Oct 22, 2014

Life as a Consultant - Hard part of letting the process to live the life on it's own

In the past years I've worked ans still work as Product Development Improvement Consultant. I've worked with interesting companies in past years. I've been given the privilege to work with them on finding better ways to organize teams and roles, plan the work better or improve the efficiency of daily work in product development or product delivery.

The one thing I hate is the moment of letting the process to live the life on it's own. As a consultant, there always comes the time to let go. In some cases, companies have let me be there to ensure that process actually gets up to speed as planned, but in some companies they've wanted to take the ownership right after the training's or pilot (or whatever the implementation method has been). In any case there always comes the time, that process or practice needs to be taken in-house and I must leave. That is the difficult time for me.

I admit, that I'm sort of a perfectionist. When I have a vision of how something should go, I do work hard to achieve the vision. As a consultant it's in one way easy to persuade people. It's easier to bring new ideas from outside than inside, but it's then much harder to actually get the people to accept and adopt the new ideas from an outsider than from insider. As an outsider, you need to sell the ideas to everyone and be always willing to discuss and adjust the idea to match the reality that people inside the company work with.

When you've done a long journey on persuading, discussing and inventing the new ways of working, there comes the time you need to let go. I almost feel like a parent at that point. You leave your child to walk on it's own. The benefit of being a parent, rather than a consultant, is that with your kids, they keep in touch and you see how your parenting went. As a consultant sometimes you don't see. In good cases you keep in touch and even come back to improve the things even further. But in some cases you don't work with them again, and you don't even hear how it actually went.

I think this problem isn't that unique. There's many people who work on short term contracts with specific topics. It would be nice to hear am I the only one with this kind of pain of abandonment. I don't really lose my sleep over this, but I admit I think about previous project quite often. Did it go well, are people happy, are the planned benefits happening. I'm wondering am I just strange or does other have these feelings too? This question is the reason I sometimes think, that maybe I would be better working in product development companies directly, rather than a consultant. I currently love my job, but I hate these goodbyes.

Written by +Henri Hämäläinen

Oct 3, 2014

Hiring new manager is not only solution when there is too many things to manage

In past years I've had the luxury to work with few companies growing from being small to becoming middle sized. It's been great to learn from them and also give something back to them.

One thing that have happened in all of these companies, is that there becomes too many things for certain person to control or manage. That's natural, when companies grow there comes more and more business or product related questions someone needs to solve.

The problematic question is that how to cope with that situation. Often the first solution that comes in mind is to hire a new person to handle the increased workload. Too often this is also the only solution companies know off and decide on hiring a person to handle that workload.

Recruiting in many ways is the most important factor affecting long term success of companies. Companies tend to hire too fast, incompetent people and to wrong roles. For some reason universally it seems to be easier to get the permission to hire more managers or other supporting persons than actually the people who do the value work. In the simplest possible setup, companies only need to have product development guys and sales. Everything else can be questioned.

There are other solutions to increased workload. The first solution to think, should always be, are all of the increased workload really valuable work. Could some of the work just be dropped as a waste. Every company has lot of waste work, meaning things that never have any affect to the end product or to the value customer gets or efficiency overall. Everyone knows in their heart, that they've done some waste work sometimes. Most will do some waste work every week.

Second solution for increased workload is sharing the responsibility. When one can't handle all the things they should, they should first think, how to make sure that all of the necessary things could happen without adding a new person to the group. With proper planning existing people can most often handle all of the necessary things in time. Sharing the responsibilities and giving a good direction most often helps. Most people are willing to take the extra responsibility when given a possibility.

I've never faced a company that would have too few middle management. I count Product Management, Marketing, HR and these kind functions to middle management. Few companies I've seen could have benefited from having some people working for internal tools and processes, but never from having more managers to manage business.

Of course companies need to hire new people when they are growing. Once in a while there is a true need for person to the middle layer. Companies just need to be really careful on hiring them. People in middle layer will come busy and can keep themselves busy. There is always more work than can be done. Key is to know when that work is actually valuable to the company and needs a new hire and when not.

