2017 is the year

We believe that 2017 is going to be a big year for knowledge workers.

We have seen many teams become more flexible and innovative. Many of our larger clients are forming small yet highly effective teams.

Teams that are flexible and innovative require tools that support their unique needs. Get started now, iterate, improve and review later.

This is easier said than done. Teams are holding discussions about work in many different channels. And so often these ideas, work and initiatives don’t get off the ground because they are gone, lost or never got started.

If these teams have cross-team dependencies, they are inhibited quickly. Do we take on this new teams tasks without current tools? Limit the team to the same tools as others? What’s most important?

We believe that 2017 is the year this paralyzing cycle simply stops.

We believe that 2017 is the year we get to work without over-planning, over-thinking and the paralysis that inevitably ensues. Do employees dream of doing better? Often.

How often are your best teams highly productive?

We believe that 2017 is the year your team can plan, do, check and act without the confusion, fear and uncertainty they experience today.

We believe that 2017 is the last year you manage projects and tasks in your email.

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No bull KPI

There is one place where you can look to see what teams and employees value; their calendar.

When I have something I need to check EVERY week. I put a reminder on my calendar. When someone else is supposed to do something every day, I put a “check if” on my calendar.

This is done for a myriad of reasons.

Primarily to make sure it is done. If it’s on my calendar, it’s likely that the company image, brand or perception is influenced. And those things are my responsibility.

pexels-photo-28094
Where is their attention? That’s what they value.

Secondarily to make sure there is a deadline. If we don’t do it by a certain date, we see slippage of projects or other related goals.

Then there are other benefits like planning out-of-office coverage or letting my replacement know what’s important to do regularly. It can also be a great way to share with teams and leaders what is important and necessary to keep out company operational.

Let me provide a counterexample.

In order to maintain our business relationship with an analyst firm, we hold regular meetings (bi-weekly). Once it is off my calendar, I’m no longer making time for that relationship. 

So how do you do this?

At my company, we make a practice of sharing our calendars openly. Want to see the things they value? Simply scroll ahead a couple months and see what’s still there. 

Take the challenge:

Does your calendar show what you’re making time for? Share how you streamline everyday work by commenting below!

Lessons from a Scrum Master

I’ve been a ScrumMaster for 6 years and previously at a hospital and not Matterin product development. So I did a “scrum training” session a few months ago and that went really well. Next I worked to condense that session from 2.5 hour scrum training into 30 minutes, and again into 15 minutes.

So read it, and burn some time reading!

I’m Matt “Matter” Raykowski and I’m a Product Developer and “Level 37 JavaScript Sorcerer”. They call me “Matter” because we have a habit of collecting Matts (4) and Brians (4) in the office.

HockeyRinkI built a “hockey rink” in my back yard for my kids.

Okay – so what is agility?

Contrary to some people’s beliefs ‘agility’ is not a process. It is not something that can be condensed into a document, passed out to employees, and then expected to be followed to guaranteed success. It is a way of thinking. It is, and this is important, a culture.

So you might have thought oh no, he’s going to babble on about scrum.

Or ˈkänbän/.

Or some other post-it™ driven process or technique.

Okay, yes, we do use scrum at Kinetic. It’s wonderful. You should try it. You can use it for anything, not just software. Who knows what scrum is? Just in case you don’t it’s one of many agile methodologies, which includes XP (Extreme Programming), Kanban, and Lean Software Development.

But if agile isn’t a process, a framework, or some other finite set of rules I can impose upon my employees to ensure instant success… what is it? What good is it?

We value…

Value in statements on the right, value left more

  • Individuals and Interactions over Process and Tools
  • Working Software over Comprehensive Documentation
  • Customer Collaboration over Contract Negotiation
  • Responding to Change over Following a Plan

Who recognizes this? Agile Manifesto.

Well, that was boring. Right? If you want more, check out the agile manifesto. What is important is what motivates people. It is this: autonomy, mastery, and purpose. How on earth do the Four Core help with this? Well, let’s look at the culture here at Kinetic.

There’s a process in everything. This is how we plan, this is how we do deployments, this is how we do releases. But they’re not sticks used to keep us in line. Our Sonar and coverage reports are important tools but do not dictate how we develop the product. There’s a trust that we’re competent individuals, that we know how best to solve complicated problems. As a matter of fact that’s probably why we were hired in the first place. At Kinetic Data ceremonies are informal and used to collaborate and communicate.

