Category: Managing

Different roles in meetings

Spiritual IT–Words and Programs

spiritual_mindAt this end of year I would like to mix a little bit IT and some Christian teachings. It is not unusual, Donald Knuth on the book Things a Computer Scientist Rarely Talks About do an experience on the 3:16 versicle of the Bible.

Christian Bible talks about how God created the world using only His Words.

As humans, we use words too, of course, to talk, to transmit ideas and sometimes to change others behavior.

As IT People we develop programs with specific objectives that will run inside a computer.(or more)

If we create a metaphor and suppose we are like computers (in some way we are organic computers), we are somehow running code in our mind (in a different programming language in another paradigm). Code that can change itself or develop new code taking current statements. (Yes, this is possible now in several languages, like prolog, list, and even popular languages like C# where it is possible to “emit” code).

When we, as people, are talking to each other, we are “putting” code inside the other person, hoping it will change something inside him/her.

If she is a girl that we are trying to conquer, we create a program that will try to create a sense of good impression inside her, and try to hacker her in a way we touch the right place so she can start to be in love with us. There are books, tips, friends, all of it trying to teach us how to create a program like that.

A salesman tries to create programs to convince the others to accept his arguments, and buy his products. There are a lot of hacks about this, books, courses, seminars, etc., about hacking “persons” to force them to say yes!

Every day we are trying to hack the other person with our language.

Politicians are master hackers, with great programs, to hack several people at same time, with statements that can unify a group of people and push them to the same idea!

There are even NLP, the discipline that teaches to hack ourselves and hack the others! And, look to the name “Neuro-Linguistic Programming

You got the picture!

Moral of this

One of the most important things a person should be careful is the tongue in our mouth because it is the  keyboard that writes the program that will be inserted on the other person, and is capable of great and wonderful things and capable of really bad things, as we all know.

Every time you will be talking to someone, remember, you are inserting a program on the other person. Try to be constructive, something that brings value, and not something destructive, because there are people that have great security measures and knows how to defend from hacking, but others don’t, and this can be very destructive for their lives. Depressions, bad decisions, and others, very well know consequences of this.

Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark.” James 3:5

Have a great new year!

Office Games – The Leverage

leverageOffice games is a thing in all jobs. All the time, intentionally or not, it is something being played. If you are in a game, and you don’t know the rules or even that you are playing it, you will loose it for sure.

The most important think in every office games it’s the leverage. Many people think its fairness, but it’s not. Life isn’t fair, maybe the “time” will make it fair in the long term, but for the job, most of the times it’s too late.

People aren’t on the job to be fair, they are for their personal reasons, money, success, satisfaction, recognition, power, etc. If you are an obstacle for them, they will defend their goals as they can, and usually not being fair.

The excellent Netflix series “House of Cards” is an example of managing “leverage”. There is a passage from Frank Underwood, the master of creating leverage when he is talking with the president:

“Do I think she oversteps sometimes? Yes. Does she wrongly equate her advice with mine? Often. But the question that occurs to me is not about Linda. Let’s say you refuse her resignation if this gets out, and it could, won’t you be sending a signal to anyone who works for you that you can be leveraged? “

So, learn the game, learn the rules, play it!

Here some tips to get leverage:

  • Have something the other person needs
  • Have more authority.
  • Try to have a positive attitude
  • Try to be “cold”. Don’t be too emotional.
  • Have skills hard to be replaced
  • Have a good reputation
  • Try to have something that only you can provide
  • Build a network of empathy and cooperative attitude with the others.

Yes, these are things we all know from working, but are we developing them as much as we are developing our hard skills?

