google reader refugee.
2234 stories

how to become a slacker … with Laurie Ruettimann

1 Share

I’ve long been an admirer of Laurie Ruettimann, since her days running Punk Rock HR, a hilarious blog where she called out the BS of HR. (The blog is no more, but she now has a podcast of the same name.) Laurie has always called it like she sees it without pulling any punches, and the way she sees it is (a) often different from the conventional wisdom and (b) right.

Laurie worked in corporate HR for big companies like Pfizer for years, grew to hate it, and now helps executives and HR leaders fix their companies and avoid toxic work environments … and she calls out a lot of bad behavior along the way.

Her book just came out this week and it’s great — Betting On You: How to Put Yourself First and (Finally) Take Control of Your Career. As I confessed to her after reading it, I find a lot of books about work dry or predictable or personality-free. But hers is the opposite of that: It’s personal and engaging and fun to read, on top of being smart, insightful, and genuinely useful. It’s packed with good advice that you don’t often hear — for example, why you can ignore advice like “always be looking for a job” — and she tells a ton of amusing stories along the way … from how she handled whole range of tricky situations during her years in corporate HR to the time her husband thought a therapist who asked him about self-care was asking about masturbation.

Laurie agreed to let me run a short excerpt from the book (it’s below), and she’s also given me a copy to give away to a reader here.

To enter to win a free copy: Read the excerpt below on professional detachment and leave a comment below with your thoughts. I’ll pick a winner at random (or rather, random selector software will). All entries must be posted in the comments on this post by Friday, January 15, at 11:59 p.m. ET. To win, you must fill out the email address section of the comment form so I have a way of contacting you if you’re the winner. Giveaway is open to U.S. entrants only.

And if you don’t win this giveaway, I hope you will buy yourself a copy!

Excerpted from
BETTING ON YOU: How to Put Yourself First and (Finally) Take Control of Your Career by Laurie Ruettimann.
Published by Henry Holt and Company, January 12, 2021. Copyright © 2021 by Albany Park Partners, Inc.
All rights reserved.

Work won’t make you happy. You make you happy. It’s time to deprioritize your career and instead prioritize the good stuff: relationships, community, sleeping, eating nutritious meals, and enjoying time away from the screen. What’s the secret? Where’s the hack to this magical, mystical life balance?

There is no quick fix, but here’s my advice: be a slacker.

How To Become A Slacker

There’s no universal definition for a slacker, but the word loosely describes a person who will do anything to avoid work.

Every family has one. Maybe it’s your cousin, uncle, or sister-in-law who always asks for money and never pays you back. Or maybe it’s a nephew who never has cash but always wears nice clothes and has the newest iPhone. (Not my nephews, though. They are terrific. One works as an IT professional, and the other is in elementary school.) Most families have one individual who fulfills the “kids these days” stereotype. Maybe it’s you.

Every team has a slacker, too. It can be someone who comes in late, leaves early, and doesn’t contribute much to a project. Sometimes it’s the person who isn’t overly concerned with professional relationships and does not care about the growth of a company. Work slackers are seen as opportunists who cheat the system and think they’ve got everybody fooled.

Slackerism was elevated to an art form in the late twentieth century with movies like Office Space and The Big Lebowski, characters like Ferris Bueller and Bart Simpson, and musicians like Kurt Cobain and Billy Corgan of the Smashing Pumpkins who told us, “The world is a vampire.”

But being jaded and cynical hit a snag at the turn of the century with the onset of the global financial crisis. People couldn’t afford to do anything other than put chicken in the bucket for the man, as Stephen Fry once wrote. Western culture also retooled itself around the birth of the social Web, the growth of interconnected communication tools, and the mass adoption of commercialized surveillance systems. It’s hard to opt out of the rat race and speak your true mind when you’re on Facebook and hustling for work. Companies scan your work computer and watch for sexual harassment and corporate espionage in your Slack messages. Algorithms monitor where you browse online and predict whether you’re about to quit. There’s even a program out there that can read your keystrokes and predict if you’re at risk for suicide. Yes, really.

