Wednesday, August 26, 2015

How is testing done at Facebook ?

As a Social networking Platform, Facebook meets and sometimes exceeds the characteristics of a Platform such as achieving scale, morphing of product (adopt different shape at will like Transformers example), and extends new features (via exposed APIs), users, customers, embrace third-party collaboration.
Since architecturally, Facebook has reached at certain level of Platform maturity- it is interesting to view it as a case study in Software testing because the approaches they have used to test have eventually assisted to build Quality into the platform and have made the engineering teams productive.  One thing to note is that there is less information publically available on how Facebook does testing so the below data is more my inference from going through relevant contents (stated below). This data may or may not be true as it hasn't been validated officially by someone from Facebook, but still, do enjoy reading.
The data in the table below is organized from the below two sources-  (represented in the black font in the Comments section of the table) (represented in the orange font in the Comments section of the table)

CategoryFacebook's approachComments (These are the direct references from the quoted articles)
Independent Testing departmentNoFacebook's approach to Org design is different. Even though they are so heavily focused on Mobile development, they dont have a separate Mobile department. Below comment-
We don’t have a “mobile department” since we found that hard to scale appropriately. Instead, teams working on features, such as photos or the News Feed, own that feature on every platform we support, from the mobile web, “traditional” desktop browsers, through to mobile platforms such as iOS and Android.
Approach to Software releasesAgile, RapidThere are a number of different models for how to do software releases, no matter whether it’s on the web or an app to mobile, but they all play with three factors: time, features, and quality. Naturally, quality should always be pegged to “as excellent as possible,” so that leaves a choice between choosing to release when a suite of features is ready, or doing time-based releases.
The feature-based releases seem appealing on the surface, but prove problematic to deliver consistently. After all, when was the last time you saw every software project at a company meet its planned ship date with everything working as expected? So releases get held up as some features are finished before others, and sometimes features need to be bumped as priorities change.
All that means that we do time-based releases. Our release cycle has the app ready to ship every four weeks, though it might take longer than that to get into people’s hands because we also need to get into the app stores.
Anatomy of Facebook's testingLayered approach to testing,
Majorly automated
The improvements we’re making now may be less obvious, but we have automated tests which track things like power consumption, memory and CPU usage, and how we use bandwidth, the goal being to improve (or, at least, hold steady) all of those metrics with each release.

The key to this speed is automation. There’s just no time to do a full manual run through of every feature before a release. A traditional QA department, following scripts to verify that everything worked as it should, would dwarf our development team. Instead, we’ve placed layers of automated tests to ensure that regressions are as infrequent as possible.

In order to enable fast release cycles, feedback loops need to be as tight as possible. There’s no space in this for QA to be kept at arm’s length or until the end of the process (which is madness: “Quality” isn’t something you can add as an afterthought).

Another facet of our testing matrix is site behavior testing. Michael Stockton and other engineers have put a lot of effort into making it possible to asynchronously test the site as the user's use it. We use WebDriver ( to run site behavior tests like being able to post a status update or like a post. These tests help us make sure that changes that affect "glue code" (see, which is pretty hard to unit test, don't cause major issues on the site.

Engineers can also use a metrics gathering framework that measures the performance impact of their changes prior to committing their changes to the code base. This framework (which is crazy bad ass btw) allows an engineer to understand what effects their changes have in terms of request latency, memcache time, processor time, render time, etc.

We're still tuning the testing process in order to maximize engineer efficiency and minimize the time spent waiting for tests to run. Overall, the priorties are speed of testing, criticality (yes it's not a word meh meh meh) of what we test, and integrating testing into every place where test results might be affected or might guide decision making.
Maintenance of AutomationDisabling not-needed testsOne of the things that Facebook does is to only promote automated tests into their regular test runs once they’ve demonstrated stability. We’re ruthless about disabling flaky tests, and equally ruthless about deleting disabled tests.
Focus on Regression specific automationBig timeUltimately, the automated tests are taking more and more of the strain out of development, because regressions are being caught sooner, and therefore being fixed faster, sometimes before the code has been committed.
Test Automation ROI philosophyCost vs GainsIn the film Fight Club, there’s a scene where one of the characters explains how the auto industry choses whether or not to recall a vehicle. It’s an equation that something like, “the cost of recall” needs to be less than the “cost of a payment if something goes wrong” multiplied by “likelihood of a payout being needed.” Automated tests are much like that: the cost of writing and maintaining them (however you measure “cost”) needs to be lower than the cost of not writing them.
Approach to Manual testingMainly Dogfooding, Crowdsourcing,
Internal employees focused on testing
In the initial days, Facebook started with Manual testing only and then slowly evolved.

