Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Hard Skills > Culture Fit


So here's a little bit of hiring people logic for you. I've expressed it as pseudo-code all those technical people who insist on exclusive hard skill hiring, despite the long term pain of it all.


private Handler handler;
public Employee effectiveEmployee;
public int numberofEffectiveEmployees = n; 
if (hard skills > culture fit) {
            handler = new Handler;
            numberofEffectiveEmployees -= 0.5;
        } else {
            effectiveEmployee = new Employee;
            numberofEffectiveEmployees++;
        }

What?

My code probably doesn't explain itself (and probably won't compile), so here goes.

So, a handler is the person (who may well have done the hiring if there is any justice) who tidies up the mess of a hire that doesn't fit with the culture that exists at your organisation. Not the public facing culture either, the actual one. Effectively for every poor cultural fit hired, you reduce the effectiveness of your remaining employees by a bit. Probably a fair bit. I went for half. Arbitrary. I harangue technical hires for this mainly as a sweeping generalisation, but it happens all over really.

Handler?

You can tell you're a handler when:

-The same person is in front of you all the time.
-You exhaust a repertoire of approaches to people management and problem solving that have served you quite well in a successful career thank you.
-Other people talk to you about that person all the time or the conversation always go that way.
-The organisation can't figure out what it wants from person.

Handlee?

You can tell you're a handlee when:

-You are always in front of your manager.
-Your manager appears irrational and changes approaches at seemingly random intervals.
-You appear to be the subject of conversation regularly in contexts that are probably nothing to do with you.
-The organisation can't figure out what to do with you.

Huh?

This is not a blame thing. Both handler and handlee are doing what comes naturally to them. Both are perfectly effective but just not right now. The problem is the culture black hole which exists between them, very, very slow drawing them both in. Or very fast. I forget which way time dilation and black holes work.

So?

A black hole is good analogy. As soon as you are committed to hire and the initial honeymoon period is done, the culture shock kicks in. And there are few ways to escape once the gravity well kicks in. None of them particularly pleasant.

Next time you think 'hey this person is a Perl wizard' also ask; 'will this person systematically alienate the rest of the humans around them?' You'll thank me for it.

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Train the Trainer - Course Retrospective


What's up with that then?

So, I've been charged with becoming a trainer within my organisation.

Just to set expectations here, I know a tiny amount about how to furnish humans with new knowledge, skills and attitudes. Make no mistake, if this field is an ocean, I am a puddle by comparison. I have dabbled with coaching, but much learning from me will probably have been via proximity and osmosis.

Personally, if I'm going to do something, I want to use my whole arse to do so, not just half of it. I want a set of models to apply in context and (more importantly) a strong paradigm, so when I discuss, create and iterate on training material and courses, I have a starting position to challenge/be challenged on. So, I attended the Train the Trainer course to compliment my own buccaneering learning tendencies.

What did you learn that t'internet didn't know for free?

The internet probably knows some of this stuff but here is a bunch of stuff I have learnt over the last few days:

  • I was pretty worried about creating material, how much time it would take and how I would fit everything else in. It turns out the angle of my thinking wasn't right. Instead of 'how can I create course material?' I should have been thinking 'how can I create exercises which transfer the onus onto the participant to learn.' Still be hard, but feel better.
  • Bloom's Taxonomy - A method of classification for learning objectives split into knowledge, skills and attitudes. If done really well, they will form your assessment too. If turns out my paradigms for knowledge, skill and attitude were a bit wonky too. Especially with reference to the difference between skills and knowledge and how to *really*  tell them part. Here goes:
    • Knowledge - I know how to do something
    • Skill - I can practically apply my knowledge of that something
    • Attitude - I have a belief or a will to do something
    • Simple maybe but its what I'll take forward with me! Have a look at Blooms, its fascinating stuff.
    • Excellent lexicon for objectives too, useful in many contexts.
  • My expectations - It turns out I don't need to try and impart all my knowledge and skills within a certain time period. Also my expectations of others post training course. They might not need to be geniuses. They might need to recall some things, recognise patterns in others, be able to apply for others still. 
  • Fluidity - training courses are not an iron clad, military exercise. They provide a scaffolding which allows room for manoeuvre, but the ability to flex on what really matters to the participants. Simple questions at the beginning of a topic like 'what is your experience of X' can help to frame a session, streamlining as appropriate to meet needs.
  • Objectives linked to activity is key. The opportunity to learn, reflect, add to our theoretical knowledge and apply that knowledge should be embedded in each activity. If that is simple matching of paired subjects or attempts to build competence in complex modelling techniques, I really appreciate the set of heuristics the course furnished me with to assist.
  • Me - I'm a pushy so and so. If you are not careful, I'll be in there, taken over the whole show and be happily reshaping things in my own glorious image. I shouldn't do that anyway. I really, really shouldn't do that in a training context. I'm not creating Cyber-men, I must curb my natural tendencies. I think this will be good for me.
It was worthy of the investment. Now, I look forward to getting the sharp nail of experience through my foot and the associated tetanus jab. Time to apply that knowledge, the real test one might argue.

And finally an external view on 'IT bods'.....

It was wonderful to spend time with people from background whose primary focus isn't technology. It can be a closeted world and certainly challenged my ability to explain the fundamentals of testing and agility in context!

Oh and those guys from different career paths and domains still perceive all 'IT projects' to be late, of poor quality and rarely solve the original problem. Or the problem doesn't exist any more by the time we are done. Or the company doesn't. So far still to go.