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Debugging Communication Errors

Typemock,Debugging communication Error

I couldn’t sleep all night, thinking that on the last company meeting, when one of my employees complained that he can’t finish his tasks because of personal issues that he has with other employees,  I basically told him and the rest of the team to help each other and be a team, I was managing them instead of empowering them, and knew that the issue probably remains unresolved…

For the next meeting, I decided that no matter what I do, I will make sure that my team goes back to work after they resolved their issues themselves, empowered to continue working and achieving  their goals.

I started the meeting by asking each of them to bring up a personal issue that he has with another employee and to resolve it with the other on the spot. It was amazingly interesting to see how they raised the problems, and found the solution at the same time.

One of the employees complained that he requested help via email. He sent the email, but didn’t receive any answers. He needed certain people in the company to fill out part of a form, but none of them did. Nothing but a simple communication problem; they all got the email but didn’t understand the call for action. His way to resolve the matter was to sit with each one of the people involved personally and to fill the form together, that way he will make sure that they understand their share, and he will make sure that it’s done on time.

One of the developers complained about having troubles with managing his time.  I explained that this is not an interpersonal problem, and asked him questions which led him to realize that his lack of time is because he is always helping people. He can’t say no to anyone, and he doesn’t want to look bad or disappoint anyone, so he ends up making everybody happy by helping them, but having no time to do his own tasks. When he understood, it was a major breakthrough, and he realized that he will have to start saying no to people or at least to say I’m busy now I will help you later; I would love to follow and see if he would really do it…

It’s only two examples out of many. The amazing and inspiring part was to see how each one of them was empowered and found his own way to resolve his problem without being told or managed.

Last, out of the entire company there was one developer that claimed that he has no personal issues with anyone in the company. When I asked him if others has problems with him, he was confident that their answer would be no.

On the second round that we did, each one of the developers needed to share their successful interpersonal communications, almost everyone mentioned him.  I guess that it was as obvious to them as it was to him.

One of the more gratifying surprises from the exercise was hearing about the successful communication routes that have developed that I did not know about.  For example, two developers found the time and were sensitive enough to help a third that was in major distress.  They simply encouraged him, but it was exactly what he needed in order to get back on track.   Another developer thanked the sales team for providing him with relevant historical customer support information.  Yet another thanked a team member in marketing for helping him with the wording in an important email to customers.

By the end of the process, it was clear that the team understood the power of effective communication and they now had better tools to resolve interpersonal issues with team members independently.  And at Typemock we know – your result (read: code) is always better when you’re working with the right tools.

When you know immediately when something is wrong, you are able to fix it, and get an immediate indication that your code is correct without the involvement of the QA. In other words, exactly like the Manager that empowered his team to resolve their problems without his involvement and without managing them, the unit testing helping the developers’ resolve problems on the spot and avoid QA involvement.


Deciding without enough information

One of my biggest problems as a manager, is that I love information. Give me loads and loads of data and I am a happy man. This means that it is very hard for me to decide. I always look for more information.

I found out about this after reading The five temptations of a CEO, (I really liked the book, it is short and readable). My temptation was temptation #3:

The temptation to choose certainty over clarity

Many chief executives do not want to act until they are certain of the outcome.

This inactivity can be very detrimental to a company. The goal should be clear, not certain

I had to learn how to make choices even if I am not certain.

Lets take a look at the timeline of a decision:


The first stage is to start gathering data. In this stage everything is ok. The second stage is trying to make a decision. This stage is really frustrating as there is no data left to gather and we feel that we have to make a choice but just don’t know how. After some time we do choose, and once we really choose, we are not frustrated any more.

The point to understand here is that nothing happens in the frustration stage except being frustrated, we have to try and shorten that time to nothing.

Here is how I chose my scooter. I wanted a scooter, so my dilemma was, what scooter to choose. I talk to some friends, looked it up on the internet went to local shops and took some test rides. At this stage I have already gather all the data I needed. This stage was fun as I was learning.
The next stage was really bad, I had to make the choice. I went over the data I had again and again for 2 week, but nothing helped. I was really frustrated and the people around me where fed up with my indecision.

After 2 weeks, I just went to the shops again, took the bikes for another ride, and purchased the bike that I felt the best with. It was just a feeling, but I made a decision, it was great to have made the decision, I was happy again and now I have a new scooter to ride.

Remember, nothing happens in the confusion stage except being confused.


Time Management – Getting the Metrics

A good CEO should focus primarily on those things that move the company forward

I talked about time management and knowing where to spend your time. A few Typemockers have tried this and ran into a few issues.

Question: How do you get the metrics while using the Daily Goal Tracker.


The daily goal tracker has 7 lines of tasks, by each task there are 4 groups of 4 ticks – each representing 15 minutes.