One of the definitions of Leverage
“The ability to influence a system, or an environment, in a way that multiplies the outcome of one’s efforts without a corresponding increase in the consumption of resources.” (from the BusinessDictionary)

Cross arms on professional photos – avoid

cross_arms

I love the body language “science”. It is worldwide accepted it represents about 55% of our communication language. Our silence is more loudly than our words!
There are several positions of the body from what we can infer with some confidence the intentions of a person. For instance, the direction of the feet is one of the most honest parts of our body. They always point our intentions. If someone is talking to you, but his/her feet is pointing in another direction, to the door, for example, you know your conversation should end. Or you want to participate in a conversation between a group of people, and start a talk but no one directs to you, they are just listening but they are not inviting you to the group. This is not infallible science, but most of the body language is spontaneous and automatic, so, when we do it is most certainly sincere unless you practice to control it.
LinkedIn has a lot of posts from human resources companies, where we can observe a lot of professional photos where people stand with crossed arms. I am not a specialist in body language, but from what I know about the subject, this position is associated with a barrier, where the person closes the contact, she/he says is not open to you, she/he is not invite you. Remember the kids, they always cross their arms when they want to silently saying “I don’t want to talk to anyone and don’t anyone near me!”.
I wanted to be sure of this, so I searched more specialized places about professional image related to body language.I was right, this position IS the position to avoid in professional photos. This position indicates closed defensive shield, sometimes anxiety, like you have something to hide, is it sometimes called negative body language. One of the main tasks of sales people is when a potential client has the arms crossed, giving him an object as a gift so he could be “open” to the talk.
You can try a more professional position, with a picture where the arms don’t appear on the photo, or if they appear, you should try to show them doing something related to work, like pointing to a board, writing, etc.
If you belong to human resources you should be aware of this. I think it is not the message you want to pass.

The culture of dummies

lemingThere is a kind of a popular trend saying for you to win you should lose a lot of times, that all the fails somehow lead you to success. Really? Do you fail to win? I love paradoxes, really, I love them, but I don’t agree with this. It’s like saying if you are in a dark place, you should go against the walls until you find the exit. With luck, you can find the doors, hitting the walls over and over again. This is the plan? I don’t think it is a good plan, a very hurtful one to follow. it makes me remember a game I played when I was young, “Lemmings”, these little creatures, they moved to all kind of obstacles until someone (the player) could guide them to the exit door.

It is normal to “fail” a few times, but only if it is a part of a strategic plan, where the outcome of some tactics didn’t reward us as we though they could, but this is not failing, it is fighting against the uncertainty. Failing is bad, makes us wish to quit the endeavor. But having a mindset about victory and became very upset because something didn’t go as we wanted, makes us trying to improve our strategy, without losing our focus on the goal.

Maybe this is just about semantics, but makes all the difference by saying someone should lose to win, against the mindset that he just have to improve until he wins. In the first case we are saying you are a loser but maybe with luck you can get it, on the second, we are saying, you have the right to fight for what you want, but revise your strategy and the tactics as necessary while you are using them. You are making the person feel he/she is already there, but should adapt better to the environment to keep going.

The true of all of this, is that a lot of people will really fail, there are no space for all the people to be the owners of big companies, managers, leaders or references in their fields. In the end, only some of them will reach the success. Some people will say they are the ones who never quitted (“besides the falls along the way”), I will admit that some of the credit was due to the persistence (of falling and get up again), but the luck, time, the right people at the right time, context, environment, friends, family, money, they had a lot of saying in the final outcome.

I am not trying to steal your dreams, or steal the motivation that leads your life, but I think each people just have to try to find what their natural qualities are, where they can be great, and try, in that space, to fight to be great, not hitting walls until finding the success but enjoying the ride of overcoming the obstacles of improvement, again, not the walls, just obstacles, where your natural skills can help you to overcome them, and the victory is almost certain.

First, find yourself, then find your happiness.

