Archive for the ‘Workplace’ Category
So, George Osborne today announced that, in exchange for between £2,000 and £50,000 of shares, employees can relinquish some of the rights they have as employees. These rights are; claiming unfair dismissal, redundancy, time-off for training and flexible working. There’s also an extra right to relinquish for women, which is to give 16 weeks, instead of 8, notice when returning from maternity leave.
Essentially, what Mr Osborne is saying is that you can either be a) ejected from the company with no recourse or b) imprisoned at your company with no way out for some figure between £2,000 and £50,000.
I understand that this comes down to a matter of ‘shared-ownership’, meaning that, now you have these shares, it’s up to you to do the very best you can to make the company a success, afterall, if the company is a success, you’ll do well too. I also understand that this is voluntary for existing employees, but could become compulsory for new employees, should an employer choose to do it that way.
What I don’t understand is how on earth he thinks this is a good idea? Claiming unfair dismissal is what protects employees from the pointy-haired bosses who surround them. Redundancy, unless political or strategic, would indicate a company not doing so well (so, who would want shares?). Training is important if you want to retain, improve and increase the value of your staff and flexible working? What on earth does he mean?
For some shares, you get to give up the ability to work from 9 – 5:30, every day in the same office? What a marvellous idea! Let’s ignore the fact that people don’t all march to the same drum – folks aren’t productive when you want them to be, they’re not creative when the clock showing a specific time. Let’s ignore the fact that people have children, families, teeth, health and the multitude of other things that mean working 9 – 5.30 is difficult and a dumb idea. Further, we should force people into thinking that spending time in a particular location, between particular hours is a measure of how well they’re working. Let’s completely ignore the fact that by focussing on WHEN we are, we cannot focus on WHAT we do. Business should focus on results, not hours.
This new proposal from the CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER clearly shows that he has almost no idea how business works in the 21st century. Stop trying to apply old fashioned, often Taylorist views, on how you think businesses should be run and be forward-thinking, pragmatic and revolutionary in helping small- and medium-sized businesses achieve greatness.
I read a lot of blog posts, articles, papers and what-not on creating, maintaining and coaching teams. It’s the one thing that, for me, has no set formula. Each team is different, as they’re made from different individuals, each with their own set of morals, ethics and experiences that drive their behaviours. There is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ team guide, unfortunately.
So, what we’re left with is a miasma of different works, all decrying or promoting some way or other of how to form and maintain a team, how to help them become high-performing, how to retrospect, plan, work, play, love, eat, argue and play football together. None of them are right and, equally, none of them are really wrong. But the one thing I see frequently is suggestions, and often demands, that “if they don’t fit, you’re hiring wrong/replace them” and this is alarming.
The common theme I see is that, yes, there IS a formula for creating the winningest team and, if one of the members of the team you’re trying to engineer to stardom doesn’t fit your mould, then he’s out on his ear … hit the road jack, your awesome-coding-but-complete-lack-of-personal-skills ass is outta here!
Not everyone can be a rockstar, you need some roadies too.
Or maybe there’s the guy who just REALLY enjoys honking about with MySQL queries, doesn’t really give a rats ass about what the business does, but cares deeply about the quality of his code and making his queries elegant and fast.
Some of you may know the guy who get’s a real kick out of cutting HTML all day, taking the photoshop files from your rockstar, sweater-vest wearing, macciato drinking, fixie-bike riding designer and making a cross browser compliant, responsive and even working in IE.
These guys may not be the fastest, or the bloggiest, or the githubbiest, they may not even really get on that well with agile estimation, sprinting or ‘stakeholders’, but they’re rock solid and dependable.
Everyone has a place, even if they’re wearing a christmas sweater in June, they’re part of your team. Find a place for them, or, better yet, let them find their own place and do what they do best, even if it doesn’t align with your idea, or the internets’ idea, of what a perfect team is.
They tune the guitars and your rockstars play ‘em. That’s what a real team is.
Some of us inherit teams. We don’t have the luxury of hand picking the people we want to have. Maybe there just isn’t enough in the budget to fill your team with rockstars. Software gets written outside of Silicon Valley too!
This, for me, is the real notion of building a team. Not chucking money at a bunch of rockstars, but taking what you have, or building on a small budget and creating a live band – you need rockstars AND roadies if you want to wow your audience.
A had a text from a friend tonight, “They’re talking about you on the BBC!”, I was momentarily excited until I got the link to the audio from the Radio4 Today programme this morning, talking about working from home, it’s here http://news.bbc.co.uk/.
