Weekly achievements

I work in the technical department. One of the biggest problems of my department is that people inside the company in general have not a real understanding of what we are doing and on the problems we are facing. The exception is when something is not working or there is a problem that requires a technical solution. In that case everybody is looking at us waiting for the solution. Of course they do not have a clue on what the solution is but they understand clearly what are the implications of not having yet this solution, simply because it’s their problem and someone as to fix it as soon as possible.

The implications of all of this is that the point of contact between technical department and our customer (the rest of the company) is only in moments of crisis, pressure and in bad moments in general. Moreover, the same is happening inside the department. If you do your job and you are doing it well nobody is focusing on you and what you are doing. If you are doing the job in a sufficient way or with outstanding solutions is something that very few colleagues will realize, not even your boss. Of course when later a problem comes out because of a poor performance there is an ex-post evaluation of all your previous works (obviously with a bad attitude).

question mark_original

So, the problem is – how to have a good perception of what is going on in your department focusing more on the positive results than in the problems?

I have got an idea about this and I ask to everybody reading this post to share it, if you believe it is worth spreading it.

The idea is very simple, I have asked to the people working in my department to send me every Friday afternoon an e-mail with the subject “weekly achievements” (so will be easy to filter on your e-mail client). The content of the e-mail should be just few bullet points focused on the achievements that everybody has done during the week.

The results of this practice have been impressive in the results. The wonderful thing is that now people tells me why they are satisfied and for what reason. Basically I have understood much more about their capabilities, their problems, their concerns with the weekly achievements than asking directly what you are doing and how is going. The principle is very easy, everybody of us have a different perception of what it’s easy and what it’s difficult and according to that the sense of satisfaction is very dependent on the progress made and the results achieved more than on the final outcome itself. These facts have profound implications in terms of managing people. Not only you understand better your peers perspective on the task, but you could easily guess their difficulties, their preferences and their skills. It is true even the opposite. If there are no achievements to underline or they do not propose any convincing task to be satisfied of, probably it means that the job assigned it’s not stimulating at all and that the tasks to be performed are just routine jobs and the sense of initiative and satisfaction is really low (and probably final outcome will be just acceptable in the best case). Knowing exactly all these situations allows you as a manager to leverage on the people’s potential, you can better motivate them and at the same time you could help them to improve and to target new challenges with the right help at the right moment. You could adapt the tasks to the right people, you could assign the jobs stimulating the initiative of your employees and even make them improve the most boring tasks creating the right process of involvement and leveraging on their own creativity.

If you think that this is good idea, spread it, try to apply it and share your findings on this blog and on the web. I’m looking forward to know the potential improvements that a similar approach has on your particular situation.

achievement 1

Advertisements

The most critical moment of a project: the release

Creating something is an emotional thing. And as all the emotional things your feeling changes according to the outcome of what you are doing.

When you are involved in a project your personal feelings and emotions will follow always the same pattern.

  • The project definition phase: At the beginning, when you don’t know exactly what the project will be, there is excitement, happiness, good expectations and so on. But unfortunately all this positive emotions are there because you have not yet a clear idea of what the difficulties will be during the project and normally at the beginning you look mainly at positive things with positive expectations.
  • The project development: Then during the evolution of the project you will start facing the problems and you will realize that nothing is really easy. But because you are a professional, you have all the necessary tools to find the solution. Or at least you are suppose to have them. So all the hard work starts and small piece by small piece you continue with the project, sometimes at fast speed (and so you are happy), sometimes at low speed or very very low speed (and your mood is going down and down). Anyway, first or later you will fix all the issues that you find during the way and you are ready to approach to the deadline.
  • The project release: And here starts the most critical phase of the project: the release. The release is something that everybody tries to avoid. You start thinking back and you start feeling that your skills haven’t been good enough. You start realizing how many expectations are involved in the project. You feel also the pressure of the managers and even worst of the customers. And you don’t want to be blamed for something that is not working as expected. If you could only have more time. And because you are a professional, you see also a lot of potential improvements. So why not improve the product? Why don’t try to increase the performances now, before releasing the project? Why don’t gain more time?

If you have enough experience on what the release of a product or a project feeling is, then you can keep it as short as possible, or at least at the limits of the acceptable. If not, then a good manager could help you trough the process. As I said at the beginning is an emotional process. You need to don’t fall in love with your “creature” (the project) and you need to be guided to the release phase (to let him go). But in order to do that in the best possible way it is important that the people that is putting some pressure on you is aware of it and is able to understand you and help you in this process. If the pressure is a pure pressure from the customer and so on, then the result will be that you will feel even more uncomfortable and the release of your product will be arranged at the last minute leaving for sure some issues. But on the other side your supervisor should be able to understand when the deadline is over and force you to “let the project go”.

During all the project is important to stress the importance of the deadline (project release) and use it as a way to force you to take it seriously, to face all the problems in the best possible and professional way. But when the main problems are fixed then the project have to be released, all the documents completed and the production should start.

When you think back on what you have done and on the fact that a lot of your customers are buying the product that you have created, then you will feel satisfied because you have really been part of a creation process.

The signature that you put in the things that you make

I have the opportunity to work for a company which develops products. Developing or making products have a great impact on the feeling that you have when the product is available – you can touch it with your hands. It is not the same when you work in a company which is more focused in the services or in commerce.

Anyway despite the sector, business or industry, there is always something that you developed and that have involved you in the business of your company. Sometimes is something really tangible (an object) sometimes is something very creative (a design or a project) and sometimes is something very difficult to observe (your management style).

In any case, in all this processes you are involved in the creation of something, in the participation of  a project, in giving your contribution to a final result or simply in being involved in the decisions, strategies, supporting ideas or proposing new ones and so on. But all in all this is a kind of “creation process”.

The creation process is something that gives you the most satisfaction in your life – you have the feeling of being useful. And the most important thing that happens in this process is the fact that anything that you do has a kind of “signature” inside. It is the signature of your experience, the signature of your creativity, the signature of yourself.

Speaking about myself, I have worked with a lot of electronic designers, some of them are my colleagues, some of them are not colleagues anymore, some others are competitors (or I am the competitor). But if it happens to me to see a product designed by one of my colleagues, I’m immediately able to recognize the signature and contribution of all of them to the project. And this happens also for my designs. For example, recently I have been involved in a very brief analysis of a product of one of our competitors. And at the first glance I’ve been able to see my signature inside the device. Parts of the circuit were my ideas, my contributions and my efforts – they copied me.

In theory I should have been upset, but to be honest my first feeling was to be pleased. Or better, I was proud. I was proud to have inspired someone else. I was happy because my signature was inside this product too. If someone is copying you is because they believe that your work is good.

Sometimes we don’t realize how much we can influence the world around us and we forget the importance of our unique contribution to the projects where we are involved. We do things and we do not realize how much we are involved and how much we leave a signature in all of them.

My object for my future career is to be paid for the signature that I will be able to put on the things that I will do and for the signature that I will be able to leave in the people around me – my unique contribution to their professional and personal life project.