Speaking of the hustle, it’s hard to be a slacker when our #hustleporn culture pushes you to be productive twenty-four hours a day. If you are lucky, you work for a company that gives you a work-from-home stipend to cover the cost of printer ink and pays you to freeze your eggs — but doesn’t guarantee you equal pay for equal work or make your life easier when you finally unfreeze those embryos. If you are unlucky, you are a hustler who works on contract and struggles to make ends meet. And who wants to be a slacker under either of those circumstances?

Slackerism is not only frowned upon at the office, it’s weaponized — especially if you’re a person of color. Your well-intentioned attempt at work–life balance might be somebody else’s excuse to throw you under the bus.

Now that I’ve painted a bleak image of slackers, let me flip the script and say that while nobody wants to be seen as the jerk with a poor work ethic, slackerism might save your soul.


Deanna is the VP of communications for a digital media organization. She worked hard throughout high school and college as a student athlete and scholar, then she went back to school as a working mom to pursue her MBA. Deanna is known for being a creative and compassionate leader. She pushes people to be their best while also leading by example, and she doesn’t shy away from hard work.

Deanna is the antithesis of a slacker, but after fifteen years as a corporate executive, she felt burned out and came looking for career advice. She’s an “elder millennial” who feels a little too elderly. Could I help her get off the hamster wheel and into a job that wouldn’t kill her? Was it possible to keep her current level of income with a role that didn’t require so much time and energy?

Before working with me, Deanna was hunting for a new job but every opportunity sounded the same: endless hours on Slack and too much time spent managing corporate politics rather than doing the fun work of innovation.

“I’m exhausted. My team can see it. My family tells me I work too much. And I can’t keep taking Zoloft forever.”

When I asked Deanna about her sleeping and eating habits, she laughed out loud. With two kids under the age of six — and one following her lead by showing an interest in sports — she doesn’t eat or sleep well. This was Deanna’s life before COVID-19: early morning wake-ups, daycare, carpool, a long commute to and from work, little flexibility, lots of responsibility with her kids, a spouse with an executive leadership role who doesn’t do dishes, and hobbies and interests that go unexplored because there aren’t enough hours in the day.

“I used to do yoga and run 5ks. Now I just participate in meetings all day long and check other people’s PowerPoint decks for errors before they go to the board.”

Deanna was suffering from arrival fallacy, the feeling of disappointment you get when you reach your goals but the result isn’t what you expected. Instead of being happy with your salary and enjoying your work, you ask yourself, “Is this all there is? There must be more.”

There’s not.

It’s not uncommon to unlock the next level of your career and still feel unhappy. But it’s important to know that the feelings of contentment and personal accomplishment don’t come from working sixty hours and hearing “good job” from your boss. They come from confidence and maturity. You’re doing great work when you solve problems, learn something new, and then spend time away from the office to support the people and activities you love.

When I suggested being a slacker to Deanna — working less, leaving early, establishing boundaries, spending time with her family, exercising, reading, and redefining what it means to be happy — she tried not to laugh again in my face.

“No offense, but people are watching me. I can’t say no. They’ll think I’m lazy.”

I asked her to hear me out. “Since people are watching you, let’s teach them something. Pretend your company is a client instead of a family. If you didn’t have so much skin in the game, how would you do things differently?”

Deanna needed to learn the skill of professional detachment — staying committed to your job, doing great work, but redefining the role so it isn’t your sole identity.

She didn’t say no, but she didn’t like it.

“This sounds risky, and I don’t want to be seen as cold or disconnected.”

This is a legitimate concern. Women and people of color are held to a double standard at work. They must be buttoned up but warm, savvy but deferential to the team, and data-driven yet still compassionate. Deanna told me she was always available to her team, even after business hours, which meant she wasn’t present with her husband and children. It would confuse her colleagues, she argued, if she suddenly stopped answering texts in the evening without explanation.

