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Posts from the ‘Skills and Professional Development’ Category

Software developers as commodities

Demand for software developers is unlikely to drop over coming years. I suspect the contrary is more likely to happen as demand for technology workers will continue to increase while North American universities produce less graduate developers.

That’s good news if you are a software developer as the demand is likely to continue exceeding the supply for many years. If you are on the market for a new job, your chances of finding another job are pretty good.

That’s also good news if you are an organization who offers software development services to customers. The trend showing that organizations are not staffing up to their full need and prefer to hire external temporary help (consultants) to complete their projects.

So all is well in this perfect world, right?

Well, it depends. If your goal is simply to get “a job” things are OK for you – send your resume to an organization that is recruiting and if you successfully go through the various steps of the recruiting process, you’re in. Congratulations! If at first you don’t succeed, try again a few more times and chances are you will get into one of the hiring organization.

If you are looking for interesting projects or projects inline with your personal goals and aspirations things might be more complicated. How do you ensure you are the one selected for that special project?

If you haven’t realized it yet, software developers are commodities. There simply isn’t much differentiation between software developers. I don’t mean to be disrespectful and as such, I won’t attempt to compare software developers to other commodities but the fact remains that there are very few ways to distinguish software developers.

In marketing, product differentiation is the process of distinguishing a product or offering from others, to make it more attractive to a particular target market. This involves differentiating it from competitors’ products as well as a firm’s own product offerings – Wikipedia.

The question that comes to mind is “What are you doing to stand out of the crowd?” and “What are your differentiating factors?”.

One differentiating factor that is slowly appearing in job descriptions is the requirement for “Agile software developers”. Although a step in the right direction, this is likely to mean very little in the near future as the definition of an agile software developer still needs to be agreed upon.

If you are part of an organization that offers software development services, what are your differentiating factors? Ours is simple, we offer immersion and highly performing software development teams that are ready to make a substantial impact from day 1.

What are your differentiating factors?

Martin Proulx (Analytical-Mind) to celebrate International Coaching Week with free leadership coaching

In celebration of International Coaching Week, February 6–12, 2011, I am pleased to offer as I did last year, 10 hours of leadership coaching.

See what Louis had to say about his coaching experience:

I contacted Martin to help me transitioning to a senior role in the banking industry. He always used appropriate questions to bring my reflection to the right point, allowing me to accelerate thoughts I could possibly have but on a much longer period of time. Martin is smart, clear and articulate and efficiently interfere with a minimum number of words to help in the evolution of the reflection. Our coaching sessions helped me to improve my management skills, and I would definitively recommend him!

Coaching is partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential. Coaches work with clients in many areas, including business, career, finance, health and relationships.

Image by seier+seierIf you ever wondered if a coach can help you achieve better results faster, I invite you to send me an email (martin[at]analytical-mind[dot]com) with the following information:

  • Description of the professional objective you are hoping to achieve.
  • Why you think a leadership coach could help you achieve your objective?
  • Why YOU should be selected?

I am donating 10 x 1-hour sessions to one leader who wishes to achieve a specific goal. The sessions will take place over the phone (skype) at the rate of 1 session per week. You have until Wednesday, February 16th to submit your profile and I will select the coachee on February 19th. I am confident you will enjoy the experience.

International Coaching Week (ICW) is a weeklong global celebration of the coaching profession held each February since 1999. ICW is a designated time for coaches and clients to educate the general public about the value of working with a professional coach and to acknowledge the results and progress made through the coaching process. During this extended commemoration, coaches around the world offer a variety of activities and pro bono services in their local communities to share what coaching has the ability to do. For more information about ICW, visit www.coachingweek.org.

The International Coach Federation is the leading global organization for coaches, with more than 16,000 members in more than 90 countries, dedicated to advancing the coaching profession by setting high ethical standards, providing independent certification, and building a worldwide network of credentialed coaches. The ICF is the only organization that awards a global credential which is currently held by over 5,700 coaches worldwide. For more information about the ICF, please visit our Web site at www.coachfederation.org.

The Carrot Principle – Using Recognition to Increase Team Performance

Increasing teams and departmental performance – isn’t this why most organizations adopt the Agile principles?

Although there might be other reasons, many of the organizations we work with aim to increase their teams’ performance. I recently read The Carrot Principle – How the Best Managers Use Recognition to Engage Their People, Retain Talent, and Accelerate Performance – to see how recognition may help increase teams’ performance.

While many organizations still believe an above average salary is enough to keep people motivated, salary alone is not a good motivator. As Daniel Pink described, above an acceptable base salary, salary no longer is a good motivator. As such, managers often look for alternate ways to keep their team motivated.

The fact is that money is not as powerful a reward as many people think. While pay and bonuses must be competitive to attract and retain talented employees, small amounts of cash – anything short of $1,000 – will never make the best rewards because they are so easily forgotten – The Carrot Principle.

Recognition is deemed an important source of motivation and is usually used to maintain a low employee turnover rate and, increase employees’ performance and business results. Many organizations who adopt Agile practices recognize that it is increasingly difficult to attract top talents and in order to remain competitive, they should focus on increasing the performance of their existing work force.

