Steve Rowe's Blog

Ruminations on Computing - Programming, Test Development, Management and More

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  • Blog Post: Steve Jobs on the Value of Saying No

    I ran across a great segment of Steve Jobs talking at the WWDC in 1997 just after he returned to Apple. Similar to my post about pruning the decision tree , he speaks about the power of saying no to the bad ideas. "Focusing is about saying no," he says. His analysis of what was wrong with Apple at that...
  • Blog Post: Listening to the team

    There is an old saying in software that goes something like this, “ Scope, Timeframe, and Budget: Pick two. ” Being a tester, I would rephrase this a little as, “Features, Timeframe, Budget, and Quality; Pick three”. It’s usually possible to hit all three of the first choice...
  • Blog Post: Forging a Team Identity

    For a group of coworkers to have a chance of becoming a team, they must share a common sense of purpose or identity.  Dave Logan in Tribal Leadership calls this a “Noble Cause.”  On small teams this often comes naturally.  Everyone is working on the same project or related set of features...
  • Blog Post: Own the Feedback

    Some time ago I was at a management training course. The group was divided into those who were managers of managers known in this course as M2s and those who were what I have been calling leads–that is managers of individual contributors–which they called M1s. I was part of the M2 group. The M1s were...
  • Blog Post: How to Interact with Your Team as a Manager

    As one moves from being a lead (manager whose reports are individual contributors) to a manager (manager whose reports are leads), there is an important decision to be made about how to interact with your skip-level reports. That is, how should a manager handle his interactions with the individual contributors...
  • Blog Post: Five Books To Read If You Want My Job

    This came out of a conversation I had today with a few other test leads.  the question was, “What are the top 5 books you should read if you want my job?”  My job in this case being that of a test development lead.  At Microsoft that means I lead a team (or teams) of people whose job it...
  • Blog Post: Don’t Worship at the Altar of Accuracy

    Earlier today I found myself faced with a common management situation.  I had been sent an e-mail which showed that a piece of data we were using was inaccurate.  The specific issues was what percentage of a certain test run was automated.  We had said we were at 100% and it turned out...
  • Blog Post: Simple Management Tip: Tracking 1:1 Conversations

    Here’s a quick tip I’ve found very handy.  When doing 1:1’s with your team (you are doing these regularly, right?), take notes to keep track of the conversations from week to week.  I currently use a 5-tab notebook with one tab for each direct report.  Each person has their own section...
  • Blog Post: Becoming a Manager: Learning to Rely on Data

    Having been a manager* for a while now, I’ve learned more about what it means and what changes it requires in thinking.  This installment of the “ Becoming a Manager ” series covers the increasing reliance on abstract data that is required as you move up the ranks.  Everyone who is an IC knows...
  • Blog Post: Review: Peopleware

    The book, Peopleware by Tom DeMarco and Timothy Lister, comes highly recommended by Joel Spolsky and Jeff Atwood over at the Stack Overflow Podcast.  It is probably most famous for its repudiation of the idea that cubicles make a better work environment for programmers than offices.  There...
  • Blog Post: Spotting the "Uncoachables"

    Interesting article from Harvard talking about how to spot people who can't be coached. The author gives 4 symptoms to look for, but they basically boil down to one. Does the person want to change? If someone isn't interested in changing because they don't sense a problem, are burned out, or think everyone...
  • Blog Post: Review: The Effective Executive

    I read The Effective Executive by Peter Drucker because it was highly recommend on the Manager Tools podcast.  Despite what its name may imply, it isn’t written to company executives.  Instead, Drucker defines an executive as anyone with decision making ability.  This certainly includes...
  • Blog Post: E-mail Is Not A Good Motivator

    Another conversation I find myself having over and over is telling people that e-mail isn’t a sufficient mechanism for communication.  I already discussed how e-mail isn’t a good medium for handling disputes.  It also is not a great motivator.  In today’s world where people get hundreds...
  • Blog Post: Now, Discover Your Strengths

    This is the title of the follow-up to First, Break All the Rules by Marcus Buckingham.  The first book was brilliant and really challenged the way we think about what makes someone successful at their job.  Now, Discover Your Strengths attempts to follow up on that with an in-depth discussion...
  • Blog Post: Managing Humans

    I just finished reading Managing Humans by Michael Lopp, aka Rands in Repose .  Michael is a 15-year veteran manager from Silicon Valley.  He’s worked for such notable companies as Netscape and Borland.  He has a lot of good advice based on this experience.  The book is a compilation...
  • Blog Post: Change Your Environment

    As people grow in maturity in their jobs, the way they interact with their environment changes.  I have had this discussion a few times during the recent review cycle so it's probably time to pass it along to a wider audience.  As I see it, there are three stages most people go through during...
  • Blog Post: Review: Tribal Leadership

    I just finished the book Tribal Leadership by Dave Logan et al.  It's one of the better leadership books I've run across.  The authors stress the need for leadership to develop a "we" culture instead of an "I" culture.  The authors call this a stage 4 culture and the...
  • Blog Post: This Blog Makes Top 100 Software Development Management Blogs

    Just barely, but I made the list .  It is determined by Technorati authority, Alexa rank, Google page rank, etc. Check out the list as there are a lot of interesting blogs on it.  The top 10 are: Nr Site 1 Joel on Software 2 Coding Horror 3 Seth's Blog 4 Paul Graham: Essays 5 blog.pmarca.com...
  • Blog Post: Not Everyone Has the Same Definition of "Done"

    Years ago I had an employee, let's call him Vanya (not the real name). He was struggling a bit so I was watching his work closely. Every week we discussed what he needed to get done the next week and what he had done the previous week. I kept a list of the work items he needed to complete and checked...
  • Blog Post: Becoming a Manager: Losing Direct Control

    When my wife was expecting our daughter, someone gave me this advice, "When you have your first child, you lose all your free time.  When you have your second, you lose all the free time you didn't realize you still had."  Becoming a manager* can be a similar experience.  When...
  • Blog Post: Get Out of E-mail and Walk Down the Hall

    I was about to write this article anyway when XKCD posted this comic which reinforces my point.  People act differently in email than they do in person.  Everyone knows this to be the case, but they often don't act like it.  Usually when someone talks about how email is different it comes...
  • Blog Post: Keep Your Eyes on the True Goal

    We recently went through mid-year reviews and I found myself repeating similar advice several times. Here it is: Be very clear about what your goal is and continuously reassess whether you are on track to get there. To make this more concrete, consider a plane trip from Seattle, WA to to Austin, TX....
  • Blog Post: Suggestions for Smoother Meetings

    A few weeks ago I attended a training and had an opportunity to try out the ideas generated from my earlier training. As part of this most recent training we had an exercise where we were divided into two groups. One group represented the technical team for a company. The other group represented the...
  • Blog Post: Evaluating Your Skill As A Leader

    Someone recently characterized for me one way leaders are evaluated. This certainly isn't the only way and it doesn't catch everything, but it is a good place to start. The list is succinct and the questions thought-provoking. Here is the list: Results – How is your day job going? Leadership – Who do...
  • Blog Post: Phone Screen Questions

    Steve Yegge from Amazon offers his Five Essential Phone Screen Questions . It's an old post, but a good one. His advice is solid. It's always disappointing to bring in a promising candidate for an interview only to have them bomb. It would be much better to screen them out early. Steve give suggestions...
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