It’s performance review time of year again! It’s hard enough to clear your head and objectively self-reflect on your own performance, let alone on the performance of others. For many of my team this was the first time that they’d been asked to provide 360 feedback on their peers, and so there was an extra level of discomfort. I recorded the following Loom video demonstrating the Situation, Behaviour, Impact (SBI) framework, in order to help them approach the feedback process and make their feedback more actionable. I hope it’s useful to others too.
Last week Liam invited me to participate in a webinar titled “Pivoting Product and Product teams through a Crisis”. It was a real honour to be invited, as the panel was made up of a number of great product leaders from Sydney. Mable in particular has seen some big swings in supply and demand, as well as winning a very exciting Department of Health contract.
If you’d like to view the webinar, please see this YouTube video:
We recently started moving toward Agile software development at work, and I was feeling a bit uncertain. The core reason for this uncertainty was that Agile is a developer-centric methodology and I didn’t understand how I fitted in as a Business Analyst, Project Manager and/or Product Manager.
Now I am a big fan of constant change, I just felt that developers were being given tasks that (despite being scoped user stories) still contained a large number of unknowns. I didn’t know if I trusted them to call me in when they got stuck, rather than finding the quickest route themselves. Additionally the roles of Project Manager, Product Manager and Development Manager were stepping on each other’s toes. Normally I am happy to write the requirements up front and then manage the project. Now there were no complete signed off requirements documents, project management was on a wall and the development team was in control. What am I meant to be doing? I am not someone who likes to sit back and wait to be called upon! I eventually found the following presentation, which was literally one of the only sources I can find about how Agile development management is meant to work:
Even though I am only just beginning with Agile I felt the presentation gave me a good sense of where I fit. What are your experiences in Agile management outside the development team?
How many companies clearly define their culture and HR policy in a public way? Jack Welch of GE famously held the view that the bottom 10% of the company should be fired every year, but in the days of labor shortages that would be frowned upon. That’s why it was refreshing for me to see this slideshow from Netflix. Have a read for yourself, although be warned it is quite long and detailed:
So what do I think? Firstly it is awesome that a company publishes this kind of presentation, everyone should be proud of who they work for and have no problems articulating that to the public. I don’t think there are many companies who are so upfront, open and honest about who they are (in many cases even being aware would be a great start).
In particular I liked:
- “adequate performance gets a generous severence package” – provocative but also highly motivating to myself at least. There is nothing better than being in a team where you know everyone cares as much as you do, and nothing worse than putting your heart into something that sits in someone’s “to do” list.
- Brilliant Jerks – the cost to teamwork is too high. I have had managers who make excuses for a brilliant jerk because they hate the thought of rehiring for a person that is currently letting them put their feet up.
- Rare Responsible Person – Doesn’t wait to be told what to do, Never feels “that’s not my job”. Everyone should pitch in, no-one should feel territorial. If I am struggling I will put my hand up and ask for advice, and I expect others to do the same and welcome my input.
- Value simplicity – No-one can manage lots of small products successfully. Focus on what works, and keep making it work even better.
- High Performance People make few errors – Hire well, trust your people to do their job. Don’t cotton wool bad people and have checks and balances to make sure they don’t do damage. That adds huge amounts of waste and overhead.
- Control through context– Managers should communicate a clear strategy and whatever happens within that strategy is up to the employee.
What did you get out of it? Does your company even have a policy or statement on culture?
Harvard Business Publishing summarised the 360-degree feedback data on over 11,000 leaders from a study completed by Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman. Here are the 10 most common leadership shortcomings, how many apply to you or your leader?
- Lack energy and enthusiasm
- Accept their own mediocre performance
- Lack clear vision and direction
- Have poor judgement
- Don’t collaborate
- Don’t follow the standards they set for others
- Resist new ideas
- Don’t learn from mistakes
- Lack interpersonal skills
- Fail to develop others
It is interesting to note that the most successful and least successful differed most significantly in their energy and enthusiasm. Can a good leader therefore be trained or are they born? I see some similarities to the concept of “culture comes from the top”. If the CEO demonstrates energy and enthusiasm this has a huge impact on their report’s motivation to follow, and this energy in turn cascades down the chain. Finally poor management is one of the top 10 reasons employees quit their job, so the consequences of bad leaders are serious.
- Do enough, no more (at least for this release!)
- Get it right, quickly – not necessarily the first time
- Build a firm foundation for growth
- Be able to add a steady stream of new features
- Delight your customers!
- Be better quality than anyone else (stability, ease of use, performance…)
- Scale gracefully
Of course trying to achieve these things in a competitive market is always going to be tricky. It does summarise how companies like Google execute well; get a Beta out, progressively update, scale and aim to be the best.