Keep an eye on team work

Team workHave you ever thought what makes one team a dream team or what kind of persons should a great team have? I have. I was exploring at the library a couple of weeks ago and found Susan A. Wheelan's book named Creating Effective Teams. The lady has worked with both public and private teams, studied their dynamics and found a few characteristics which make a difference. From my point of view I usually work with a couple of mates or a team with different organization's participants, very rarely only alone. I have asked myself a lot of questions: what can I do to support other people to give their thoughts during a meeting, what happens to us if someone gets a promotion and no longer work with us or how are we doing right now (I feel it used to be better).

Susan A. Wheelan thinks that a high performance team should at first point have a mission, strictly defined goals and autonomy. For me it was also surprising that she wrote that one shouldn't help a team too much. I think that the help from outsiders doesn't make sense if the team already knows what to do but nobody takes his/her responsibility to lead the team to the right direction. A team's dependency should not be expected. A group has to be linked to a bigger organization, too. A group maybe reports to an upper level management or share ideas with other groups. If an outside intervention is needed, one should ask how this helps a group to perform better, how it's linked to tasks and goals and what kind of evidence is provided for the results (for example studies, methods used or other sources like recommendations).

In a team or a group development there are four phases according to Wheelan: 1) dependency and inclusion, 2) counter-depence and fight, 3) trust and structure and 4) work and productivity. Usually it takes 6-7 month to get into phase four but it's also possible to go back to earlier phases. During different phases a leader's role and opinions are different, tasks and goals are seen differently and structures, conflict management and work-orientation are different. During phase one it's important that a main goal is agreed, accepted and meaningful. On the second phase roles and tasks are important: clear definitions, abilities and skills are valuated and people feel good on their roles. Leadership has to be changed time to time, at first phase security and acceptance by other members is needed and leader has to encourage people to work together. One should also keep an eye on communication and feedback, it's usually helpful if after a meeting feedback is collected and before starting a next meeting the feedback is communicated. A successful team has to discuss openly, have a structured way to handle conflicts and has to implement norms, structures etc. but after the implementation usually change those sometimes.

An effective leader understands the group's goals and tasks, adjusts his/her style by a group's needs (which phase is on). During the first phase goals, safety, structures and acceptance of others is important. On the second phase the culture is a key word but also some extent issues/problems will exist and conflict management has to be implemented. Wheelan thinks that conflicts are needed to go further with a team. How a team finds a right path to go forward may be after a conflict. During the third phase roles, organization, negotiations and positive atmosphere should be on. On the fourth phase working meanse efficiency and productivity.

I learned an easy trick from Susan A. Wheelan: a process check. This means that during a meeting if you think that something is wrong and the focus is away, you can say ”Let's do a process check”. Whilst in place, you check the agenda if it contains enough time to go it trough and get tasks shared or done, ask people if they are heard enough or if anything needs a more clarifications and discussion with others. When a process check takes place you can also evaluate the whole meeting process and improve it straight.

Even a high performance team can loose its egde: this usually happens between 18 to 24 moths' timeline. What you can do to avoid it? You may add additional goals and tasks, switch roles, take your time to teach others to do a peer work, rotate members off and add new people, change the way meetings are arranged or change the time or simply focus on something else, creative things.

In my opinion this book covers a lot of aspects of team working. I especially liked the true life examples it contained and also how it was written containing a problem definition and after that a solution. Very valuable reading for any teamworker or teamleader.

What's Googley in your business?

WWGDI have thought many times what new economy means and how it changes the way of life and business. I read a Jeff Jarvis book What Would Google Do? because I've been long interested in mobile apps and internet companies. This book really had an impact on my thinking.

Basicly the book is about internet economy, advertising, customer relationships and business models. It gives also advice for you if you're not so related to social networks and other internet stuff. These days companies may decide in the beginning to do business in a new way straight forward, for example Google and Facebook have changed the world in their business logics. Usually this means a new logic in pricing and services. It took a while for Facebook to realize how it can cash its users but now it offers a good possibilities for advertisers to use already available data. For its users this is no longer a good thing from all aspects but they're quite locked because of their way of life with FB or other services in social media scene.