We brainstormed ways to lock the phone up at night and discussed what it takes to create a work environment where it’s safe to establish boundaries.

How could she improve daily communications but limit after-hours texting? Is it possible to track and analyze “emergencies,” and work backward to create processes and behaviors that prevent them? And how could her team reach her if needed?

Deanna called a meeting and asked her team for input. Were they feeling stressed? Could they describe what it feels like to have an evening interrupted with a so-called work emergency? Deanna took the lead and shared her struggle with putting down the phone at night, and others chimed in with their stories. Soon, they all agreed that they needed common definitions for “emergency” and “work crisis.”

Deanna asked her team to create a rules-of-the-road template for communicating after hours. They decided that if something was an emergency, it required a physical call. If the phone rang, and it was from a colleague, they’d try to answer the call right away or call back as soon as possible.

How did it end up working?

Deanna told me emergencies dropped 90 percent. She now has extra time to focus on her top priorities: family and personal well-being. Her evenings are free for exercise, spending time with her kids, or sitting on the couch and binge-watching TV without worrying too much about what happened at the office earlier.

Now we just need her husband to do the dishes. But I’m not a miracle worker.

“I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to checking my phone in the evening,” Deanna concluded. “But now I can really relax before I check my messages and get to bed.”

Not only does Deanna feel more balanced and connected, but she’s also taking this message to other parts of her organization. She’s partnered with her local HR manager to bring the work–life balance rules to other business units and teams within the company. Just recently, Deanna spoke on a panel at a leadership conference and sang the praises of professional detachment, honest communication, and personal accountability for well-being.

Professional detachment — the act of pausing, reflecting, and treating your job like a puzzle to solve instead of an extension of your identity — saved Deanna from leaving her company. She hasn’t labeled herself as a slacker, but I’ll do it for her. And you, too.

I’m thinking of making T-shirts.

* I make a commission if you use these links.

how to become a slacker … with Laurie Ruettimann was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

Read the whole story
12 days ago
Melbourne, Australia
Share this story

62 Software Experience Lessons by Karl Weigers

1 Share

Karl Weigers has an essay about lessons he's learned from a long career in software development. You should benefit from his experience. The essay covers requirements, project management, quality, process improvement, and other insights.

A good example from the article is:

"You don’t have time to make every mistake that every software practitioner before you has already made. Read and respect the literature. Learn from your colleagues. Share your knowledge freely with others." 

Read the whole story
22 days ago
Melbourne, Australia
Share this story

Early Edition of "Staff Engineer" coming Jan 31st.

1 Comment and 2 Shares

Preorder Staff Engineer: Leadership beyond the management track on Gumroad for January 31st, and Amazon for February 28th.

For much of 2020, I worked on the StaffEng project, collecting stories from folks about their experience reaching a Staff-plus engineering role, and synthesizing those stories with my own experience into a career guide. Behind the scenes, I’ve also been shaping that content in a book.

For the most part, I'm waiting until later this month to do outreach and marketing: blurbs, foreword, and editing are still very much in progress. That said, I prefer to share my work early, even when it's rough, and especially with folks who're kind enough to read my work directly from the RSS feed and mailing list.

Starting today, the digital Early Edition is available for preorder on Gumroad, delivering on January 31st, 2021. You can also preorder the canonical digital version on Amazon for February 28th, 2021, if that’s more your cup of tea. Print and audio versions will be a bit later in the year; their timelines are still being determined, but June would be later than expected.

The Early Edition gets you a draftier view into the content before the editing is quite finished and while I’m still reworking some of the material thanks to user feedback. I imagine there will be some typos, too, which you can most kindly submit for fixing using this form. Of course, anyone who buys the Early Edition will get the final digital version as well.

My hope for the book format is the same as the goal behind the entire project: to provide better rails for folks pursuing and operating in senior roles on the individual contributor track, roles that I’ve taken to calling Staff-plus. I’m quite proud of how it’s come together, and I'm grateful to the many folks who’ve contributed their stories and efforts to the project. If it's useful to folks, and in some small way pushes the industry forward in both how we think about these roles and also how we create access to them, then it'll be a great success in my eyes.