Apparently, 250 members of staff from a firm in China who worked from home were 12% more productive than the other 250 who worked from the office. The programme cites they study called Does Working From Home Work? A Chinese Experiment (Bloom et al, 2012). While the today programmed states a 12% increase, the study says there was a 13% increase; 9.5% for more minutes per shift and 3.5% as an increase in the volume of calls made due to a quieter working environment. However, one the nine month trial was over, the company rolled out WFH to the entire company, not everyone took the opportunity, some chose to come to work, about half those who were in the randomly selected working from home group and two thirds of the control group, those who worked from the office, chose to stay in the office. Interestingly, productivity went up more and Bloom et al state that, working from home as a modern working practise, along with the employee having a choice in how they work (which harks of Dan Pinks Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose piece), as a combination are very beneficial to overall productivity.
The experiment wasn’t ROWE though, the was a heavy focus on the amount of hours worked. In order to get some good measurements, they required those WFH to work specific times (9-5) as well as those in the office. As it was a call centre, measuring was fairly straight forward; they measure number of calls, notifications sent, corrections etc. The team leaders still dictated when the employee had to be in work as the experiment was only for four out of five days, with the team leader deciding on the day the worker had to come into the office. So, pretty far removed from ROWE, but still some good data on what it means to work from home.
ROWE in this context would be fairly simple to implement given the straightforward way they gathered and reported on the metrics.
However, the bottom line is – working from home is more productive … for the right kind of people (low performers generally chose to work in the office), but how much the culture of the Chinese and their existing working practises affected this outcome is pause for thought too. Working from home requires discipline, so this is where a focus on the results and how they can be measured is the most important thing about ROWE. If you know what you need to do and you’re going to be measured, it’s much easier for you to do the thing, knowing that that’s all that counts.
A best practice is a method or technique that has consistently shown results superior to those achieved with other means, and that is used as a benchmark. In addition, a “best” practice can evolve to become better as improvements are discovered. Best practice is considered by some as a business buzzword, used to describe the process of developing and following a standard way of doing things that multiple organizations can use.
This is my problem with ‘best practise’ – why is it called that? If it’s the ‘best’ way of doing things, why isn’t it just ‘practise’? Why do we have ‘good’ practise and ‘best’ practise? Would you use ‘good’ practise? Probably not, especially if there’s a better way of doing it, which is ‘best’ practise. So, if you’re only ever going to do ‘best’ practise, then it becomes ‘practise’, right? Then, if it’s just ‘practise’ then you wouldn’t refer to it that way, would you?
“How do you do stuff?”
“Oh, you know, with practise.”
I guess you can have ‘bad practise’, but then, that implies the opposite is ‘good practise’, which we just agreed you can’t have, didn’t we? Moreover, ‘developing and following a standard way of doing things that multiple organizations can use’ is silly, why would you do things the way other companies do things? This would just squash any chance of innovation; ‘That’s not best practise! Other companies aren’t doing that!’ dumb, dumb, dumb.
Let’s stop worrying about ‘best practise’ and just get on and make the way we do things better through regular reflection.
My loyal readers. I’m very, very sorry. I’ve totally neglected you of late (it’s been a month since my last post). A lot has happened in this time. Not including Christmas and New Year, some things have changed which have taken up large chunks of my time: I’m no longer an agile coach, I’ve been promoted to a Head of Development.
This is a great move for me, I’m doing much the same role, but I have bigger teeth and can affect greater positive change for the people in my teams. I already have good relationships with the people in my department and I spent my days coaching and teaching and nudging the guys into improving one way or another. Now, however, I have the ability to do it officially and sanction their individual and team growth in ways I couldn’t before (mostly because I don’t have to ask before I spend money… )
I want them to tell me how this department should function and I’ll make it happen. Already we’re pushing each other to create and achieve short-term goals for improvement and, while the rest of the company is having an appraisal and Personal Development Plan rolled upon them, I’m letting my team decide how they would like to be appraised themselves.
It’s an exciting time and I’m hoping that, with the department in charge of it’s own destiny, we can create some exceptional software, improve and grow quickly as both teams and individuals and, above all, delight our clients.
What does this mean for the blog? Nothing much, I still intend to blog about agile and frameworks, but you’ll probably see more management stuff, training, goals that kind of thing as it becomes more a part of my role. We’re also looking for a scrum master to head up a couple of the teams, so, if you’re looking for a permanent position as a new scrum master, then let me know. I’m looking for someone with a little experience, but who needs more and wants to learn.