Written by +Henri Hämäläinen

Sep 28, 2014

Book Review: Proof of Heaven by Eben Alexander

Out of curiosity I wanted to read Eben Alexander's Proof of Heaven. It's a neurosurgeon's story of his Near Death Experience. It does make a different story when NDE happens to someone who works with brains daily and doesn't really believe in God.

Religion as such has gone out fashion. It's more trendy to not to believe in any higher forces. Also it's much easier to explain that God doesn't exist, than try to believe that it does. No one knows for sure to way or another, so I'll leave the subject out of the review totally. I'll just concentrate to the book itself.

Subject interested me a lot. I was excited to hear the story, what happened and how the situation actually happened. After all it was a neurosurgeon who faced the situation, so I was expecting a quite detailed and well organized package.

I have to say I was disappointed. Book wasn't well written and it was even hard to follow sometimes. It would have used a proper editor to structure the book better. Book jumped between real life and the life Eben Alexander was facing too much. I don't know what was the logic behind the books structure, but I at least didn't like it.

I did get interested about NDE's as such. Without going too much into why the NDE's happens, it is interesting to hear and understand what goes in minds of those who are dying. We all are going to die and most probably we will face something similar on that moment.

I don't really recommend the book. It is an interesting book, but I would have liked bit different approach to the storytelling. I'm still glad I read the book. I want to keep my mind open and this was one subject I hadn't touched before. I might even read another NDE book some day.

Written by +Henri Hämäläinen

Aug 29, 2014

Book Review: Management 3.0 by Jurgen Appelo

Management 3.0: Leading Agile Developers, Developing Agile Leaders by Jurgen Appelo was one of the books that I've planned to read for a long time. The positive thing about reading it now and not earlier, is that I was much more ready to understand the book than I was few years ago.

Management 3.0 is an excellent book. Even though the name might promise a one more management model to learn, Jurgen Appelo tells that there isn't a model that would suit all. To be more precise, Jurgen tells that all models have their flaws. He does say that models are important, but we need to remember that all companies, products, people and environment are different in every case.

Jurgen does give his view on what is important in Management in the future. His model has six major themes, which start from energizing people and go all the way to improve everything. He goes all his themes through with very extensive walk-through of underlying knowledge on each of the areas. He explains things thoroughly, but still interestingly.

I really liked the book. It was excellent reading and widened my view of the importance of people in companies. It does discuss about many of the same issues that other Agile books, but it does add lot of new ideas to the discussion.

I recommend this book to managers in product development companies and others who are interested on how the whole companies should be organized. It's a great book and I promise you won't be disappointed.

Written by +Henri Hämäläinen

Jul 13, 2014

Book Review: The Fifth Discipline

This time I had in my reading list one of the business literature classics The Fifth Discipline: The Art & Practice of The Learning Organization by Peter Senge. It's a book that introduces systems thinking as we know it know.

Book is well written, but even more importantly the contents of it are really valuable. I had read about systems thinking before and I had been given so many recommendations about this book, that I had high hopes for the book. Luckily it matched my expectations.

The idea of the book is that organizations should become learning organizations to stay in business and have a good future. The book introduced a fresh way of seeing organizations as whole systems. It gives lot of value to personal development and human values ensuring that organizations learn to improve themselves in the long run.

Book introduces five disciplines of learning organization. Also it introduces eleven learning disabilities that prevents learning organizations to form. It has a lot good examples and it is easy to learn with this book.

I highly recommend this book to everyone working in organizations, small or big ones. So this would be a good book for almost anyone. It's a bit longish with over 400 pages. That's a pity, since it might scare few potential readers away from it.

It's great and important book. Many people have read it, but still only few organizations live to the values of the book. Learning needs understanding. Hopefully many more will read the book, understand the teachings and share the knowledge.

Written by +Henri Hämäläinen