Staff Engineer is a self-published book. I'm quite excited about that decision, as it's allowed me to create exactly the odd little book that I've been dreaming about, although I've certainly missed the many advantages of working with the talented team at Stripe Press who co-created An Elegant Puzzle with me. All profits from this project will be donated to non-profit organizations that work to increase access for underrepresented communities in technology.

If you have more questions, check the Frequently Asked Questions, or hear a bit more about the project on Software Engineering Daily and Career Chats podcasts.

Read the whole story
24 days ago
Good Content TM
Melbourne, Australia
Share this story

How to present to executives.


Have you presented to company executives about a key engineering initiative, walking into the room excited and leaving defeated? Maybe you only made it to your second slide before unrelated questions derailed the discussion. Maybe you worked through your entire presentation only to have folks say, “Great job,” and leave without any useful debate. Afterward, you’re not quite sure what happened, but you know it didn’t go well.

Early in your career, you probably won’t interact with company executives frequently. Sure, if it’s a small enough company, you might, but it isn’t the norm. As you get further into your career, though, increasingly, your impact will be constrained by your ability to influence executives effectively. While staying aligned with authority is a prerequisite to influencing executives, there are also some new communication skills for you to develop.

I've written about this topic before, hopefully this verison is better.

Why this is hard

Everyone has worked with a terrible executive at some point in their career, but most executives aren’t awful. Almost all executives are outstanding at something; it’s just that often that something isn’t the topic you’re communicating about with them. When you combine that lack of familiarity with your domain with limited time for the topic at hand, communication is a challenge.

Those are garden-variety communication challenges, though, and communicating with executives can be unexpectedly difficult for a less apparent reason: the executive has become accustomed to consuming reality preprocessed in a particular way.

Any given executive is almost always uncannily good at one way of consuming information. They feel most comfortable consuming data in that particular way, and the communication systems surrounding them are optimized to communicate with them in that one way. I think of this as preprocessing reality, and preprocessing information the wrong way for a given executive will frequently create miscommunication that neither participant can quite explain.

For example, some executives have an extraordinary talent for pattern matching. Their first instinct in any presentation is to ask a series of detailed, seemingly random questions until they can pattern match against their previous experience. If you try to give a structured, academic presentation to that executive, they will be bored, and you will waste most of your time presenting information they won’t consume. Other executives will disregard anything you say that you don’t connect to a specific piece of data or dataset. You’ll be presenting with confidence, knowing that your data is in the appendix, and they’ll be increasingly discrediting your proposal as unsupported.

In most other scenarios, miscommunication creates latency rather than errors. Still, when you’re communicating with executives, you’ll often not get a second chance to discuss a given topic before the relevant decision is made. Invest ahead of the discussion to avoid lamentations afterward.

How to communicate effectively

The foundation of communicating effectively with executives is to get a clear understanding of why you’re communicating with them in the first place. You might be used to communicating with folks to change their mind or inform them about your project. Still, typically when you’re communicating with an executive, it’s one of three things: planning, reporting on status, or resolving misalignment.

Although these are distinct activities, your goal is to extract as much perspective from the executive as possible. If you go into the meeting to change their mind, you’ll probably come across as inflexible. Go into the meeting to understand why your approach is misaligned with their priorities. You’ll come across as strategic and probably leave with enough information to adapt your existing plan to work within the executive’s newly articulated constraints.

The best way to extract perspective is to write a structured document. Writing it down forces you to think through your perspective. The structure ensures you focus the reader on what’s important. There are many structures that can work, but a structure that always works is SCQA–Situation, Complication, Question, and Answer–introduced in Barbara Minto's The Pyramid Principle.

