Service Quality

02 Jul 2020 – Sell: positive & constructive challenges, clear CTA, lead KS – David

The paragraph regarding challenges in your final proposal to lead KS was too discouraging. The client may have interpreted this as us having a lack of confidence in their project. 

I acknowledge that backend resources were lacking at this time. However, frame messages in a positive and constructive way, even if it is about something that is not so positive. 

Ideally, you could have suggested a low-threshold way forward with our available frontend resources which would have been a win-win and also gotten us a foot in the door. 

Also, conclude the proposal with 1)  a clear question enticing them to respond 2) a clear call to action, enticing them to approve the proposal right away

“The other party’s perspective: sell, entice, allure: Always consider the other party’s situation and how they will react to your message. How would you react if you were in their shoes?”

16 Jun 2020 – Clear language: “Whether” question to S— – David

The language used in written communications can be better adapted to an international audience

Before: Whether the only X is allowed to work on Y?

After: Should only dedicated resources be allowed to work on the project?

Example: Dedicated resource clarification

16 Jun 2020 – Sell / careful interpretation: contractual transit hours – David

D—– of S— asked us to limit the contractual transit hours between 8 AM IST to 8 PM IST. You replied with an explanation of why it won’t be possible. But his actual intention was to limit the transit hours to 12 hours/day. You could have better analyzed and addressed his requirements rather than just focus on answering his question thereby making the collaboration smoother and more positive.

16 Jun 2020 – Sell / careful interpretation: lead G—- and permanent staff – David

Lead G—- sent an enquiry about Laravel developers. The reply sent was about the employment status of our staff, which would seem like we have misunderstood her query. The actual question was about different types of contracts we could offer. Such as permanent (DMH/fixed contract) developers and/or project-based. 

If the query was unclear, a better reply would have been to ask her for clarification. This can even get us a ‘foot in the door’ (any email including a question is more likely to get a response).

31 Oct 2018 – Clear and concise language: DMH content – David

Language clarity in the “Why opt for dedicated minimum hours contracts for developers?” article draft was lacking (example 1, example 2 before/after, “by this contract”).

Ideally: a) make the content as simple as possible to understand from a prospect’s point of view – especially high-value content like this b) avoid strangely formulated sentences c) get high-impact content that you know I will need to scrutinize, carefully proofread before handing it back to seniors.

08 Oct 2018 – Get in sync: J’s feedback stuck and not published – David

Your formal feedback that was given to top technical senior J in connection with his appraisal, around 28 April 2018, was not moved into the “Already Discussed” document. This confused me as when I checked in late Sep there was no feedback added for ≈11 months (since October 2017).

Your coachee had partially disagreed with your feedback. Disagreements are fine and healthy, and it can take perhaps a month for the truth/agreement / best practice to emerge. It’s important to get in sync as soon as possible; five months is too long. 

You can always add and withdraw acknowledgements until you are in sync. At the same time, the coachee must understand that there are things that could have been done better, and coachee has a responsibility to work toward getting in sync as well. 

Obviously, the fact that coachee could do things differently doesn’t mean that you and I are blameless or flawless. Be very open with coachee about all of this. Coaching is not about “transferring blame”.

You can always escalate matters if you and top seniors can’t agree on best practices (like estimated completion dates in work plans).

I typically give coachees about a week to either confirm or comment on preliminary feedback.

CG->Get in sync: For feedback to be accurate and motivating, you and coachee must get in sync. Coachees must be transparent when they have concerns about feedback. Disagreements must surface and be dealt with, not swept under the rug. Giving the coachee time to go through the preliminary feedback helps. If coachee disagrees or puts across new information, you can add acknowledgements or even scrap the planned feedback altogether.

SQ->Get in sync: Seniors must do their best to get in sync, be perceptive about your concerns. However, you have a responsibility to express your concerns openly as well. If you’re getting emotional about feedback, ask your senior to give you a day to think it over.

18 Jul 2018 – Open-ended questions: feedback requests – David

You requested feedback from client rep W for project A on 18 July. The questions asked were “closed”, triggering yes/no responses which won’t be very informative.

It’s really great that you did share the individual developer’s feedback doc, but henceforth please phrase feedback requests to clients to extract higher value feedback. 

Not ideal: Do we save your time and independently help you push things forward?Ideal: How can we save you more time and push things forward more independently?

Always use open-ended questions when you’re looking to elicit important information.

Open-ended questions: When you need to get information out of the other party, use open-ended questions. Don’t ask “Did we handle situation X well?” but rather “How could we have handled situation X better?”.

26 Sep 2017 – Share feedback with clients – David

This is repetitive from March. Again I know you have a hundred things to do, but as per coaching guidelines, sharing feedback with clients can very effectively build trust, goodwill, rapport and cement your/PLs positions as good and strong leaders from the clients’ perspectives. It shows that “we do a lot in the background” to improve quality.

