Ignore this and digital projects fail

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There are many reasons for failure, which I will explore in posts later. But one thing stands out and cuts through all of them.

Human emotion.

Project leaders tend to think that digital will solve all their problems where as the business users ( staff who will be using new digital ways to serve the customers) are skeptical from day 0.

Will I lose my job?

Will I be replaced by a new young staff ?

Will I be seen as old school ?

Gosh, I need to learn so many things…

Though people don’t say these things openly, these doubts are circling their minds and hearts every time a digital project comes in. Are they to be blamed ? Absolutely not.

The problem lies with leaders who do not see it through to the end. I heard this from one of my friend, who knew of a leader who said below at the project initiation meeting.

“You will not lose your jobs. If someone goes home, I will also go home”

That is a leader who knows how to rally a team around a cause. It is so simple on the print, but takes so much preparation and empathy as a leader. One can fake it, but it is not sustainable.

On motivational speakers and training

motivation speaker

Motivational speakers are good, when your team is in low spirits.

Provided you have a good strategy, right team in place and enabling structures are executed.  But what happens when you have no sound strategy, mediocre teams in place and structures are crumbling.?

No dose of motivation can fix that, right?

But no, many leaders don’t get this. They outsource the hard stuff to a forever optimistic outsider. They sugar coat with hype and jargon. They say “all our futures are bright. But we need to gel together now.” Sounds like crap coming out of  from politician’s mouths, ain’t it ? Sadly many organisations are throwing one session motivational speakers to solve their big long enduring problems.

Like with many mediocre inefficient solution out there, motivational speakers are attractive. They give the sudden boost of steroids. We all feel good, until we feel the ‘same old’ the next day.

So what can we do about training ?

Training is way more important to outsource. There are areas you can outsource, but the core strategy and execution of training should never be outsourced. The senior management and unit heads should be leaders in real time. The problems of today are Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous. 

You need senior managers and unit heads to step up to be coaches and mentors. No HR department in the world can get real time assessment of individual training needs of an organisation. That’s why Netflix decentralised training function to unit heads. Netflix’s global reach is testament that their decentralised training plan is working. They publish more and more creative original content and expand their global reach month on month.

So does this mean motivational speaking has no place in the work place?

The answer is Yes and No.

Yes it does – Why do you think sports coaches give their pep talks at the start and intervals of a game? When you have done all game planning and trained hard for it, all you need is a grain of motivation from your leader to go out there and perform your best.

No, that motivation speech can do nothing – if you don’t have sound strategy, a great team and execution structures in place.

Let me know what you think. Appreciate if you can drop a comment below.

MVP

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Something interesting happened last week.

I was designing a new project with a friend. The project had much potential and I wanted to test the idea with 10 customers by building a minimum viable product (MVP) . The idea of a MVP is not to go in to full spec product, but putting your immediate effort to create a very basic version of the product, that would get the the thing done, for now.

I whatsapped my friend ” Hey, we need to have a MVP fast”

He replied “of course”

Then in the evening when we met I asked him, “so what is your MVP”

“errh..we need to find him or her from the team right?”

“What? I am asking you about Minimum Viable Product

“Oh, sorry, I thought you meant Most Valuable Player

(I have forgotten 2 things:

  1. That I should not use abbreviations, because you know, as you can see, it’s confusing.
  2. I also have forgotten that my friend is a basket ball fanatic. )

We had a very long laugh. The meeting was productive and we came up with a minimum viable product.

Then during this weekend when I reflected on this humorous coincidence, I figured there’s actually a connection between minimum viable product and most valuable player. 

Think about members in your team, workplace.

How many of them are capable of coming up with workable versions of what is needed. When others need 2 weeks, this person comes up with a solution in half a day ?

I bet you have met people like them in your companies and outside.

They are the most valuable players in your team who comes up with the minimum viable product. ( This is now becoming cliche: The MVP who comes up with MVP !! ) 

Seriously though, I have found in my career as a business consultant, these MVP’s have a hard time convincing their bosses they are good at what they do.

The reason is bosses are obsessed with crazy big ideas that take months to implement, and requires lot of resources, hoping that it would land them recognition from the board. Those big projects are of course needed for companies to grow , no doubt.

But the issue is in pursuit of those audacious goals, bosses have forgotten the value of their MVPs. These are the people who love a challenge and want the teams to succeed, not just him/her self. They take the brunt of the company and deliver. They rarely get appreciated. Yet their incremental improvements are the ones that hold the business together.

Why not you reflect on this in your weekend? Let me know your thoughts. Leave a comment below. Let’s find our MVPs and appreciate them.

