Jun 11 2009

Performance Management & Leniency

Published by at 1:19 pm
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Keep in mind that I admit I’m wet behind the ears. On the other hand I do feel I’ve been around the block and am at least well studied on management techniques, HR methodologies, and leadership techniques. I would say I have the most personal experience in leadership and it comes very naturally to me and I while I understand management and HR techniques, it’s not so natural so I tend to stumble. One thing I AM capable of doing most of the time is recognizing the different mechanisms in the system and processes in the organization and realize how they are designed and why they are designed that way.

It’s mid-year review time so I’ve been noodling about a specific technique in performance management that I’ve gone quite a bit into detail on in multiple classes during my time achieving my bachelor’s degree. There are many strategic reasons for a two pronged performance management system such as the one at IHS, one part which has a positive leniency error and one with a negative leniency error. What I mean by that is that every person has a certain amount of leniency or strictness. People are really lenient, really strict, or somewhere in between. Depending on the performance management process, it will either work well for people who are lenient or people who are strict. If you use a two pronged system, it will balance out based on whether the person is super strict or super lenient.

  • Strict people are generally focused on RESULTS. So an objective based system is agreeable to managers who are strict. They will grade people really harshly or really well as appropriate based on their results. On the other hand, lenient managers will struggle with an objective based system because they don’t want to give “good” people a “bad” grade. So lenient people will generally put “meets expectations” across the board for all people unless there’s something REALLY out of place.
  • Lenient people are generally focused on EFFORT and SOFT SKILLS. So a core competency is agreeable to managers who are lenient. They will grade people really harshly or really well as appropriate based on their efforts and soft skills. On the other hand, strict managers will struggle an effort based system because they are so results oriented. So strict people will generally put “meets expectations” across the board for all people unless there’s something REALLY out of place.

So if you use a two-pronged system it should balance out. The problem occurs when either A. the systems aren’t appropriately balanced or B. managers forcefully “monkey” with the system to make the outcome what they wish. When either of these things occur the checks and balances of leniency is destroyed and people who have leniency short comings are not caught. Now I will step back for a moment and suggest that the two systems might not actually have to be perfectly balanced. For example, if the company was TRULEY results oriented, they would put a heavier weight on the object based side of the system vs the competency side.

What is important is that people not “monkey” with the system. In a two-pronged system, everyone will be uncomfortable with either one side or the other side of the system, but at the end of the day that’s what makes the system work. You need to stick to the rules of the system, grade people the way the system tells you to grade, and the human factor will be counter balanced by the system. I don’t know maybe I’m arguing my own point in circles. Maybe the system is designed so that even if people monkey with it, in the end it ends up being balanced. Who knows…

May 04 2009

The Four Major Tasks of the Guild Leader

Published by at 7:39 pm
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In the May 2009 article of HBR there was a very interesting article “What Only the CEO Can Do”. It made me think a bit about how this could be adopted to the role of the guild leader and what ONLY the guild leader can do. A member recently told me that ONLY the guild leader can make amazing things happen. Officers can make things happen, but generally only in support of what the guild leader is already doing. Of course the guild leader can’t do it alone which is why he needs good, dedicated officers.

Defining the Meaningful OutsideOf all of your external stakeholders which ones are the ones that matter most? What results are most meaningful?

In applying this concept to Warhammer, our external stakeholders are potential future members, members of the alliance, and the general opinion of the server community. Unlike a normal business who’s goal is profit, the goal of a guild is to be self sustaining and sustainable over time. Depending on the guild, different results will matter.  Our guild does a little bit of everything, but generally we’ve prided ourselves in excellent PVE results and meaningful RvR results. Showing these results to the outside means that we attract people of similar goals into the guild.

Deciding What Business You are InWhere should you play to win? Where should you not play at all? These are difficult decisions that require thurough evaluation and discussion. However, only the CEO has the enterprisewide perspective to make the tough choices involved.

Frankly we’ve always tried to be a mix of everything, especially in Warhammer. Maybe the time is nigh and we need to get serious and focus as a PVE guild or just an RvR guild. Obviously we will still do a mix, but we need to focus on “winning” at one or the other. If we win at one or the other, then the other will fall behind it, as such is the nature of the game. I think for this reason, we might officially change the focus of the game to be more PVE focused with a supporting RvR back focus.

Balancing Present and Future Learning to strike the right balance between short and long term comes wfrom experience and judgment than from facts. Defining realistic grown goals is the first step toward getting the balance right; determining what goals are “good enough” to deliver in the short term is critical to gaining creditibility and momentum for the long term. Finally, the CEO’s personal involvement in leadership development may have the single biggest long-term impact on the company’s future.