  • Situation: what is the relevant context? Example: We’ve been falling behind our competition in shipping product features for two years. Last year, we doubled our engineering team but shipped fewer features than the year before.
  • Complication: why is the current situation problematic? Example: We plan to double our engineering team again this year, but based on last year’s experience, we think that will decrease velocity further while significantly increasing our organizational budget.
  • Question: what is the core question to address? Example: Should we keep moving forward with our plan to double engineering this year?
  • Answer: what is your best answer to the posed question? Example: We should stop hiring for the next six months and focus on gelling our existing team. Based on progress at that point, we should refresh our hiring plan for the remainder of the year.

After you’ve written your structured document, gather feedback on it from your peers and stakeholders. Aligning with stakeholders before your presentation, sometimes called nemawashi, is extremely effective at reducing surprises. Some of your peers should have experience presenting to the executives and will have useful feedback on improvements.

\ For the presentation itself, set a clear agenda, but don’t focus on rote conformance. A great meeting with executive leadership is defined by engaged discussion, not addressing every topic on the agenda. Some will consider this a controversial position, preferring to measure every meeting by its action items, but this ignores the often more valuable relationship establishment and development aspects of these meetings.

Mistakes to avoid

Even if you do a great job preparing for your execution presentation, these things sometimes go wrong. There’s nothing you can do that will avoid every bad path, but you can avoid most of the anti-patterns that routinely sink these meetings.

Never fight feedback. It’s very common for an executive to have a critical piece of feedback but to not quite have the right framing to communicate it within the moment. You want them to deliver the feedback anyway, not hold it back and probably forget to give it later. If you show up as resistant to feedback, then they’ll start swallowing their comments, and you’ll get relatively little out of the meeting. Focus on gathering feedback; don’t worry about whether you agree with it until you have more time afterward. If there’s a decision that needs to be made that you disagree with, then you should inject one or two pieces of relevant data that might change their mind, but afterward, let it go. You’ll be more effective by reflecting on the feedback and changing their mind later than continuing to push back within the meeting.

Don’t evade responsibility or problems. Many folks try to hide issues from their leadership, and this always goes poorly. Successful folks look at informing executives as absolution: once it’s on the table, you can move towards solving it rather than hiding it. This is particularly true if an executive sniffs out a problem during a meeting. Lean into the feedback, don’t evade it. You will create more credibility by agreeing with their perspective and following up with more data later. You will harm your credibility by arguing with them about it.

Don’t present a question without an answer. A frequent piece of advice given to new leaders is to “never bring your manager a problem without a solution.” That’s not generally great advice, but if you present a problem to an executive without a proposed answer, then in the back of their mind, they’re wondering if they need to hire a more senior leader to supplement or replace you. You can’t create alignment in the room unless you have a proposal for folks to align behind.

Avoid academic-style presentations. The way you’re taught to present about topics in school is more-or-less the entirely wrong approach for presenting to executives. The Minto Pyramid Principle will steer you in the right direction if you follow its scripture.

Don’t fixate on your preferred outcome. It’s very common for folks to get so caught up on the outcome that they want that they spend their energy resisting the clear, unavoidable signs that it isn’t going to happen that way. It’s very easy to get frustrated about the “wrong” decision getting made, but it’s helpful to keep in mind that there is a great deal of context that you’re missing. There is no such thing as a permanent decision: almost every decision will be reconsidered multiple times over the next two years.

Presenting to executives can be intimidating, and this might be more advice than helpful. If you want to boil it all down to one concise tip: send an early draft to an executive attending the meeting and ask them what to change. If you listen to and apply that feedback, you’ll figure out the other pieces as you go.

Read the whole story
24 days ago
Melbourne, Australia
Share this story

Lubalin turns random internet drama into songs

1 Comment
don't miss part one #
Read the whole story
27 days ago
Hanging for the full version of Caroline
Melbourne, Australia
Share this story

Are you a Consultant or Contractor? Score Yourself Against these “Patterns of Successful Contractors” from a 1963 Leadership Masterpiece

1 Share

I am a fan of the Jocko Podcast. Over the past few months I have been listening to the episodes on General Bruce C. Clarke’s 1963 book, Guidelines for Leaders and Commanders. I highly recommend this series to anyone in a leadership position. This series is also valuable for contractors and consultants, many of whom act as technical leaders for their clients or are lead their own small team of employees and/or subcontractors.

