Thursday, August 22, 2013

What hiring process do you use?

What philosophy do you use when hiring new members for the team? The tendency for many teams is to create an interview hazing process.  Requiring interviewees to run a gauntlet of silly questions, riddles, etc.  Is it not obvious that this will result in a poor hiring decision?

If you ask an experienced, knowledgable HR person they can tell you how poor the hiring process really is.  Ask a researcher and they will tell you that it is one of the poorest business process for producing the desired results.  Yet almost every organization continues this tried, but not true process.

Google, being a big data company has done it's own research on the topic.  Read the results.

In Head-Hunting, Big Data May Not Be Such a Big Deal

Google’s Quest to Build a Better Boss
There are many reasons people choose to leave a company, here is one top three list:
  • Disengaged with organizational mission
  • Lack of respect for co-workers
  • A terrible boss
Google found that the boss aspect was the largest variable in attrition rates.  So to mitigate it they started doing quarterly performance reviews (not less, but the non-intuitive inverse - more).  This resulted in better review ratings for bosses.
So back to the hiring process.  Do you use a practice of real life activity to assess the candidate?  I would if I were you.  I've done pair programming interviews with candidates.  It is very enlightening.  People that pass the verbal Q&A interview process then sit down at a keyboard and solve a real coding example problem.  We use a TDD example.  Something like the classic convert a roman numeral into decimal.

It may amaze you the first several times you do this.  The people you think did well in the Q&A might not do so well in the hands on the keyboard, pairing exercise.  It may be that they just don't know how to code.  It may be that they can code but have never used a modern IDE and haven't the foggiest idea about keyboard short cuts, or built in refactoring tools.  Or it may be that you find out that they cannot pair program - they refuse to verbalize their thoughts, they don't want a pairing partner.  If these aspects of being a rock star developer are important to you - a test is a really good idea.

Menlo Innovation has described an interesting an alternative interview process.  While I'm sure it has continued to evolve they use a pair programing and skills observation technique to find candidates for their culture (A 2002 whitepaper - Extreme Interviewing).  Read about it in Joy Inc. How we build a workplace people love by Richard Sheridan or take a tour of Menlo.

ACE the Behavioral Interview
Does your hiring process end with the offer letter?  Many companies court a candidate up until they arrive to sign the I9 document.  But then the dating is over, sign the non-compete, the intellectual property, the first born documents and you are OURS (evil laugh).

A Closer Look at Behavior-Based Interviewing

How to ACE the Behavioral Interview  as an agile candidate by Shirly Ronen-Harel.  A nice set of tips and principles for the hiring group to perform their tasks, the results desired would be hiring people that show and behave in the open-mindset.

Many companies use the try-it before you buy-it technique.  They hire new employees on a probation period, or they use the contract-to-hire option.  It amazes me at how little they exercise the opt-out aspect of these techniques.  I doubt they get the value out of these techniques.

Here's a technique that apparently works.  Offer the new employee a bonus to quit, right now in the introductory training days, just leave and take the money. Yes, it seems a bit crazy, yet it works for some very high stress, high turnover support jobs at Zappos.  Wonder why?

BusinessWeek: Why Zappos Offers New Hires $2,000 to Quit

Because Zappos takes the time to explain the real job, the dirty underbelly of the job, explains their culture and the way they handle terribly rude customers and then a Zappos trainer will make you an offer you can't refuse.  That is unless you have already decide that this will be a great place to work, that you resonate with this crazy culture, that you will feel good letting your freak-flag fly in their offices.  Wow - they get to cultural match in a matter of days.  And they pay for people to opt-out.  Turns out this is great business.

Does your company do an indoctrination training course.  The military is famous for their boot-camp.  Those are awesome, few companies put that much energy into training raw recruits.  Now the typical is about 4 hours of the mandatory harassment training videos and about a VP speaking about the wow-factors of working here.

I just went through an awesome 2 day course at my new company.  It didn't happen in the first week.  They had an onboarding training but then scheduled the new employee training several weeks out.  That was a nice touch.  But the greatest part was that the executives all showed up to welcome and educate the new employees to the company.  Taking time to explain culture, mission and the complex relationships that exist.  It was a true learning experience.  All the traditional HR onboarding crap was separate.  This allow the focus to be upon the people and the relationships.

See Also:

Creating a Product Design Hiring Guide - by Isaak Hayes
What would happen if you did this for your team's next hire - generalize beyond the UX/UI concept in this article to any role you wish to hire.  See Show me the SKILZ of your cross-functional team.

Make Bad Hires  by  Bob Marshall - the FlowchainSensei

Joy, INC by Richard Sheridan - describes their group hiring process and practices.  I just got a job at USAA and they were using the Menlo Innovation's model of hiring.

Scrum Masters valued higher than Project Managers empirical evidence via Indeed.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Good Videos from Agile2013

I hope to collect a few good videos from the Agile2013 conference over the next few weeks in this blog posting.  Maybe you could send me your favs.

Gil Broza on his work supporting people and "The Human Side of Agile."

Agile 2013 - Peter Saddington - The Science of High Performing Teams
I enjoyed Peter's presentation.

OK - this one is Linda Rising's Keynote from 2012, The Power of the Agile Mindset.  She held two session on this topic at Agile2013.

... more to come ...

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Estimation math made easy via zequals

How precise are your estimates?  Are we inferring false precision with those 5 significant digits?

I saw an hours estimate for a medium size project at our company just the other day.  I don't remember the actual digits, but that's not the point it was a number like:
4145.8 hours
Let's just assume that a team of 7 people will do this project.  How many weeks is this?  I'd guess 4145.8 hr divided by (7 * 40) equals 14.806 weeks.  Or, as a human would say it 15 weeks, give or take.

Are those digits really necessary?  No.  Are they even real?  No.  They are just artifacts of inappropriate rounding or truncation.   There is very little doubt that someone could estimate a 4000 hour project down to the quarter of an hour (the implied accuracy of the 0.8 hour).  And if you think they are so good at estimating that they can distinguish between 45 hours and 50 hours for a portion of this project - well, then keep on trucking to the minute, or second.  There is a problem with your math.

Your solution is EASY.

So here's a solution that makes the calculator obsolete - estimation is an art - learn to use it in your math.  Learn the power of ruthless rounding via the technique called zequals by Rob Eastaway.  Zequals is a math symbol much like the equals sign.  And means much the same thing.  What is on one side of an equation is zequals (or almost equal) to the other side of the equation.  The symbol is: (insert graphic here), but since I don't have one on my keyboard I'm going to use z= to represent zequals.  It is a method of approximating each term in the equation by it's rounded value to one significant digit and then performing the math.  An example right about now would be helpful.

7 * 8 = 56  but 7 * 8 z= 60.   Perhaps another example will help.

13 * 38 = 494 but 13 * 38 z= 10 * 40 z= 400.   Are you thinking this is not very accurate or precise?  Then look here on Periodic Videos for an error graphic. Now, let's try some bigger numbers.

456 * 378 = 172368  however 456 z= 500 and 378 z= 400 and 5*4 = 20 so add in the other zeros, that 4 more zeros and you get 20,0000.  Now do you see how easy zequal makes math of estimates?

Here watch Rob explain it, now that your interested.

Will you start doing your project estimation math using zequals?  I will.  Thanks Rob.  Here's his math book for moms and dads.

See Also:

Relearning to Count - Zero, One, Many