Want to Achieve Superior Business Results? Focus on the Experience of Work

Workplace researchers conservatively claim we spend a third of our life working. Given that we’re living longer, I believe it’s closer to half our lives or more. And as we spend more time working, we’re beginning to understand the effects of bad management better. Gallup’s research finds that 70 percent of employees have a negative experience of work. Unfortunately, both Gallup and Hay Group in separate studies found that 70 percent of the experience of work is shaped by the manager. Oddly the percentages are the same, but the relationship between underperforming managers and business results cannot go unexamined. Continue reading “Want to Achieve Superior Business Results? Focus on the Experience of Work”

Alternatives for Agile and Lean Roadmapping: Part 1, Think in Feature Sets

Many teams and organizations try to create one-quarter roadmaps. Here are the problems I see:

  • Teams spend a ton of time estimating what they might do and then they select what will fit into a quarter. They feel or are asked to commit to all that work.
  • The product managers and project portfolio managers depend on the team finishing everything the team commits to. Too often, they use the team’s commitments to create external dates.

Continue reading “Alternatives for Agile and Lean Roadmapping: Part 1, Think in Feature Sets”

Insecure at Any Speed

In 1965, Ralph Nader became a household name with the publication of “Unsafe at Any Speed”, his pointed critique of the serious safety risks foisted upon consumers by the American automotive industry at the time. The oligarchs, ahem, leaders of this industry remained complacent with the delivery of their killing machines, emboldened further by an inept, if not corrupt, Federal Trade Commission. Companies were not held to account for their safety records, all of which were problematic. Because of this widespread lack of accountability, safety was not seen as a competitive advantage. And without fear of corporate downside, investments to address these risks were neither seen as prudent nor as a competitive advantage. Such is the state of some key aspects of application security today. Continue reading “Insecure at Any Speed”

How to create an agile organization

Rapid changes in competition, demand, technology, and regulations have made it more important than ever for organizations to be able to respond and adapt quickly. But according to a recent McKinsey Global Survey, organizational agility—the ability to quickly reconfigure strategy, structure, processes, people, and technology toward value-creating and value-protecting opportunities—is elusive for most.1 1. This definition of organizational agility was given to respondents when they began the survey and reflects McKinsey’s proprietary definition, which is distinct from how we define organizations with agile software-development processes. Throughout the report, we will use “agile transformations” to refer to transformations that focus on organizational agility. Continue reading “How to create an agile organization”

Walking Through a Definition of Ready

few weeks ago we looked at the Definition of Done, which describes the conditions which must be satisfied before a team’s deliverables can be considered fit for release. That’s the acid test of what “Done” ought to mean.

Can a team’s output actually be deployed into production and used immediately, or is any work still outstanding?

We saw that a team’s Definition of Done will often fall short of this essential standard, and “technical debt” will be incurred as a result. This debt reflects the fact that certain things still need doing, no matter how small or trivial they might be held to be. Additional work will need to be carried out before the increment under development is truly usable. Perhaps there might be further tweaks to be done, or optimizations, or tests, or integration work with the wider product. Any such technical debt will need to be tracked, managed, and “paid off” by completing the outstanding work so the increment is finally brought up to snuff. Continue reading “Walking Through a Definition of Ready”

Google Says These 5 Characteristics Can Make or Break a Successful Team

Google studied 180 teams through its Project Aristotle over two years. They were on a quest to find the common traits among the most successful ones. Going in, they assumed the best teams were comprised of the most skilled people. But that wasn’t the case. Instead, they found 5 core characteristics of high-performing teams:

  • Dependability
  • Structure and Clarity
  • Meaning
  • Impact
  • Psychological Safety

How can we incorporate these important characteristics into your team? Continue reading “Google Says These 5 Characteristics Can Make or Break a Successful Team”

How to Write Smarter User Stories for Product Design and Development

Most of you probably have some tried-and-true best practices that you lean on to formulate requirements and articulate what needs to be done.

In many cases, that may involve the creation of use cases and user stories. While both are valuable tools, neither go quite far enough in defining the problem and desired outcome. But as I think you’ll see, a very simple change in the user story format will profoundly impact the finished product. Continue reading “How to Write Smarter User Stories for Product Design and Development”

Continuous Delivery vs. Continuous Deployment: An Overview

Getting software updates to users quickly is paramount in today’s world. You know from your own phone, mobile, and computer usage that software updates for applications are a daily occurrence. We live in “internet time.” The ability to be quick and responsive with value to meet users’ needs can mean great success for a company, but the inability to do so could mean the death dive.