 

 

5 ways to get recruited in tech industry

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I had a two hour conversation with a very senior CXO ( a tech wizard and a philosopher) of a world famous big Sri Lankan software company. Our major topic was why the gap between what employers want and what employees are looking for is widening, with special emphasis on the millennials. ( Ahhh….the eternal scapegoat for every HR issue in any company now 🙂 ) 

So, if you are a young person ( 18-24 age) looking for your first job, or an internship, here’s the formula for success revealed by our tech wizard and philosopher. ( No, there’s no guarantee of securing a job, unless you actually do these stuff.  Even when you do it, it has to be genuine and authentic)  

1. Volunteer for meet ups and tech events

These events are in abundance. Get in touch with the organisers and genuinely offer help. Do the hard stuff like carrying, cleaning and arranging stuff in the room. If you are good with interacting with people, be the front desk assistant. If you are good with public speaking, offer to be the emcee, moderator, facilitator or whatever the role that is there and no body wants to pick up.

2. Grab attention to your work.

If you do work above, attention is automatic. If you don’t love events, go and talk to HR people and say that you want to intern as a coder. Show that you are open to learn on the go and deliver in time. When you get the opportunity actually do what you said at the first place. Nothing spreads faster than your work.

3. Get recommended by industry seniors

If you do good stuff, you know it yourself. Don’t be ashamed to ask for a recommendation by your seniors. An old fashioned recommendation letter or better if it can find its way to your linked in profile recommendations. It’s a digital world, so should be your recommendations.

4. Do not just look for big famous tech companies.

This may be a shocker to you.

Do not just go after big and famous tech companies, because you know, everyone is applying there. Roughly companies get 100 CVs for every candidate they shortlist. So, you get my point right ?

Look for opportunities in government sector ( cough). What ? there are more than enough people in government sector, and they are collectively an inefficient machine, right ? NO. that is not the reason.

There are very limited number of tech professionals in government sector. So if you are good at tech, they are willing to recruit you. The experience will be immensely valuable for your career and you have the opportunity to serve your nation directly.

5. Build your credibility as a deliverer.

Nothing gets you places like your reputation. Work speaks much much louder and clearer than your words. Be hungry and be foolish ( as Mr.Jobs said). Learn new technology ( online learning is so cool) , do side projects, publish them in portals like GitHub. Get attention to your work. Update linked in profile.

Anything I missed ? Why not leave a comment. I will add to this list. 

 

 

Why not compare?

compare

If you want to engage someone at work (who works below their capacity and they are making the effort to improve) don’t compare them with someone else in your organisation. 

Absolutely do not compare them with people in some other organisation, or their practices. 

Ever wonder, why someone who have performed exceptionally well in one organisation, then goes to a new organisation to fail miserably ? 

This behaviour comes from our need to compare numbers: they are doing well, we are not. 

Humans are not numbers. With the advent of big data, managers want to tag everything to a number, because it makes decision making easier. 

Yet if you really want to develop people, learn to trust them and coach them.  

Invest your time to learn why they are working in your organisation ? 

What keeps them motivated ?

People stick with managers who gets them. 

I have seen people working happily at a lower salary for years. They love their manager. I have seen Managers who cannot keep their team members from leaving them, despite offering higher salaries. Yes, there are many reasons to switch places, but have you ever wondered what is the first thing that triggers people to look elsewhere ?

Outsourcing everything

There are things you cannot outsource. There are things that cannot be ‘Uber of this’ or ‘AirBnB of that’. As much as there are trends, we should not be enslaved to think that everything can be outsourced to cut cost or look sexy launching an app. There are many failure stories, that does not get your attention.

There’s so much of human touch needed in serving the customer now. Never been a time like this where products and services are sold in abundance, but customers want personal attention. This is a conundrum. Growth does not mean just achieving new numbers. Growth requires the expansion of your existing relationships with customers. When organizations outsource their core value areas for the sake of sanity and cost, brutal outcomes may happen.

For example: I was rudely surprised when I was treated badly by an insurance agent, when I needed their service the most. After 2 and half years of paying monthly premiums, here I was looking for the first service from them. The person had no regard for this. He treated me as one of those ( I understand there are bad customers ) crooked ones. I immediately got back to the sales person who sold me the policy. He understood. Patched things up. In insurance, what matters is that interaction the customer have once in a while. Those precious moments decide whether the customer would stay or not.

How to innovate over and over.

Most of us, when we hear about “innovation” tend to visualise staff retreats, having fun and been creative by expressing ideas. Then come up with that ‘aha’ moment, and go and work on it. Once in a year routine, may be twice a year.

Far from it. Innovation in reality is loads of hard work, an emotional drainage, and a creator of many awkward and uncomfortable moments. If not driven well, it can derail even the most honest intentions.

Right now, in this age, if the head of organization is not leading innovation process, nothing will happen differently. Discussions may happen, but changes won’t be there. From next week, it will be back to old stuff.

So, then what is the role of the leader? Instead of thinking I have to give the grand vision and inspire people to follow, a leader must co-create space that people on their own generate new ideas, test, get it right, fail, generate ideas again, repeat.

committed to succeed.

In interviews, a person with elite education and good grades will look more appealing than an average IQ person with a fierce determination to get things done.

Because it is hard to assess a person’s ability to execute -the person with education and interview winning skills gets the job.

A doers’ CV might not show qualities like good judgment, motivate people, delegate, follow up or excitement through getting things done. We may not see these during an interview either.

Only way to spot these qualities is by observing. That is the challenge.