#prodmgmt Communication, MPP and Product Person Party Time!

theproductgroup_logo_200909_thumb752
SummitService-Logo2013-Final-LRG-WEB
balsamiq_logo2_thumb263333
sunshine_suites_logo
RymaLogoHighRes257_thumb5222

Thank you to everyone who made it to our latest roundtable meet-up of The Product Group at MTV Networks / Viacom, as well as to our other sponsors, SUMMIT, Balsamiq Studios, Sunshine Suites, and Ryma Technology Solutions.

IMG_2281 IMG_2282PANO_20131107_203110

TBPP2013_alt-abrv-114Submit your nomination for The Best Product Person of 2013!

Visit http://TheBestProductPerson.com today!
Nominate this year’s best and everyone wins!

Over the course of the night a few of the highlights were…

Featured Product: MPP
exploring the product, its challenges and successes, from API’s to competition
(thanks to Meghan Wright and Scott O’Neil)

Communication & Transparency
from co-working to color coding

The Product Group meet-ups are an opportunity for Product People (managers, strategists, marketers, etc.) to come together to meet, interact, and network in a roundtable setting. It’s awesome to meet fellow Product People in a laid-back, conversational gathering.

If you are a Product Person and are interested in having your product featured or participating as a featured guest expert at an upcoming meetup of The Product Group, contact me (or email at jhorn (a-t.) tpgblog DoT com).

I am looking forward to seeing everyone at our upcoming holiday party

The Product Person Holiday Party 2013!
Free Drinks, Networking & Food
Thursday, November 14th @ 7PM
RSVP Now!
 

Stay tuned for more announcements about December’s Featured Product, Moven.

tpj-logo-w_lkwAnd, don’t forget to check out our new job board exclusively dedicated to Product jobs!

Visit  http://TheProductJobs.com and happy hunting!

TPM-Short3-Logo4If you are interested in being a Product Mentor or seeking Product Management Mentorship…

Visit http://TheProductMentor.com and
Sign-up today!

Enjoy!

Jeremy Horn
The Product Guy

P.S. Interested in becoming a sponsor or host of The Product Group? contact me.

About these ads

World’s Best Programmer is… [w/ Communication]

anotherstar …to be announced at the end of this series.

unkown-person I am often asked what is it that I do that results in the programmers with whom I interact being so productive; what is it I do to get them motivated and to keep them motivated; and where can I find / who is the World’s Best Programmer.

Motivation

My answer is many fold and I provide a framework towards greater understanding in part 1.

The path to the motivated programmer, the happy programmer, is unique to each individual. There are, however, some general, instructional guides towards better understanding for all involved parties, and especially regarding those conditions that make for that highly motivated programmer.

Today, let’s take a deeper look at Communication.

Communication

You can’t get anything accomplished without good Communication. Everyone, from CEO to manager to the World’s Best Programmer, knows that. Many different professions and skill-sets come with their own special keywords, languages, and manners. Sometimes this difference could not be more obvious than when it is demonstrated between manager and programmer, even within the environment of World’s Best Programmer.

Inadequate or poor Communication leads to a programming environment characterized by …

Distrust,

Confusion, and

Paranoia.

These conditions, like a disease, will demotivate and crush the spirit and productivity of any programmer, from the good to even the World’s Best; and, like a disease, can fester and eat away at the core of any product, team, and organization. And, as is the nature of this illness, it is harder to correct once it takes root, since discovery would entail having good Communication.

Open

An open environment wherein people are comfortable expressing their thoughts, where they don’t feel ignored, is where the World’s Best Programmer is found. And, by open, I am not referring to an environment defined by shouting, or disorder. It is a structured environment, where teamwork flourishes, and authority is respected on par with the feedback, ideas, and other issues brought up and discussed, regardless of ‘rank.’ It is an environment within which the programmer is comfortable questioning, and suggesting alternatives, all the while expecting that his thought s will be respected. While they need not be accepted, they are at least considered.

Some exemplary steps and practices that can lead to this motivational, empowering environment are…

Passion. Having passion in one’s work is very important and can be very constructive for many individuals — nurturing friendly, healthy competition in many. However, passion should be carefully targeted in both good and bad situations. When passions are appropriately checked, when tone is stern, not angry, care taken for understanding technical complexities, fear and unease are reduced, or eliminated, enabling all to speak-out about problems before they get worse (or it is too late).