During those four weeks, every day we push a new build of the app to “dogfooders” within the company (a charming phrase, coined by Netscape, which describes the process of “eating your own dogfood” --- you naturally want it to be as tasty as possible).
all Facebook staff are encouraged to try out the “release candidate” builds. That means that by the time our app lands on your phone, you can be sure that it’s been given a thorough test drive.

Outside of setting the expectation that the individual engineers and their teammates are going to test their particular changes, we also put huge emphasis on "dog fooding" (see changes to the site for up to a week before the general user will see the changes. This means that testing the site falls on the employees using the site overall. We all pride ourselves on finding and filing bugs that we find as we use Facebook for our on purposes. Every FB employee uses the site differently, which leads to surprisingly rich test coverage on its own.

There is also a swath of testing done manually by groups of Facebook employees who follow test protocols. The results (or I should say issues) uncovered by this manual testing are aggregated and delivered to the teams responsible for them as part of a constant feedback/iteration loop.

Culture of testingInitially less, now built into Engineering process We started from a position of not really having a culture of testing, but that’s changing over time as people see the value in the existing tests we have.
Testers and coding skillsHigh coding skillsOne refrain I hear occasionally is that knowing how to program will somehow “damage” a tester, because they understand how the software and machines work. My view is the exact opposite: Knowing how something works gives better insight into potential flaws. Essentially, I think that understanding how to code widens the set of tools available to a tester, without diminishing what they can do in the slightest.
Focus on QualityHighOn the other hand, we deeply respect the people who have chosen to spend their time on Facebook. One of the mantras of our release engineers is that no release should ever leave a person worse off than they were before.
Approach to Defect PreventionIntegrated with Development processWe also have an extremely robust Lint process that runs against all the changes an engineer is making. The lint process flags anti-patterns, known performance killers, bad style, and a lot more. Every change is linted, whether it's CSS, JS, or PHP. This prevents entire classes of bugs by looking for common bug causes like type coercion issues, for instance. It also helps prevent performance issues like box-shadow use in mobile browsers which is a pretty easy way to kill the performance of big pages.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Coming soon...Corporate World Without Managers

Having experienced the management role for quite some time, I believe it was important to write about the trends that are impacting the profession. The purpose of this blog, however, is not to justify which situation i.e. with manager or without manager is right or wrong. More than passing judgment, I would rather try and paint a picture as it appears in my mind and give ample space to your comments to chart the future course.
I got to write the upcoming text as a proposal for the presentation in the upcoming Grace Hopper’s conference. I would be happy if it does get selected for presentation as I do have a relevant perspective to share but if it doesn’t for some reason, honoring my passion around the subject, I would continue to expand on this by the medium of this and other blogs. Please read on and do share your comments-                      

For those of us who have worked in organizations for years would appreciate that when we think of work, we are often loaded with some peculiar assumptions-as these examples state-
·       Work is a place where employees need to often commute every day to conduct business.
·       There will be a dedicated, fixed seat where we conduct various aspects of our duties.
·       An employee will be a part of well-defined hierarchy in the organization.
·       An employee will report her work to a role called as Manager.
·       My manager will not only oversee the work but also be responsible for employee’s well-being in the organization while taking care of responsibilities like work evaluation, salary hike, promotions etc.

·       …and many more

These aspects and many more like these have been so ingrained in our minds that we rarely question their relevance in today's world.
However, we do have some outliers who are challenging these oft-believed notions. As an example- Citrix Inc. armed with its state-of-the-art technologies and a compelling vision is challenging the notion that "Work is a place". On the contrary, its solutions help promote the premise that "Work isn't a place. It's a thing you do." And you do work where you find inspiration and office is just one of many places where you may find inspiration.

In the sphere of management, there is an interesting idea taking shape these days. I think it will be too early to call it a trend yet but it still holds a great deal of promise to catch the attention of the bigwigs from our industry. This idea even has a name and it is called as Holacracy. As Wikipedia defines it
Holacracy is a social technology or system of organizational governance in which authority and decision-making are distributed throughout a holarchy of self-organizing teams rather than being vested in a management hierarchy.
Zappos, the online shoe and clothing retail subsidiary of, was in the news recently for fully embracing Holacracy and formally doing away with the manager role in the hierarchy with a strong emphasis on the principles of self-management.

Does it mean that we are staring at a future where managers won't be needed at all?

