Category Archives: globalization

The Most Critical Skills in the 21st Century - are they Hard or Soft?

The past few months I’ve found myself instructing a series of Leadership and Communication workshops for adult professionals across the United States, together with delivering a series of Keynote Conference addresses in Europe on similar topics.

At one particular address in Dublin, Ireland, I emphasized that the beauty of modern software development approaches (such as Kanban) is that the development team can lay bare their work pipeline and ultimately collaborate (through effective leadership and communication skills) with the business. After a series of illustrative exercises (yes, at a keynote address!), attendees by and large embraced the principles of collaboration along with the concept that we need to refrain from treating each other as “machines” at work (formulated along the lines of Margaret Wheatley‘s ideas.) By treating each other as human beings from the kickoff meeting (at least), projects can achieve resounding levels of success.

One particular conference on Quality Assurance and Testing featured not only my keynote (A Soft Skills Toolkit for Testers!) on Leadership and Communication,  but at least three others of similar slant: presentations that emphasized teamwork, respect, and collaboration.  I believe that these are essential components to the success of any project!

One key point I bring home in all of my training and keynotes is that as engineers and computer scientists, we tend to minimize the emerging importance of soft skills such as leadership and communication (I have an entire 16-piece toolkit for this) as “fluff” in favor of what we often see as superior technical “hard skills”.  As an engineer myself, I see the pitfalls of a technically competent workforce that cannot talk outside of its own niche – and many others agreed.

But, it came to fully illustration the evening after one keynote.  A group of us had gathered at a local pub to sample the local beverages when the wife of a conference chair (a science based PhD herself) approached me to comment on what she had heard about my morning keynote:

“Carol, I heard that you gave an entertaining keynote presentation today, “

she started,

“…but it was “entirely without substance.”

What she was in fact saying was that my keynote, in her and her husband’s opinion, had some redeeming entertainment value, but the lack of research-data based charts and advanced equations, rendered it “entirely without substance.”

I did suppress my inclination to applaud and say “thank you for illustrating my point so eloquently” when she said this because I realized it might be a futile discussion.  Instead, I simply smiled, thanked her for her comment, and turned back to the business and beverage at hand.

Now that I am contemplating a series of workshops for future conferences (technical software engineering and quality conferences) to continue the discussions on Leadership and Communication, it occurs to me that calling these skills “soft” may actually diminish their importance – regardless of proof that Leadership, Communication and Collaboration are some of the most important and hardest skills to teach our industry leaders in the 21st century.

What do YOU think?  Are Leadership skills (such as managing to relationships, emotional intelligence, cultural intelligence, diversity, and working with teams and people) considered more as Soft Skills or as Hard Skills (akin to programming in dot net or Java) or a mix of both?

As a technical professional – how important do you think are Leadership and Communication skills to the success of your projects?

I will be awaiting your comments!

Happy holidays!

Carol

p.s., Send me an email if you’d like to see more about the Soft Skills Toolkit for Testers presentation I did in October. I would love feedback and recommendations.

The ABZ's of Communication for Technical Professionals... A: Always be Authentic

This is the 1st of my new 26 part (A through Z) blog series with Tips on Communication for Project Managers and Technical Professionals! With communication accounting for over 80% of a project manager’s time, the importance of GOOD communication cannot be overlooked.  Good projects begin with good communication!

Let’s get started:

A = Always be Authentic!

One of the biggest mistakes we make with a communications course is to blindly adopt practices and change ourselves  to fit “the mold” of a good communicator.  While there are best practices and lots of tips and techniques, the idea of one best way is pure rubbish… Think about it — you already have good communication skills that you use in other parts of your life.  New ideas and models can help hone your skills for use in your workplace.  One of the most important lessons we can learn is to always be authentic!

Choose those tips and techniques that will work for you, and tailor best practices so that they are in keeping with who you are.

Just as you can always spot a phony, so can others.  So be cautious before you adopt communication styles or techniques that don’t fit with who you are because they won’t give you the results you want!

For example, one technique that sometimes works for me (and is recommended by networking maven Susan RoAne) is to go into a mixer or networking gathering and act as if you are the host.  While this does work wonderfully in certain situations, there are group settings where I’d make a fool of myself if I attempted this. It’s all a matter of appropriateness with my personality and the situation. I encourage you to adopt new ideas that will work for you, in the situations they will work, and have the wherewithal to know when they won’t.

Always be authentic!

To your successful projects!