Leave. For some managers it is reflexive to just ‘let the programmers be.’ Such behavior is often the result of the discomfort associated with finding a common language and grasping necessary programmer concepts. For others, this behavior may come from the flawed logic that to ‘let the programmers be,’ steering clear of them, minimizing the Communication is a sign of trust and respect.

Simply put, for managers of this sentiment, leave your office; interact. Interaction breeds teamwork and understanding. Present an environment where business meetings are equally important as those meetings with programmers, always working towards establishing and enhancing community and commonality.

For example, perhaps once a day outside of the normal meetings or, perhaps on recurring dates and times (see Focus for more information), briefly walk around observing, learning, and Communicating.

Interest. It is important to not feign interest in the issues of programmers. Furthermore, as a manager of programmers, don’t simulate knowledge of programming topics and challenges – as is the inclination for too many.

When items are discussed with programmers, follow-up; if you don’t understand something, ask questions. Be patient, as it may be difficult to convey some concepts; but, through the demonstration of valuing the programmers’ thoughts, opinions, and insights, each individual will better understand the starting points of understanding for the respective parties and allow for the converging of minds.

Through the simple practice of demonstrating that you value the opinions of the programmers, through action demonstrating your interest in feedback from programmers, by following-up and being accessible (not forcing people to have to leave their programmer to ‘chase you down’) Communication is improved – paving the way for an ever greater number of open and frank conversations.

Squash any ethos of secrecy, demonstrate trust through inclusion and open Communication, and, in turn, you will provide the motivational drivers to propel your programmers to succeed, within which environment, too, can be found the World’s Best Programmer.

The Search Continues

In addition to…

Clarity, Organization & Focus
Communication

… and before this individual, World’s Best Programmer, is announced, the characteristics…

Inclusion
Challenge & Respect

… will be further explored and discussed in the subsequent articles of this multi-part series.

Subscribe now (click here) to make sure you don’t miss any part of this series highlighting many of the key driver’s of your team’s motivated programmers, nor the denouement of World’s Best Programmer, as well as other insightful posts from The Product Guy.

Enjoy!

Jeremy Horn
The Product Guy

Add to Social Bookmarks: Stumbleupon Del.ico.us Furl Reddit Magnolia Google Add to Mixx!

World’s Best Programmer is…

anotherstar …to be announced at the end of this series.

unkown-personI am often asked what is it that I do that results in the programmers with whom I interact being so productive; what is it I do to get them motivated and to keep them motivated; and where can I find / who is the World’s Best Programmer.

My answer is many fold…

Create an environment that values empowerment, self-worth and meaning. These are the pillars on which motivation and self-satisfaction in the workplace rest. Through an understanding of these pillars, and how they relate to, in this instance, programmers, one can then foster the conditions necessary in this search, as well as instrumental in providing an environment where programmers / developers can thrive.

A good programmer, just like anyone else within your organization, seeks these things. The challenge for many a manager (especially for the technically challenged) is relating to the individuals that make up their team, and understanding the underlying motivational drivers, from the programmer’s perspective.

Motivation

The path to the motivated programmer, the happy programmer, is unique to each individual. There are, however, some general, instructional guides towards better understanding for all involved parties, and especially regarding those conditions that make for that highly motivated programmer…

From Clarity to Focus

Clarity. Providing clear project requirements and goals.
Organization. Balancing the art and science, of programming, through structure.
Focus. Removing distractions and hurdles.

From Communication to Inclusion

Communication. Promoting openness, free flow of ideas and information, and teamwork.
Inclusion. Empowering throughout all aspects, from idea origination to release and support, from business facing to backend, of the product processes.

From Challenge to Respect

Challenge. Fostering growth, new learning, and meaning.
Respect. Establishing and fostering mutual credibility and understanding.

And More…

These all present a sound foundation to build and reflect upon, in search for the World’s Best Programmer! But, before this individual, World’s Best Programmer, is announced, the characteristics…

Clarity, Organization & Focus
Communication & Inclusion
Challenge & Resphttp://tpgblog.com/2009/04/14/worlds-best-programmer-respect/ect

… will be further explored and discussed in the subsequent articles of this multi-part series.

Subscribe now (click here) to make sure you don’t miss any part of this series highlighting many of the key driver’s of your team’s motivated programmers, nor the denouement of World’s Best Programmer, as well as other insightful posts from The Product Guy.

Enjoy!

Jeremy Horn
The Product Guy

Add to Social Bookmarks: Stumbleupon Del.ico.us Furl Reddit Magnolia Google Add to Mixx!

