Track Results, not Effort in your Software Projects

Measuring effort, is not the same as measuring to meaningful results.

So what is a plan?  I work in the world of software development and plans are easy to build and hard to deliver on in most cases.  There are many reasons for this and these are the subject of many blogs, posts and articles.  Have at it.

Here is my newly simplified viewpoint.  It can’t be a plan if everyone hasn’t agreed it is possible.  Yes, everyone wants it faster cheaper (even free!).  But if even one person can’t actually deliver on their work, the plan and  corresponding schedules and resource commitments are at best a fantasy or fiction if your prefer.

In doing some background reading, I found this existed as a principle in Extreme Programming. No one even talks about it anymore that I can see. Maybe my viewpoint is limited.  While the concept of team involvement, estimation and working as a group collective towards an end exist still, this commitment concept was left behind.

People need to be able to commit to what they believe can happen and what they believe they can do.  This is commitment based planning.  They need to change their reference for how they give information to encompass all of their work, it doesn’t come for free.  But continuing the thought, I have been a magician who has committed to people that my teams can make magic happen.  Let’s just say it didn’t always work, and when it did it was because of my team not because of me.

Rather if every element of the plan is reasonable and can be committed to by everyone, isn’t that the best starting point?  Then once we start, we can work on optimization.  We can measure actual progress for completed items as opposed to effort and know our actual rather than perceived progress.

For example, a simple plan with 5 actual pieces of work is created.  If everyone knows they can make it and we measure only to actually completed pieces of work, not fuzzy milestones like ‘development complete’ but rather “Can we process a payment?”, then we can measure real progress for software development.

On the flip side, if we measure progress against process steps, no one actually has to “complete” anything.  They can make efforts and then pawn the rest off on someone else.  “Hey, I checked that in earlier this week.  I am done baby!”  Three critical errors later and weeks in QA cycle because of poor development it is clear, this person never really ‘completed’ anything other than a skeleton solution.  A factory model of software measured by process steps as opposed to actual work completed definitely creates this type of environment.

So look at your plans.  Are they based on what can actually be accomplished and did everyone get to sign up for what they believe in?  Are you measuring real progress against actually completed items or just effort to milestones?.

Which type of plan would you invest in if you ran the company?  Which type of plan management do you believe will make real verifiable progress?

Improve the Value of Your Attention

I recently wrote about attention as the currency of relationships.  What determines the perceived quality of our attention? How can we improve the value of our attention to family, friends, coworkers and clients? Make the most of the time we have together?

I think there are several dimensions to the quality of our attention.  The core of which came from some works by David Maister and company on defining trust from his book the Trusted Advisor.  I’ve modified and added to this equation.  The elements:

  • Credibility
  • Reliability
  • Character
  • Intimacy
  • Focus

In formula it would look like:

Quality of Attention = (Credibility + Reliability +Character + Intimacy)/Focus

Credibility is about whether or not we should even be in the conversation with someone.  I am rarely credible to strangers I meet through work, but if we are discussing something I am passionate about I quickly gain credibility.

Reliability is about doing what I said I would do and in deeper relationships I should anticipate and being to support people without being told.

Character is about proving your integrity over time, not about being interesting.

Intimacy is about being open like vulnerable trust.  In our personal lives this can be taken further than maybe in our business roles.

And Focus is about who you are focused on.  Are you focused on the other person?  That is positive.  Focus only on yourself and you undermine anything you do in the other categories.

Can you improve your relationships by paying a higher quality attention?

Attention is the Currency of Relationships

“Are you listening to me?” It’s a phrase I don’t like to hear because it means I am not paying attention.  What an interesting phrase paying attention.

We talk about how to get attention from customers and new mediums are creating new positions within companies like Chief Digital Officer. We think about monetizing our customers attention.  So many visits, viewers, uniques, and hours spent paying attention.

In relationship development from bonding with newborns to finding our special someone to rescuing a relationship it is about paying attention. We literally pay for attention in the business world.

But attention is really the currency of relationships.  We pay attention to people and it enriches our relationships.

The higher the perceived quality of attention the greater the value.   The more high quality (as perceived by the receiver) attention we give to someone the stronger our relationship becomes.

In fact we have always paid people for their attention.  I hire people to work with me because I want their attention to help me solve problems and to help my clients solve problems.  People buy art because of the attention the artist put into their product.  A high quality product is often because of the amount and “quality” of attention put into its development, construction, presentation and many other factors.  Our monetary currency is in many ways a to represent attention.

Think for a moment on how much of your attention you give to others?  Are some people willing to pay you for your attention at work?  Do people who really mean something to you get the attention from you they deserve?

When you look at your relationships are you paying enough attention to receive the attention you want in return?