I’m in the business of a little bit better

So, what’s it all about, this software business? Making money? Isn’t any business? Figure out how to bleed the customer of as much money as humanly possible, while doing as little as you can get away with. It’s a bit of an art, really.

It doesn’t matter if you’re buying software services for your company, or a carpenter to remodel your house. They strip you naked and hang you out to dry. That’s just the way modern business works, I guess.

Or is it?

At Revio we have a set of core values. One of them is Proud. By the end of the day, we need to be able to stand up straight, and be proud. Proud of who we are. Proud of what we accomplished.

Proud of how we have treated others, and proud of what we have delivered to you.

As much as we would like to be flawless, we are not. There are times when we look at the result of a project, a system update or some other deliverable, and must admit that it falls short. We ask ourselves if we can be proud of that delivery, and the answer is No, we can not.

I hold both myself and the rest of the team to high standards, so when that happens I feel really, really bad. Then our COO looks at me and says:

“Meanwhile in Africa..”

What he means is that sure, our server is down, our customer is furious, and it sucks. But while the customer may very well be furious, he’s not dead. He is not being killed in front of his wife and children in Libya, and luckily – neither are we.

When we’ve reminded ourselves that no matter how bad we screw up, most of the planet is still doing quite a bit worse than we are, it’s time to get back to work. Whatever was wrong must be put right, and whatever the customer is expecting, we must try to achieve.

Our way of conducting business may not be saving lives. However, by being honest, dependable and proud of what we do – we hope we are able to make yours at least a little bit better.

@TSigberg

The middle manager. The useless fat of any bloated organization

Image

The middle manager. The useless fat of any bloated organization. They delegate all their work to other people, and then they wander around aimlessy, doing nothing at all expect worry about what happens if the delegated work doesn’t get done in time.

Being useless fat can be both rewarding and fun, but most of the time it is a difficult job. Even so, it must be done. After all, stuff doesn’t get delegated by itself..

It’s an interesting and not entirely new question. What to do with middle management in a company that is agile, stuffed with self organizing teams that in turn are made up of super-cool and smart people that don’t really care very much for authority figures who try to tell them what to do. Do we really need them around?

In an “agile organization” (whatever that is), stuff still needs delegating. But perhaps you are delegating goals and projects, instead of tasks. Less time is spent reporting against imaginary project plans, more time is spent actually creating value for the customer. Sharing information, explaining goals. Discussing possible solutions. Developing said solutions, showing them to the customer early and often.

As an agile or lean manager, I’m not really the boss of someone else. I am simply responsible for other parts of the value delivering process. I am also responsible for optimizing the process itself. I also try to inspire everyone else to optimize their part of the process, whenever that is possible without hurting the process as a whole.

My job is to protect tech people from nosy sales people, help sales people understand difficult tech people, explain to owners how a little money now isn’t always better than a lot of money later, and that more quality actually equals less cost in the long run. If all of the above goes well, the result is surprisingly often that we deliver valuable and useful software to customers who don’t always know what they need, but always know where it hurts.

Basically it is understanding, sharing and aligning goals and mindsets. And that is a really fancy way of saying that you need to talk a lot. I don’t really like talking to people very much, so I guess that explains why I spend half the time worrying instead.

It may not be very effective, but at least worried people look busy. And looking busy is important when you are useless fat.

@TSigberg

SQL Index tuning 101 – a practical approach to indexing

Hey, what is this all about?

This is mainly a blog about management and leadership. But as my boss pointed out, I am a Chief Technical Officer. So for a change, here is a post with a technical focus. Rest assured that they will be few and far between. But for now, if you are a Pointy Haired Boss, please move along.

As it happens, I’ve been working as a database admin / architect a while back, and indexing is an interesting subject that is often ignored – and seldom explained. So with this post I’ll try to do something about that! Kudos if you make it all the way through. 🙂

Introduction / Prerequisites

It is assumed that you have basic database knowledge: You know what a database is, you know what a table is, and you know how to perform operations against that table (preferrably using T-SQL).

It is assumed that you already know how to create, modify and delete indexes using T-SQL or SQL Management studio.

