trust isn’t something you can just put into your company values or your mission statement. Trust is something you have to live out each and every day in your organization. We can all say we value it, but if you aren’t willing to live it out, then it’s not something you truly value. One quote I really like from the article is:

    Transparency cannot happen unless your leadership regularly visits the “front lines,” wherever that may be in your business.

  • Here Is What Smart Companies Get That Others Don’t: The first of the three points offered in this article is that smart companies think differently. They are leaders and not followers when it comes to everything they do. The second is that they sell their culture. Their culture is actually core to their business and their organization, not some after thought. The third is that they help others become smarter. Provide value and become something that other people and business want and need to use.
  • Why Good Strategies Often Fall Apart: Ron Ashkenas highlights a few reasons why strategies that look great sometimes just don’t work. The first two points he makes in his article are the ones I want to highlight. The first is passive aggressive disagreement. Not everyone is going to be on board with all parts of all changes, so you’re going to have people that disagree. If the culture does not actively embrace people being able to voice their concerns, it’s difficult to carry out a successful strategy. Individuals might complain, but they wont end up doing anything about it. The second is something along the lines of “being too nice”. Trying to avoid confrontation because you’re afraid of it is a recipe for disaster. If you actually encourage open communication and trust, then being able to have hard discussions about something can be really powerful.
  • Three Things that Actually Motivate Employees: This probably isn’t new to a lot of people, but money (after a certain point) isn’t the driving force for employee motivation. The three things outline in this article are mastery, membership, and meaning. Employees want to be able to mastery their skill sets, learn, and get better at the things they do. Individuals within the organization want to have a sense of community. They want to feel like they align with the people they work with and their working toward a common goal. Employees also want to work on something that has meaning. Work that has a large positive impact is extremely motivating.

Happy Halloween! Remember to follow Dev Leader on social media outlets to get these updates through the week.

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Team Theme – Weekly Article Dump

Team Theme - Weekly Article Dump (Image from http://www.sxc.hu/)

Articles

  • The Real Reason People Won’t Change: Admittedly, when I read this article on my phone the full posting wasn’t available to me. I was only able to read the first page of the article, but the concept was enough to get me interested. “Competing commitments”. Heard of it? I hadn’t but it seems to explain a lot. Competing commitments are, as you might have expected, commitments to things that are in conflict. The article has a ton of examples, but the concept of competing commitments offers insight as to why some people seem stubborn in their ways, despite everything else being lined up for success. A simple example might be someone who is a die-hard advocate of the project they are working on and really wants it to succeed. However, they’re actually inhibiting the success of the project because they aren’t comfortable with their role in relation to teammate. As a result, the team suffers and then the project suffers, but their alignment to wanting the project to succeed is in the right spot. Now that I have full access to the article, I’m certainly going back and reading through the whole thing.
  • Want to be Extremely, Wildly, Radically Successful?: I really appreciated the perspective of Joel Peterson in this article. There’s a million and one books and articles online about how to be successful. They all have titles just like this one. They’re all a bit over the top and unrealistic: “The one thing you need to do to be successful”, “The shortcut to success”, “5 simple steps to being the most successful human being in the universe”. There’s no shortcut to success. All the articles and books that offer information on being successful are doing just that: offering information. You need to make a habit out of doing things that make you successful. Live it. Day in, day out. And it’s not going to happen overnight.
  • The Problem With “There’s a Problem”: This is one my own, so it’s another shameless plug. This post was all about, in my opinion, the right way to tell someone about a problem. If you simply just tell someone that something is broken, doesn’t work, or isn’t right and that’s all that you do, you’re slacking. Everyone, especially in a startup, has a million and one things to do. If you’re about to offload some problem onto someone, at least do your part and get some context around the problem. Better yet, generate some potential solutions so that you’re going to people with solutions, not problems.
  • The Most Powerful Habit You Can Imagine: A colleague of mine shared this article earlier this week, and I felt I had to do my part to share it as well. In this article, Bruce Kasanoff outlines some traits to making your leadership skills more effective. By introducing some compassion and treating people like people, you can have a big impact. People will align more with you and want to work with you. It’s hard to resent your leader or manager when they’re the type of person who fights for you around the clock. You can greatly improve your team mechanics by not acting like an overlord robot.
  • Leadership Tips from The Voice: This article was a bit unique compared to the rest, but I thought it was a cool parallel. Jackie Lauer from Axeltree put this one together. She uses a music performer’s traits as a comparison to a good leader. The highlights? Be fearless. If everything you do is calculated to eliminate all risks, you’ll never fail, and you’ll never learn from it. You need to be a human with the people you lead. Know your strengths and your weaknesses. Build a team that’s strong where you’re weak.
  • The 6 Types of Thinkers to Seek for Your Team: Katya Andresen defines six variations of how people think and how they’re important in a team. She’s not claiming that you need six people (one with each way of thinking) to be successful but rather an individual can have a variety of these perspectives. The interesting part is that if you look at her list and compare it to your current team, you can probably fit each team member into one or two of those types of thinkers. Pretty neat!
  • The Town BlackBerry Built: Is Anything Left?: This isn’t an article… but a video! Our CEO of Magnet Forensics, Adam Belsher, is featured throughout most of this video. Myself and a few colleagues actually have some cameo appearances too, which I thought was pretty cool too. For anyone outside of Waterloo that hears about all the RIM/Blackberry talk, they often have a different perspective of the town than the people living here. Waterloo has an absolutely incredible startup community, and regardless of how good or bad Blackberry is doing, it’ll continue to thrive. As Adam said, it’d be silly if you’re looking to expand your team or business and you’re not even considering Waterloo.
  • 2 Mental Exercises For Battling “It Won’t Work” Syndrome: In startups (or any company really), generating new ideas is a big part of innovating. With any idea, there needs to be a choice to act on it or not. This article is about how some ideas are simply just dismissed without actually giving them a chance. it might be worth trying these exercises out with your team if you feel there isn’t a good environment for nurturing ideas.
  • Infighting is Toxic and Probably Running Rampant at Your Company: What is infighting and how is it killing your company? Let Daniel Roth tell you. In his article, Daniel talks about how competing against each other inside your company can be poisonous. Why not work together towards your common goal against your common competition? If you truly want your company to be successful, you need to put aside your personal agenda.
  • The One Belief That Is Holding Back Your Career: Like the infighting article, Fred Kofman‘s article has a similar perspective. Stop thinking about the goals of individual components of the company. If they are not working toward the common goal of the company, they are not operating effectively. An excellent example is given int he article: The aim of the defense of a soccer team is not to stop the other team from scoring. Their goal, like the rest of their team, is to win. Taking defensive action is how they accomplish that. However, if they’re down one point and the clock is running out, you can bet they won’t just crowd around their end trying to stop any more goals from being scored.

