Book Review: Motivating Employees

Employee motivation is an ever-present concern for most proactive managers.  Interestingly enough, motivation can come from both functional and dysfunctional sources.

I've seen employees motivated for many different reasons: recognition, financial incentive, empowerment, personal growth, tension release, fear, and finally there's that weird Lord of the Flies thing where employees get motivated together against another employee.

In their book, Motivating Employees, Anne Bruce and James S. Pepitone describe the most effective ways to motivate a team.  They describe the three C's which are vital to functionally motivating employees:

1. Collaboration: Be sure to involve employees in decisions and discussions where their efforts are involved.

2. Content: As they produce suggestions, act on those suggestions immediately.

3. Choice: Be sure to offer choices to your employees--even if you can predict what they will decide.

These three techniques actually empower your employees.   Involving employees in decisions that affect them, or the outcome of what they are working on produces a level of buy-in that is hard to match any other way.

Bruce and Pepitone continue with an examination of Theory-X and Theory-Y motivation and management styles.  These styles were originally presented in the 1960's by Douglas McGregor.

McGregor states that Theory-X managers proceed from the assumption that their employees are uninformed, lazy, and needy of high-structure.

Theory-Y managers, however, proceed from the assumption that their employees are qualified, intelligent, and capable of making proper decisions provided they are given proper goals, accountability, authority, and resources to accomplish their tasks.

Although Theory-X is the most effective approach during some situations, if you consider the amount of college-educated employees in the workforce today, it's easy to see how Theory-Y, if applied properly, yields much higher performance.

The authors continue with a formula for encouraging Entrepreneurial Thinking.   Their five-step formula is:

1. Explain the organization
2. Demonstrate how the organization operates and generates income
3. Help your employees understand the competition
4. Encourage intelligent risk-taking
5. Inspire innovative thinking

Another great idea the authors present is to link motivation to performance.  They suggest you develop a written-list of performance standards for meeting and exceeding the expectations you've agreed upon during collaborative sessions with them.

The authors talk about how important it is to weave fun into everything your organization does.   This may sound like a unusual suggestion at first, but the authors point out that there is a direct correlation between fun on the job and employee productivity, moral, creativity, satisfaction, and most importantly--retention.

The final few chapters in the book discuss de-motivating factors (or individuals), and how to deal with them.  There is also a good chapter on conducting effective employee-reviews.

Overall I recommend this book to any manager.   It's a great book to re-read every so oft r/>
Mike J. Berry
www.RedRockResearch.com

One or Two Day Tasks

Recently while coaching Agile to a large client in the Salt Lake City area one of the developers on one of the teams asked me why an Agile team should decompose features into one or two day units of work.  It seems, he said, the particular unit of work he was considering could not be broken down into anything smaller than 4 days.

This is a common question for groups first exposed to Agile.   Decomposing features into one or two day tasks can be challenging at first.  Here are several reasons why it is a good practice:

1. Breaking down features and large tasks into one or two day units of work forces the Agile team member to really understand the nature of the tasks.  Ambiguity is the enemy of success and large units of work really are ambiguous.

2. Smaller units of work limit the amount of risk that a particular task can adversely impact a schedule that was estimated incorrectly.

3. Decomposing work into many one or two day tasks gives the team member a win every one or two days.   They and their teammates will enjoy a sense of accomplishment more frequently, helping team morale.

4. Decomposing work in to one or two day tasks creates more transparency and precision so the team can account for completed work more accurately.  This many not be noticeable for one single work item but imagine the effect if the entire team kept work items at a non-decomposed level...too much ambiguity.

5.  Some teams I encounter hold stand-up meeting less frequently than daily.  This is a mistake.  Stand-up meetings should be held daily.  When I drill down and ask why, I typically hear that the team is reporting on the same work item the whole week.  Further questioning reveals they are not decomposing work into one or two day tasks.  When they start decomposing work into one or two day tasks then they have something new to report each day, and the stand-up meetings become more helpful.

Mike J. Berry Red Rock Research

CBAP and Agile Development

I attended an excellent presentation hosted by the Northern Utah PMI Chapter, featuring Mike Sandberg, Novell's Chief Business Analysts.  Mike spoke to a room of well over 200 folks about the CBAP certification.  This is the Certified Business Analysis Professional credential that us now coming of age.Mike talked about his own experience discovering the CBAP community and about the successes and issues involved with adopting the framework.

Specifically, Mike spoke about how the PMP and CBAP roles work together.  He talked about some challenges regarding turf and terminology that sometimes befall newer groups.

Someone in the audience asked Mike about how CBAP fits in with Agile.  Mike explained that this is a common question and that the business analyst would be most suited for the Agile Product Owner role. This se to make the most sense to me, and to the others present.

Mike J. Berry www.RedRockResearch.com

Agile Development Requires Documentation

I keep hearing horror stories from managers about how their teams that have adopted Agile Development insist there are no documented requirements necessary when using the Scrum framework.This is wrong.  

Scrum is intentionally quiet about software requirements so that groups can use what works best for them.

In our training seminars, we show groups practicing Agile how they can benefit from a high-level "strategic" use case model.  This strategic model, or High Level Analysis, is used to flush out the users, the needs of the users, and to expose any data flow components. This technique has proved quick and effective.

Mike J. Berry www.RedRockResearch.com

Whiteboards for Everyone

Do you like designing on whiteboards?  I do.   Colorful markers against a clean, white surface inspire all kinds of creativity and fun.

Recently I came across a great tip.  Instead of going to your local OfficeBOX superstore and paying $200 for a 4x8 whiteboard, just hit HomeDepot instead and get a $12 piece of showerboard.  It works just as good and if you need a smaller size they will cut it for you on site for no additional charge!  At that price, you can line your walls with thinking space.  