24 Mar 2017 – Motivational updates – David

You can send updates to all staff every now and then, even if it’s only twice per year. Write a few lines about things like New projects and technology. What news is interesting for the staff? What’s motivating? Where are we headed? To motivate staff and show that LiteBreeze is heading in the right direction. Successful projects and highlight staff who has done an extraordinary job.

Value maximization

16 Jun 2020 – HILE recruitment: Use existing tests for Python – David

A lot of time was unnecessarily spent on planning and setting up the Python recruitment process. This included time spent on research on evaluating third party agencies. I intervened and proposed a solution

You could have ideally suggested/implemented the PHP OT/MT questions (with a few tweaks) for the Python recruitment as the logic and functions are similar between the two programming languages. 

Similarly, for the interview questions, a lot of the existing PHP technical questions could be used for the Python interviews. Having similar interview questions makes it easier to benchmark candidates from different recruitment streams. 

Always aim to keep things as simple as possible.

25 Feb 2020 – HILE: Discussing/Escalating issues in BM – David

You were aware that the BM project was not planned to be developed in a time-bound manner. Even though the client clearly communicated the deadlines multiple times, you thought they were flexible based on the input from the team. 

Even after the client emailed their concerns on December 17th to the top management, you haven’t initiated any corrective measures. The team proceeded development without communicating any deadlines until January 14th when the client again emailed their concerns about the progress.

I understand you were conscious about pushing your perspective harder as the PL’s opinion was different. And I realize it’s hard to foresee problem projects like BM as the organization grows. However, ideally, you could have escalated/discussed to David, as you couldn’t get in sync.

Ideally, you could have

  • Ensured that our team had clearly communicated a deadline.
  • Ensured that PL is spending sufficient time for planning and review.
  • Ensured more frequent and smaller sprints/deliverables/demo so that the client could’ve evaluated sooner.
  • Implement high-level spot-check routines to help us catch problem projects like BM.
  • Verified the claims yourself as the communication is available in basecamp.
  • Escalated the issues to David, when you were unable to get in sync with PL. Even if David gets involved, in this case, David’s time would probably have been saved if having been involved at an early stage rather than a later stage.

28 Aug 2019 – Team growth and nudges – David

I’ve pushed quite aggressively to hire business developers, recruiters and content writers which I believe is crucial for continued growth. Recruitment managers and other seniors might not have all the financial data so you can continue checking in and nudging to ensure growth. It’s a great investment as long as we remain profitable and such new hires perform ok. Content and new marketing campaigns is an investment and not just an immediate cost.

From feedback to DM: “Don’t hesitate to grow your recruitment-marketing team further. As we hire more developers and successfully find clients for them, your team generates much value and investing in future hires makes sense. Consider the contribution margin of a single new developer and successful business development outreach.

I acknowledge that we’ve had some bad luck with two hires who were not long-standing but don’t be discouraged by that. I pushed a bit to continue hiring and recently your team found two very promising candidates and I/we decided to hire both.

Do a cost-benefit analysis and suggest new hiring based on that. As long as a new hire adds more value than s/he costs, we should continue growing. I believe this definitely was the case with the two recent hires, and hopefully, it will make sense to grow your team further very soon again.”

What other nudging and spot-checks can you do to achieve high-impact goals? What routine tasks can you delegate (like how leads were delegated to CW/BD)?

28 Aug 2019 – Grab work from seniors: increase demand and revenue – David

Matching supply and demand and getting clients with the highest possible value on board is a great high-value challenge.

I have pushed for and worked on improvements related to the following – consider what more can be done within these areas: selling paid project planning, passive BD outreach to prospects who are even higher value than traditionally, keeping high-value leads on the back burner, DMHs, overdue price hikes.

A key to success is keeping up with inflation and revising prices as we are in a quickly changing environment with fast-rising developer salaries and exchange rate fluctuations. It’s crucial to afford competitive salaries.

You brought up project Mem DMH suggestion as a missed opportunity. It was a good example of a client that we could potentially sell more to. The draft could have been made to sound more positive and increasing our chances of selling future additional resources.

Grab work from seniors: What are your immediate seniors spending time on and can you help them by taking over some of that work while ensuring a similar level of quality? Scrutinize their PTOs (staff panel) and to-do lists.

12 Feb 2019 – Grab work from seniors: long-term continuity, DMHs – David

Lack of continuous demand and stability in projects is probably the biggest threat to profitability, as mentioned in the lessons learned and action plan 2018 document. Consider what initiatives you can take similar to my initiatives on DMH contracts, hiring of a business developer, pushing other PLs to build rapport and clarify demand etc.

12 Feb 2019 – HILE initiatives: worked hours – David

Reminding and requiring staff to keep up their WOFT rates is very HILE and initiative I took in Sep 2018. WOFT has increased by 6.6% since then which has a huge impact. Of course, increased demand is one other factor that increased WOFT. Consider what similar HILE initiatives can be taken by yourself in the future.

