Friday, January 19, 2018

Don't try to fix what's not broken !!

For the first 30 years of my life I had no problem with my ears. Never used ear buds. Never used dewax. So far so good.
Then I saw Johnson & Johnson earbuds at my local supermarket and thought hmm, I wonder why I never used them. They ought to be important for personal hygiene and I took the bait.
Sure enough, I loved using them so much that I started using them every day after taking bath, though I knew there was nothing left to clean.
Fast forward a few months and I developed an ear infection for the first time in my life. After few painful visits to Doctor, it was finally found that a piece of cotton from the earbud was left inside my ear. The general physician told me that I should never use ear buds but only dewax drops every few days. I switched to that and felt that my ears were always wet and developed ear infection once again.
Making long story short, I visited an ENT specialist who asked me why do I want to use ear buds? I replied honestly that other than hygiene, it feels just too good
His advice was NEVER to use ear buds, because our ears are designed in such a way that ear buds only pushes the wax deeper and not to use any ear drops as well as the moisture provides a fertile ground to fungus to grow. Basically, he asked me to leave my ears alone as body is fully capable of taking care of itself including keep the ear clean without any efforts from us.
I created a problem which didn't exist. Same goes with medicines. Avoid them if you can. The side effects outweighs the benefits lot of time and just trust your body to fight it out benefits. Stopping popping those vitamin pills too.

New year resolution !!!

Every time the new year is approaching, we start making a list of things that we will do next year but we all know what happens to them. Sounds like my story for every new year since I can remember.
Given the optimist I am, on 31th 2016, I didn't shy away from making another list
Weight loss made it to the top of my list for the first time. I took growth in a different direction by going from 68 kg to 88 kgs over last 5 year of corporate bliss.
As you guessed, determined as I was, I installed health apps, watched YouTube videos, bought new running gears and all the things you would do in such a scenario. The biggest of them was I will stop eating sweets. You may smile but it's bigger tougher than any other addiction (at least in my dictionary). While i am going to not eat sweet then there is no place for any junk food. I am going to purist. While I am it, why not change the life style altogether. How about sleeping at 10 p.m. and waking up at 5 a.m. every day? Say that to an Indian software engineer and see the reaction you get
Saying that this is all wishful thinking was understatement of the year. When I told this to no other soul other than my life support system, my wife, her reaction was a smile that said something like nobody got hurt by having good intentions. Go on. We will see if you remember any of it tomorrow.
Poor girl, little did she know, things were going to change.
When I started this, I promised myself that I am not going to do before and after picture o. Facebook . Quora is the closest I will come to sharing it with anyone.
Fast forward, 8 months, I was 62 kg, down from 88 kg by doing each and every thing I mentioned above. Losing 3–4 kg a week straight for 8 months.
I had to stop because changing entire wardrobe was not an expense I had planned for. Pants falling down my knees and belts running out of holes wasn't thought about earlier too. Worse, I was stopped by everyone in office to enquire about it and it was too embarrassing for a low profile guy like me to draw so much attention.
This story for me wasn't about weight loss. It was about telling myself that if I can do this, I can probably do other things on my new resolution list.
Keep dreaming. Keep believing.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Power of "Asking"

Let me tell a story

I recently went to India on a vacation and didn't realize that my Data was left ON by mistake while my SIM was on International Roaming. I turned if off immediately when I found out my blunder but only after couple of days. When i came back to Singapore, I was anticipating the horror when my Phone bill is generated.  Sure enough, S$ 453 of data usage bill was staring at me.  I cursed myself one more time for being how silly i was and promised myself never to repeat this by disabling the international roaming altogether. That's a good preventive measure for future but what about the damage now? I convinced myself that i will write this off as a one-time expense and learn from it.

Then I thought, am i first one to do this blunder ? Probably, not. Then why don't I call SingTel and tell them my sad story. I did just that. I called them and told them how stupid I was and described the accident.

Then i ASKED, "Can you do something about it? and added please !! "

I expected them to be business like and tell me that it is what it is and they did what was part of my terms and conditions.

But guess what, the girl on the other side of the line wasn't a surprised a bit (and had probably heard this many times before) and she heard me patiently and told me that she can put me on a 1 day roaming plan which was something like S$ 30 / day and reverse this amount.

Wow !! I wasn't expecting anything but here i reduced 90 % of my damage by just "ASKING"

The morale of the story for myself was that so many times in life we let go of opportunities because we just "ASSUME" that things won't change instead of "ASKING" even once. Some of the times we don't do this because we are afraid of REJECTION of being told NO and our ego is too big to handle that. I have learnt that there is nothing wrong in asking for help. There is nothing to lose by asking something and sometimes getting rejected. The benefits of asking far our-weigh the risk of not asking and missing important opportunities.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Learning: Book - First, Break All the Rules

Jotting down some learning /quotes from reading this excellent book on being a good manager by breaking all the conventional rules.

General tips for Managers:

- Treat people as you would like to be treated.They would say don't treat people as you would like to be treated

- Don't treat everyone as one and so to avoid charges of favoritism. Treat them differently as everyone is unique.