This guide gives a basic introduction to indexes, but does not attempt to explain in great detail how things work or why. It is focused on practical, experience based suggestions on how to perform basic indexing of a database. Even at this brief level, understanding how this works will get a little complicated if you are not familiar with the concepts. This is why a surprisingly large percentage of developers know very little about this topic (shame on them).

If you insist on not understanding how this works, you can cheat and skip the difficult bits. I have marked the somewhat more complex parts with a red star ((red star)) – that means you are allowed to skip them if you want the quick version of this guide.

What is an index, anyway?

The explanation a human can understand

A simple analogy is to think of a database table as a book. This particular book contains one long list (a table is basically a list) that spans across all the pages in the book, and the list has several columns. An index on a database table serves the same purpose as the index in a book (but is built in a very clever way), and it is usually only related to one specific column in the list that our book contains. So if you want to find something in a specific column, the index will tell you (or the database engine) on which page or pages you can find it.

Say you have a column called “LastName”, and you search for “Andersen”. If you have an index on the column “LastName”, the database engine can ask the index for all the pages that contain “Andersen” in the “LastName” column. The index will conduct a very effective search and reply something like “2, 5, 231 and 299”. The DB engine would then load pages 2, 5, 231 and 299, scan through these, and return only the rows in the list where “Andersen” is present in the “LastName” column.

What if you don’t have an index? Then the database engine would have to scan through every single page in the entire book (table), looking at every single line, checking wether “Andersen” is in the “LastName” column or not. Needless to say, this takes quite some time relative to the index approach.

 

indexing2

A simplified illustration: The index you create on a column contains the actual data from the column you index, as well as a reference to the page where the entire data row can be found. 

The technical explanation (red star)

The index is not actually structured in a plain table like in the illustration above. An index on a SQL Server table is a copy of one or more columns of the table, but it is sorted / structured in a specific way. It is arranged in a B-tree. As a result, searching an index is very fast. Click on the link if you want to know what a B-tree is (not required to complete this guide)

What about clustered indexes, what is that? (red star)

You may only have one (1) clustered index per table. A clustered index is the column by which the actual data rows of the table is sorted. Let’s say you have a column “LastName”, and decide to add a clustered index on this column. Then this will not be a copy of the column (as would be the case with a regular non-clustered index), but the actual column in the table. As a result of the creation of the clustered index, the rows of the actual table will reorder and sort itself based on the column you selected (“LastName”). In the illustration above, LastName is obviously not the clustered index, as the data in the table is not sorted by that column. Just judging based on the data we see in the illustration above, both the ID, Created and AddressID column could be the clustered index – as they are all sorted. By default, SQL Server selects the primary key as the clustered index. This is often not such a good idea, especially if the primary key is a randomly generated id like a Guid. It may also often be the case that the primary key is just an internal ID, not actually used in queries by the system.

The best candidate for clustered indexes is a column that you often include in a filter when you are expecting a ranged result (more than one). Columns containing row creation date are often good candidates in data tables (containing records of some sort like orders or transactions), as you would often ask to return all records for the last hour, day or perhaps even month for reporting purposes. If the table is actually sorted according to creation date, such a filter would be very effective.

If you never (or rarely) perform ranged searches (a user table could be an example, unless you often filter by a linked column like customerID), the column most often used for single selects (like the ID) will be the best choice.

The advantage of the clustered index, is that it IS the table. So when you have found a match in a clustered index, you also have immediate acces to the entire data row. In a regular index, you only find a reference to the page that contains the data row, and you will also need to fetch that.

So basically, indexes are great! I should just index everything then, in order to get maximum speed?

I’m glad you asked. That reminds that we need to talk about something else before discussing how to index:

I know my table is slow, but I don’t understand why (red star)

What makes sql operations slow?

