Tag: retrospectives

Recognition: One of Team Magnet’s Masterminds

Recognition: One of Team Magnet's Masterminds (Image by http://www.sxc.hu/)

Background

At Magnet Forensics, I lead an awesome team of people with the mission of creating forensics software to help investigators around the world solve crimes. We’re stacked with incredible people–and not only on the team I’m on, but company-wide. We do a great job of recognizing our achievements as an organization and as a team, but also on an individual level. If someone has gone above and beyond, we don’t keep that a secret.

I’ve been trying to make more of a conscious effort to recognize the people I work with, especially in ways that are unique to my own style. I think recognizing people in person is important, but you also need to consider your setting. Sometimes recognition in a public forum isn’t actually appreciated or isn’t nearly as effective as appreciating in a one-on-one setting. I find even for myself that I get uncomfortable when being recognized in a public setting.

With that said, I wanted to recognize an individual I work with without shining too much of a spotlight directly her. Thank you, Christine, for all of your hard work.

Broken Retrospectives

At Magnet, we try to adhere to some agile philosophies.  It lets us pivot pretty quickly to customer needs–which keeps them quite happy–and still lets us deliver rock solid software. We develop in short cycles called “sprints” and at the end of every sprint we have a retrospective to look back at what worked well and what didn’t. That way in the next sprint we can make improvements. Keep the good stuff, drop the broken stuff and try out a thing or two that’s new. This is excellent for continuous improvement unless…

They don’t work.

We would run our retrospectives religiously, but it seemed like nobody really wanted to be there. It was a seemingly forced meeting where I felt a lot of the time I was trying to stir up conversation. By the end of the meeting, just about everyone would have chimed in, but there weren’t a lot of ideas being generated. It was long, boring, and didn’t accomplish any of the goals we wanted it to. Thus, our development cycles stayed basically the same for a while. They worked and they didn’t appear to be broken enough that people wanted to see change.

Things remained the same until I received some input from Christine. When Christine read an article on LinkedIn called I Like, I Wish, I Wonder, she thought it might have some positive carry-over to our development process. If Christine thought that it might spark a change in our retrospectives, that was more change than I was hearing from the team in general (including myself, to be fair). So I decided we’d give it a shot.

Annnd we haven’t looked back since.

I won’t go too in-depth on how I Like, I Wish, I Wonder has rocked our retrospective world because I want to save that for a separate write-up. The point is that it did, and it’s all thanks to Christine for digging it up for us. We’ve started to completely overhaul different aspects of our development process now that retrospectives are effective. I really started to realize just how big of an impact it had when I was explaining some of the development process changes to our CEO. I remember thinking “Wow… If we wouldn’t have switched our retrospective process, we’d be nowhere near as efficient”.

So, thank you for the retrospective idea, Christine. For anyone else looking to flip retrospectives around, try out the I Like, I Wish, I Wonder scheme.

Personalities

I can imagine a lot of people in the development world don’t think too much about personalities. I know I didn’t. Sure, everyone is different. Everyone has their own effective ways of communicating, things they like, things they don’t like, and optimal situations for working. I get it. Now let me go do my work and you go do your work. In an ideal world, you just assume everyone can figure out everyone else that they’re working with, and things will just be fine. Except things are never ideal, and it never hurts to put in a bit more effort to make sure you can get your team up to speed.

So we tried something out. I worked with my HR manager (read: communicated a potential scenario for our development team, let her run free with her awesome creative ideas, and then helped her where she needed it) to roll out a Myers-Briggs personality test for a small sub-team of our development team. If you aren’t familiar with the tests or the concept, check out the link and read up on it! We figured it would be best to try this kind of thing out on a small part of the team to see if they would find value in it, and if so, we’d try the whole team.

After we rolled out the Myers-Briggs results with the small team, the benefits were immediately noticeable. We didn’t even have to leave the room before seeing the benefits. We knew there was some potential here, so we were already excited to try it out with the rest of the team. With everyone being aware of how other individuals may act and react when communicating and working, it makes a big difference in how particular scenarios are approached.

Thank you, Christine, for making differences in personality something to be cognizant of and then supporting our roll-out of Myers-Briggs. For anyone reading this that manages a team or is part of one… Consider the personality types of the people you work with. Maybe you don’t need a formalized Myers-Briggs plan, but it’s worth raising awareness of it.

Thank You, Christine

Christine, you’ve made a lot of great contributions to the team and I’d like to thank you for them. Our development processes have been able to greatly improve thanks to your initial suggestion. I’m sure we would have adapted over time, but your suggested tweaks have certainly acted as a catalyst. Your furthered support with the personality type analysis and subsequent rollout was also greatly appreciated. You were able to participate in our mini-experiment and offered great feedback to turn it into a success for the entire team.

Thank you. I’m looking forward to what this year will bring!


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.

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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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