We keep our process light so people solve problems right.

First the manifesto says “software” everywhere. It’s not just software. It’s “stuff” and “things”.

We care less and less about the spec we created over a year and a half ago on how our latest version was to be designed.

Our goal isn’t to deliver a software package designed to spec. Our goal is to provide working, quality software.

It won’t take long for you to develop against a spec before you realize that you totally forgot about something or that the concept is fundamentally flawed in some way. Being forced to make some horrible piece of software people are going to hate just because of ‘what the spec says’ makes me a sad person.

Plus, who wants to write all of that documentation knowing it’ll be totally irrelevant before the  project even ends?

Dogs, working together, cats… being cats.

So I’d rather look at this horrible feature and say, “hey, this is horrible, let’s do this differently.” Okay sure, there’s a legal contract regarding the Statement of Work and yadda yadda. But that doesn’t mean you hand us a piece of paper and we blindly implement it, even if we discover some new information that makes it clear it needs to be redesigned. Or worse, if you do. So let’s work together. It doesn’t need to be a battle, we’re a team, right?

Think bigger, not just within a real legal contract and real customers. Think of that spec document and a “contract” the same way. You have to develop a new financial forecasting report for the CFO and Controller, right? If the data available isn’t sufficient to write the report or realize that summary data isn’t all that useful? Don’t just power through it. Collaborate! Figure it out! We’re a team, right?

Okay so it all leads here, it’s all about plans and change I mean who here has had a project that went exactly as planned? We should plan, because it gives us a guideline, it gives us a purpose. But we have to acknowledge that the path to completion is littered with pitfalls.

It’s important not just to acknowledge that you need to respond to change but provide ways to do it. People need ways to express that there’s a problem. Timebox – break work down into cycles – plan for 2 weeks of work not 2 years of work. This means every 2 weeks you get a chance to say “hey, this isn’t working.” Provide constant feedback loops. And then actually do something about it. Change.

If I don’t love what I’m doing I’ll do it. But I don’t feel like I have a purpose then. I don’t have a vested interest in the success of it. Telling me I get, let’s just say, stock options if a product is successful won’t assuage the fact that I was forced to make a horrible product. Being allowed to try out new tools or technologies, new techniques for solving problems, to rethink and propose changes to the product, to have some level of freedom in my day-to-day development, to have a voice in the course and planning of the project. These are the things that make working at Kinetic an incredible experience. And a happy employee is a productive employee.

At Kinetic we’re “scrumbut” – but getting better. You see, Agile is iterative, adaptive, and timeboxed. And we apply that to our process as well as our work. At Kinetic we plan 2 weeks at a time. This gives everyone a good view into what’s happening. Plans change, we have a retrospective, and then we refactor. We have “daily” standup. It’s transparent and anyone can come and usually we have someone from each area. They’re problem solving sessions, I might find out that the bug I was working on was already solved by Ben.

Agile is also psychological. This is why we have Burndown Charts. It’s really nice to see that line go down, to feel like you’re making progress. We’ve involved in planning involvement and estimation. This really helps prevent burnout.

Finally we have a level of autonomy. John and Kelly say what you want, but we decide on how because, again, that’s what we were hired to do.

Trying is Everything

How are we going to solve this problem?

It’s impossible to know all the possible solutions to a given problem, and the more complex the problem, the more possible solutions there may be.

Nothing inspires me to grab my toolbox more than problems that need solving. How do you add solutions to your toolbox? How do you hone your skills in applying those tools?

This is why trying is everything.tools

Without the upfront work of experience and trying things, you may not know which tool is sharpest, or the best fit for problem.  In tech work this means trying lots of things, platforms, technologies and approaches to applying those technologies. It means talking to people who have tried lots of things and connecting to people who carry a bigger toolbox or sharpened tools.

Get involved in communities, join meetups focused on solutions and try everything!

Ready to try something new? Join our hackathon: http://developer.kineticdata.com/hackathon

How Come Our Culture Isn’t Better?

Week 3 in a three-part series about differentiation.
Hiring the right people. Have you seen this done well? If we accept that failure is inevitable, meaning you How Culturecan’t hire perfectly well %100 of the time, then how do you make sure you’re getting the right people to fill your needs?
That’s easy!
Are you accomplishing your goals? Are you exceeding them? These two questions capture the urgency and essence of how truly great companies look for ideas.
This desire for new ideas, a thirsty exploration and acceptance of ideas is something I’ve seen firsthand at only a couple organizations. If you find it, take note, for you are in the presence of something very great. A culture that begs for change is not something you can create overnight, and something that I suspect doesn’t scale.
In both cases, the culture of the organization was the first goal right at the beginning. If you have competing goals, and a different primary goal you will be quickly distracted with profit, product or performance and one of the millions of details of running a successful organization.