The more rows in your table, the slower all operations will get. Indexes (applied correctly) will speed up read operations. This is a good thing. Indexes also make every other operation slower (insert, update and delete). That’s not so good. So why does that happen? Remember I said that an index was basically a copy of the column you index (see illustration above)? That means every time you add an index, you actually increase the size of the table with size of the column you are indexing. This increases the disk storage required to store your database. Storage is quite cheap, but you also introduce another issue: You increase the number of columns that have to be modified when you do an update, insert or delete. Say you add an Index on the column “LastName” in the table above. When you do an insert, SQL Server not only has to populate the data into the actual table, it will also need to update the index. It may even need to reorganize the index, as the content of LastName in the new row you just inserted probably fits somewhere in the middle of the existing index. Needless to say, this makes the insert operation slower than it would have been without the index.

Why the size of your datatypes matter

All this talk about size reminds me of a related issue:  The size of your table row actually slow down read operations as well! Why? Because every page in our book (table) can only hold a set amount of data (8192 bytes for the geeks). That means that as we increase the number of columns (or the size of each column) in our table, we decrease the number of rows we can fit in each page.  That means at least ranged selects (selecting more than one row) will take longer, as they need to retrieve a higher number of pages (blocks of 8192 bytes) to get all the rows you want. This translates into more data reads, which takes longer.  So don’t use an int (4 bytes) when all you need is a bit (1 byte) or tinyint (1 byte). Also always use VARCHAR (variable size) instead of CHAR (fixed size), and don’t even get me started on GUID (16 bytes). Lastly, don’t add columns you don’t strictly need.

Okay, stop talking! Just tell me how to fix my slow tables!

Let’s start with how you DON’T fix it

  1. Don’t index columns that are never (or rarely) included in where clauses of the queries performed by your system.
    1. In a few specific cases you may also want to index columns that are rarely used in a where clause, say in the query for a monthly report that would take hours if you didn’t add the index
  2. Only index columns with high variability in the data content. That means you:
    1. Do not index bit columns
    2. Do not index columns containing things like a status (typically a small range of different numbers).
    3. Do not index columns containing stuff like gender (which you should have put in a bit column in the first place, so I didn’t have to put this in a separate rule!).
  3. Do not index columns that are only included in where clauses IN COMBINATION with other column(s) that you have already indexed, AND the filter on the other column(s) already narrows down the result significiantly. I know this is a long one, so I will include a reverse version in the “how-to” below.
  4. Do not index very small tables (say, less than 500 rows). They are either used so rarely that it doesn’t matter, or they are used so often that the entire table will always be in memory(RAM), and it will be superfast anyway. A full scan of the table will in practice be just as fast as an indexed search, so even if you add an index, SQL Server may not use it. Also; Most small tables often contain near-static data, and should probably be cached in the application.
  5. Some people (and some automatic indexing tools) will tell you that something called covering indexes is a good idea. I generally start a tuning session by locating any covering indexes, making a note of the columns they contain, and then deleting them. Covering indexes are used wrong 90% of the time, and only effective in specific cases (not covered by this guide, but if you insist, read here). Just trust me on this one. Forget about covering indexes – cases where they make a real difference are incredibly rare. Thank you. I will tell you what to do if you find one in an existing database below.
  6. Do not put a clustered index on a GUID column, it will seldom be the optimal choice.

Basic How-to for indexing and / or tuning any database

  1. Start by figuring out what to use as the clustered index (see above for more information about this). The entire table will need to be restructured (this will take time and will lock the table) if you decide to change this later. In SQL Azure it’s not even possible.
  2. Index any ID column that are (often) used in where clauses of the queries performed by your system
  3. Index any foreign key column that are (often) used in the where clauses or joins of the queries performed by your system
  4. Index any data column that are often used in where clauses of the queries performed by your system, typically in the context of users manually searching for data.
  5. When several columns are combined in the same where clause, you often only need to index the columns that narrows down the search the most (reverse of rule 3 under “Don’ts” above).
    1. Example: The system only allows you to search for users based on age if you also include first and last name. In this situation, indexing the age column probably won’t speed up the search at all, as the indexes on first and last name will already have narrowed down the possible hits to just a couple of rows.
  6. If you find an existing covering index, it is usually relatively easy to understand the purpose of the index. It will usually contain a column covered by rule 2 or 3 in this list. If it does, create a new, non-covering, non-clustered index on this column (if it doesn’t already exist), and delete the covering index. Job done.

