Tag Archives: work

Assigning Critical Tasks In a Non-hierarchical Team

I’m currently part of a cooperative/non-hierarchical team. We have a program manager but no technical leads. On a very busy and essentially leaderless team like ours, you can’t just throw an essential task out and hope someone will pick it up and get it done before the deadline.

We follow an agile process and adding a task to the backlog and getting it assigned and done the usual way works fine for much of our work, but not so well for tasks that seem like red tape, are unpleasant, or are outside normal development work. With this team dynamic, when you need something important done, it’s best to assign it to a specific team member and give them the option to suggest someone else if they don’t think they’re the best person to work the task.

Performance Appraisals Are Harmful for Most Companies and Employees

BBC provides evidence for what many of us have intuited for years, that performance appraisals are worthless at best and often harmful for the majority of employees. The article provides links to data in support of its claims.

It’s encouraging to see that many high profile and strongly performing companies have recognized that this process harms them and ditched the traditional formal performance reviews. Harvard Business Review reports that the list of companies ditching performance appraisals includes Dell, Microsoft, IBM, General Electric, and Lear.






Association for Computing Machinery Releases New Code of Ethics

In this Scientific American article, Cherri M. Pancake, current president of the Association for Computing Machinery, discusses the release of a new ACM code of ethics.

I’ve worked in computer science for more than 20 years and seen firsthand that our profession badly needs an up to date and well defined code of ethics. I’m looking forward to seeing what individuals and companies do to adopt and improve this code.


Would You Have Hired Steve Jobs?

This short essay is worth reading if you’re in a position to hire or influence hiring or placement on teams at your workplace. I can say unequivocally I would not have hired Steve Jobs. There’s no way I would have been able to discern his strengths in a short interview. That’s a very serious shortcoming and I have no good idea of how to resolve it.

Despite all the technology and experience modern companies have at their disposal to find great employees, many companies (including mine and including me personally) still make bad hires and placements. Reading about Jobs’ qualities in this post, I wouldn’t have considered him after an in-person interview.

Although I currently work on projects using modern and often very complex computing technology, I don’t rely on skills tests as gatekeepers to getting an interview. A college degree in engineering or a hard science is required, but that requirement is imposed by my company. If it were up to me, I’d consider people with proven experience on working applications/products as at least equal to those with college degrees. I hire based on how a person thinks about problems at a high level, whether they have at least some experience in a domain related to the one in which they’ll be working, and whether their personality indicates they’ll be a good fit for the team. I know from my track record with hires that my process is good but far from ideal. I’m always open to improving it.

The US Right Wing Considers Teachers the Enemy and Conspires Against Them

It’s worth reading this Guardian piece on a US right wing strategy to discredit teacher strikes using propaganda. I’m still sometimes surprised by the right’s willingness to destroy innocent lives to obtain their goals. Treating teachers as their mortal enemy sounds like the plan of a cartoon villain, but the plans and the harm are very real.

“Hi, John” vs “Hi John” – Commas in Salutations

“You use a comma after hi in a salutation, but not after dear.” Click here to find out why.

This is a small thing, but most people seem to get it wrong. Grammar matters, especially in business writing.

In many lines of work, the first and sometimes the only impression customers and other important people have of us is through our writing. Writing thoughtfully, concisely and with proper spelling and grammar shows respect for others’ time and effort.

Taking the time and effort to write well demonstrates that we have high personal standards and are worth considering as a business partner.

Source: http://www.quickanddirtytips.com/education/grammar/dear-comma


How to strike up a conversation with anyone

Being able to talk to people you don’t know well is a vital work skill. If you can start a conversation with strangers, you’ll be rewarded with:

1. People opening up to you, helping you feel closer to them and them closer to you

2. A decreased level of stress and awkwardness (compared to silence)

3. Potential business or social opportunities for you or the person you’re talking with


The tips here are all excellent. I’m not good at small talk and I don’t enjoy it, but I make myself engage in it at work because it often leads to real, substantial communication which can benefit everyone. One of the tips, “Give them your full attention”, is an obvious one, but many of us have a hard time doing that. If you can really be present with someone, listening to them and paying attention to their tone, watching their body language, and thinking what they might be trying to communicate with their words (consciously or subconsciously), you’ll find that such presence is both its own reward and will give others the desire and confidence to open up to you. Give it a try. Focus completely on another person while they’re talking with you. Your relationship with them will likely grow in a positive way.