Thursday, March 10, 2011

Recognition: It’s Cheap and Effective

Calling out folks in your organization for things they’ve done and milestones they’ve achieved is not only cheap, it’s a highly effective way of keeping your team motivated and fired up.  There are a number of neat ways to handle this; I thought I’d pass on a few I’ve been involved with over the last few years which I think work particularly well.

First off, look to call out folks in your regular meetings: your team’s dailies (you are doing daily standups, aren’t you?), your regular iteration closeouts/demos, or even your organization’s (hopefully!) regular broader meetings.

In Telligent’s Product Development group where I work we have bi-weekly iteration demo meetings. The group gets together and shows off features we’ve closed out and discusses status of the products we’re working on. My former boss Josh Ledgard started a “Shout Out” section of the meeting where folks can call out others in Telligent who’ve been particularly helpful. We generally take five or ten minutes to call out folks for things like great mentoring or pairing sessions, support from our IT staff, etc. Seeing an individual’s hard work recognized in front of their peers is a sweet thing.

Secondly, look to call out folks for specific actions which have a larger impact your organization.

Not long after he came on board at Telligent, our CEO, Patrick Brandt, made everyone in the company read Raving Fans, a very interesting book on how to focus on amazing customer service. Shortly after that Telligent started handing out Raving Fans awards at the company-wide quarterly meetings. Winners get a neat wooden letter/number corresponding to the Raving Fan category they won in. (Find ‘Em, Get ‘Em, Launch ‘Em, Wow ‘Em, Support ‘Em, Plus 1%. Read the book, is all I can say.) Winners also get a very nice, sizable gift card at Amazon.

These Raving Fans awards tie back to our company’s core values and vision around how we’ll be successful by ensuring our customers love our products, services, and support. Regularly recognizing your staff for those contributions ensures those values and goals are fresh in everyone’s minds – and moreover, that those values and goals aren’t just the empty-hot-air-phrase-of-the-day they are at far too many organizations.

Finally, look to recognize folks for hitting significant milestones. Shipping software is hard work, regardless of whether you’re in a product group, services company, or internal development division. You’re running the gamut of communication issues, technical problems, politics, and all the other myriad of difficulties that contribute to our industry’s far-too-high failure rate.

Focus on delivering great value to your customers, then CELEBRATE that accomplishment with your team. Maybe you can’t afford $200,000 release parties, but you certainly should set aside some budget for at least a few small things.

One of my most-cherished pieces of memorabilia from my entire working career is this project card from my days at Quick Solutions, Inc. I joined Quick and got placed on a project which ran in to a number of difficulties both on our side and the customer’s. It didn’t quite turn in to a death march. Quite. We finally got things settled down and delivered a lot of really neat functionality – and the team that had pushed through a lot of pain had by that time formed some very strong bonds.

This project card lists folks who worked on the project (we missed Jeff Blankenburg who left Quick for Microsoft before the project ended), a bit about the project, and some screenshots of the apps.

Every project at Quick’s Solutions group got one of these cards. Every project. Folks who’d been at Quick for a long time had a wall full of these things, and it was an awesome reflection of the value they’d shipped to our customers and the accomplishments they’d made happen for the company.

The three things I’ve talked about in this post don’t have to be over the top expensive or extravagant. Small things matter. Just figure out some way to call out your folks for the hard work they do.

It’s cheap, it’s effective, it’s an easy thing to do.

Update: Fixed a grammar nit (sorry, misplaced apostrophe’s kill me) and corrected the busted Twitter handle for Jeff.


Tim said...

Typical of QSI...don't recognize the guy that did a lot of the leg work before the project kicked off. You know, design docs, collect some business rules, etc...but that's OK. *sniff*

Oh sure, we'll mention JEFF...but that's as far as we go...


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