Would it be too much to ask for an example?

Here is a very basic database with a few very basic tables, including an indication of how I would index them:

indexing1

 

That’s really all there is to it. If the database and the way you query it is reasonably structured – you now know enough to make even fairly large databases (with several million rows in the main tables) perform reasonably well.

When tuning an existing database, one could also use the sql profiler to find the hotspots and fix specific problems faster, but that is not covered by this guide. If the entire database is indexed using the above guidelines, you probably won’t have any major problems anyway.

Happy indexing!

We already do Scrum, but what is this thing called Kanban?

“In Scrum we <insert Scrum practice here>, would we still do that if we switched to Kanban?”

Occasionally I’m approached by people curious about Kanban, and more often than not they are already familiar with Scrum. They may have read some brief blog posts about Kanban, but are left wondering what it’s really about. What are the rules? What do we have to change? Can we still do Scrum? Help! So I decided to write a blog post looking into some of the stuff you would usually be doing in a Scrum team. Would you still be doing it if you were doing Kanban, or would there be an alternative approach to achieving the same goal?

“In Scrum we divide our project into sprints. I’ve heard that you don’t do that in Kanban?”
The answer to this is, it depends. Many teams find it useful to establish a regular delivery cadence to either test or production, while others deliver when it makes sense to do so. The general rule is, the more often you deliver value to the customer, the better. The biggest difference is that with Scrum, all the practices (planning, retrospectives, releases) are tightly coupled to the sprint. With Kanban it is 100% decoupled, and everything is optional.

“I heard that with Kanban, you don’t do estimates. How does that work?”
There are no rules in Kanban explicitly saying that you can’t do estimates. In many situations it will make sense to do some form of estimating up front, or during a project. If feasible in your setting, we would however prefer to focus on what is important, and the assumed cost of delay . What would it cost us either in direct cost or lost revenue to NOT do this task now? In 3 weeks? In 3 months?

“I attended a conference once, and some weirdo on stage claimed we shouldn’t prioritize items in our backlog?”
In a large project you may well have tens, or even hundreds of individual items in your backlog. For the sake of argument, let’s say you have 50 items. To follow Scrum, you need to order all 50 items according to priority. This is typically done several times during the project, maybe as often as once per sprint. Let’s say that you on average deliver 5 items per sprint. So in reality, for any given sprint it adds little (no) value to order anything below the top 5 items in the backlog. In Kanban we prefer to ask our product owner “What is the most important task(s) for you right now?”. Answering that question is usually easier (and faster) than ordering 50 items.

“In Scrum we have a Scrum Master. Is there such a thing as a Kanban Master?”
In Kanban we recognize the fact that change is hard. People naturally resist anything that threatens their identity. Asking people to change their professional roles would do just that. When implementing Kanban, everyone involved keeps their current roles and titles. There are no formal roles. A basic principle is “Start with what you do now”.

“In Kanban you apparently have a board to visualize tasks, like we usually have in scrum?”
Yes, but with one crucial difference. Scrum has a lot more formal “rules” than Kanban, but they’re missing one – and it’s an important one. Limit Work In Progress. In Kanban we define a workflow, and we limit the work allowed in each state. As a result, we implement a pull process. Whenever there is room for more work in a board column, more work can be pulled from an upstream state (typically to the left on the board). Limiting WIP and pulling work prevents overburdening, reduces multitasking, decreases lead time (the time it takeS from we start something until it is finished) and increases flow through the system. It will also quickly uncover flow problems. If an item is impedimented for some reason, it will quickly stop or limit the flow of the entire system.

(illustration below stolen from Henrik Knibergs excellent post One day In Kanban land)

onedayinkanbanland

“That answered some of my questions, but I’m still a bit confused. What are the RULES of Kanban?”
I’m not sure there is an answer to that. Kanban is a management and change management technique that require some time to fully understand. There are few explicit rules as to exactly what to do, but Kanban will help you figure out what works for you. There’s no one right way, the context of your situation is always unique. Does it make sense to always have sprints with a committed list of deliverables? Probably not. Does it make sense to have stand up meetings? Probably, but maybe not every day in any context. Does it make sense to have a retrospective after each delivery? Who knows what’s right for you? Only you.