How Come There Are No New Ideas?

Week 2 in a three-part series about differentiation.
We don’t have time to innovate.Ideas and Listening
Everything’s already been tried.
We just aren’t a very innovative company.
Heard them all? Your team has. And the person who doesn’t hear, doesn’t recognize and doesn’t believe them is the employee that’s sure to be innovating. New ideas are everywhere. However, in some cultures, ideas must go into hiding for self preservation. Idea abuse is a real problem and can be recognized by the symptoms including cricket sounds when conference calls open up for questions, people hide their best ideas and people are used to hearing “no”.
Why is this?
What suggestion did your mail room employee just mention to his co-worker on the dock while taking in the daily barrage of Amazon boxes? What if their supervisor doesn’t listen? What if they do, but then their manager doesn’t? How can co-workers cut through the beauracracy quickly and prove ROI without being enabled?
The answer is that they can’t. Or if they can, they won’t.
Here’s the story.
An inspired and new employee has been mentioning new ideas to her boss for 3 years, one day a consultant came in and sold an idea to management. After a lengthy and expensive project, which failed, your new employee is livid. She even takes the time to analyze and report why the idea wouldn’t have provided value even if the project were successful. Yet her ideas go unnoticed, unrecognized by management and never realized by her coworkers.
This employee might muster up the courage to quit, or even look for a new position where their voice will be heard and valued. But maybe they won’t. Maybe they are the primary earner in their household and they can’t take a risk on a new job. In both of these cases this woman will keep quiet and do the minimum possible to complete her “duties as described”.
How can you break this cycle?
Some say new leaders are needed, some people think a feedback process might work. I usually go for something a bit more direct and impactful; transparency.
Your employees need love and care. People want to be heard, valued and rewarded. They want to be part of a team. Not just watching from the sidelines. So cut to the core, build systems of engagement that scale and stop silencing voices with process, approvals and hierarchy.
Next week: Culture as a measure for your ability to differentiate.

Three Key Takeaways from the 2016 State of IT Report

As 2015 winds down, IT leaders and their teams are looking at internal needs and external conditions in formulating plans and setting budget priorities for the coming year.

The recently released 2016 State of IT Report from Spiceworks provides a wealth of information about how IT teams are formulating plans for the year ahead.

The report covers IT budgets, spending and staffing plans; the trends and concerns keeping IT pros up at night; and a look forward at technology adoption trends.

Among the abundance of facts and stats presented, here are three noteworthy findings, along with additional observations.

IT pros will “need to keep doing more… with less.” (Here’s one strategy to help.)

One of the key top-level conclusions reported by Spiceworks is: “IT pros don’t expect their IT staff to increase in 2016, which means they’ll need to keep doing more… with less.”

How IT can do more with less

At the same time, more than half of IT organizations say “end-user need” is a key purchase driver.

Continue reading “Three Key Takeaways from the 2016 State of IT Report”

Where Data Security Fits in Two-Speed IT

“Where does security fit in bi-modal IT departments?” asks Mary K. Pratt on CSO Online. She explores the question with IT leaders from a handful of organizations, opening her discussion by noting:

“The bi-modal idea has its benefits and its pitfalls but the determination seems to come down to the size of the enterprise. In the mid to smaller companies, there is not the luxury of splitting the security group out into subgroups. In the bigger companies the question becomes where do the security folks belong.”

Though the CIOs she speaks to take different approaches to managing bi-modal or two-speed IT, they generally agree on two points:

where security fits in 2-speed IT1) It’s best to perform both speeds or modes of IT–innovation and operations–in one centralized group, rather than two separate teams where the innovators “throw things over the wall” to operations as applications are developed.

In this structure, the same individuals work on both innovation initiatives and day-to-day operations tasks, though overall a greater share of time is spent on operations, and employees vary in how much time they spend on each type of work.

2) Security has become so important, as cyber threats have multiplied, that it must be baked into new projects, not added later as an afterthought. Ultimately though, security “should sit in operations.”

Continue reading “Where Data Security Fits in Two-Speed IT”