This is something I think I have always done well in setting short and long term goals for the guild, delivering those goals, and following up on the progress of the goals in my monthly addresses to the guild. I need to do a better job of getting everyone involved more with the monthly goals. One thing I have not done well in my transition from WoW to Warhammer is establish a well enough base of officers who can reliably push the momentum when I’m not around. I can’t be online every night of the week and there needs to be officers who are moving our goals forward.

Shaping Values and StandardsValues establish a company’s identity; they are about behavior. If the company is to win, these values must be connected to the meaningful outside and relevant to the present and the future. Standards are about expectations; they define what winning on the outside looks like.  They are best established by answering two important questions: Are we winning with those who matter most? Are we winning against the very best?

I have to admit that while I’ve always done an amazing job of shaping values and holding a high standard in our values, I have not done the best at holding people to high standards. Unfortunately there is always the constant struggle with a volunteer organization of pushing people too far or not far enough. Some people do need to be pushed to get the optimal performance out of them, but push them too far and they leave. A volunteer organization like a guild makes defining and holding people to standards very difficult.

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Apr 16 2009

Will & Skill

Published by at 12:06 am
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Andrew today shared a tidbit of leadership and motivation with the group. Not too sure other’s opinions of this kind of thing, maybe some people said it was “neat” just to humor Andrew, but of course I eat this kind of thing up.

The concept was looking at the individuals “Will” and relative “Skill” and take the appropriate approach to coaching them. It’s presented in am X/Y matrix, but can be explained just as simply in a list. Skill is just that, the skill and individual has at completing the task. Will is the level of self motivation the individual has at completing the task. Different people have different levels of skill and will for any given task. Some people might have HIGH will for doing very detail oriented work, but LOW will at doing very creative oriented work. So really I see this as not a catch all for all individuals, but needs to be evaluated on a case by case basis.

  • Direct people who have low skill and low will. By doing so, you show them a clear, direct path to success. This kind of coaching is almost on the level of teaching, but this approach will increase skill over time and with relative confidence that comes with the increased skill, their will can increase as well.
  • Excite people who have high skill and low will. By doing so, the aim is to increase their level of will to complete the task at hand through enthusiasm and other soft motivational techniques.
  • Guide people who have low skill and high will. These individuals seek to complete the task at hand, but need guidance on how to get there. You don’t need to completely direct them, but push them in the right direction and maybe even create barriers to help guide their success. Over time as they gain skills, they will need less guidance and that leads to…
  • Delegate people who have high skill and high will. These individuals not only are motivated to do the job, but can be trusted to get the task at hand done right with little to no supervision. Basically these individuals need to be empowered in every sense of the word and you need to support their efforts.

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Apr 15 2009

Understanding another’s thought process

Published by at 2:36 pm
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I’ve been taking a Virtual Leadership course with IHS and thought I’d include a few tidbits in my blog of different angles on how to effectively communicate. I know I struggle with this particular thing and sometimes I know others I communicate with who have a hard time with me as well. Maybe when I’m having a hard time talking with people maybe I can make sure to present them my thoughts in this mode to help them understand my point of view. Likewise I of course need to help people who are trying to communicate an idea to me to follow this process so I can effectively understand what they are trying to communicate to me.

In regards to my interactions with my boss, I think he very quickly skips steps 1 and 2 and immediately jumps into step 3 and 4 without taking the time to appropriately go through steps 1 and 2. This causes long drawn out spin out at times. I think it would be better for both me and him if we took the time to make sure that all the data is understood, how I interpret the data, the conclusions I’ve made, and what assumptions I’ve made. Then if I have holes then please test my assumptions, but don’t jump to that step. 

I’ll see what I can do to work with him on this process and see if it works better in regards to how he and I communicate.

All of us have at one time encountered the peer whose methods and thinking we didn’t understand. They mystify, frustrate and, on occasion, upset us. Rather than give up on him or her or try to glean their next move, you’ll find it more valuable to analyze their thinking process. In any particular coaching moment, start by trying to understand why the person has come to the conclusion they have. Ask them to:

  1. Describe the data and what it means. What’s the relevance of the data to them, to the industry, or to experts in the field?
  2. Explain their assumptions. Based on the data they’ve acquired, what assumptions have they made relative to the project? Why?
  3. Test their assumptions. What’s your impression of what they just said? Do these ideas seem reasonable to you? Are there additional assumptions to make? Encourage others to ask questions at this point.
  4. State your conclusions, and show your reasoning. Consider: Who and what will be affected? How will they be affected? Why did you come to this conclusion? How will it impact the company?

