Monday, 27 February, 2012

Book Review: Inside Apple

In this book, the author has attempted to reveal operating model of Apple under the leadership of Late Steve Jobs. He has also commented on possible future scenarios for the company. Quite readable, this book continues to hold reader’s attention till its end. A good book to read for Apple fans and others.

Friday, 10 February, 2012

Attitude matters!

In a recently attended training, the trainer (Mr. Viswanathan V) used following logic to make a point that attitude matters!

If we count 1 for letter 'a', 2 for letter 'b' up to 26 for letter 'z' then we find following scores:

skills = 19 + 11 + 9 + 12 + 12 + 19 = 82
hard work = 8 + 1 + 18 + 4 + 23 + 15 + 18 + 11 = 98
knowledge = 11 + 14 + 15 + 23 + 12 + 5 + 4 + 7 + 5 = 96
attitude = 1 + 20 + 20 + 9 + 20 + 21 + 4 + 5 = 100

It's interesting, isn't it?

Takeaways from Training Program on "Giving and Receiving Feedback"

A couple of weeks back, I attended one-day in-house training program on "giving and receiving feedback". Mr. Viswanathan V delivered this program extremely well. Following are my key takeaways:

  • Make feedback specific (e.g. "When you , it's a problem because . What I would like you to do in future is )
  • Take responsibility while giving feedback; let it be YOUR feedback, based on YOUR information/observation.
  • Give balanced feedback. Positive feedback boosts morale while negative feedback improves performance.
  • Avoid delay. 
  • Make your expectations clear to your subordinates in the beginning so that you can refer to those expectations while giving your feedback.
  • Link your feedback to company goals and suggest actions that can contribute to those goals.
  • If the person receiving feedback, cries then give him/her time and space to express and then proceed gradually. If her/she gets angry then show empathy and partial acknowledgement before proceeding further.
  • If the person receiving feedback disagrees with the facts in the feedback then provide examples/evidence. On other hand, if he/she questions whether there is any problem itself then specify the consequences of his/her behavior.
  • While receiving feedback, adhere to following rules:
    • Try to control your defensiveness.
    • Listen to understand.
    • Try to suspend judgement.
    • Summarize and reflect what you hear.
    • Ask questions to clarify.
    • Ask for examples and stories that illustrate the feedback.
    • Never hurt their ego.
    • Not every feedback is correct.
    • Be approachable.
    • Check with others to determine reliability of feedback.
  • If you get no feedback, then actively seek feedback from everyone you interact (boss, peers, juniors, clients, etc.).
  • If you get feedback in public then ask for feedback in private.
  • If you get rambling feedback then summarize and/or ask pointed questions.
  • If you get vague feedback then ask probing questions.
Thanks to Mr. Viswanathan, for sharing his wisdom during this training program. Also the films shown were quite informative. I have been recommending this program to my company colleagues since giving/receiving feedback is very much integral part of our work.

How to write an effective abstract

There is more than enough advice on how to write effective abstract. After all, abstract is the one which brings readers' attention to your paper or article. I follow the advice given by Kent Beck in his OOPSLA talk, "How to Get a Paper Accepted at OOPSLA". Let me produce it here almost verbatim:

"The abstract is your four sentence summary of the conclusions of your paper. ... I try to have four sentences in my abstract. The first states the problem. The second states why the problem is a problem. The third is my startling sentence. The fourth states the implication of my startling sentence."

The startling statement should communicate the key message of the paper that would catch interest of target readers. Kent Beck further advises that one should resist the temptation to argue for the conclusion in the abstract. That way the reader has more incentive to carefully read the rest of the paper to validate the startling statement

Using this advice, I recently wrote following abstract for my upcoming article on "Managing Information and Email Overload":

If you feel overloaded with lots of emails in your inbox and availability of Too Much Information(TMI), then be assured that you are not alone! Thanks to widespread use of computers and internet, the information load is going to only increase in future and would result in reduced productivity and delay in decision making.In this article, you will find 3F formula for managing information and email overload. With this formula, you can not only increase your productivity and decision-making ability but can also improve your work-life balance.

Book Review: Offshore

Written by two Infosys executives, this book provides almost complete details about Indian IT services industry to an outsider. I being an industry practitioner for last 15 years also found quite few new information nuggets in this book. Besides being informative, the book makes arguments on various issues with support from good amount of quantitative and qualitative data. In all, this book is a good read for all who are concerned with IT services industry in one way or other.