Facebook says Focus

facebook logo (Part 1 of 2) The new Facebook is coming. Facebook, the product that brought a whole new meaning to information and application overload, is about to release their new Facebook vision, one with focus.

After adjusting to (and it took a few days of frequent interaction) the re-worked and refined Facebook experience, 2 themes stood out above all others, namely..

  • Encouraging greater communications and sharing
  • Discouraging “excessive” application installation and usage

In Part 1 let’s…

Focus on Communicating

The new user experience is evident from the very moment of logging-in. Perhaps the very first thing that all users will now notice, and are driven to notice, is the new action area on their homepage.

1-home-primary-actions

Whenever a user returns to Facebook, they are brought to the homepage and, immediately presented with quick actions for communicating and sharing. This is a concept that is altogether absent from today’s currently available experience.

2-absent

Clicking on any of the options within this new action region jumps the user directly to their Profile page, with the prompt for the desired content automatically displayed. This is direct, quick & easy.

3-update-status

The Profile page, like the Home page, has also been revamped to encourage and facilitate communications and sharing of user generated content (UGC) – from status to links and photos, and more.

4-comment-too

The user’s attention is focused on the main component of the page, the Wall; which has been improved with rapidly applicable filters (all posts, my posts, other people’s posts) and easy to use settings.

5-wall-filter

6-settings

Facebook‘s next generation presents a revived and clear focus on communications. Much of this new functionality reverberates considerably with the capabilities inherent to newer services, most apparently, Twitter and Friendfeed. The new communications emphases will assuredly drive more people to the micro-exchanges of status and the like.

Interestingly, if this implementation had been Facebook‘s original implementation, maybe there would be no Twitter or Friendfeed. But this is not the case. This newer implementation, not yet the default for Facebook, did not come first. Twitter and Facebook (and other similar online products) fulfilled the need, filling the micro-communication and micro-sharing void that was present.

While the improvement in Facebook represents a very positive step forward, a very nice addition, Facebook is now following some well established alternatives. For these improved communications to maximize along the path of user experience, they will need to employ Modular Innovation. It will be a mistake if they choose to take the path of challenging the Twitters and Friendfeeds, instead of embracing them. Everyone will benefit from improved integration and 3rd-party data exchange capabilities. For example, allowing users and products 2-way integration and interaction, permitting the use of either Twitter (or Friendfeed) or Facebook to not just be able to import data, but also export and share data between the products, would provide a seamless online experience for the user, allowing the user to check for updates and post updates from either platform — benefiting both the fans and companies of Facebook and Twitter (and other products) while simultaneously strengthening the product-product and product-user relationships.

In Focus

More and more people, every day, are trying out the new Facebook, especially the new communications experience. Will the new product, the new Facebook, succeed in increasing user communication and interaction or will the result prove to be a blurry jumble of ideas?

Check back next week as we look further into the new Facebook, in the second part of this 2 part series about the new Facebook experience, and explore what these changes mean for the users, as well as everyone else, who use, experience and benefit from Facebook.

Enjoy!

Jeremy Horn
The Product Guy

Add to Social Bookmarks: Stumbleupon Del.ico.us Furl Reddit Magnolia Google Add to Mixx!

Real Virtual Office Challenges

netconnect Today, I want to inject some increased reality and a clearer picture of the challenges of creating and managing a successful Virtual Office before I paint too rosy a picture of the great gains that can result in the areas of cost and time, especially since it is more typical that a Virtual Office at the core of a company is the exception. It is equally important to understand the positive aspects of a Virtual Office, as well as its challenges.

…And take careful measure of the downsides.

Most notably, the undesirable component that company management compatibility needs to be critically assessed against and typically leads to the failed Virtual Office exercise involves the additional overhead that impacts every one of the Virtual Office processes. If the individual or management team is not honestly up to the challenge or unwilling or incapable of addressing the issues of overhead then DO NOT PROCEDE — this is the primary reason for incompatibility and failure of either or both the Virtual Office experiment and the company, itself.

Over-communicate and plan.

With many companies, and especially start-ups, workflow is often highly fluid and dynamic; there is often, at best, an idea of what is wanted, no plan, but a process of iterate, iterate, iterate. This is not a very compatible approach within a Virtual Office environment where there is extra time required per iteration, sending-waiting, also resulting in more difficult course corrections due to the distances and time between the parties. Yes, there are many tools and other aides to assist in minimizing this shortcoming, but they will only minimize it; nothing beats face-to-face, in-person, working together, pointing, cycling, doing.