15 May 2018 – Growth: aggressive delegation and recruitment – David

Consider how you can delegate more of your work even if it means hiring new staff. We’ve designed a number of very selective recruitment processes lately, and if we stick to selecting one candidate in 100, we will find great talent that can contribute. Quality growth is mostly about finding the right talent.

For example, you spend much time on highly valuable case study work. Consider how much time a content writer can save you, but also how much value such a content writer could add independently. Could you save time by delegating more aggressively to (new) admins? Might we benefit from hiring someone who could deal with leads in the future (see separate section)? Grow your team.

30 Nov 2017 – Go to the bottom with missed HILE routines – David 

Go to the bottom with reasons why a specific colleague hasn’t been able to follow important routines, like coaching in this case. Better you focus your time on these types of high-level matters rather than for example coaching more junior colleagues. It’s more HILE. That being said I’m aware that you had followed up with the concerned person on numerous occasions.

Get these types of conclusions in writing and CC me. In this case, there was a previous discussion with the concerned person from six months before, and the case is extremely clear and brief in the email thread. Easy to follow up on in the future if need be. We’re eventually getting closer to the root cause/truth so to speak.

26 Sep 2017 – Ingrain coaching culture, timely appraisals – David

This is partially repetitive feedback from March in the sense that more can be done to act on this very valuable matter. You can do more to work toward ingraining the culture of continuous coaching which in turn leads to timely appraisals.

In my opinion, some of the root causes are:

  1. Several subordinates still feel uncomfortable receiving feedback.
  2. Hence seniors are procrastinating giving feedback because it’s awkward. 
  3. Seniors don’t do enough to explain to their coachee how feedback is important and why coachees shouldn’t worry about it. 
  4. Seniors don’t consistently push their coachees to complete their input on time.

You must encourage and remind seniors to follow a smart process, such as noting down “feedback ideas” continuously. In too many cases feedback is sent only once PLs notice that the appraisal is overdue. This is not the right process! One example was what I discussed with SN 25 Sep 2017; ideally, you should have talked to SN much earlier to ingrain the right culture.

Some seniors might say “I have been busy with projects” but IMO this is not a valid excuse. If the current coaching process is well understood it will be a natural habit that takes little time. Anyhow it must be prioritized. If I have time to provide detailed continuous feedback to five colleagues myself, so can any other senior!

21 Sep 2017 – Push forward high-impact time-savers – David

As you know I’ve tried to push forward a simplified time entry system to reduce the administrative burden on staff. I understand that many still need to enter each block, which can be 8+ per day, manually. There’s a smarter way. This would have a huge impact in the long term.

24 Mar 2017 – Timely appraisals: seven-month delay for SN – David

Some appraisals have been delayed a lot. SN’s was held in March, so delayed around seven months.

One or two months delay might be acceptable for staff, but delays are still a problem as mentioned in the Principles:

“Do not delay your own appraisal; delayed appraisals lead to less efficient improvement, difficult administration and delayed payouts of hikes.”

And coaching guidelines:

It’s not a problem if the appraisal meeting is held slightly after the actual effective date of the hike, as long as your colleague is aware that the ball is in his/her court. This being said, do not to delay your subordinates’ appraisal much. Delays can lead to several problems:

  • Staff will improve slower as feedback is not formally stressed by seniors in the appraisal meeting.
  • If the payout of salary hikes are delayed, the appraisee might be demotivated. I can only decide on the hike after the appraisal is conducted and I may need some weeks to benchmark salaries and take a final hike decision.
  • The appraise might feel that you don’t care enough about the appraisee’s training. Yes, the staff is responsible to take the initiative to apply for an appraisal, but at a certain point of time, you need to step in if the appraisee delays too much. In such cases, FB should be given.
  • If the payout of salary hikes are delayed, then administration and accounting become more complex. Management accounting reports may also become inaccurate.

I acknowledge that you always have a lot to do. And that the ZE team and you have been struggling to keep their heads above the surface due to the client’s pressure. But take measures to avoid delays in future:

  1. Remind and push PLs to note down examples continuously? Spot checks.
  2. Be satisfied with fewer examples for appraisals, to save you time?
  3. Make better use of QA’s time to come up with the highest impact functionality examples?
  4. Suggest ways we could simplify the coaching-appraisal process further?

Enforce a system where preparing appraisals takes little time for seniors and can be done on time. There should be no excuses to delay feedback and appraisals.

24 Mar 2017 – Vacation – David

You’ve worked for a long time non-stop. Though I obviously appreciate your hard work and efforts, perhaps schedule a vacation to keep yourself healthy long-term? Inform all clients well in advance. Clear instructions to those who would be second-in-command. Consider months when major/your direct clients are on vacation themselves.

24 Mar 2017 – What do you think I should do differently – David

I’d welcome some brutally honest feedback on what you think I should do differently as well. You know a lot and have got a good judgement, so such feedback makes the company as a whole more successful.