- Don't try to make clones.  Don't try to fix people. Make them more of what they already are.

- Don't always promote people out of their role if they are great in what they do. Help them become the 'best'  and 'world class' in what they do.

- Myth - Trust is precious - it must be earned.

- Expect the best from your people and they will give you their best. Trust them.

- Being a great manager doesn't make you a great leader and vice versa. Don't use them interchangeably.

- Managers look inward while Leaders look outward

- As a manager, always remember, you are on a stage every day. You are people are watching you perform.

- Make few promises and keep them all

- If a company is bleeding people, it is bleeding value

- You employees don't work for you. you work for your employees as a manager

-  Managers trump companies. Manager is most important in building a great team. Not pay, benefit, perks or brand name

- Manager is to reach inside each employee and release his unique talent into performance

- Conventional Wisdom: Select a person (based on his experience, determination and intelligence), set expectations (by defining the right steps), motivate the person (by helping him identify and overcome his weakness), develop the person (by helping him learn and get promoted)

- Instead, Select a person (for their talent), set the expectation (by defining the right outcome), motivate (by focusing on their strength) and develop (by help him find the right fit)

- Manager is like a casting director for a movie. He has to select the right employees for the right job.

- As a manager, spend max time with your star performers.

- Never say that i know how you feel because you will never know how exactly someone feels. Each person has its own filter and they see world through those lenses which may be very different from how you see it.

- Conventional wisdom: Investigate your failure and try to invert it

- Instead, build upon your success and study your best performances and amplify that

- Excellence and failure are often surprisingly similar. Average is the anomaly. Example, The difference between the best and the worst is that the best nurses use their emotions to take control
and smooth the patient's world as far as is possible, whereas the worst are
overwhelmed by their emotions. Average nurses? Average nurses protect
themselves by keeping their distance. They are emotionally disengaged

- Manager are akin to sports coaches who turn the talents into great performance by providing the right direction and guidance

- Define the right outcomes and then let each person find his own route toward those outcomes.forcing everyone to follow the same path toward those out comes. Standardizing the ends prevents her from having to standardize the means.

- As a manager, resist the temptation to control their people.Many managers can frequently be seduced by the idea that there is "one best way" and that it can be taught.

- Don't let the creed overshadow the message. Required steps are only necessary if they don't obscure the desired outcome

- Don't try to make your employees more "well rounded". Let them be best in what they are good at.

- Be anything we want to be if we just work hard is a wrong message and this mean everyone has same potential.And if we all have the same potential, then we lose our individuality.

- No matter how well intended, relationships preoccupied with weakness never end well.

- Wrong message: You can become more persuasive, more strategic, or more empathic if you just work at it,"

- Employees can be grouped in 3 buckets - Keepers, Losers and Movers (miscast)

- Spend the Most Time with Your Best People

- Conventional wisdom: No news is good news.
Instead: No news is BAD news. Everyone expects a reaction and acknowledgement so provide instant and regular feedback

- You cannot learn very much about excellence from studying
failure. Unfortunately you don't come any closer to identifying those right ways by eliminating the
wrong ways. Excellence is not the opposite of failure

- Don't use average to estimate the limits of excellence

If a manager is preoccupied by the burden of trans forming strugglers into survivors by helping them squeak above "average," he will have little time left for the truly difficult work of guiding
the good toward the great

- Average thinking actively limits performance with all degenerative diseases, procrastination in the face of poor performance is a fool's remedy.

- Bad performance: "No," it's not a skills/knowledge issue, and "No," it's not a trigger
issue—then by default the nonperformance is probably a talent issue.

- As soon as they realize that a weakness is causing the poor performance, they switch their approach. They know that there are only three possible routes to helping the person succeed.

Employee development

- Devise a support system (Reading glass example). Find a complementary partner. Or find an alternative role

- The first fallacy is that each rung on the ladder represents a slightly more complex version of the previous rung. Consequently, if a person excelled on one rung on the ladder, it is a sure sign that  with just a little more training, he will be able to repeat his success on the rung above. The best managers reject this. They know that one rung doesn't necessarily lead to another..

- Why not carve out alter native career paths by conveying meaningful prestige on every role per
formed at excellence? Why not create heroes in every role?

- Conventional wisdom: "Since Jan has proven herself a solid manager, I am confident that we can teach her the strategic thinking and the vision needed to be a great leader."

- Great managers excel at "holding up the mirror." They excel at giving performance feedback
great managers made a point of giving their feedback in private, one on one. The purpose of feedback is to help each individual to understand and build upon his natural strengths. You cannot dothis in a
group setting.

- Great managers create a safety net. In conventional wisdom's world, taking bold career steps in
order to discover a latent talent or to refine an existing one is almost as fool hardy as volunteering to learn the trapeze without a safety net.

- When an employee is obviously miscast, great managers hold up the mirror. They encourage the employee to use this misstep to learn a little more about his unique combination of talents and non talents. They use language like "This isn't a fit for you, let's talk about why" or "You need
to find a role that plays more to your natural strengths. What do you think that role might be?" They use this language not because it is polite, not because it softens the bad news, but because it is true.