Argumentation tools – Concession

In a period of my life I worked for a big company, my job was at customers site doing some advanced product troubleshooting and configuration. Some customer employees always had this predisposition to gently degrading the image of the company products, referring the quantity and severity of bugs in them. At first I was upset by this, and I tried to defend with all arguments I knew, however, my manager told me to not do it that way. He told me to accept the critic from the customer, and telling them that they were right. Really? What? He said to me: First, the comments are true, you cannot say it is false, its a fact, if you defend this you are creating breaches in your character reputation (more about character in a future post). Second, after telling them this, they don’t have any more arguments to say, it is out of the way, now you could talk about the qualities of the product when compared with the other vendors products. You could focus your argument in the advantages over other products and why the customer chose our products and not the others. So, you conceded, for a while, the “advantage” to your audience, but then you get the upper hand, because the “bad quality” issue was already resolved and there is nothing more to talk about it! A kind of jujitsu in the language! It is like a sports game, you accept an attack from the other team just to open their defense, and then counter-attack.
You can apply this kind of tool to anything in your life. Usually a good salesman never say no to a customer, he hears the customer, accept his arguments (for a while) and then he counter-attacks with his sales tools, and it works quite well! “Yes, the car is expensive, but have you observed all you can get with that price?”
Another angle is, when someone is trying to win some kind of argumentation against you, and you know that its just something that he/she doesn’t really know well, just keep hearing and let them talk, concede the “advantage”, for a while, and you will see how they hang themselves in their own argument.
By curiosity, this tool was used by Gandhi (at least in the movie) when he cites the Christian Bible “If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.” (the argument is more extensive, but the idea is the same)
In chess, we call this a gambit, sacrificing something for future advantage.

Being a better architect – Developing for several markets

apple_microsoft_android

An architect should always be ready to increase is knowledge considering the actual market tendencies, because it is his job to present solutions to his customers, which are always considering solutions to decrease their costs using IT. With this vision, as an architect I am always pushing myself with new challenges and learning more and more. Since the beginning of the current year I have bought books, in subjects like IT, social behavior, strategy and soccer. I like to develop myself in different subjects in order to acquire other perspectives and expand my way of thinking. I believe it increases my creativity and give me thinking tools to handle challenging projects.

Two weeks ago, I decided to develop an application and publish it in different App Stores, I want to know the software production lifecycle in all these markets:

  • Android Play Store
  • Apple Store
  • Google Chrome Extension
  • Firefox Add On
  • Windows Metro
  • Windows Phone
  • (Maybe) Android Watch
  • (Maybe) Apple iWatch

The idea was to learn how these markets/stores work. What is to develop an application in different languages, different technologies and different paradigms.

After some analysis, I decided not to use popular developing frameworks, where your code once and they will produce code for the several markets. I wanted to use the native environment/language, Developing using HTML5/JavaScript is about design, not about acquiring some know how in each environment. I wanted to use the knowledge I already had in languages like Java, C#, JavaScript and HTML, XAML and little bit of Objective C, and maybe learn the new Swift Apple language.

At the end, my expectations are to be happy with the result. Knowing I have learned how to develop to the most important markets and be a better technical team leader, architect and have increased my know how to manage these kind of projects.

The process

I already started with this professional project/program. I have used a three step approach:

First, what kind of application to develop.

I have a lot of ideas for apps, so I chose one where I could develop more than one screen, should have some utility and a basis for increments and upgrades. For version 1.0, I just wanted to release it, not earning money or using traffic or Ads, just be in the market to get the know how about planning, developing and publishing it.

 

Second, decide the target markets/platforms.

I chose the six platforms/markets above, I believed they were the big ones.

Chrome and Firefox extensions are in the list to improve the knowledge in the browser arena, I think it is important for an architect having a little bit of knowledge in the user applications/tools we use daily. It helps understand the end user needs.

The “watch” items, lets see if I have time and energy. The issue with developing for several markets, it’s the management, not the developing.

 

Third, the order of development.

I started with the Chrome Extension, after researching how to develop one. It is simple, just HTML, JavaScript, and a manifest. Some screenshots and marketing images, and it is done. A good basis of know how for the future developments.

 

Next steps

I am now developing the windows version for Windows Phone and Windows Metro. I have already developed the Android App and Chrome Extension. You can follow all these apps on my blog at “Give Me Numbers – Apps”.

In future posts I will describe the process I have followed for each app. Including, at the end, a comparison between all technologies from the perspective of a developer/publisher and manager

In doubt, you almost certainly start to look around you

groups

We don’t realize how powerful some unconscious things we do in our life are. One of them is our decision process. How many times we don’t know what to do when taking some kind of decision and we just start to look around us, trying to find similar examples in other people, histories, and somehow unconscious, taking examples from books and movies (be careful with what you feed your memory, but that’s another subject).

