Tag: change

Continuous Improvement – One on One Tweaks (Pt. 2)

Continuous Improvement - One on One Tweaks (Pt. 2)

Continuing With Continuous Improvement

I wrote about continuous improvement before and how I’ve been trying to tie that into my leadership role through changes to my one on one process. To recap, at our organization we try to roll continuous improvement into most things that we do. We’re well aware that we’re not going to get things perfect the first time, so as long as we have a process in place to learn, reflect, and adapt, then we can make changes to better our situation. It’s something that’s ongoing and it doesn’t really have an end. So long as your organization is growing and changing over time, or the environment in which your organization is changing over time, having continuous improvement baked into your culture is key to success.

Previously, I mentioned that at Magnet Forensics I hold regular one on ones with my team members. I made a tweak to them that included summarizing notes before holding the one on ones and saw a great improvement. I felt that for now this would be a positive change that I’d like to continue on with. I’ll keep reflecting on whether or not this makes sense over time.

What’s next, then?

Recognition

Recognition is something that I think is fundamental to keeping people engaged, but it looks different for everyone. When I comment on things or share things on social media, I often reflect on how recognition is incredibly important. It’s been a goal of mine to try and do a better job at recognizing my team members for the hard work they’re always putting in.

That was my next hack for continuous improvement. How could I leverage my one on one time to do a better job at recognition? Well, if recognizing my team for things they do is high on my priority list, then it should fall high on the one on one discussion list. The first thing, actually.

So now that I create a summary of topics to go over in our one on ones, I reflect on what my team members say they work on and I toss in other stuff they may not have mentioned. Did they have big accomplishments in our sprint? Did they have things outside of work? Did they have tweaks they suggested for the team to try? Accomplish goals they set for themselves? I try to gather that information and comment on a couple of things at the start of our one on ones now.

I want the team to know that their hard work and their success does not go unnoticed and that they should all keep working to the best of their abilities.

Results?

I’ve only been doing this recently, so I can’t quite say that I’ve noticed big differences. In my opinion, the team has been entering a solid groove over the past few months but it’s hard for me to say whether or not these one on one changes had any impact. I like to think that they did. I’ve heard from several people that they’re really happy with where the team is at.

Has this brought about anything negative? Were there any cons to rolling out this change? I’d say no, not at all. It’s no extra effort for me to reflect on what accomplishments each team member has add. I mean, I’m not writing out lengthy documentation on each accomplishment, but I jot down a couple of points on what I want to call out. I think if anything, that quick exercise has been really positive for myself, if not for the other team member.

So, in the end, I think this small tweak has been a positive change for me in terms of doing a better job of recognizing the team. I also hope that the team has a better understanding that myself and others do see their hard work and efforts.

Keep on it, Team Magnet!


Continuous Improvement – One on One Tweaks

Continuous Improvement - One on One Tweaks

Continuous Improvement – Baby Steps!

Our development team at Magnet Forensics focuses a lot on continuous improvement. It’s one of the things baked into a retrospective often performed in agile software shops. It’s all about acknowledging that no system or process is going to be perfect and that as your landscape changes, a lot of other things will too.

The concept of continuous improvement isn’t limited to just the software we make or the processes we put in place for doing so. You can apply it to anything that’s repeated over time where you can measure positive and negative changes. I figured it was time to apply it to my leadership practices.

The One on One

I lead a team of software developers at Magnet, but I’m not the boss of any of them. They’re all equally my peers and we’re all working toward a common goal. One of my responsibilities is to meet with my team regularly to touch base with them. What are things they’ve been working on? What concerns do they have with the current state of things? What’s going well for them? What sort of goals are they setting?

The one on ones that we have setup are just another version of continuous improvement. It’s up to me to help empower the team to drive that continuous improvement, so I need to facilitate them wherever I can. Often this isn’t a case of “okay, I’ll do that for you” but a “yes, I encourage you to proceed with that” type of scenario. The next time we meet up, I check in to see if they were able to make headway with the goals they had set up and we try to change things up if they’ve hit roadblocks.

No Change, No Improvement

I had been taking the same approach to one-on-ones for a while. I decided it was time for a change. If it didn’t work, it’s okay… I could always try something else. I had a good baseline to measure from, so I felt comfortable trying something different.

One on ones often consisted of my team members handing me a sheet of past actions, concerns, and status of goals before we’d jump into a quick 20 minute meeting together. I’d go over the sheet with them and we’d add in any missing areas and solidify goals for next time. But I wanted a change here. How helpful can I be if I get this sheet as we go into the room together?

I started asking to get these sheets ahead of time and started paraphrasing the whole sheet into a few bullet points. A small and simple change. But what impact did this have?

Most one on ones went from maxing out 20 minutes to only taking around 10 minutes to cover the most important topics. Additionally, it felt like we could really deep dive on topics because I was prepared with some sort of background questions or information to help progress through roadblocks. Myself and my team member could blast through the important pieces of information and then at the end, if I’d check to make sure there’s nothing we’d missed going over. If I had accidentally omitted something, we’d have almost another 10 minutes to at least start discussing it.

Trade Off?

I have an engineering background, so for me it’s all about pros and cons. What was the trade-off for doing this?

The first thing is that initially it seemed like I was asking for the sheets super early. Maybe it still feels like I’m asking for them early. I try to get them by the weekend before the week where I start scheduling one on ones, so sometimes it feels like people had less than a month to fill them out. Is it a problem really? Maybe not. Maybe it just means there’s less stuff to try and cram into there. I think the benefit of being able to go into the meeting with more information on my end can make it more productive.