Before I further comment on this, I wanted to share some of the key events that I have seen happen in the last about 5 years or so- which have had a direct or indirect impact on the way management is done and is perceived by practitioners.

Employees First Customers Second Management Philosophy:
First event I mention here is the evolution of Employees First Customers Second (EFCS) management philosophy. This was popularized by HCL CEO Vineet Nayar during the early part of the current decade. His work and the transformation that he brought in HCL is well recorded in his first book- Employees First, Customers Second: Turning Conventional Management Upside Down . At the core of his philosophy, Vineet further narrates-
We create value in one very specific place: the interface between our HCL employees and our customers. We call this the “value zone.” Every employee who works in the value zone is capable of creating more or less value. The whole intent of Employees First is to do everything we can to enable those employees to create the most possible value.
The greatest value in a knowledge based organization is brought about by the employees who work on the stuff that directly impacts the customers. It is vital for the organizations to have clarity on where the core value zone lies.  In EFCS approach, the traditional hierarchy that is followed in the organizations where an employee is accountable to her manager isn’t considered as effective in today’s knowledge based organizations. In other words, management is as accountable to the people in the value zone as the people in the value zone are to management.

Second event that is worth noting is the organizational shift towards delayering and the organizations adopting Hourglass structures. Delayering, simply put is, the action or process of reducing the number of levels in the hierarchy of employees in an organization. Hourglass organizational structures, well, look like hourglass rather than traditional pyramid type structures. What it means is that the structure will be heavy at top, heavy at bottom and very lean at the middle. Organizations like Wipro, which traditionally has had hundreds of thousands of employees are mulling to embrace hourglass like structure, which would eventually mean that the traditional managerial type function- which mostly "ensured" that work gets done rather than "doing" work will likely be delayered.

Renewed Performance Management:
The third event, which is again gaining momentum in the first half of current decade is the revamp of performance management. Most recently, Accenture abolished its decades old rankings and the once-a-year employee evaluation process and has begun the process of replacing it with more meaningful and periodic evaluation system. Incidentally, Accenture is not the first organization to do so as companies like Adobe, Microsoft, Juniper have already replaced the older systems.

Recent Technological Trends- SMAC:
The fourth event, is a technological wave- smartly encapsulated in this  acronym- SMAC. The advent of Social, Mobility, Analytics and Cloud technologies are redefining the jobs and roles as we have traditionally known. As a simple example, the messaging service- WhatsApp's android application recently reached 1 billion downloads. As much as this number is baffling, it is more baffling to know that this app was built by the team of just four people. The future of workplace hovers around extremely lean organizations.

Millennial revolution and the Open-source movement:
Though not necessarily in last 5 years or so but there are couple of more events that are indirectly impacting the management profession. One is the trend around rise of millennial employees. By definition these represents the young workforce typically born between 1980 and 2000. This population, which will be more than 50% of the workforce in few years according to some statistics, is bringing about a change in organizations. General characteristics of these folks is that they value transparency, freedom, accountability, responsibility but hate micro-management and stay away from politics of any kind. They naturally don’t appreciate traditional hierarchical structures, which indirectly influences the role manager should play in organizations dominated by millennial. Second, not-so-recent trend is around that of Open Source movement. The grand success of the projects such as Wikipedia and Linux- both of which were built by self-managed groups of hundreds of thousands of users really gives weight to the fact that it is no longer mandatory to have a traditional hierarchy to build world-class products.

Looking back, If EFCS brought the focus back to the value creating employees, the delayering phenomenon ensured that unnecessary management layers were optimized. If disbanding the age-old performance management systems realigned the role of a manager, the technology wave of SMAC, while ensuring leaner organizations took the focus away from the traditional managerial roles. At the same time, workforce dominated by millennial population is slowly but surely changing the rules of management while bringing to the fore self-management principles of the open source movement.

These trends and the resultant impact on the management profession makes us see the need behind Holacracy more clearly. To get it right, Holacracy doesn't mean throwing hierarchy out of the organization and taking decisions only via consensus. Holacracy is also dependent on structures, processes and practices. The typical tasks of management doesn't necessarily go away but they become more distributed, more decentralized.

I will probably just stop here and ask- What is your take on this topic ? Will the traditional manager role cease to exist in the organization of tomorrow ?

Images source:

Monday, July 20, 2015

95 Top Quotes From The Book- "The One Thing"

I was recently recommended to read this book- The One Thing.