Remember that few people are used to defending their conclusions, and that these questions might make the person uncomfortable. Assure him or her that you are asking in order to better understand their thought process and provide additional perspective. As you continue to work together, start considering some alternative conclusions and possibilities — different ways of thinking outside both your normal realms. Another peer or someone else on the team may offer another perspective.

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Mar 27 2009

Getting HILYMI back up to speed

Published by at 11:47 pm
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Thanks to Michael being on board now, I’m feeling amazingly oddly relaxed and most of all I feed like I can focus on the guild for the first time in months.

I actually recruited 10 new recruits for HILYMI today. I tried a slightly new angle on my recruitment method and it seems to be working really well. I actually took the time to promote an officer and come up with a game plan on how to get the guild running back at full steam again. I’m absolutely amazed, I dunno, it just feels like magically things are just going really well. 

I think I might need to make some revisions to the HILYMI website. It seems enough people are getting confused with the forums that it might warrant some updates to the skin. Not really a big deal, just something needing to be look into. I also need to start producing some guild videos as well as updating the guild gallery. Maybe I can find the time this weekend to do some of that. 

Tonight we had 12 people online at one point. I really would love to see the guild over 20 online again. Once we start hitting over 20 consistently, every night, then I know we’re at a healthy guild number. It seems like a healthy number of about 20-25 will keep the guild from ever complaining that there’s “nothing” to do. We might certainly get close to 80 unique members with 40 or so alts, putting the guild around 120 characters. Of course the most I’ve managed in unique members was around 120. If we ever get that big again, I’ll have to make sure I have solid officers first. If we had that many we’d be able to fill over half a war band and probably a full war band on most nights. Of course regular PVE runs would be a given for sure. I think we can’t do it just with recruitment though. We need to focus on scheduling events.

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Mar 25 2009

Communicating Vision

Published by at 4:10 pm
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Back in January, I discussed with the team that we have a duty to define the scope of what we need to accomplish. I beat this drum and beat this drum and no one was really paying attention. I continued to beat it up to and including the environmental summit last week. Still we didn’t have a complete vision of what we wanted to accomplish. Monday I came in ready to define that.

Tim asked me to develop a slide deck talking about architecture as well as some details about how we can intersect data. Finally I was getting my chance to communicate the vision that I’ve been trying to communicate for the last two months. To add fuel to the ugency fire, on top of it, we were hoping to have a good presentation in response to some things written by a stock analyst who we are presenting to next week. What this guy was proposing is what we’ve been collectively saying for some time, which is we need one unified product for the Environment. 

So I got to work. Monday I drew up an architecture document and Tuesday night I wrote a 9 page architecture document. Today I’ve been busy communicating with everyone from individuals on the team to Don, Mark, Brian, everyone who would listen to get their buy-in on the vision. I think I have a sound group of people supporting the vision and Tim seems to like what I’ve come up with as well. Today we made some more refinements to the documentation including input from Michael.

Now that we have defined the scope of what we hope to accomplish. Now it’s up to Tim and Andrew to discuss it with their higher ups and get buy-in. Maybe they like it. Maybe they think we’re crazy. All I know is that our duty to define the scope of what we need to accomplish is done. Now it’s up to them to define when and who will do the work. If given the green light, then we have the exciting challenge to figure out how we’re going to make it happen (along with everything else on our respective plates).

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Feb 26 2009

Polishing Style

Published by at 11:33 pm
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Let’s face it. I’m opinionated guy. Although I’m opinionated, I’m not a stick in the mud and am MORE than willing to understand the view point of the other side and like to have honest discussions and come to equal understandings of the problem so that everyone involved comes to logical conclusions. So one can say that I do my share of persuading, asking of ideas, brainstorming in discussions, and in general always do so in a very enthusiastic way. My communication style is very unique and take an entire project management team and every single manager in the local office I work in and I’m the only person with my unique communication style. If you are at all familiar with DiSC, I was the only one at our office for example who was a high “i”. Because of my unique and generally unfamiliar communication style to others, I’m often perceived incorrectly by most until people get to know me and then they “get where I’m coming from”.