This new economy has also other sides: business may fall rapidly if users are unhappy or a better competitor evolves. Google makes it differently from other ways, too. They have fund new energy technologies because their data centers need a lot more power when they grow, they may also fund innovations evolved in a company employees – either add these new innovations to their own business or enrich their ecosystem. On my point of view Android is valuable because I can get many nice apps into my tablet for free and for Google (even it's free) because it may be the king when it comes to advertising.

Jarvis' presents certain rules which companies have to think if they decide to do business in new ways. They have to be more open (customers appreciate it) but they have to manage special cases efficiently to keep customers happy and this means sometimes a lot of effort from their employees to correct problems. This may also mean that some customers are nothing but costs to the company. If you do your business in this new way, a good reputance keeps getting better by the user base (a good word keeps going, also the bad reputance might go faster than ever). Jarvis shows this in his own life experiences, he tells in a blog when something goes wrong and doesn't forget to tell also good work.

Some of the book's ideas sound a bit too weird for me. I wouldn't recommend anybody to share their health data without making it anonymous or I wouldn't like to order a dish in a restaurant same way as 1000's of others did. I'm an explorer and interested in new findings (sometimes I get totally weird stuff to my plate).

To my mind this book may be a good starting point for anyone but the one should keep calm in changes the working part of their business and maybe add only some of the spices into real world. The company shoulds know its pure business logic, realize new possibilities and also know the risks. This goes back to my opinion on good word, bad word situations.

All in all, what would be the business I would like to be changed? Real estate, definetely. I've been silently looking for a nice apartment at least 2 years now. In my opinion this process could be changed totally and the agents might be left outside or at least they could step a few steps back. I would suggest that buyers could go online: tell what are their needs, in which area they're interested in and how much they are ready to pay. By making this in a database a house or an apartment sellers could look for a customer without real estate agents and make an offer. This might also go further with the data, users could give details of their bargains for a house and the prices could be more open. At this time the prices in Finland are most likely higher than the real value and this is basicly because of the market power is on real estate agents. One company tried to change this setting but unfortunately it didn't work for longer time. It might lay on trust which private sellers may have but this could be fixed if health checks for houses are made by professionals, some help is added by professional legal advisors etc. Maybe the time is right now if anyone gives it a try. What would Google do?

How SAP Solution manager helps you in application maintenance

I read SAP Press Solution manager book by Marc Schäfer and Matthias Melich during my Eastern holiday. This book is about using the new SAP Solution manager 7.1 to accelerate your implementation processes, enhance your change management and service desk but also link these functions to complete an end-to-end process in better application lifecycle management. The book is quite huge which means that it goes rather deep in these topics. The one thing I especially liked were customer examples which revealed also how SAP development works with customers and partners.

 

I have had an opportunity to work with SAP specialists who have helped us in system upgrades, go-lives and root cause analysis education work shops. I’m not a deep techie but these work shops have been helpful for me and my colleagues working with current issues and implementations. Of course you should not miss the valuable tips and tricks if you want to make the most of your investment. In my opinion SAP Solution manager is something I could expect from any software provider. The Solution manager contains a lot of data of your system, its usage and also if you implement service and change request management in it you have a wide view of your system situation. This also means that your master data and documentation should be in a good shape. This needs a lot of effort if you consider these changes without any pre-work.

 

To my mind the best advantage you get in change management with SAP Solution manager is the controlling aspect. You have straight track records of your changes and if the documentation has been done into it in a good manner, it gives your organization great advantages. I also liked the feature that when you consider a change in your system, it is possible that SAP goes trough the available SAP notes concerning your change and can suggest you a standard solution in stead of customization.