Remember to follow Dev Leader on social media outlets to get these updates through the week.

Nick Cosentino – LinkedIn
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The Problem With “There’s a Problem”

"There's a Problem! (Image from http://www.sxc.hu/)

Problem?

If you’ve ever had a job, as I’m sure anyone reading this has, you’ve probably been on the one side of this situation before. You tell your supervisor/leader/manager/someone-responsible-for-the-thing-with-the-problem that simply, “There’s a problem”. If you’re in or have been in one of those positions I just listed, I’m sure you’ve been on the receiving end of it. But as I said, you probably did the same thing at one point so don’t go holding it against anyone just yet.

What’s the big deal with telling someone there’s a problem? I mean, don’t you think someone should know if something is going wrong? Especially if they’re the one in charge of it! We can’t continue operation with this problem. We can’t release the product to the customer with this thing missing or broken. We can’t sell our product or service with this part of the process being dysfunctional or unreliable. Someone needs to know.

The problem is not sharing the fact that something is wrong. The underlying issue is simply stopping at “there’s a problem”.

Leader’s Perspective: Keep Focus

You’re in a leadership or management position. Without getting into a big leadership vs management debate, one of your primary functions is delegating tasks out to team members. You’re ultimately going to be responsible for project if it fails, so hearing about issues isn’t necessarily a bad thing. So what’s the concern?

Problem?

When someone comes up to you to let you know that there’s an issue, the next logical step is finding out what needs to be done. Now, if you only know that there’s an issue and there’s no additional information or plan of attack provided, it’s all on you to find out how to approach it. Realistically, that’s not so bad. After all, you’re likely in your current position because you’re good at this kind of stuff. However, there are two things to be concerned about:

  • Do you pull yourself off from whatever you’re doing and try to address the problem?
  • Do you need to go find someone to delegate this issue to?

I mentioned delegation is one of your primary functions, so the reason these two things are a concern is because they conflict. They both take up your time. When you’re told that something goes wrong, your brain likely spins up and starts thinking about the how and the why. Then you start thinking about how to fix it. You know the project, the system, or the process inside and out. You could probably find a way to fix it if you put your nose to the grindstone for a bit. But is it the most effective use of time?