I’m also a very open and strait forward person. I don’t hide my opinions, right or wrong and love to share them, but am willing and welcoming to opposition to my opinions. The way I see it, how do I know that my opinions are wrong if I don’t share them and give someone else the opportunity to correct me? Equally so, if someone has something to gain like overall understanding of the problem thanks to my opinion, I like to share that information.

Unfortunately my unique form of communication style doesn’t mesh well with the fact that I’m younger than all of my peers and most of my colleagues in general. This last fact is something that sucks, but I’ve slowly come to accept over time and realize that while it sucks I do need to recognize that there is a certain level of age discrimination that exists and egos get in the way. I can’t fight it, so I need to just learn how to deal with it.

Fact is I’ve been described as overwhelmingly enthusiastic, intimidating, overly opinionated, cocky, pontificating, and a myriad of other terms. Am I truly this way or is honestly true that I’m being perceived incorrectly? Maybe I am… maybe I’m just being perceived as such. Maybe it’s as simple as some words I use on the phone that without simple gestures and body language leave others to fill in the blanks. Regardless, there is an opportunity for improvement and something I need to adjust. The problem is identifying the exact item that is incorrect. I can’t identify the problem myself and am getting vague examples at best.

So here are some recommended reading for myself to get my mind on the right track and help me figure out what I’m doing wrong. It’s a big concern and something I really need to focus on improving.

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Feb 25 2009

A new regular reader

Published by at 5:32 pm
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So I found out today during a meeting with some of my peers that apprently my boss reads my blog. I didn’t tell him I had a blog… maybe I mentioned it in passing, I can’t remember. Who knows, maybe he was just curious and found me while searching for topics that I’ve blogged about, or maybe he knew I was a blogger, or someone slipped my URL to him. Either way it seems like Andrew is reading my blog now which is kinda good and kinda bad. I will continue to blog as I always have, not caring about who’s reading which might be bad sometimes, but in general I think that if he does read my blog he’ll have a better understanding of how I think and might be able to help coach me.

So Andrew… welcome to my brain. As I’m sure you’ve already noticed I’ve been blogging for a very long time, over 4 years now. Here is where I collect my thoughts and take things out of my mental reserves. Here is where I put my stresses to paper and let them sit and collect. Here is where I explore my deepest ideas about myself and work through my shortcomings, strengths, and weaknesses.

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Feb 24 2009

Value of process

Published by at 7:30 pm
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To expand upon yesterday’s blog post, TFS has really been a facilitator for me to help improve processes and be a leader in a way to help promote better process. I explained to Sue today how the bug triage and reporting processes worked, how bugs are put into a backlog, how they get assigned to an iteration when they are assigned to be fixed there, how related / linked tasks are created for bugs, and how testing tasks are linked to from the development task. We also talked about putting linked testing for hotfixes as tasks in future releases for regression testing to make sure the hotfix rolls properly into next major releases of the software.

I’ve always been a process oriented guy and promoted better process not to “control” things, but with process comes expected levels of efficiencies. In fact well designed process should only be a set of rules you expect people to follow and give them the freedom to no have to be “controlled” and micro managed. If you have proper good process, micro management isn’t necessary (unless you’re paranoid and don’t trust your people). With process, people don’t waste time reinventing the wheel all the time. Quality control goes up with process. Things don’t “fall off the cart” when there’s process. So many good things come from well designed and embraced process that you don’t get when you’re just flying by the seat of your pants all the time. Even Agile processes are… a process.

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Feb 04 2009

Anyone still reading?

Work has been seriously draining on my as I’ve moved into my role as manager of software development for ecoAsset Manager. Many things including learning more about the product to leadership training and in general getting more used to the big corporate processes and procedures of IHS. I’ve been really deeply involved in the migration of all of our code from the Mountain View office as well as Salt Lake City from their old source control onto TFS. On my product specifically, I’ve been doing a mix of prototyping different technology stacks including WCSF with MVP vs .Net MVC and LINQ to SQL vs LINQ to Entities.

Family and health have been ok, family more so than health. I’ve been really stressed out recently and that’s really affected my health a lot since Chron’s flare ups are more likely during times of stress. I’ve been learning how to deal with the stress better and started recently going to the chiropractor which has helped with shoulder and neck strains from stress.

While Warhammer has been fun, I really haven’t had nearly enough time to play it because when I get home I’m so tired / stressed out that I can’t think. The good news is that I love my new boss more and more every day which helps with my stress level. My team is really starting to come together and become more integrated and used to working with each other. Overall while things have been stressful and insane, I see them getting better and hope that things will improve over time.

NOTE: Posted some backdated blog posts which I kept in emails to myself.

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