“So are there any rules at all?”

We have what we call principles:

  1. Start with what you do now (No set rules or processes. Start from where you are, and improve from there)
  2. Agree to pursue incremental, evolutionary change (Make a small change, see if it is an improvement, then try another)
  3. Respect the current process, roles, responsibilities and titles (Don’t manage by fear and force, build trust and understanding. Respect persons and identities)
  4. Leadership at all levels (Delegate, build trust, encourage acts of leadership at all levels of your organization)

And six core practices:

  1. Vizualise the workflow (Without understanding what happens, it is hard to implement change)
  2. Limit work in progress (Implement a pull system, typically a kanban system)
  3. Manage flow (monitor and measure how work flows through the system, in order to detect problems and opportunities for improvement)
  4. Make policies explicit (Document how the system works, thereby creating a common basis for understanding and improvement)
  5. Implement feedback loops (Regular collaboration and review at both team and company level is important to facilitate continous improvement)
  6. Improve collaboratively, evolve experimentally (Involve and inspire everyone to suggest improvements, and experiment to validate theories)

If you are ready to dig deeper into how Kanban may help you and your organization, I suggest you start by reading: “Kanban” by David J. Anderson

Now you may proceed with your day, I wouldn’t want you to miss your daily Scrum!

@TSigberg

Me, a leader?

I’ve been a manager for several years now. A leader? That, I’m still working on.

Leading is difficult stuff. Managing, I’m actually quite good at. Leading people, now that’s a totally different ball game. There are all sorts of mushy, feely stuff involved. And when I said it was a different ball game, I did that because I’ve heard there’s coaching involved. It’s not enough to find great people, apparently you need to help them get even better. This isn’t going to end well.

As I mentioned recently, I just want us to not suck. Surely people should be able to do that all by themselves. No? So now I have to pretend to like people (I’m a hopeless introvert that would probably be better off living in a cave on the top of some remote mountain) and even try not to hurt their feelings when I tell them to suck it up and.. well, not suck.

Luckily, I read a lot of books (good cave activity). The other day I found one that reminded me that even as a leader, especially as a leader, you’ve got to tell people what they need to hear, not what they want to hear. You just got to tell them nicely.

So when I tell people I don’t want them to suck, I try to do so nicely. I start by asking them about their day. And then I tell them please don’t suck.

Seriously, I tell people when I’m not happy about something, but I try my best to assume good intent. If someone did something wrong, they probably didn’t mean to. And if someone did something wrong, at least they’re doing something. And they’ll most likely do it different next time around. So by doing the wrong stuff, they’re actually improving. Hey, that’s what I was supposed to help them with, wasn’t it?

Maybe I can become a leader, after all?

Rest assured that on those rare occasions I do come across as a leader, I will be dead set on coming across as a good one. There are so many bad bosses out there, I’m not sure there are even room for more.

Even though I still find it challenging to improve others, I work hard on improving myself. In one year, I will be a better leader than I am today. In three years I will be even better. In five, the people who work for me will go “Hey, that shit you just said actually made sense!” when I tell them stuff.

Until then, I guess when I’m not managing, I’ll be in my cave. Reading. Probably about self managing teams and silly stuff like that. I mean, if the guys managed themselves, what on earth would I do?

Lead?

@TSigberg

I hate it when we suck

I’ve been around my fair share of useless people, I’m sure you have as well.
I don’t know about you, but I hate it.

I can handle people who are genuinely useless, but useless people who are actually intelligent and could have been competent, those guys I really hate. I hate it when people do a crap job even though I know they could do so much better. It’s amazing how much you can’t get done when you’re armed with a lack of motivation combined with a healthy dose of ignorance.

I hate leaders and managers who think they are doing a great job, but actually suck at it, and blame their employees for their own shortcomings.

When I started out as a manager (and to a certain extent even today), I always took the blame for anything my employees did wrong. When you made an error, so did I. Why is that? Because I hate it when we suck. I try to do my very best, every day, all day. I seldom succeed, but at least I try. I want you to try too. Hard.