To be successful the management and employees of a Virtual Office must actually go beyond the normal same-office expectation of communications – they must over-communicate. Solid communication and information flow have to be there to minimize the misunderstanding or assumption that, in a real office situation, could have been noticed typically by walking by or in casual chatter around the water cooler. In this area, there are great tools to help from IM, to video, to phone, to chatroom (a personal favorite of mine being campfire) and more to minimize communication breakdowns and keep the processes moving smoothly. But, again, when used perfectly they are only asymptotic to some productivity level near, and short of, that of a non-Virtual Office.

Part of the over-communication picture is the need for clear and concise planning. Again, as just mentioned, it is the goal to minimize the chance for misunderstanding or other communication breakdowns that could send a project on a misdirected spiral. When people are heads down for any duration of time you want to maximize their chance of success by providing the best planning and direction that the time available will allow. If the communications and information flow between the same individuals working side-by-side is strained, or just on par with the non-Virtual Office needs, then, those individuals, that company, does not have the right people and management in place for a successful Virtual Office at the core of their operations.

As part of the planning process additional steps, additional overhead, can be put in place to further minimize the negative impact a misunderstood project or directive can have on the business. For example, after a project has been reviewed and assigned, have the individuals responsible for the project create a work plan, timeline, etc., sufficient to the point where you are certain they are on the right path.

Cutting corners on communication, or just not having the communication skills required for a highly distributed office environment, leads to mistakes, misunderstandings, and more time and resource investment to correct the resultant business / project problems. The organized process of planning and communication and creating a well lubricated machine that keeps everything running like clockwork requires a unique skill-set belonging to the individual creating and managing the Virtual Office, as well as a company compatible with the additional time overhead required to allow the machine to function smoothly.

To do. To hear. To see.

In the same line of understanding as the need for over-communication, there is also a part of the communication that is handicapped over the normal course of activities, namely the visual aspects of communication. Most importantly, when communicating with the employees of the Virtual Office, it is much easier to understand their perspectives, level of understanding, comfort with the discussions, emerging HR problems, and much, much more by seeing and reading their body language when communicating. But, it is a Virtual Office, and seeing everyone all of the time is a rarity, even if you do use some video conferencing software. When managing in this situation the manager needs to be extra sensitive to voice tones and further pursue the over-communication in both a working and friendship building manner, just like a real office, to know and understand and keep as open a comfortable channel of dialog as can be possible. If something is not right with the employee, they are losing motivation, they are having a problem with a person or the work, there is something at home that will impact the work, you don’t typically see that person, you don’t have the luxury of easily noticing they are avoiding people or other visual changes of manner or dress — you need to over-communicate, maintain a healthy work and non-work dialog, ask questions, and stay engaged and interested in the well-being of the team — a much greater challenge all around in a Virtual Office, but that much more important with the other senses of sight and sound greatly restricted.

Just because you have a Virtual Office doesn’t mean that you don’t have a “normal” employee training and acclamation process and routine. By “normal,” I am referring to the over-communicative, extra-trained, learning and setup involved within a Virtual Office setting, more intense and thorough than the other “normal” that would be normal for a non-Virtual Office. In a Virtual Office, training on procedures and clear establishment of processes are all that much more important than in a non-Virtual Office. There is no opportunity for looking over someone’s shoulder and identifying and fixing mistakes. Everything will take much longer if procedures are not clear and the skills of the manager and the employee are not up to the challenge.

Speedy is as speedy does.

Clearly, with all of the overhead involved in running a Virtual Office there is a significant hit to the overall productivity of the company. If the Virtual Office is the right fit for the company and the management is up to and willing to take on the challenge, then all the overhead can be optimally reduced. Typically I have observed the time impact on work, of course depending on the work, can add anywhere from 5%-30% overhead — attributed to a well run Virtual Office machine.

Sounds like a lot of work. Why do it?

Virtual Offices work where both sets of expectations, the positive as well as the inherent challenges, are perfectly aligned.

Virtual Offices are not for everyone. The positives need to be weighed against the challenges. The team needs to clearly understand what can be achieved from a Virtual Office as well as have the right person in place to successfully tackle its primary challenges.

Virtual Offices are just not as prevalent as many _other_ experts think they could or even should be, and, hopefully, you now have a better understanding of ‘why.’

To make sure you don’t miss future posts about the Virtual Office, and other cool and informative topics, you can subscribe to The Product Guy by following this link: http://feeds.feedburner.com/tpgblog

Enjoy!

Jeremy Horn
The Product Guy