Saturday, April 19, 2008

Hiring technique: "the blitz"

So I like to think that I have become good at hiring people. I'm definitely not bad at it. Over the past couple years I have generally been good at hiring people who are way smarter than me. That's what you do when you are a Lean manager and you aren't stupid or insecure.

My techniques are not magic, but they seem to be quite different than how I see lots of managers/companies operating.

If you have determined that you truly need to hire someone, that generally means that your team is hurting - it needs resources that it doesn't have - at some level you are already failing. Your #1 mission as a Lean manager is to protect the team and to get it the stuff it needs to be successful. Once you are in this position, barring a crisis, you have no task that is more important than filling the position with the most qualified person you can find as quickly as possible.

So my co-worker Ed termed what I do yesterday, "the blitz". Here is generally how it works:

Step 1: Collect Qualified Peeps
  • Check your network for a trusted person.
  • If FAIL, post job to the places the kewl kids are. Examples here and here
  • If FAIL, post job to craigslist and batten down the hatches - you are going to get inundated with qualified and unqualified people contacting you. DO NOT put your phone number on these job postings.
  • If FAIL, do WHATEVER YOU NEED TO DO to find qualified candidates. Get creative, clocks tickn'.
Step 2: Quick Vetting
  • Pick the ones that look like they are truly talented and passionate.
  • Schedule in person interview for today or tomorrow
  • Short list.
Step 3. Homework Torture Test
  • Give the short list candidates a homework assignment. Something they can do in a couple of hours that will make it abundantly clear who is the most talented & the best fit.
Step 4. Second Opinion
  • Define decision making rules so everybody on the team understands how the decision will be made (e.g., unanimous vote, majority, or defer decision to manager for expediency and efficiency)
  • Depending on the position, pick one, more, or all people from the team to interview the finalists after they have reviewed the homework results for fit, talent, and passion.
  • Gather feedback
Step 5. Pick, yer done or Rinse and Repeat if FAIL

I think the only major difference compared to typical hiring practices is in how I do this. I go all in. It's a blitz. When I'm in this mode, I generally do it 8-12 hours a day until I'm done. I can generally wrap up hiring someone in <= 2 weeks from start to finish. And the results generally speak for themselves. This technique works great for me as the "hiring manager" and for job candidates.

Hiring people can be quick and painless or can drag on and on for weeks and months if you don't make it priority #1. While you have unfilled positions, you are continuing to fail (at some level). Your team is continuing to feel pain. Distraction grows and grows. Before you know it, your project is failing.

Anyway, this way works for me. Your mileage may vary.

Now next week I can get back to job #2 of a Lean manager: empowering the team/sharing leadership, staying out of the way, & adding real value off the critical path.

19-APR 9:30 PT: Updated with links to Lean SW Dev.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Web Application User Interface Designer

We are looking for a part time User Interface Designer. Here is the description I came up with. Contact me if interested.
Looking for a paid part time contributor to one of CSI's projects. To start with up to 20 hours per week for 3 months paid hourly commensurate with experience. You will contribute by:
  • Producing wire frame mockups
  • Producing CSS, XHTML, images, etc.
  • Producing minimalistic Style Guide
  • Producing other design stuff
  • Interview SME (Subject Matter Expert) members of our project Core Team on their desires for the user interface
  • Making User Interface design decisions
We are looking for a freelancer and not a firm or an agency.

A little bit about you:

  • You were raised on Jakob Nielsen
  • You are pragmatic
  • You work well with distributed teams
  • You work well with application programmers (ours happen to be very nice and smart!)
  • You deliver
  • You are quick
  • You have a lot of experience with web application focused design
  • You have samples that you can show off
  • You have a long list of people who rave about you and your work

19-APR Update: this position has been filled via the blitz. Don't worry, we'll be back.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Core Team & Contributors

I really like the concept of Core Teams. For Collaborative Software Initiative (CSI), our Core Teams are a mix of Subject Matter Experts (SMEs), and Developers. We create "whole" Core Teams & the team is jointly responsible for delivery. Its a true partnership model and its a beautiful thing to be a part of. Its the exact inverse of the typically adversarial relationship that often exists between SMEs and developers in more "traditional" development efforts.

We are still learning as we grow on the health care related project I am focused on. Our Core Team has had some success. The work load and what the team is capable of are both growing. We are becoming advanced enough together to take on more work and more people bit by bit.

We are currently experimenting with adding "Contributors" to the project. For any number of reasons, we are not able to add these people to the Core Team. But we have certain tasks that are well suited for part time contributors. It works well for us and the contributor. In some cases, the contributor just has an itch they want to scratch (e.g., want to learn Ruby/JRuby). In others we have a need we *need* scratched and we pay them to do the work.

I realize none of this is earth shattering - its common with open source projects. I am just saying that its exciting to be a part of it and see it working.

I am of course biased, but I continue to think that the CSI model is game changing. It certainly doesn't apply to everything, but it applies to an awful lot. Time will tell.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

JRuby 1.1 Released

JRuby 1.1 was released today.

We shipped our first release of an application Monday with the pre-release.

The JRuby guys are great. Its becoming a great little community. I'm happy to be a small part of it. There seem to be big plans for the future after 1.1.

After working with it for the past 3 months in anger, I continue to believe that its a very compelling platform.