Tag: management

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)

The explosion of outsourcing companies – Part 2

goldfish jumping out of the water

On the first part of this article, I introduced why is easy to create an outsourcing company. In this second part, I will approach how the crisis was a good thing to the creation of new outsourcing companies and an opportunity for others to grow.

The crisis brought some cleaning to the market. I remember a technique to make a company grow, where every year 10% of the employees are invited to quit and new ones are hired to occupy the places left empty. The idea, a little cold, is to remove people considered weak links, and bring new blood, fresh ideas and motivated people to the company. The idea is as good as any other, a bit cold for the human view but companies are not created for charity (well some of them are, but I hope with a different human management strategy).

This behavior happened to the companies, instead of employees. Small outsourcing companies, the bottom of the market, didn’t resist and they were bought by bigger ones or just closed the doors. Others were created, because it was easy (see the first part of this article), and occupied the place of the “fired” ones. The number of created companies was bigger than the number of the closed ones.

The main reason for the failure of some outsourcing companies was because the majority of its consultants were in a few big customers, that due to the crisis they had to dispense them to cut the costs. Now these outsourcing companies had dozens or hundreds of consultants returning to the main office without any customer to go. Some of them were invited to find another outsourcing company, others just saw an opportunity to open an outsourcing company, and a few stayed.

Other companies saw the crisis as an impulse to try new markets, outside their comfort zone, in other countries. They have created partnerships with international outsourcing companies or opened new international offices, and the crisis was just replaced with new needs for consultants. The consultants, they had to adapt, and even going against some of his family values, they started to accept international positions. They started to visit their family weekly, monthly, or they just moved to other countries with or without the family.

Some consultants and managers with no will to go to other countries saw here as interesting opportunity to open outsourcing companies. The big companies put their focus on outside markets and left the low-cost opportunities for other small companies. Sometimes, they just invite these companies to belong to their enterprise group, or they just buy these companies. This, I observe frequently.

Other mid-size companies, they didn’t try outside markets, consequently they only find small positions for the consultants, because the now international companies have a more strong brand in the outsourcing market.
Now the number of international outsourcing companies has grown, ironically because of the crisis, and the other ones, are fighting to survive in the local market, still in crisis. The weakest ones, they have a big challenge here, the low positions available on customers, make them loosing their best assets, to the big companies. They try to fight this, creating the concept of “cultural niches”, which I said before is not the solution, but it’s a way to go.

And a new explosion of small outsourcing companies is still happening, created by the free consultants, managers without a place after his consultants were fired, and others just taking the space left by the big companies that went international. Why? It is easy to create an outsourcing company.

The explosion of outsourcing companies – Part 1

consultants

In the last 20 years, there was a grow in the number of outsourcing companies, but in the last 5 years this number has increased substantially. Why? I think there are 3 main reasons I will discuss in these three part post. On the first part, I will show why this is an easy business to create. On the second part I will talk why the crisis was, ironically, a great thing for some of these companies, and on the part 3, for me the most important, the age of the consultants.

I would like to make this thing clear, I am not against outsourcing companies, they are necessary. In the time this post is written, I work in one of these companies. Computer market, for me, is the new construction business, and companies don’t need developers after the project is done, so it is easier to “rent” developers and delegate the responsibility to train (sometimes) and manage them in outsourcing companies.

Outsourcing companies are an easy business to create. To have a good durable company, you just need some money to handle the monthly gap between salaries and customers paying date (an outside investor/partner, for instance), someone to manage the resources and good sales people, usually called managers.

The blood of these companies, they aren’t the consultants. (I accept discordance at this point) but the CVs. They negotiate with customers with CVs. The consultants they are only needed when the probability of the customer wants the consultant be very high. Usually when they call you for a job interview, even if they have knowledge of your profile, they ask for your CV, unless you are a very useful resource, they will insist in a CV before the interview, strangely in their CV company layout. There are several ways to get CVs, the main ones are, having job descriptions from customers, and just put some “ghost” needs on the internet to get CVs from several IT areas, and consequently interviews.

It is necessary for customers know about the company, so the managers do this work and expect to follow with the customers on a regular basis or wait for them calling when they need some resource with a specific profile. This is the common cycle of development of a company.

Why is this an easy business to create? There are no materials, no stock, low risks. The major of companies appear as the result of some consultants or managers who have quit and started their own company because it is easy. They already know how this works! They already have contacts in customers, they already have colleagues or friends consultants and they bring some of them to the new company.

Probably it is not very discussed in public, but there are some mechanisms to try to avoid this leak in the system. In the job contracts, the outsourcing companies have clauses to forbid a consultant to have any kind of business with the customers, for as long as 6 months to 2 years. There are some “illegalities” here. First, at least in Portugal the Constitution has “the right to work” has something inviolable, for clear reasons, of course. So, these kind of clauses, are somehow against the worker rights. However, some companies started, and for me with some fair equilibrium to give something in return. Something like:

– After you quit the company, if the first 15 days after quitting, the company can forbid you, for 6 months, to work for the customer. But, it will give you in return 50-60% of average salary, for the 6 months. Even if you work in another place you will receive this money as a compensation and avoidance of the illegality.

– I have seen too, 10-20% for 1 year

– I have seen the inverse, for 1-2 year you can’t work in any of the customers, and if you go you can be punished some thousand euros plus more money the company could be losing from your moving.

I understand these restrictions in contracts. This is an easy business to create, and after some time in a customer I can easily open a company like this one and probably taking advantage of all the investment the outsourcing company had with me, and I just steal the customer and some consultants.

I call this an easy business, this doesn’t mean I think it is easy to have a company like this. I think with some grow it is very difficult to manage the consultants, their motivation, careers, make them stay even when other outsourcing companies have better projects or salaries. To avoid a big rotation of resources between companies, there is a current growing trend about the concept of culture in outsourcing companies. A way of the consultants to live the company as a family, or a great place to work. At the end of day the consultant works with a customer, and the company earns the money from the consultant in the customer, not “in the place to work”, so this culture is welcome, but I don’t think is the solution. That the reason on average a resourceful consultant stays for 1-2 years in an outsourcing company. It is not the only reason, but this is a theme I will discuss in future posts.

It is a tricky business having an outsourcing company, and somehow a very volatile business. I think it is the price to pay for an easy business to create, and with some irony because they try to restrict how themselves were created!

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.

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