Jocko’s coverage of the book extends across six episodes, starting with episode 251. There are countless gold nuggets of information contained in this book and in these discussions, so I’ve had to listen to each episode 2–3 times to absorb everything. The book is currently out of print, but I hope that either Stackpole or Jocko Publishing puts out a new edition soon so that I can get my hands on a physical copy.

Note: The U.S. Army has collected a few excerpts from pamphlets and speeches which will give you some insights into General Clarke’s ideas.

In episode 253 (starting around 32:40), Jocko relayed General Clarke’s notes on what makes a successful general contractor. As a consultant and contractor myself, I am naturally drawn to these ideas. Here are the notes that I thought pertinent to share with you. I have added my own emphasis below.

The Patterns of Successful Contractors

General Clarke relays these ideas from his graduate work in Civil Engineering. The head of a prominent and successful general contracting firm spoke to the students "about what made a contractor successful, or, really, what kept him from going broke."

If you’re going into a new area and want to find the most astute individual, look for a contractor who has stayed in business for 10+ years. “If you analyzed his methods of operation, this is what you would find undoubtedly:”

  • He collected and kept up to date on detailed costs
  • He had his staff available to him as needed, with expert advice in the fields of engineering, finance, purchasing, taxation, law, etc., and he used them
    • Phrased another way: he had experts on staff and actually talked to them when he needed them and actually put their advice into practice
  • He had competent foremen (aka managers, front-line leaders) and took the time to orient and train them
  • His relations with his work force were good, so that his turnover was small
  • He provided key personnel with steady work
    • This one especially hit home for me. I’ve always left jobs that left me idle for any length of time
  • He obtained good equipment and kept it operating through a positive program of inspection, maintenance, and operator training
  • He understood the problems created by special conditions such as storms, weather, temperature, seasons, flood, climate, and estimated and planned around them
    • Examples here are relevant to construction, but the embedded field also has its own seasonality and exceptional conditions
  • He had a good supervision and inspection setup to ensure quality, prevent delays, and quickly overcome unforeseen obstacles and to ensure acceptance without costly adjustment or doing over
  • His plans always reflected much thought in economical methods of construction
  • Most of all, he was an expert on timing in that he programmed the flow of the following [items] to the job at proper times, in proper amounts, with proper specifications and proper quality, in order that none [of these items] was overlooked, work was not delayed, and none [of these items] arrived too early and too much or too little:
    • Cost data
    • Plans
    • Decisions
    • Layout of the area
    • Flowcharts
    • Supervision setup
    • Inspections
    • Financing
    • Workforce
    • Field offices
    • Field storage
    • Power and light requirements
    • etc.

Jocko’s summary of this last point: Make a list of what’s important and take care of it!


I don’t have to stretch my mind to recognize how these ideas are relevant to success as a technical embedded consultant or contractor.

First, being aware of what is actually going on in your business is key to survival. I have known many contractors who do not track key metrics for their business, defer bookkeeping until there is a monstrous pile of receipts, and don’t have a good system for tracking outstanding tasks or the location and status of assets. I have rarely known contractors in our industry who perform regular inspections of their equipment (including non-physical items like source code, programs, and services) and have processes in place to ensure they are in good working order before a new project kicks off. I have been guilty of this myself, losing valuable time during a project while fighting with VMs, software problems, poor soldering iron tips, and broken debugging hardware. But I’ve learned that lesson and put these processes into place.

A general bent toward disorganization impacts you in other ways. While we earn the ability to create and execute detailed plans through experience, we can greatly improve our planning abilities through detailed record keeping. With detailed records for each job you’ve performed, you can improve your planning accuracy and begin to notice patterns across jobs. You will notice common "special conditions", missing process steps, or errors in judgment that cause project delays, allowing you to preemptively put in place risk mitigations or adjust your schedule.