This book comes in as a refreshing change at times when our attention levels are probably at the all time low with most of us staring at mobile screens while carrying out any endeavor.  With attention spans reducing due to mobile revolution and other distractions, human race's capability of focusing on just one thing is also diminishing.
This book comes in as a refreshing change in today's time when user's attention is as precious as currency. A while back, i wrote this article on how can one manage multiple passion effectively. It turns out, as i learned from this book, even managing multiple passions and interests can be best done by focusing on just one-thing-at-a-time. This concurs well with the famous quote-

"If you chase two rabbits, you will not catch either one- Russian Proverb"

In this blog post, i just present some of the key quotes that stayed with me and i have organized these based on the key themes.

Read on to further as the core question this book asks is...

"What's the ONE thing you can do this week such that by doing it everything else would be easier or unnecessary ?"

Theme#1: In the big-bad world, "Going small" is powerful
1. "Going small" is ignoring all the things you could do and doing what you should do. It's recognizing that not all things matter equally and finding the things that matter most"

2. "Getting extraordinary effect is all about creating a domino effect in your life."

3. "Extraordinary success is sequential, not simultaneous. What starts out linear becomes geometric. You do the right thing and then you do the next right thing. Over time it adds up, and the geometric potential of the success is unleashed."
"The key is over time. Success is built sequentially. It's one thing at a time."

4. "There can only be one most important thing. Many things may be important, but only one can be the most important."- Ross Garber 

5. "No one succeeds alone. No one." 

6. "Passion for something leads to disproportionate time practicing or working on it. That time spent eventually translates to skill, and when skill improves, results improve. Better results generally lead to more enjoyment, and more passion and more time is invested. It can be a virtuous cycle all the way to extraordinary results."

Theme#2: Every task isn't equal. And don't treat them so.

7. "Things which matter most should never be at the mercy of things which matter least.- Johann Wolfgang von Goethe" 

8. "Equality is a lie. Understanding this is the basis of all great decisions" 

9. "The things which are most important don't always scream the loudest.- Bob Hawke"

10. "As Henry David Thoreau said, "It's not enough to be busy, so are ants. The question is, what are we busy about?" Knocking out a hundred tasks for whatever the reason is a poor substitute for doing even one task that's meaningful. Not everything matters equally, and success isn't a game won by whoever does the most. Yet that i exactly how most play it on a daily basis." 

11. "While to-dos serve as a useful collection of our best intentions, they also tyrannize us with trivial, unimportant stuff that we feel obligated to get done- because it's on our list." 

12. "Achievers operate differently. They have an eye for the essential." 

13. "In the world of success, things aren't equal"

Theme#3: Do you have a to-do list or a success list ?

14. "Achievers do sooner what others plan to do later and defer, perhaps indefinitely, what others do sooner. The difference isn't in intent, but in right of way. Achievers always work from a clear sense of priority." 

15. "A to-do list is simply the thing you think you need to do; the first thing on your list is just the first thing you thought of. To-do lists inherently lack the intent of success." 

16. "Instead of a to-do list, you need a success list- a list that is purposefully created around extraordinary results. To-do lists tend to be long; success lists are short. One pulls you on all directions; the other aims you in a specific direction. One is a disorganized directory and the other is an organized directive." 

17. "A to-do list becomes a success list when you prioritize it." 

18. "No matter how many to-dos you start with, you can always narrow it to one."

19. "Setting a doable goal is almost like creating a task to check off your list. A stretch goal is more challenging. It aims you at the edge of your current abilities; you have to stretch to reach it. The best goal explores what's possible. When you see people and businesses that have undergone transformations, this is where they live." 

Theme#4: Multitasking isn't a virtue

20. "Researchers estimate that workers are interrupted every 11 minutes and then spend almost a third of their day recovering from these distractions." 

21. "Juggling isn't multitasking. Juggling is an illusion. To the casual observer, a juggler is juggling three balls at once. In reality, the balls are being independently caught and thrown in rapid succession. Catch, toss, catch, toss, catch, toss. One ball at a time. It's what researchers refer to as "task switching""

22. "Task switching exacts a cost few realize they're even paying." 

23. "Author Dave Crenshaw out it just right when he wrote, "The people we live with and work with on a daily basis deserve our full attention. When we give people segmented attention, piecemeal time, switching back and forth, the switching cost is higher than just the time involved. We end up damaging relationships." 

24. "doing the most important thing is always the most important thing." 

25. "To do two things at once is to do neither."

26. "High multi-taskers are the suckers for irrelevancy."

27. "Multitasking is a lie." 

