Archive for October, 2008

How fast can your money disappear?

October 13, 2008

There are possibly few ways you can loose your money. Either you make some bad investments or someone steals that from you or you decide to smoke it away. At least these are the ways most of us are aware of. Until now!

Last week a report came out about Zimbabwe’s annual inflation rate.  An astonishing 2 Trillion%! If you are wondering how much that number is – hold on! Let me spell that out for you. 2 Trillion% == 2,000,000,000,000%. (Compare that with the typical inflation rates between 8 – 12 % in countries like US, China, India, etc.).

This blog post from Coyote Blog tries to put this nicely in perspective. So if you were in Zimbabwe and went to bed with $1000 in Zimbabwean currency under your pillow, by the time you woke up it would have been halved in its value. And the end of the day, your previous day $1000 would be worth about $150. So looks like you are much better off spending that money as soon as you have that in your hands.

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It is time to buckle up!

October 12, 2008

When you start seeing the stocks market going beyond the bears and the bulls and the basic rationality; when you start to even doubt about your money in the financial institutions; and when you start seeing companies disappearing as if it was a trick from a magician – it is clear that we are on for some turbulent weather ahead of us. Without a doubt, it is time for all of us to buckle up!

No doubt this is going to be a start of tough time for all of us – regardless where we are located and what our day-to-day responsibilities are.  Whether we are responsible for running the organization machinery or simply part of this machinery!

While many of us have gone through these rides 2-3 times in the past (during the past slowdowns), when I look around I see that this may be the first time for many of the folks out there. I can say from my past experience that these times can be tough and trying. Some of us may be able to weather this out without much harm, but some amongst us may not. However, the most positive and encouraging point in all this would be that there would be light at the end of the tunnel.

Survivability and patience in all this is the key.  I am saying this from an all round perspective – whether it is an organization or a product or even as individuals. This is the time when our strengths would have to come to the fore and our weaknesses may become our biggest liability.  If you ever wanted to see how the “survival of the fittest” theory gets applied in real world, this is the most perfect time.

So as I said at the start of the post – buckle up! We are set for a helluva ride of our life time!

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Applying Concepts of “Packs” to Software Development Teams

October 4, 2008

In one of my post couple of months back, I had written about my fascination about the African Wild Dogs. In the same post, I had written that some of their amazing habits as a pack can be translated into some real practices in our real life especially in Software Project Management. This post is about the same.

On the on-set, let me say that many of you may find my correlation between these dogs and software teams a bit far-fetched or even crazy. Some of you may even feel this post a slightly condescending on my part to compare software teams aka. people and dogs. But please hear me out!

As I had pointed in my post linked above, the whole notion of these animals surviving and succeeding in the extreme wild as a pack is something which got me thinking of what can we learn from them to build effective teams. My experience has been in building software teams so I will limit my conversation in this blog to Software Engineering Teams. However, I am guessing that my thoughts here could apply to building any type of team/s.

Pack animals by nature live in bunches and their survival depends on how they live as a group and interact amongst each other.  Same as these African Wild Dogs, Human Beings are also Pack Animals. In a social sense we are all designed to live as Packs. We need others to interact with and also depend upon. However, IMO, there are many additional things which these animals do much better than us as a pack. Some of these additional things – or let me call it as characteristics – is something I think can be impersonated by us too especially when it comes to building a rock-solid successful Software Development Teams. Here are some of those characteristics –

  • Moving together and hunting together = Certainly Software Teams are not literally hunting anything; however this point does apply to the key point that the team should get on a key new mission collectively rather than individually. A team which is well-gelled together can collectively approach a new mission in a much successful manner.
  • Individuals while they operate in a pack, maintain unique role for themselves, but can play different roles if required = It is important that in a team, each member should have an unique ability individually and have their individual quirks, traits and characteristics that make up their personality. However, the members of the team should also be able to quarterback the other roles if required. Each team member should have the ability to play to other’s strength and complement wherever required for other’s weaknesses.
  • Pack Subordination = This can be slightly tricky if taken literally – because it can imply a hierarchy or weaknesses in the team. I don’t mean this in this manner. By subordination, I mean the team exhibits mutual respect and affection for each other and not fear.
  • Inherent desire to keep harmony in the group = The above point and this is inter-related. This tends to be the sub-conscious behavior of a ‘well-packed‘ team. The team thrives best on companionship.
  • Get driven by Learnings and not just Instincts = As I had mentioned in my previous blog, one of the key characteristics of these African Dogs as compared to other animals was that they typically are not instinctive hunters. It is my opinion that individuals get driven by instincts, but a team needs to get driven by Experience.
  • Cursorial hunting ability  = The team should have a long distance running ability to achieve their goal.
  • Holistic View rather than Individualistic View = The strength and progress personified more by the team rather than individuals.

If it helps in recognizing the value of having pack characteristics in a team – get this! Pack animals have the biggest success rate in their hunts as compared to other animals. We have successfully incorporated imbibed some of these characteristics in our teams (we call them as Velocity Packs) and now has become a key part of our offering in Version 1.0 in GlobalLogic.

Thoughts and comments are most welcome!

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