This behavior is common to all people when deciding in a non-critical thinking mode. It is a very powerful weapon in a lot of different business contexts, and is used for persuasion, negotiation, and social contexts. Let’s see some examples:

– If you hear in a commercial situation that you probably must wait to buy something, most of times is not true, it is just to give you the idea that a lot of other people is buying the product, and the probability of influencing your decision is above average. Why? You are not sure about to buy it or not, but a lot of people is buying or doing it, so it should be a good thing, you think. It cannot be the case that everybody is wrong (well, sometimes they are)

– The kids. Almost every one of them, they take decisions considering what the others have. I have a daughter, I was a kid once, and I know it by experience. The kids don’t have enough data to create a reliable decision process, they are still building it. For the adults, the trick is to put them as “kids” or “zombies” first, question their decision process and then let this “doubt” arise.

– Announcing a product some weeks ahead and saying there is a big waiting queue. A variation of the first example above.

– “The response may take some time due to the increasing number of orders made”. You can see this in TV sales shows, some internet e-commerce web sites, etc… You will really feel confident about buying the product, after all, everybody is buying it!

– If you are an outsourcing company, you can try to explore this persuasion trick by “dropping” the idea to a customer in doubt about some expensive specialized resources that you are having a lot of requests from other customers for them. (I have observed this technique and other variants is some companies, I have worked with, with some success)

– If you are someone looking for a job, you can use it too. Don’t look too desperate or already available, try to drop the idea of other companies interested in you, but let the door open saying something that you value in the company you are trying to work with. (I know, it is not so simple, but it is a tool to use)

There is a lot to explore about this little persuasion trick, but my intention was just to let you a tool hoping you can avoid “bad decisions” and hoping too you can use it in your business. Hope it helps you!

A simple great argumentation tool to improve your work and professional environment

argument

When I finish my computer science course in university, after some time working in big companies, I realized that I was somehow prepared for the technical challenges, but I didn’t know how to work  socially in the companies. One thing is to know how doing the technical work, another is about working with people. And the issues, are always about people, how to influence, persuade, office games, power control games, silence wars, etc.. It’s a very different role than the technical one, but it is the one that makes you grow in the company. Even if you are a tech lover, you must get soft skills.

I am not trying to give a pessimistic vision of the work, actually I am working in a quite good work environment, but this is how these things are, because people like to grow in the company, they like to feel safe, but for that, they start a  “fight” with their colleagues, they try to know their intentions and act accordingly considering their own intentions (sometimes it’s not a conscious intention, it is just us: humans!). You can observe these moves around you if you try.

 

In this post I just want to give you a small piece of soft skills, improving your way of managing your verbal and written argumentation, in a way that will improve the quality of your arguments, in a constructive way, so the work and personal environment around you will be better. And when people feel good around you, it’s a good thing for you in every way.

There are a lot of argumentation tools (really a lot), but today I only want to write about one of my favorites: The Tense.

When you are in a conversation, or just hearing someone on a TV show or movie, the speech is always in one of 3 tenses:

–          Past

–          Present

–          Future

 

Obvious! But it tells you a lot, even without knowing what is being said! (It is a kind of nonverbal language in the verbal language)

Whey are they important?

Past Tense

A conversation in the past tense is always about blaming, forensic analysis, reporting things, telling about something that’s happened. You can observe this in movies or TV shows about criminals, police, investigation, or in divorce talks. Most of the argumentation, it’s about trying to find the guilty, blaming something, trying to conclude that something or someone did something, right or wrong, analyzing what has been done or happened, is was good or not,  it was finished or not.

When 2 people are arguing badly, you hear a lot about the past! If you are/were in a relationship you probably (very high) had conversations in this tense! “You did that! Not it was you! I was just”… And go on and on and on 😉

This kind of tense it is not constructive, avoid it. (Of course, this is not a rule, sometimes you have to talk in this tense, for instance, every day in my daily scrum meeting I have to talk about what I have done in the previous day, but not in an discussion about something to be cleared, where you want to be viewed as constructive)

NOTE: In the past tense you can win an argument, but: You don’t use argumentation to win but to persuade. You can win an argument, but you could lose your relationship, friend, reputation, job, etc. Try to persuade, lead someone to do what you want, and not doing it by force. You can win by force, but in the end you will lose. Be wise.