 

This book contains valuable tips how you can check the system state. It also presents some tools that are helpful in system upgrades, customizing checks (especially to check which custom codes are used) and landscape management. It is advantageous if you find your time to read the whole book trough and go back later in your current issues. I warmly recommend!

Are you able to rework?

ReworkJason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson are two guys from 37signals.com. They have written a book named Rework where they question widely-known rules and assumptions to do business. In my opinion this book is easy and quick to read, something everyone should find time to read wheter they are entrepreneurs or not.

Lessons I learned were these:
1.don't think about establishing a start-up company instead of it start a business
2.know your product and try it at home
3.remember to leave something out
4.communicate with your customers
5.think what you want before doing and
6.be ready to make decisions.

Start-up companies usually wait for something big to come. They don't usually use their own money or question growing consumption because they don't have to. If you start a company with your own money and clear vision where you're heading, you can build a healthy company. Fried and Hansson don't say that there shouldn't be start-ups but most of us should start straight forward and don't waste time to search for risk funding, make beautiful websites or think too big. We should start companies with first customers and the product and growing will follow. Some companies certainly should stay small instead of building too risky strategies to employ new people and rent great office buildings. A small might be enough.

Companies start with an idea and product. You can't underestimate testing your ideas or products: if you can use it at home, it has market. When it comes to leaving something out, these guys give an example from museums: they have curators who pick right pieces of art work to be on the wall and more important is what they leave out. Many times we forget that our product shouldn't always be better than others in the market. Sometimes customers don't need too fancy products. Apple is a good example of this because their products don't gimmick with too much technics and at Apple they focus on user experience and benefits of their products. People who wait for a large amout of details are able to buy something other.

Communicate with your customers and teach them with your products. The world famous cooks usually write books and have own tv shows where they give advice. This doesn't keep their restaurants empty because a taste is still unique. It isn't necessary to hire a marketing officer or pay huge amounts of money to a pr agency if you continously communicate with your customers, your biggest audience. From Finland I could give an example how you shouldn't make business. A mining company Talvivaara had recently an enormous environment disaster when their process water slushed to lakes nearby and made it impossible to use water for drinking or bathing. Their strategy was partly to hide problems and communicate as little as possible to public – wrong! They could have had better results if they had started it at first with openess and communicated to the public and officials straight. A good example or also an example how to apologize comes from Thai airways. I bough a connecting flight ticket with restrictions to change or refund. The company changed flight schedule and it was impossible for me to get the flight. I emailed them and explained and they gave me a full refund unless they could have say me unfortunately your ticket isn't refundable. To my mind they have a nice company policy where they give people right to play sometimes out of the ticket rules just to keep a customer satisfied. Their customer service is also one of the best I know, they answer quickly and help customers to pick a right ticket or look for possibilities if customer's needs are something they can't offer.

In 37 signals they have found working solutions for recruiting: they try themselves tasks they are planning for a new employee and if those tasks are important, they hire a new person; they also think twice before recruiting a new one if somebody leaves the house, this makes in every step rethinking possible (is this really needed); and they test in small projects if the person they are planning is suitable for their culture. Nowadays and especially in public sector it's difficult to rethink before hiring. Sometimes it's important to get anyone unless a suitable person is available not to loose any positions from next year's or two plans and budgets.

In my view this book underlines highly an ability to make decisions. Some people have this and some don't so it's important for you to be the one who can. It's also important that you have enough time to work. Don't stay in meetings that are unnecessary and think twice before you waste other people's time if a meeting is only for discussion and there aren't possibilities to get decisions out. An efficient working time is usually only 2-4 hours a day and there isn't any idea to keep people overtime. Why there's only a little efficient time? Usually we have to stop our work when somebody calls or we have these useless meetings. I have found a good way to avoid this: I work sometimes out of the office of my own and stay instead some other office where I have only a little colleagues present. Also it's possible to mute phone but usually this happens only when I forget to turn muting off. After all these work for me.