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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:

Neil deGrasse Tyson - video clip: Knowledge as Process vs Knowledge as Fact 

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.


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Exercise:: Definition of Ready & Done

Assuming you are on a Scrum/Agile software development team, then one of the first 'working agreements' you have created with your team is a 'Definition of Done' - right?

Oh - you don't have a definition of what aspects a user story that is done will exhibit. Well then, you need to create a list of attributes of a done story. One way to do this would be to Google 'definition of done' ... here let me do that for you: Then you could just use someone else's definition - there DONE!

But that would be cheating -- right? It is not the artifact - the list of done criteria, that is important for your team - it is the act of doing it for themselves, it is that shared understanding of having a debate over some of the gray areas that create a true working agreement. If some of the team believes that a story being done means that there can be no bugs found in the code - but some believe that there can be some minor issues - well, then yo…

Do You Put “CSM” After Your Name?

I’ve noticed a new trend—people have been gaining titles. When I was younger, only doctors had initials (like MD) after their names. I always figured that was because society held doctors, and sometime priests (OFM) in such high regard that we wanted to point out their higher learning. I hope it was to encourage others to apply themselves in school and become doctors also. Could it have been boastful?

The Wikipedia describes these “post-nominal initials”:
Post-nominal letters, also called post-nominal initials, are letters placed after the name of a person to indicate that the individual holds a position, educational degree, accreditation, office, or honor. An individual may use several different sets of post-nominal letters. The order in which these are listed after a name is based on the order of precedence and category of the order. That’s good enough for me.
So I ask you: is the use of CSM or CSP an appropriate use of post-nominal initials?
If your not an agilista, you may wonder …

David's notes on "Drive"

- "The Surprising Truth about what Motivates Us" by Dan Pink.

Amazon book order
What I notice first and really like is the subtle implication in the shadow of the "i" in Drive is a person taking one step in a running motion.  This brings to mind the old saying - "there is no I in TEAM".  There is however a ME in TEAM, and there is an I in DRIVE.  And when one talks about motivating a team or an individual - it all starts with - what's in it for me.


Pink starts with an early experiment with monkeys on problem solving.  Seems the monkeys were much better problem solver's than the scientist thought they should be.  This 1949 experiment is explained as the early understanding of motivation.  At the time there were two main drivers of motivation:  biological & external influences.  Harry F. Harlow defines the third drive in a novel theory:  "The performance of the task provided intrinsic reward" (p 3).  This is Dan Pink's M…

Situational Leadership II Model & Theory

Have you ever been in a situation where you thought the technique needed to move forward was one thing, yet the person leading (your leader) assumed something else was what was needed?  Did you feel misaligned, unheard, marginalized?  Would you believe that 54% of all leaders only use ONE style of leadership - regardless of the situation?  Does that one style of leading work well for the many levels of development we see on a team?

Perhaps your team should investigate one of the most widely used leadership models in the world ("used to train over 5 million managers in the world’s most respected organizations").  And it's not just for the leaders.  The training is most effective when everyone receives the training and uses the model.  The use of a ubiquitous language on your team is a collaboration accelerator.  When everyone is using the same mental model, speaking the same vernacular hours of frustration and discussion may be curtailed, and alignment achieved, outcomes …

Definition of Done - the Ty varaint

Every time I meet Ty Crockett at an event he shakes my hand and mentions how many people he's helped to understand their team's Definition of Done or Ready using the card deck I create some years back.  He's not bragging (but he should be) he's thanking me.  But the fun thing is that Ty has evolved a better practice than I did.  Maybe it's the repetition and small variations that has lead to the improvement.  Yeah - I think that's it.

I may get this wrong ... but Ty's variation goes some thing like this...

Start with a big board. Divided into 3 sections.  Introduce the concept of Brainstorming... Add dividers to talk about how to organize the outputs of the brainstorm. 
I usually print out DoD cards but do not show them to the team until we have a discussion on the types of things they need to consider. For example: Here is a section out of the PSM course that I always ask teams to consider…

They create their own cards and ideas (on sticky notes). Ty brings out…