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).

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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.

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Transparency into organizations

When I am put in charge of a project I normally start asking questions. I ask a lot of questions because the more I know the easier it is for me to understand what is expected the project to be. And sometimes the questions that I made seem to be not so much correlated with the project itself. This is typical of my style of doing things. I want to have clear in mind the full picture of the project, starting from the customer needs, the reasons for the request, the country where the product will be sold and so on. But I want to know more. I want to know the expectations of the customer, of the company management, of the potential customers and so on. Basically in mind I want to create the best picture as possible, like a Prezi presentation, a big picture where you can zoom in and see all the small details and even more. If you do not give me all the information I need, of course the result of my project will be less accurate, or let’s say, less effective.

The same is valid for all organizations in general. The more you know about the organization, the more efficient you could be in meeting the organization expectations, the more easily you will be integrated into the organization itself. Unfortunately I should say that in this case there is a big difference between the delivering of information for a technical project and the delivering of organization information in general.

In the case of a technical project when I ask questions the result is very simple – or I get the answer or I will not get the answer because the answer is still unknown (and sometimes is part of the project to find it out). In the case of information within organization, the situation is a little more “blurry” – sometimes you receive the answer, sometimes you will not because this information is “reserved”. Or even worst, sometimes it is better to don’t even ask questions on that subject.

All this comes to the tile of this post. The transparency into organizations. There is great post with title: “Transparency is the New Leadership Imperative” which speaks about the modern concept of leadership and transparency.

As I said before, if you want to be really effective and manage at best all the resources that you have you must know the full picture together with the small details. And your team and your employes are the most important resource that you have and should be put in the best possible condition to drive your company to the global competition. In order to do that the sharing of information between the organization, with no secrets and with complete transparency, is the key factor to be competitive. Of course the way that you deliver the information is very important and is the crucial factor for having excellent managers into the company.

The old style companies where the top level management knows the most, than the middle managers know less but have to report everything, and the low level employees know almost nothing is over. This model of business could still survive for a while. But in the nowadays society where there is an excess of information and the channels for delivering information are so diversified and easy to use the real challenge is not keep information for yourself but it is to be able to distribute the information as best as possible. An excellent manager today is not anymore the one with experience but is the one able to transfer experience, the one able to facilitate the delivering of information at all levels of the organization itself.

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.