So when I take the blame for your mistake, that isn’t right, is it? I don’t want to take responsibility for your mistakes, I want you to take responsibility. Own up, move on, do better next time.

You’re at the office doing whatever it is you do most of your waking hours anyway, so you might as well be passionate about it, right? It wouldn’t kill you, would it? If it did, at least you’d die doing something you were passionate about. It sure beats being bored to death.

The next time someone gives you feedback (that’s a nice word for someone shouting at you and telling you that you suck), hold back on that excuse for just a minute. Because they already know the specification wasn’t perfect. They know the customer is a jerk. They know you have a cold. And deep down you both know that you are capable of doing a better job. That’s probably why the guy is shouting at you in the first place. It’s no use shouting at an idiot, but he knows you can do better. So why the hell didn’t you?

I’d love for us to just get rid of all the terrible excuses and blame games (even though I still catch myself participating in them from time to time). And just. Get. Better.

So whenever you get yelled at, tell them that yes sir, you are exactly right. It was my responsibility to identify that the specification was incomplete. It was my responsiblity to figure out what the customer really wanted. It was my responsibility to make sure this new feature didn’t break anything else. I will go out of my way to do better.

I for one, will love you for it. And I will do my best to follow your lead.

@TSigberg

How to make sure projects run late

The main problem with sharing information, is that most of the time people just don’t listen very well.

“What do you mean the project is late?!”

“Boss, It was always going to be late. It was doomed from the start.”

“So why the hell didn’t you say so?”

“Actually, I did.”

Being a software developer isn’t easy. Working on projects that don’t deliver as expected are common. However, most software projects don’t end up late unexpectedly – they were bound to be late before they even started.

Let me share a few typical reasons:

  • The project manager allocates 8 hours of your time to the project each day, even though he knows all too well that you spend 2 and sometimes even 3 hours per day handling support, production issues and answering questions from management and sales. Some days you even have lunch, even though it’s against company policy. Now you’re 20-30% behind schedule already. Swell!
  • Someone set a deadline before anyone have a clue what to solve, and much less how. In reality, most deadlines don’t even signify an important event for the project or product. It’s just an artifical date set because the customer decided “It has to be done by December 1st!”. No, it really doesn’t.
  • You’re only allowed to spend an absolute minimum amount of time analyzing customer needs. And by all means, don’t attempt to figure out the best way to solve the problem. “The deadline is set already, we don’t have time to sit around thinking and wiggling our toes! Start DOING something, for heavens sake!”
  • Management ignores any concern or warning voiced by the development team, and the team accepts any assignment, however unreasonable. “But boss, this is never going to be done on time!” “Well, it has to be! You’ll just have to find a way!” “Oh, okay. I guess we’ll have to figure out a way to deliver everything you’ve promised on our behalf without reducing quality or functionality. I mean after all, we’re basically wizards over here.” No, I’m afraid you’re not.

Bosses and sales people insist that you try to deliver, however unrealistic the goal may be. “We can’t let the customer down!” In the long run, giving in to unrealistic expectations actually hurts the customer. Each time the development team takes on more than it can handle, it compromises either quality or time. More time spent on one customer, means less time spent on another. Delivering bad quality and bugs, means even less predictable availability later on.

In order to satisfy all our customers in the long run, we need to be as effective as we possibly can, and deliver consistent quality at a pace that the team can handle over time. That may mean some difficult discussions and difficult decisions. However, it is better to adjust the expectations of the customer now, than to disappoint him with an inferior product or a missed deadline later.

 

@TSigberg

Does Systems Thinking Apply To Small Companies?

W. Edwards Deming (Wikipedia) 

The system. W. Edwards Deming claimed that 95% of the performance of an organisation is based on the system, and only 5% is based on the people. I won’t dare go so far as to contradict Mr. Deming, but as a manager in a small company, I am tempted to look at it from a slightly different angle.

A brilliant employee will never perform in a mediocre system, and a mediocre employee will do a decent job in a brilliant system. But if your company is twenty, ten or maybe just five guys (or girls) – surely, people must matter?