Maybe it is. Maybe it isn’t. If it’s not, now you need to start thinking of your team’s status. You know John and Jane are both on something else that’s mission critical for the project to be delivered on time, and they’re your number one and two options for the skill sets required to tackle this. Do you pull one of them off? Do you maybe ask Tim who has some experience with this and is working on something that’s a low priority? Hold on… How can you even know who’s best suited for the problem if you don’t actually even know anything more than the fact that there’s an issue!

Someone–either you or a team member–is going to have to investigate this problem. Why wasn’t any of this done already?

Team Member’s Perspective: Bad Habits

You’re the member of a team and you play a critical role (as do your teammates). Everyone’s time is valuable, so you and everyone else should be keeping this in mind. You’ve stumbled upon an issue and it’s looking like it’s pretty nasty.

Being on the development team, you remember from your standup meeting that John had recently fixed a bug in a similar area. You should go talk to him because he likely has some insight as to what’s going on. On the sales team, you know that Tim had to try and work with a customer from the same country last week, so maybe he can offer some assistance with some of the legalities. Regardless of what team you’re on or what your core role is, having knowledge of what people are doing around you can certainly benefit in this kind of scenario.

But what should you do even before that? Here’s a little list:

  • Is the problem reproducible? Was it just off-chance that it happened? Did you try again?
  • What other things do you think are affected by this? Have you investigated?
  • Do you know what’s wrong? Do you know what’s completely expected, or do you just know that something isn’t completely right?
  • Have you come up with a potential solution? What about a secondary solution?
  • Did you try searching the Internet, a knowledge base, or any other easily-accessible resource as a first step?

What’s great about the items in this list? These are all things you can do or consider on your own before involving anyone else. As soon as you drag someone else into it, now it’s the time of multiple people. Acquire the information that you can and analyze the situation before going to other people. It’s a bad habit to get into where you see a warning sign, toss your hands up in despair, and go tell someone else so they can deal with it.

It may not be in your job title, but taking this kind of responsibility when approaching problems makes it so much easier on everyone that gets involved. It increases the efficiency of the team when you can provide information and context when looking for a solution.

Summary

Things go wrong. It sucks, but nothing is perfect. It affects the staff responsible for projects, processes, and teams. It can teach you to avoid analyzing problems if you simply notify someone without digging a bit deeper.

Consider being on the receiving end of just being told of a problem. What are the first things you’re going to ask to get more information? Try answering these questions yourself before escalating the issue.

Finally, as a leader, it’s your responsibility to identify this type of behaviour. Don’t get mad at your teammates for doing it. They might not even realize that they’re doing it! Have the conversation with them where you tell them that in the future, things will go much more smoothly if they can provide a bit more context to you. Of course, don’t just tell them that there’s a problem.


My Team Triumph Canada – Weekly Article Dump

My Team Triumph Canada - Inaugural Race

All of the captains with their angels after the race! What a blast!

My Team Triumph – Canada

You probably haven’t heard of it, but I can assure you that will change. Today I was fortunate enough to participate in the first My Team Triumph race in Canada. My Team Triumph is a program that allows people of all ages with disabilities to participate in endurance events. With a great volunteer staff, a few angels, and all of the amazing captains, this was made possible.

My Team Triumph takes their inspiration from Team Hoyt, whom you’ve probably heard of.  Now I can’t do the Hoyt story any justice, so I suggest you head over to their site to get the full details. Team Hoyt is a father-son team that has competed in over a thousand races; however, their team is slightly different than your average racer in these events. Dick Hoyt, the father, pushes his quadriplegic son, Rick, in a wheelchair during these events. It started in 1977 when Rick told his father that we wanted to be able to participate in a benefit race for a paralyzed rugby player. Dick agreed to it, and they finished their 5 mile race. That night, Rick told his father that it felt like all of his disabilities went away when they were running together. Honestly, you need to read the story.

So today at the My Team Triumph race, I was grouped up with Captain Vernon of “Vernon’s Maple Leafs” and two angels Nadine and Blair. It was exciting to get to meet the team, and Vernon was incredibly enthusiastic about the whole thing. For anyone who knows me personally, I’m not a runner at all. People actually joke around with me about any time I have to run (because we all know those calories could be put towards squatting, obviously). When we were sharing our running experiences with each other, I had to let the team know that I had never actually ran a 5 km race. That didn’t discourage Vernon though. He told me he was going to make me run, and he wasn’t lying. In the end, we were the second chair team to cross the finish line, which is absolutely amazing in terms of where my expectations were.