The note about special conditions, particularly with respect to seasonal impact, really stands out during this holiday season. Every year, we receive a flood of requests for urgent assistance starting around mid-November, right when the U.S. is heading into Thanksgiving (2–5 days off) which is followed soon after by Christmas (1–5 days off), and New Year’s (1 day off). This is a popular time to take long vacations, because people often travel to visit their extended families. Some people with significant accrued vacation time will even leave for Thanksgiving and not return to work until January. Even though this happens every year, there are managers who panic because they suddenly realize that a particular project or task won’t be completed before the year’s end as planned.

This same pattern of behavior also seems to occur every year before Chinese/Lunar New Year. Everyone suddenly rushes to place new part orders and squeeze in manufacturing runs before all of China effectively shuts down for at least two weeks. If only these events happened every year and could be accounted for in the schedule!

Another point that jumps out is that you cannot do it all yourself: you need to build a team, enable them, and rely on them. You need to work to shore up your own deficiencies by relying on specialists and experts – even if it means working with external firms and subcontractors. We all naturally tend to do this for legal and accounting support, but we often overreach and try to do it all ourselves when it comes to the technical work.

I want to close by diving into these points:

  • He had a good supervision and inspection setup to ensure quality, prevent delays, and quickly overcome unforeseen obstacles and to ensure acceptance without costly adjustment or doing over
  • His plans always reflected much thought in economical methods of construction

In most software projects we’ve worked on, we have seen the opposite of these recommendations. Many teams will often choose the non-economical option of building things in house instead of purchasing a suitable solution (the “not-invented-here syndrome”), causing increased cost, risk, and schedule delays. Schedules are often created through magical thinking, where the team sets a target release date (often based around holiday sales) and fails to account for the amount of work that needs to be done, problems that could arise, or the project’s unknowns. Rather than focusing on software quality from the start, the initial goal is to get a “working system” completed as quickly as possible, and then shift the focus to quality during a “clean up” sprint before release. Often, this is justified through the use of over-the-air (OTA) software updates, as management expects that customers will report bugs and the team will quickly release updates to eliminate them.

We’ve watched these approaches sink multiple products. Magical schedules rarely work. Quality cannot be achieved simply by eliminating bugs. Outstanding problems that are deferred to the end of the product development cycle still end up delaying the customer ship date, especially if they necessitate large-scale rework operations. Customers are not happy nor understanding when the fancy expensive product they purchased is full of problems, and frequent updates only annoy them further.

Many employees often remark to us that it’s “just the way this industry is”. What does a delay cost except time-to-market and a few stressful months anyway? But from a business perspective, this pattern is dangerous. It is also illogical to knowingly take this approach. Sometimes, especially as a startup, you simply cannot recover from the wasted time, money, and reputation hit you endure from this type of “cowboy” approach.

The dangers associated with delays and quality problems are even greater for contractors and consultants than they are for our clients. Our clients will not give us the same leeway that they give their internal development team when things go wrong. We will be blamed, and quite harshly at that. We will lose valuable time and money in order to rework the deliverable for free. Or we will take a hit on other projects by suddenly needing to delay them in order to make another job right. At the very least we will take a hit to our reputation, and we will not receive testimonials and referrals – the lifeblood for consultants and contractors. After too many hits like this, you’re going to have a tough time finding new business.

It is better to keep in mind the advice that General Clarke relays – make plans with the most economical approach in mind, and do what is necessary to ensure quality, prevent delays, overcome obstacles, and ensure our work is accepted without rework. Because, as Seth Godin points out:

If you don’t have time to do it right, what makes you think you’ll have time to do it over?

Further Reading

The post Are you a Consultant or Contractor? Score Yourself Against these “Patterns of Successful Contractors” from a 1963 Leadership Masterpiece appeared first on Embedded Artistry.

Read the whole story
29 days ago
Melbourne, Australia
Share this story
Next Page of Stories