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The Part-timer’s Dilemma

Posted by Sri Subramanian (@whosissri) on March 21, 2013

jobsIt struck me as I was talking to a dynamite woman, who has chosen to work part-time. She was looking for something that would be challenging and engaging, but not critical enough that deadlines loomed large on her. She was struggling to find it.

Truth? It does not exist.

If it is not critical, if it is not showstopper important, if things will chug along just fine without it, …  it is probably not engaging enough for someone of her capability and intellect.

What she needs is something engaging, something important, something critical – just in smaller chunks.

We are no longer paid for our time – we are paid for outcomes, and if our outcome is not important, it really does not matter how long or little we worked.

When you go part-time, lean in.

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It isn’t what you want that matters. Is it what they want?

Posted by Sri Subramanian (@whosissri) on August 14, 2012

A strange thought crossed my mind, as I read Patty Azzarello’s blog today.

Unlike what she says, it not what you measure that matters. [It does, but there is something else, which is important.]

What matters is, whether people in your eco-system – your sales people, your partners, your customer service, you engineers working on your product or on product fixes, people who make your web page, people who create your whole product – get it?

BMW measures satisfaction. However, no one in the eco-system that Patty encountered – the service guy, his manager, the sales guy,  the person taking the survey – got what good customer service meant, or why they should practice it. By contrast, everyone at Zappos seems to get it.

It is not enough if you tell what you want people to do. Do you emphasize it? Do you value it? Do you notice and thank people when you see it? Do you make people feel good about it? Do you live it? If not, they probably don’t get it. And consequently, they don’t do it.

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The future matters

Posted by Sri Subramanian (@whosissri) on August 3, 2012

Siri was how I justified upgrading my iPhone. I haven’t used Siri once since I upgraded.

I have never regretted my purchase, and will gladly recommend my phone to others. I use it to chat, text, check email, find directions, take pics and videos, and check the weather.

I also know that I would not have upgraded as gladly for any of the new features I actually benefit from : ability to shoot videos and speed/performance on everything else. I expected those to work without having to pay more.

I bought the vision of Siri, not the features of the iPhone (which I now got for free).

Tell your workforce, your customers, your partners where you are taking them, not just what you are offering right now.

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What is your differentiation?

Posted by Sri Subramanian (@whosissri) on July 12, 2012

We are a bit like products. Our services are bought, in various form factors (consultant, contractor, entrepreneur, …), and there are various distribution channels (network, recruiters, social, referrals, …). Just like products, we each have a market, and some differentiation that makes us uniquely valuable.

I have worked with  enterprise software, appliances, and SaaS products. I have worked in tiny startups, behemoth companies, and everywhere in between. I have moved functional departments more than once. I have lived and worked abroad.

I like to do different things, because it forces me to see things through a different lens. I feel that I get the three dimensional view that I cannot, otherwise.

I start with no perceived advantage. Yet, I always add more value than initially seems possible.

I am often hired for some past experience. I have succeeded,  not due to that experience, but due to my ability to bring a different lens to the task. My differentiation is that I the first thing I see below is not rectangles, but circles. Sixteen, to be precise.

What is your differentiation?

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Part 2: Having trouble with execution?

Posted by Sri Subramanian (@whosissri) on July 1, 2012

In Part 1, I talked about the need for engagement, especially when faced with a daunting task. In part 2, I address a different aspect of execution: decision making capability. Execution happens down in the trenches, with every small decision that moves the customer value and/or cost up or down.

The customer buys not just the product, but the roadmap, the services, the quality, the support, the distribution channel, the documentation, the customer’s image, the risk, the compatibility matrix, and various other aspects surrounding the product. Every functional department delivers a piece of this puzzle, and typically knows only that piece. Decisions are understandably made to only optimize what is known, and often turn out to be poor decisions for the customer.

Do all departments understand the complete picture, or just a part of the puzzle?

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Having trouble with execution?

Posted by Sri Subramanian (@whosissri) on March 3, 2012

It is always so wonderful in the beginning. We have the perfect vision of what we can achieve, and we are raring to go. Then, we get to the middle, and we can only see the dry, boring hard work, the compromises that sully our vision, and our energy wanes. We are taught to keep at it, and stay determined.

Unfortunately, big goals are not accomplished by gritting our teeth, and working through the middle. Big goals are accomplished by keeping the passion alive. The key is learning to finish midway, so you can start often.

A good singer knows to complete each musical phrase.

A good comedian knows to deliver each punch line.

A good dancer knows to end each spin, face to the audience, so she can start the next.

Are you focused on finishing your turn, or finishing your dance?

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Are you fighting for process compliance?

Posted by Sri Subramanian (@whosissri) on February 24, 2012

No one contests that traffic lights and source control systems save us from death and insanity, or that even the worst bug system is better than none. Yet, process has come to mean bureaucracy, a distraction, something to put up with, or (if it can be managed) ignore.

Why is it so hard for people to follow a simple process guideline, any why is the noblest of metrics is so hard to people to focus on?

In the meeting, the metric sounded good. 

Everyone knows you are tracking bug backlog, and they are measured on how well that is controlled. However, they are not convinced that fixing a bunch of low-hanging-fruit bugs to reduce the backlog is the best use of their time.

What we need is to connect the dots so people can see how what they do matters, not just to the metrics, but to the business.

Process simply herds us one way, like sheep or cattle, and the best of us don’t respond well to that. We want to know where we are going, and why we can’t take that shorter route sometimes.

Process is not the answer for all problems.

Your manager is responsible for delivering the new version of the product quickly to meet the market needs. Process says she needs to get your architect’s approval on her design. The architect is reviews the design and suggests changes that will change the ship time significantly. What ensues is meetings and much negotiation and back and forth. The manager does not want to slip schedule, and the architect does not want to compromise design. Time is lost, the product slips, and there is no time left to make the changes that would have made the product better. No one wins.

What we need is to focus on aligning the goals of the manager and architect to the business goals, so they can collaborate and make the tradeoffs needed during the design.

Conclusion: We do need to police process, but if we find ourselves fighting for compliance, we need to examine if process is really what is needed here (or are we using it as a band aid for some other problem) , and if it is needed, are we spending enough time evangelizing it?

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Why you need to state the obvious

Posted by Sri Subramanian (@whosissri) on December 13, 2011


Sometimes, if they don’t see what you see – it is only because they are focused on doing what you asked them to do. State the obvious, and your team will thank you for it.

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Tailor the role, not the person

Posted by Sri Subramanian (@whosissri) on December 2, 2011

There is no perfect person for a role. There is a perfect role for a person. Smart people know this, and make their role their own. They also play to other people’s strengths.

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When growth becomes a problem …

Posted by Sri Subramanian (@whosissri) on November 29, 2011

Often, whether we address scaling issues or not depends on: What is the cost of addressing it? How soon do we expect to hit the problem? What is the cost we will pay for not solving it now? Is that a cost we can afford better?

I remember, at an early stage start up, my manager dismissing a product performance flaw. “If we get a million hits a day, it will be a really good problem”. Sometimes, it is best to wait for something to become a problem.

Where we usually mess up is when we do address the scale problem. Product teams often only think of it as a product issue. Solving for a million hits is not just a product issue. It is a value delivery issue. It is about scaling support, scaling operations, scaling communication, scaling processes, scaling metrics. It is changing the way things work.

Are we thinking of our growth problems holistically?

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