You can not blame the worker for wrongdoing, most defects and quality problems are a result of the system. But if you are five guys sitting in the same room trying to make your company succeed – well, you are the system. The five of you. When Joe screws up and says to the other four guys, “Sorry, I’m a victim of the system!” they will probably look around the room and go “Uh, what system?”

But wait a minute. However small a company, there are someone in management, there are someone in sales, you have a customer department, and you’ve (hopefully) got someone actually producing whatever it is you are attempting to sell. Maybe Joe is both management, sales and customer department, but those roles still exist in the company. So however small, your company is an ecosystem. And if you haven’t given that much thought,  possibly not a very good one.

You may just be ten guys, or just five. That doesn’t really matter. You should already be thinking structure. Processes. Quality. Why didn’t Joe tell Pete about the complaint from their most important customer? Why did Pete forget to test the new software that Mike just hacked together? And why did he hack it together when they all agreed last month that the software needed to be robust and well built?

I can hear you shout: “We can’t afford all that stuff, we’re just a small startup company!” Well, to paraphrase old William Edwards Deming: If you focus on quality, quality increase and costs fall over time. However, if you focus on cost, costs will rise and quality decline over time. Surely, that’s not what you want?

So did I answer my own question? Well, kind of. Even though “people are only 5% of the performance”, in those early days you need people who understand just that. That takes us back to where we started, perhaps having gained somewhat of a paradox along the way:

People are helpless to fight a faulty system, but to build the right system, you need the right people. 

@TSigberg

Developers hate making phone calls

Leave me alone!

Leave me alone!

“Did you contact our third party vendor about that critical issue as I asked you?” “Sure, I sent them an email last week.” 

One thing I noticed hanging around developers for many years, is that the majority resent making phone calls. They’d much rather write an email than pick up the phone. From a managers point of view, it may appear ineffective to send an email and then sit on your hands for a week while waiting for a reply.

You see, most managers, sales persons (and apparently the world at large) are a part of the most popular breed of people: The extrovert. The extrovert thrive on being around other people and loves talking (on the phone and elsewhere). They love teamwork and socializing in general.

Having a minimum of extrovert behaviour is the expected norm in our society, and from kindergarden and beyond, any introvert behaviour is frowned upon. So what is an introvert then? In contrast to the extrovert, the introvert actually enjoys being alone. She needs some time for herself to charge her batteries. Also, she’s usually not so fond about talking on the phone..

So what am I saying here? Most developers are loners and misfits? Well, sort of. Except that somewhere between one third and one half of the population are introverts. They may be loners, but they are certainly not alone. That may sound like a high number to you. That’s because there are a lot of fake extroverts out there.

Having society kick you in the head all your life (including teachers, parents, other teenagers, TV-shows and magazines) insisting that there is something wrong with you if you don’t enjoy partying all night and holding long speeches in front of a crowd the next day, many introverts cave in. They start being extrovert even though it goes against their nature.

Introverts think before they take a decision. They listen before they talk. They create for the sake of creation, not fame. And they invent the most amazing things, all by themselves. They share the label of introvert with Albert Einstein, Steven Spielberg, Bill Gates, Charles Darwin, Mahatma Ghandi, Al Gore, Isaac Newton and countless more.

So the next time your employee sends an email when he obviously should have called, or says he needs some time to think something through, be grateful. You’ve got a guy on your team that is probably creative, plans things out, loves to concentrate and focus on a single task.

And given space, quiet and time to do something right, he will do just that.

Somehow the extroverts have managed to make their version of the world the norm. But wether you’re an extrovert or an introvert – you share your personality with almost half of the planet. And there’s nothing wrong with you.

Read more about introverts in Susan Cains excellent book “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking” or see her TED Talk.

@TSigberg

How (not) to buy custom software

Customers who are unable to explain what they really need, marketing guys that make up their own stories, and project owners that won’t take the time to give you feedback during the project. A recipe for disaster.

I’ve recently discovered Prezi, an online and fun alternative to powerpoint. So I decided to make a little prezi-based blog post to test it out. Enjoy!

@TSigberg