My Team Triumph Canada - Nick and Steph

Steph Hicks-Uzun and I bright and early before the run! I’m all smiles here because my lungs and legs haven’t yet endured the 5 km!

Once it was all said and done, my lungs and legs were on fire, but it was an incredible experience. Wes Harding has done an amazing job in putting My Team Triumph Canada together, and everyone at the race was incredibly supportive. Please check out their site to read about their inspirational stories. Way to go, team!

Articles

It’s a pretty short list this week, but it doesn’t mean there’s a lack of quality!

  • I like, I wish, I wonder: A teammate of mine, Christine, brought this to my attention on LinkedIn. In this post, Akshay Kothari talks about a different approach to what our typical sprint retrospectives look like. For some background, in our development life cycle we work in “sprints”. Sprints are typically one or two week units of time where we claim we can get X units of work done. These units of work are often “stories” or “tickets” that we’re essentially taking full responsibility for getting done by the end of the iteration. At the end of the sprint, we do a retrospective where we discuss what went good, what went bad, and how we can improve them. More often than not, there’s less than ideal amounts of input and it seems pretty forced. This article suggests taking a slightly different approach where people can make a statement that starts with “I wish”, “I like”, or “I wonder”. I’m hoping to try this out at our next retrospective and see if it’s the little switch-up that we need.
  • The 17 Qualities And Views Of Great LeadersAndreas von der Heydt put together this awesome list of 17 qualities that great leaders possess. Among them is the idea of failure (and doing it early and often), which you’ve probably seen my write plenty about now. There’s nothing wrong with failure as long as you’re learning and moving forward. Over communicating and keeping a positive attitude are also right up there on my top picks from that list.
  • How To Uncover Your Company’s True Culture: When I shared this on LinkedIn, I had a lot of positive attention from it. I’ll assume that means that it hit home with a lot of people! I this post, Dharmesh Shah, the founder of HubSpot, discusses what company culture really is. Some key take away points are that it’s really easy to say “this is what we think our ideal culture is, so this will be our culture”, but that means close to nothing. Your real culture is not what you say you want it to be, it’s what your company lives and breathes every day. You can say you want your culture to be anything, but it means nothing unless you’re all living it out at work. There are some great points in the article with specific cases to what you might say your culture values. For example, if you value customer service highest of all things, then when you have an opportunity to improve ease of use for your customer(s), what’s your first reaction? “That’s going to be a lot of work?” or “Let’s get it done for the customer”. Neither is wrong, but those answers are the ones that define your culture, NOT what you think you want the answer to be.
  • Forget a Mentor, Build a Team: In this article by Jim Whitehurst, he talks about an alternative to the mentor approach. It’s becoming increasingly more common for professionals to try and set themselves up with a mentor who has been there, done that, and has a lot of insight to offer. This is great, and there’s nothing really wrong with it. However, Jim proposes an alternative where instead of setting yourself up with a mentor, why not surround yourself with team members who all bring something to the table? It’s a great idea, really. I’m sure we all have close friends, old classmates, or old colleagues who would be great to bounce ideas off of, share our hard times with, and share our victories with. They’ll keep you grounded and hopefully bring some of their own personal insights to the table.
  • 5 Things Super Successful People Do Before 8 AM: I thought this article by Jennifer Cohen was great. Some things I definitely want to start doing are mapping out my day and visualizing what’s ahead. I’m already pretty good for eating well, and I favour exercising at night once my body and nervous system has had time to wake up, so those ones aren’t at the top of my personal list. Another great tip from Jennifer: Get that one big ugly thing off your list as soon as possible in your week. Awesome.
  • Scrappiness = Happiness: This article really hit home with me. The company where I work, Magnet Forensics, is still considered a startup but we’re making the transition into small business. The rate at which we’re developing and growing all aspects of the business makes it hard to remain in a complete “startup mode”. In his article, Tim Cadogan talks about a meetup between “originals” of the company where he worked. The key take away points are that the initial years of your company where you’re facing hard times and dealing with less than ideal circumstances are going to be the times you remember later on. This is where the memories are made. Being able to share these stories with each other (and new people you bring onto the team, for that matter) is what lets your company culture continue on.

Remember to follow Dev Leader on social media outlets to get these updates through the week.

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  • Nick Cosentino

    Nick Cosentino

    I work as a team lead of software engineering at Magnet Forensics (http://www.magnetforensics.com). I'm into powerlifting, bodybuilding, and blogging about leadership/development topics over at http://www.devleader.ca.

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