In order to survive in this world, you must be able to produce both swiftly and frequently. This is how you get ideas out fast and bring business value to customers. And, being able to do this requires agility. Working in the traditional Waterfall process of software delivery where there was a long drawn-out series of investigation, analysis, and planning doesn’t cut it anymore. Agile development allows you the framework that is critical to optimize planning, testing, and implementation. Agile development is a way to have faster cycle times, the goal being to achieve “internet time.”

Achieving Continuous Delivery and Continuous Deployment in the Solution Delivery Pipeline means your organization is nimble and can release updates to users in a responsive manner; these 2 phases in the pipeline are very important to the overall goal of fast, responsive deployments. However, sometimes there is confusion about what they are. In this article, we clarify the difference between Continuous Delivery and Continuous Deployment and describe how each fits into an Agile environment. Continue reading “Continuous Delivery vs. Continuous Deployment: An Overview”

The Problem with Saying “Don’t Bring Me Problems, Bring Me Solutions”

It’s time to retire the saying “Don’t bring me problems, bring me solutions.” Even though advocates of this approach believe it reduces whining, increases empowerment, helps employees manage up, and boosts careers, it’s fraught with challenges.

Not every problem has an easy solution. Tackling the complexity of most significant business issues can take a pool of talented people with diverse points of view. What’s more, according to Wharton professor Adam Grant, solution-only thinking creates “a culture of advocacy instead of one of inquiry,” where each person comes into the situation locked into their way of solving the problem and lobbies hard for that particular solution rather than considering multiple perspectives. Continue reading “The Problem with Saying “Don’t Bring Me Problems, Bring Me Solutions””

How can leaders help employees find meaning at work?

Leaders can’t rely on organizational mission statements to inspire employees. They have to help their people find inner purpose. One way is through action identification theory, exploring levels of meaning attached to any task. Another is through regular check-ins that help employees think about what they’re good at, what they enjoy, what makes them feel useful, what propels them forward, and how they relate to others. Continue reading “How can leaders help employees find meaning at work?”

Top 10 Books Every CTO Should Read

As a CTO in a rapidly evolving industry, the knowledge you had when you first entered the industry is no longer sufficient. In fact, the knowledge you had this time last year is already outdated.

But when you have a long list of responsibilities, a team to lead, and deadlines to hit, keeping up with the latest technological trends and ideas can be difficult — although it is your job to do exactly at.

Reading the right blogs and subscribing to the right newsletters will help, but those bite-sized nuggets of knowledge won’t keep you at the cutting edge of tech.

Regularly attending conferences and networking events is one way to go, but that strategy isn’t friendly to your schedule. A book on the other hand, can be moulded around even the most crammed calendar. To help you get the most out of your reading time, we’ve hand picked ten books we think every CTO should read.   Continue reading “Top 10 Books Every CTO Should Read”

Running UAT and Integration Tests During a VSTS Build

There are lots of small suggestions I’ve learned from experience when it is time to create a suite of integration / UAT test for your project. A UAT or integration test is a test that exercises the entire application, sometimes composed of several services that are collaborating to create the final result. The difference from UAT tests and Integration test, in my personal terminology, is that the UAT uses direct automation of User Interface, while integration tests can skip the UI and exercise the system directly from public API (REST, MSMQ Commands, etc). Continue reading “Running UAT and Integration Tests During a VSTS Build”

How to Set Goals That Will Turn an Average Team Into All-Stars

Whether we’re limiting the times we hit the snooze button, increasing our attendance at the gym or improving our work performance, setting goals is essential in order to generate change. Yet, goals don’t always work: According to Statistic Brain Research Institute, a mere 9.2 percent of participants the institute surveyed said they’d successfully achieved their New Year’s resolutions so far in 2017. Continue reading “How to Set Goals That Will Turn an Average Team Into All-Stars”

Help Employees Create Knowledge — Not Just Share It

Many leaders see organizational learning simply as sharing existing knowledge. This isn’t surprising given that this is the primary focus of educational institutions, training programs, and leadership development courses. It’s the “sage on the stage” model, in which an expert shares what they know with those who are assumed not to know it. These “best practices” are presumed to work in a variety of different contexts and situations. Continue reading “Help Employees Create Knowledge — Not Just Share It”