The second thing is that since I paraphrase the sheet, I might miss something that my team member wanted to go over. However, because the time is used so much more effectively, we’re often able to cover anything  that was missed with time to spare. I think there’s enough trust in the team for them to know that if I miss something that it’s not because I wanted to dodge a question or topic.

I think the positive changes this brought about have certainly outweighed the drawbacks. I think I’ll make this a permanent part of my one on one setup… Until continuous improvement suggests I should try something new!


Leadership Reads – Weekly Article Dump

Leadership Reading - Provided by Stock Free Images

Great Leadership Reads

Here’s a collection of articles I’ve shared over the past week on social media outlets. There’s a lot of great leadership reads this time around!

  • If You Don’t Treat Your Interns Right, You are Mean…and Stupid: This is a great post by Nancy Lublin that talks about something many full-time people share a common (and usually lousy) perspective on: interns. In my opinion, if you aren’t going to treat your interns well, you shouldn’t be hiring them. One key take away point from the article is ensuring that you treat your internship programs as something real and meaningful. Now, as a computer engineering graduate from the University of Waterloo and from being part of the leadership staff at Magnet Forensics, I’ve seen both sides of the story. Companies should treat their interns well, but interns should also realize companies are giving them the opportunity to be part of something great. It can be a win-win situation if both sides put in the time, effort, and dedication… but it can also be a lose-lose if approached poorly.
  • Does your company culture resemble jungle warfare?: Barry Salzberg talks about office politics in this article. Key take away points? Be aware of the politics but don’t participate. Work together as a company toward your mission and embrace your company values. There’s no room for politics if you want your company to achieve greatness. Politics only interfere and hinder the business.
  • At Home This Weekend? Try This!: Presenting… The Weekend CEO Challenge from Steve Tappin! I thought this article was a pretty cool perspective on how some top CEOs are spending their weeekends. Interested in doing any of these things over the weekend? Do you already do some of these things?
  • Resist the “Us vs. Them” Mindset: Daniel Goleman shares a quote about embracing an “us” vs “them” mindset. Look for the common goals you share with others and embrace them together. Work together and stop viewing others as enemies. It’s hard to be successful if you’re always worrying about thwarting your enemies, so why not rally your friends and work as a team?
  • It’s Time to Change Your Outlook on Change: Change isn’t a problem, according to Daniel Burrus. The problem is the fact that we sometimes fear change despite the fact that we’re built for it. In order to handle change well and be able to embrace it, we need to practice anticipating it. Stop leading blindly and acting surprised when things don’t go as planned… Start being proactive and paying attention to warning signs.
  • The Great Office Space Debate Rages On: Jennifer Merritt talks about a topic that’s been going back and forth for some time now: office layouts. It used to be the norm for companies to have cubicles and offices on the peripherals of a floor. Now the open concept offices have gained tons of traction and companies are even going to extremes and not having fixed work placements. What’s your opinion on office layout?
  • Four Things to Ask Yourself Before Arguing: Rita King addresses four really good things to ask yourself before you consider getting heated over what someone’s said or done. We’ve all been in a situation where someone’s done something to get us fired up, but is it really worth it? If you can manage it, try asking yourself the questions Rita discusses (are you listening? are you repeating patterns? do you understand the other person’s perspective? is there anything to be gained?) and perhaps you can cool yourself off before ruining your own day/week/month.
  • Change Your Habits with a Good Checklist: Habits aren’t easy to change. John Ryan writes about how you can use checklists to start enforcing good habits! Worth a shot at least, right? 🙂
  • Culture Quartet: 4 Steps to Unify Your Company: In this article, Dan Khabie talks about the merger of two companies and how culture played a large role in the success of the merger. Your workplace culture is essential for creating the right atmosphere for people to be productive and work well together. Teams thrive when the culture in the workplace is positive and places value on the employees.
  • The Truth About Best Practices: Liz Ryan discusses the how best practices can be like falling into a trap. Just because there is a best practice or certain metrics are a some sort of golden standard, it doesn’t mean you should blindly follow along. Does the process make sense for your company? Your team? Do the metrics make sense for your industry? Your market? At this current time? Focus on what matters and don’t get distracted.
  • Did You Make The Most of Your Mid-Year Review?: What makes a mid-year review useful? Linda Descano discusses four major points that include having an engaged conversation between both leader/manager and employee, constructive feedback for the employee to work on, and what goals are and how they can be accomplished. If you find reviews to be a time waster, is it because they’re not being conducted well? Are they a waste because nobody is engaged? Or are there other reasons that mid-year reviews feel like they aren’t useful?
  • Do You Find It Difficult to Claim Your Authority?: Judith Sherven, PhD addresses some common reasons why people often don’t consider themselves authorities. It’s a shame too, because it can hold people back from their full potential. If you have great experiences, skills, or you’re knowledgeable in a particular area, why wouldn’t you consider yourself an authority?
  • Where Are You on the Leadership Continuum?: When people consider good leaders, they often describe common traits. Joel Peterson points out that these traits often have varying meanings depending on the person using them. I’d recommend going through his list because it’s pretty interesting to see two very opposing descriptions for the same trait. You might even notice that a trait you would use to describe a leader is actually commonly described by others in a very different way. Definitely interesting!
  • Making Stone Soup: How to Really Make Collaborative Innovation Work Where You Work: Jeff DeGraff discusses some key points for having effective collaborative innovation. Setting high impact targets, recruiting domain experts, making multiple attempts, and learning from your experiences are all major points that DeGraff discusses. There’s also a playlist of videos discussing innovation, so there’s lots of content to absorb 🙂

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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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