 

Present Tense

A conversation in the present tense doesn’t go anywhere, it is when you are talking about what is right or wrong, giving opinions or stating a fact. It tends to finish conversations, because you are not going to anywhere in the conversation, it is not open to discussion, it is just about facts. It is very used as a politician’s tool, to say the obvious but not giving any solution. Observe the people that talks in the present tense, if you analysis the content of their discourse, they will not present a solution to things, just stating facts and issues (usually coming from the past), however, during the discourse it gives the illusion to the audience they are talking about solutions (which is in the future tense).

You want to use this tense to stating facts about what are you doing, but try to add a future tense (see below) to improve the quality of your speech. Something like, I am doing this and will improve the quality of the final product, or build a good relationship with the customer, etc.

NOTE: However, it can be a great tool when used to “create” an extremely bad situation and propose some relief out of that situation to the audience by just using a transition from present to the future tense – it is used as a persuasive tool. Ex:“The water is very polluted, very bad for our children and our health, but there is a solution, with this water purifier machine, your body will be healthy from now on…” See: Present/Past (bad)->Future (good)! It works great for salesmen! You are welcome for the tip 😉

 

Future Tense

You should always try to argue in this tense. When you talk in the future, you bring options, choices, hope. You bring people into conversation, you make people think. You are showing that you are interested in the progress of your company, you are trying to value their future, you are really hearing about ideas because you ask things about it, you promote choices and hope, ignoring possible “blames” of the past, because there is nothing to do about it. You are the solution person, not the troubled person. You talk about growing, not guilty. You talk about future, not past.

You can observe this type of discourse in the people who are winners. “I am doing my best and I will keep working to improve myself”, “Yes, we can”, “I will work everyday to be the best…”, “Things will change, we will make the change together” – There is always a sense of future and hope in the messages. You can try to improve your discourse during the day be changing a little bit at a time.

NOTE: Be careful, however, with too much future, because the future aren’t facts, just choices, hope and desire, be careful if someone is always talking in the future but without any real solutions. In this case, ask how.

 

 Final notes

You can construct an argument considering transitions between the past, present and tenses, but always try to start from the past to the future, like: “We were in a bad situation without knowing what to do, now we are fighting it and with effort and your help, we can do this and thatwhat ideas can you propose?”. Probably you heard similar discourses with this pattern in the past and they seemed great!

This is not a formula and not by any means a complete course in the subject, there are other considerations in the points above, but I want to show how simple is to improve the quality of an environment only considering the tense in a conversation.

TIP: Don’t forget, you can use this knowledge as an argumentation tool to improve your soft skills, but you could and should use it too, to understand how and why someone is talking about something.

 

 

 

 

It is time to respect your professional colleagues

It is time to respect your professional colleague

I have been in the software industry for some years and I always see the same behavior over and over, lack of respect to professional colleagues, not the ones that are present in every day but the ones that are not there to defend themselves, who have developed the current version of the software and now are the excuse to the errors, bugs and problems that arise in the new team.

It is always the same behavior pattern:

A new team (or new developers) arrive to a company to continue the development of a software project, because there were some developers who changed their job and “accepted a new challenge” (well, they have gone to a better place! At least they hope!)

The new developers started to code and continue the previous work

They have difficulties, as we all have when we work in another’s code, because coding is somehow a creative process and each person has his own style, even when following code guidelines.

They want to impress the new bosses, so they will not want to show any weaknesses in their image

So, they blame the persons that aren’t there anymore

 

I will not say that the new developers aren’t right, but it is always the same path of behavior, and let me tell you, most of the times, and I am sure you will agree with me, the things aren’t right because the development context forced them to develop with those problems, like lack of time, bad management, no requirements, scope undefined, and so on. They have done the best with the tools and information they had at the time, and probably they left the project, not because they were bad professionals but because they get tired of the bad conditions, and so they “have accepted a new challenge”.

 

There are good developers and persons whose developing shouldn’t be included in their CV, and others who born to be developers: But there are great projects developed by bad developers and bad projects developed by skilled developers.

In the current days people rotate a lot between companies, so remember that after you leave the project the next guy will say the same thing about your work.

 

You shall respect your professional colleague as yourself.

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