Carol

Carol Dekkers
email: dekkers@qualityplustech.com
http://www.qualityplustech.com/stage/

For more information on northernSCOPE(TM) visit www.fisma.fi (in English pages) and for upcoming training in Tampa, Copenhagen, Dusseldorf, Helsinki and other locations in 2010, visit www.qualityplustech.com.
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=======Copyright 2010, Carol Dekkers ALL RIGHTS RESERVED =======

IT Performance Measurement - Don't let time bandits prevail...

Here in FL, Sunday is one of my favorite days to sit outside on the deck overlooking the mangroves (yes, spring break weather is FINALLY here!) – and read the bulging Sunday newspaper.  I am always intrigued by the many topics in Sunday’s edition, and there’s always generalist stories that remind me of something that happens with software.  This week was no exception.

I’ve nevTime Banditser seen the syndicated column called “The Ethicist” by Randy Cohen (syndicated from the NY Times Magazine), but today’s column headline:  “Underreporting hours worked puts unrealistic goals on others” caught my eye… just the title reminded me of one of the biggest problems with IT measurement:  project hours in IT are typically under reported because of unrealistic project budgets, overtime rules, accounting practices, etc.  (In my experience with measurement and productivity work – this is part of what I call the “Dog Chasing Its Tail” syndrome but more about that in another post.)

Back to the Matter at hand… In this week’s column, (originally published in NY on March 11, 2010, and in my St. Petersburg Times March 14, 2010), Randy Cohen is presented with an ethical question:
“As a manager at a large company, I work far more than the required 40 hours a week, but report only 40. If I reported my actual hours I could be penalized financially for letting my projects run over budget.  Company policy states… <snip> … is there a problem with simply declining to mention some hours when I did work?”

The crux of Randy’s answer (as it related specifically to IT Performance Measurement for me) was “By underreporting your hours, you create a false sense of your efficiency.  The company now believes that you are able to complete your weekly tasks in 40 hours. But you are not. Your deception thwarts the company’s reasonable interest in assessing your performance”.  To use a Canadian expression Bang On with your response Randy! (to read the entire article by Randy Cohen, click here.)

This is one of the most pervasive problems when tackling software project estimation – using reported project hours as the basis for new project estimates (when the actual hours are much higher). Most people would see the folly of estimating the cost of a new based on the mortgage of a house down the street (you don’t know how much was the down payment!), but overlook the hazards of doing the same thing when estimating a software project based on under reported hours.  Both fall victim to the wrong foundation for estimating.

Before you embark on a process improvement initiative that targets Predictability and IT project Estimating, make sure that you know all the facts before you waste valuable time or energy compounding the existing problems and ignoring the real status quo.  Become knowledgeable about the issues (call or email me if you need a starting point or resources.)

To your successful projects!

Carol

Carol Dekkers
email: dekkers@qualityplustech.com
http://www.qualityplustech.com/stage/

Carol Dekkers provides realistic, honest, and transparent approaches to software measurement, software estimating, process improvement and scope management.  Call her office (727 393 6048) or email her (dekkers@qualityplustech.com) for a free initial consultation on how to get started to solve your IT project management and development issues.

For more information on northernSCOPE(TM) visit www.fisma.fi (in English pages) and for upcoming training in Tampa, Florida  — April 26-30, 2010, visit www.qualityplustech.com.

Contact Carol to keynote your upcoming event – her style translates technical matters into digestible soundbites, with straightforward and honest expertise that works in the real world!
=======Copyright 2010, Carol Dekkers ALL RIGHTS RESERVED =======

Crosstalk article on Scope Management

CrossTalk - The Journal of Defense Software Engineering

CrossTalk Jan/Feb 2010 Scope Management: 12 Steps for ICT Program Recovery

by Carol Dekkers, Quality Plus Technologies, Inc.
Pekka Forselius, 4SUM Partners, Inc.

ABSTRACT:
The information and communications technology (ICT) world is “addicted” to dysfunctional behavior and the problem is spreading globally. The sad truth is that the parties in the ICT relationship (the customer and the supplier) are largely co-dependent on a pattern of dysfunction characterized by ineffective communication, fixed price contracts with changing requirements, and eroding trust. This article focuses specifically on the northernSCOPE TM 12-step process for ICT program recovery.

For more information on northernSCOPE(TM) visit www.fisma.fi (in English pages) and for upcoming training in Tampa, Florida  — April 26-30, 2010, visit www.qualityplustech.com.

To your successful projects!

Carol

Carol Dekkers
email: dekkers@qualityplustech.com
http://www.qualityplustech.com/stage/
Contact Carol to keynote your upcoming event – her style translates technical matters into digestible soundbites, with straightforward and honest expertise that works in the real world!
=======Copyright 2010, Carol Dekkers ALL RIGHTS RESERVED =======