Mike J. Berry  www.RedRockResearch.com

Book Review: The Book of Five Rings

Recently, while attending the '09 Agile Roots conference in Salt Lake City, UT, Alistair Cockburn--the keynote speaker--referenced Miyamoto Musashi's 16th-century book called The Book of Five Rings.

I like Asian philosophy (and swords and such) so I picked up the book and read it.  The book was written in 1643 by an undefeated Japanese samurai master who was so effective he was rumoured to have spent the latter part of his career entering sword-fights purposely without a weapon.  Although meant as a battlefield manual, the book has gained popularity as a handbook for conducting business in the 21st century.

The book was translated into English by Thomas Cleary at some point and the edition I read was published in 2005.   Improperly named "The Book of Five Rings," the book is actually a compilation of five scrolls.

The Earth Scroll: Musashi talks about how a straight path levels the contours of the Earth and how various occupations provide life-improving principles.  He talks about observing patterns and learning from them.  Certainly a great primer for any business trying to get across the chasm.

The Water Scroll: Here Musashi talks about how water conforms to the shape of its container.  He suggests a separation of one's inward mind against it's outward posture, maintaining that one's control over one's mind must not be relinquished to outward circumstances.  He translates these philosophies into about 80 pages of sword fighting techniques.  An interesting modern parallel is found in Jim Collins book, Good to Great, where he talks about how the most successful companies are able to say 'No' and not be influenced by immediate but non-strategic opportunities.

The Fire Scroll: As with any book written by a 16th century samurai master, you'd expect a core discussion on combat strategy.   The fire scroll is full of combat strategies, positioning, and pre-emptive theory.  Very interesting.  Did anyone notice how Apple's announcement of the latest iPhone came about 1 day after the Palm Pre phone was officially launched--killing it's market blitz?  No coincidence there.

The Wind Scroll: The wind scroll contains a directive to study and be aware of your opponents techniques.  Translated into business speak, this means one should always study ones competitors.  Be aware of new offerings, partnerships, markets, etc. that they persue.  Emphasis is placed on observing rhythms and strategically harmonizing, or dis-harmonizing with them as appropriate.

Finally, The Emptiness Scroll:  This scroll discusses the value of escaping personal biases.  Emphasis is placed on not lingering on past situations and being able to adjust quickly to new scenarios.

Overall I found this book 'enlightening' to read.  If you like metaphors and inferences, or sword-fighting, then you will enjoy this book.

Mike J. Ber />www.RedRockResearch.com

Two Days with Alistair Cockburn

I recently attended an Agile Development Product Owner class taught by Alistair Cockburn.  The content was excellent.  He taught us about the proper perspectives an Agile Product Owner needs to successfully interact with the project sponsors, users, and the development team.Alistair Cockburn has authored several books on Agile Development, and is one of the original signers of the Agile Manifesto.I would describe Alistair's environment as squirrely and fun.  We built user-stories out of the Rumpelstiltskin and Cinderella stories (from the original Nicht fur Kinder European versions--full of violence and gore!)We also discussed the differences between Use Cases and User Stories.  I was happy to hear he prefers Use Cases, because so do I.All class attendees had already been through the Scrum Master course, so as we executed sprints for our product backlog, it was interesting to see how many attendees actually sought the sponsors/users feedback during the iterations--without being reminded.Overall it was an educational and enjoyable experience.

Mike J. Berry   www.RedRockResearch.com

How to Compute Defects Removed from Release Candidate Code

Recently someone on StackOverflow.com asked me to explain how to compute the defect removal rate for release candidate software.  There are two methods for producing this number and I teach both in several of my seminars, but I'll explain the simpler method in this post...

Lawrence Putnam presented this model in his 1992 Book titled Measures for Excellence.  His book reads more like a math text than a software development guide, and suffers from an unfortunate formula typo which has lead to widespread confusion about his models in the industry, but I will  explain his defect removal rate calculation process.  (I hired a math wizard to examine his data and correct the formula!)

1. For a typical project, code is produced at a rate which resembles a Rayleigh curve.  A Rayleigh curve looks like a bell curve with a long-tail.  See my ASCII graphics below:

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2. Error 'creation' typically happens in parallel and proportional to code creation.  So, you can think of errors created (or injected) into code as a smaller Rayleigh curve:

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where '|' represents code, and '+' represents errors

3. Therefore, as defects are found, their 'detection rate' will also follow a Rayleigh curve.  At some point your defect discovery rate will peak and then start to lesson.  This peak, or apex, is about 40% of the volume of a Rayleigh curve.

4. So, when your defect rate peaks and starts to diminish, factor the peak as 40% of all defects found, then use regression analysis to calculate how many defects are still in the code and not found yet.

By regression analysis I mean if you found 37 defects at the apex after three weeks of testing, you know two things:  37 = 40% of defects in code, so code contains ~ (37 * 100/40) = ~ 93 errors total, and your finding about 10.2 defects per week, so total testing time will be about 9 weeks.

Of course, this assumes complete code coverage and a constant rate esting.

Hope this is clear.

Mike J. Berry
www.RedRockResearch.com

25 Most Dangerous Information Security Programming Errors

Want to visit ground-zero for data security?  Experts from SANS, MITRE, SAFECode, EMC, Juniper, Microsoft, Nokia, SAP, Symantec, and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's National Cyber Security Division last week presented a listing of The Top 25 Most Dangerous (Information Security) Programming Errors.  Expect to see future government and big-money RFP's mandate these items be addressed.

Mike J. Berry www.RedRockResearch.com