Engaged employees demonstrate: innovation and creativity, take personal responsibility to make things happen, desire to contribute to the success of the company and team, have an emotional bond to the organization and its mission and vision.

U.S. Department of Labor statistics show the number one reason people leave organization is that they “don’t feel appreciated” – The Carrot Principle.

The book relies on surveys done by HealthStream Research and supported by data from Towers and Perrin. Below are some of the conclusions derived from the data:

  • Companies that effectively recognize excellence enjoy an ROE (return on equity) three times higher than the return experienced by firms that do not;
  • Companies that effectively recognize excellence enjoy an ROA (return on assets) three times higher than the return experienced by firms that do not;
  • Companies in the highest quartile of recognition of excellence report an operating margin of 6.6 percent, while those in the lowest quartile report 1 percent.

The authors point out that to be impactfull recognition should be combined with what they call the basic four areas of leadership:

  1. Goal Setting: defining the purpose of a task and tying it to a desirable end result
  2. Communication: discussing issues and sharing useful information with employees, welcoming open discussions
  3. Trust: keeping his word and owning up to his mistakes, maintaining a high ethic and positively contributing to the reputation of the organization
  4. Accountability: ensuring people deliver on their commitments.

Recognition can take many forms but whatever it is, the best reward is always personal and tailored to employees interests and lifestyle, given by a manager who cares enought to find out what motivates each individual – The Carrot Principle.

Finally, the book presents four levels of recognition:

  • Day-to-Day recognition: low-cost but high touch recognition such as Thank You notes to encourage small steps leading toward success
  • Above-and-Beyond recognition: provide a structured way to reward significant achievments that support the company’s core values
    • Bronze: to recognize on-time above and beyond related to core values
    • SIlver: reward on-going above and beyond behaviors for consistently demonstrating company’s values
    • Gold: behaviors that produce bottom-line results
  • Career recognition: recognize people on the anniversary of their hire
  • Celebration and events: celebrate successful completion of key projects or new product launches.

I don’t believe in self-organized teams…

Image by Martin LaBar (going on hiatus)

Imagine my surprise when a candidate for an agile organizational coach role within our organization shared with me his perspective on this topic.

“Can you share with me your reasoning?”, I asked him intrigued.

The candidate went on to explain that people need direction and that people cannot self-organized without clear objectives and direction.

Indeed, I thought to myself. Who said people and teams shouldn’t be given clear objectives. On the contrary, in my opinion, clear goals are necessary for teams to organize otherwise you end up with a bunch of people who will try to find a reason, a purpose why they are all together – and their self-created goal may very well be different from what you had in mind in the first place.

Where I have a problem is that people associate self-organized teams with “abandoned teams” meaning you simply let the team figure it out – whatever “it” is.

In order to reach the level of autonomy they need to demonstrate extra-ordinary performance, teams need to reach the right level of maturity. Consequently, the manager’s leadership style is critical to achieve that objective. Within Pyxis, we often rely on the combination of the situational leadership and the group development stages to determine the proper level of involvement from the manager.

(Tuckman’s stages of group development, Situational leadership theory)

One of the way to achieve the right level of maturity is for agile managers to determine WHAT must be accomplished and let the team determine HOW it will be done – I already shared my opinion on this topic. Granted, things are more complex that I make them sound in this post but self-organization is indeed possible when the right environment is created for the team – including clear objectives – and it is then given the latitude to operate and determine how best to achieve the given goal.

If only managers would be willing to let go some of their (need to) control and trust the teams, a higher level of performance can be attained.

As you may have guessed, the candidate wasn’t called back for a second interview…

Self motivation – Alessia’s story

A few weeks ago I referred to Daniel Pink’s book (Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us) to show how autonomy, mastery, and purpose greatly impact people’s motivation and how we can use these dimensions to help in an Agile transition.

Today’s post is about Alessia and her painting.

Alessia is a happy 9 year old girl. She is self motivated when it comes to painting. She always:

  • gets up on time for her Saturday morning classes;
  • is anxious to go to her classes;
  • is learning quickly and
  • does very nice work.

If you have young children, you certainly already know how difficult it is to get them to do something they don’t want to do – pick up their clothes, get up on time, hang their towel after their shower, etc. But when kids are self-motivated, things are completely different. Don’t you find?

Grown-ups aren’t much different. When people are told to do things or are assigned tasks, the quality of the work can’t be as optimal as when THEY decide to do it. Not only isn’t the quality as good but the amount of energy required to deliver the task is much higher than if the individual wanted to do it in the first place.

Granted, relying on self-motivation requires people managers to come up with ways to make the tasks interesting or fun, or they can also rely on the concept of Autonomy (or self-organized teams) which is so strongly emphasized with Agile.

Needless to say, if kids can self-organize and be self-motivated, so can grown-ups. All they need is the right environment to do so.

I am proud of my daughter :)

Don’t worry Giordano, daddy will write a post about you too ;)

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