Here is a simple method to get the metrics:

1. Write the 3 most important tasks in the first 3 lines.
2. Whenever an emerging tasks comes up – write the task on an empty line.
3. When you finished a task – check the 15 minute ticks. 

At the end of the day you will see how much time you spent on each task. (Power-Users can put a value per task and count how much value was added on that day)

Doing this the Typemockers found several things.

1. They spend most of their time on emerging tasks! Doing only 1 major task.

2. There is one tasks that everyone seems to have and it always gets its way into the list: it it called the ‘On-Going’ Task.

Don’t allow On-Going Tasks

In order to succeed, we don’t allow anyone to commit or write down – On Going tasks – these are black-super-nova-holes that swallow up time and resources- every tasks fits in them and this gives us an excuse for not doing the important stuff.

It is simple: Take the On-Going tasks and categorize them:

  • E-Mail
  • Recreation/Smoking
  • Lunch
  • Coaching others

This will allow you to see where you can become better.


Perfectionism is Fatal

During a discussion in the company someone bought imageup Perfectionism. I like this definition: Perfectionism may be the ultimate self-defeating behavior.

It is our job as a manager to create excellence in our team, but this might lead to perfectionism. Lets see the difference between the two.

Perfectionism Excellence
Can not make a mistake Must Do
  Must Make mistakes
  Must Fix the mistakes
  Must Grow

Perfectionism leads to ‘not doing’, we can’t make a mistake, so we can never finish the task. When ever we do something, we will make mistakes, so the task will always be 90% done, this leads to not doing anything apart from looking for excuses why the product is not perfect.

Excellence is about learning from our mistakes, but we have to do them in order to learn from them, it is from our mistakes that we grow. Excellence is the courage to make mistakes.
Good Enough is better than perfect.

Agile, lean and integrity management, help with the Doing and learning from mistakes. We have small iterations, we must deliver, we will make mistakes and learn how to fix them as fast as possible. We use unit tests to find our mistakes as fast as possible. This in the end leads to excellence.

To deal with perfectionism we have to go back to the basics and answer: What is the most valuable use of your time right now?

  1. What is your monthly goal? What are you giving up to reach this goal?
  2. What controllable actions do you need to do to reach that goal?
  3. Do you give your personal integrity word to do those actions?

Management for Geeks: Know where you spend your time

In a previous post I talked about managing myself which I believe mustimage be done before you manage others, if only for the sake of leadership

One of the task that I put on my weekly goals, was to find out where I was spending my time.
So I wrote next to each daily tasks, how long I spend on the task. Using David Seah Daily Goal Tracker I filled in the 15 minute boxes and summed them up at the end of the week.

What I found was astonishing:

  • I spent 2 hours a day on e-mails
  • My most effective hours are between 10-12
  • A few hours after lunch 3-4pm, I have the least effective hours (sometimes I found that at 4pm I didn’t do anything in the last hour)
  • I spent 55% of my time in management tasks. 
  • 40% of my time was in meetings.
  • I spend a small amount of time on unit testing and reviewing Typemock Isolator 

This data is priceless and helped me refocus my efforts dramatically. I stopped wasting time on e-mails, I put the difficult tasks in the morning, and I try to eat a lighter lunch ;-)


Management for Geeks: Managing myself

Typemock has been growing steadily since the company started and our customer base is growing.

At one point I found myself overwhelmed with the amount of tasks that I have to do. I have done some Time Management courses in the past so I searched the bookshelf for the old training books, I dusted them and reread the material.

I then looked for the best application to help me manage my time. I tried RememberTheMilk and Toodledo, but they didn’t really work. It was too easy to write a task and let it collect dust within the system. I wrote a task and during the day, higher priority tasks came through: Customer Support, A Bug in the payment system, A killer feature. These tasks just stayed on the list and the list turned into a large pile of tasks to do.

Now in Lean Management, A Pile of Taskshaving an inventory is a waste that needs to be eliminated. A pile of tasks to do is an inventory. When looking at the list, it is really hard to sort out which tasks I need to do today, and it is depressing to see the task list just growing in time. I worked for 18 hours and the list just got bigger.

I needed something that was always in front me with a small list of items that I can visualize on a daily basis that I am succeeding to progress

What I found was that going back to the basics of pen and paper made all the difference. I downloaded David Seah Weekly and Daily Goal Tracker. image These are amazing, I now write my weekly goals at the beginning of each week.

Every morning I write my daily goals – these are tasks I need to do that will help me achieve the weekly goals.

The best thing is that I can Tick-Off and Cross-Out the tasks that I have completed. This is a great feeling, especially if I manage to do ALL the tasks that I wrote and Added more tasks.

At the end of the day I go back to the weekly tasks and cross out the tasks that are finished. This is a amazing feeling, I can visualize how I am clearing my desk!

p.s. As a non conformist, I downloaded the PowerPoint version and added some tweaks myself.