- This is the "love" element of tough love. The most effective managers do genuinely care about each of their people. But they imbue "care" with a distinct meaning. In their minds, to "care" means to set the person up for success

- Great managers disagree. When Gallup asked, "Would you rather get employees what they want, or would you rather get them what is right for them?" the great managers consistently replied, "Get
them what is right for them."

- Everyone breathes different psychological oxygen. What is fulfilling for one person is asphyxiating for another

- Performance appraisals - focus on the future.

- They can help the employee find his path of least resistance toward his goals

- In the world according to great managers, the employee is the star. The manager is the agent. And, as in the world of performing arts, the agent expects a great deal from his stars.

- Instead its power lies in its idiosyncrasy, in the fact that each humans nature is different

- "Don't try to put in what was left out. Try to draw out what was left in."Some managers may try to resist these forces of change, but they will fail

- The Art of Tough Love  "How do great managers terminate someone and still keep the relationship intact?

- The "tough" part is easy to explain. Because great managers use excellence as their frame of reference when assessing performance, Tough love simply implies that they do not compromise on this standard. So in answer to the question "What level of performance is unacceptable?"
these managers reply, "Any level that hovers around average with no trend upward." In answer to the question "How long at that level is too long?" Great managers reply, "Not very long." But I know my people, sometimes better than they know themselves

- Tough Love: When picked the wrong person on the job. Fire him. Do it fast, faster the better. You are not doing a favor to anyone by waiting. I believe that, deep down, the poor performer knows he is struggling before you do. Maybe he can't find the words, or maybe his pride won't
let him say it, but he knows. On some level he wants your help. And so, subconsciously, he puts himself in situations where his weaknesses are exposed. He is daring you, pushing you to fire him. I call this manager assisted career suicide. If you suspect that this is happening, the best
thing you can do is help put him out of his misery.

- In the minds of great managers, consistent poor performance is not primarily a matter of
weakness, stupidity, disobedience, or disrespect. It is a matter of miscasting.

- Manager try to highlight and perfect each person's unique style. They draw his attention to it. They help him understand why it works for him and how to perfect it


- Hire for talent and not just skills and knowledge.

- Hire people whose eye lit up when they talk about their job.

- The Art of Interviewing for Talent "Which are the right questions to ask?"

 - Make sure the Talent interview stand alone

- Ask a few open-ended questions and then try to keep quiet. Listen for specifics


- Talent is recurring pattern of thought, feeling or behavior  that can be productively applied.

- Every role, performed at excellence, requires talent, because it requires certain recurring pattern of thoughts, feeling or behavior.  Great nurses have talent so do janitors. Talent for account is "when the books balance". Love of "precision" is a talent not skill or knowledge or experience

- Talent is not rare.  Manager help identify hidden talents for the right job and further develop them.

- Talent can't be taught. Skill and Knowledge can be.

- You can't rewire someone's brain. People don't change much. Trying to change them is futile. Don't try to fix people.

- While person can't learn a new talent which is required for her job and may become her weakness but she can develop self awareness and self-regulation so she can cope up with that limitation

- Conventional wisdom: Success is 10 % inspiration, 90 % perspiration

- Even if you hire for same level of experience, brain power and will power, you will end with a range of performance because it's the talent that is secret sauce

 - Skills and knowledge are transferable from one person to another. They have limited application when faced with totally new situation, never learnt/faced before.

- Talent are transferable from one situation to another & can help one solve the problem never seen before.

- Each person has a mental filter through which they see the world. Face the same stimuli, people behave differently. It creates your motivations, forges your attitude

- It's wrong to tell that everyone has the same potential if they are willing to open and learn.

- There are striving talent (explain why of a person, what motivates him), thinking talent(explains how of a person, how he makes decisions), and relating talent (explain who of a person. whom he trust, whom he builds relationship with)

- If I find myself telling the same person to look on the bright side' time and time and
time again, I should take a hint. He's not a bright-sider. He's a dark-sider. I should stop wasting my breath and try to find a role where skepticism is key to success."

- Myth - Some roles are easy and don't require talent. Janitor or a Secretary is desperate to get out of their current job and they must be doing this because they are stuck &; it must be demoralizing.  We don't realize that they might love their job and they have talent to be great in what they do and hence moving them out of their job is not helping them.


- Customers really wants - accuracy, availability, partnership and advice

- Accuracy and availability are easy for your competition to replicate and they are important but only prevent customer dissatisfaction. Partnership and advice creates the connection and trust that's important to have long term relationship

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Manifesto for Quality Assurance & Testing

Inspired by legendary Agile manifesto and my own experiences:

1) Having the talent to see through & anticipate failures over finding them later

2) Using machines/tools/humans as slaves to get things done over becoming their slaves

3) Common sense over conventional wisdom

4) Questioning every assumption & requirement with respect over sheep-walking

5) Doubting (with respect) over trusting or hoping for the best.

6) Being reasonable, firm  & constructive over being the opposite