28. "Multitasking is merely the opportunity to screw up more than one thing at a time.- Steve Uzzell"

29. "Multitasking is about multiple tasks alternately sharing one resource (the CPU), but in time the context was flipper and it became interpreted to mean multiple tasks being done simultaneously by one resource (a person)." 

30. "Its not that we have too little time to do all the things we need to do, it's that we feel the need to do too many things in the time we have." 

Theme# 5: Willpower isn't as strong as we think it is...

31. "Willpower is always on will-call is a lie." 

32. "Willpower has limited battery life but can be recharged with some downtime."

33. "The more we use our mind, the less minding power we have. Willpower is like a fast-twitch muscle that gets tired and needs rest."

34. "Willpower is like a gas in your car...When you resist something tempting, you use some up. The more you resist, the emptier your tank gets, until you run out of gas."

35. "the is willpower and there is won't power. Most people bring won't power to their most important challenges without ever realizing that's what makes them so hard. When we don't think of resolve as a resource that gets used up, when we fail to reserve it for the things that matter most, when we don't replenish it when it's low, we are probably setting ourselves up for the toughest possible path to success."

36. "What taxes your Willpower"

37. "Don't fight your willpower. Build your days around how it works and let it do its part to build your life. Willpower may not be on will-call, but when you use it first on what matters most, you can always count on it."

Theme# 6: Great lives are lived on priority items...

38. "When you act on your priority, you'll automatically go out of balance, giving more time to one thing over another." 

39. "Your work life is divided into two distinct areas- what matters most and everything else."

40. "We overthink, over-plan, and over-analyze our careers, our businesses, and our lives; that long ours are neither virtuous nor healthy; and that we usually succeed in spite of most of what we do, not because of it. I discovered that we can't manage time, and that the key to success isn't in all the things we do but in the handful of things we do well."

41. "The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret to getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks and then starting on the first one.- Mark Twain"
42. "Big picture and small focus. One is about finding the right direction in life and other about finding the right action."

43. "To be precise, the word is priority- not priorities- and it originated in the 14th century from the Latin prior, meaning "first". If something mattered the most it was a "priority". Curiously, priority remained un-pluralized until around the 20th century, when the world apparently demoted it to mean generally "something that matters" and the plural "priorities" appeared."
44. "Productivity isn't about being a workhorse, keeping busy or burning the midnight oil....It's more about priorities, planning and fiercely protecting your time- Margarita Tartakovsky"

Theme#7: Thinking big...

45. "Historically, we've done a remarkably poor job in estimating our limits. The good news is that science isn't about guessing, but rather the art of progressing."

46. "Thinking big isn't just about business. Candance Lightmer started Mothers Against
Drunk Driving in 2980 after her daughter was killed in a hit-and-run accident by a drunk driver. Today, MADD has saved more than 300,000 lives. As a six-year-old in 1988, Ryan Hreljac was inspired by stories told by his teacher to help bring clan water to Africa. Today his foundation, Ryan's Well, has improved conditions and helped bring safe water to over 750,000 people in 16 countries. Derreck Kayongo recognized both the waste and hidden value in getting new soap into hotels every day. So in 2009 he created the Global Soap Project which has provided more tan 250,000 bars of soap in 21 countries, helping combat child mortality by simply giving impoverished people the chance to wash their hands."

47. "how many times have you set out to do something that seemed like a real stretch at the time, only to discover it was much easier than you thought ?"

48. "When Scott Forstall started recruiting talent to his newly formed team, he wanted that the top-secret project would provide ample opportunities to "make mistakes and struggle, but eventually we may do something that we'll remember the rest of our lives." He gave a curious pitch to superstars across the company, but only took those who immediately jumped at the challenge. He was looking for "growth-minded" people as he later shared with Dweck after reading her book. Why is this significant? While you've probably never even heard of Forstall, you've certainly heard of what his team created. Forstall was a senior vice president at Apple, and the team he formed created the iPhone." 

49. "People who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the only one who do."

Theme# 8: If you are seeking right answers, ask right questions
50. "The quality of any answer is directly determined by the quality of the question"

51. Voltaire once wrote, "Judge a man by his questions rather than his answers." Sir Francis Bacon added, "A prudent question is one--half of wisdom."

52. "Life is a question and how we live is our answer. How we phrase the questions we ask ourselves determines the answers that eventually become our life."

53. "Anyone who dreams of an uncommon life eventually discovers there is no choice but to seek an uncommon approach to living it."

54. "What's the ONE Thing I can do / such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary."

55. "Most people struggle to comprehend how many things don't need to be done, if they could just start by doing the right thing."

Theme#9: Power of purpose...

56. "The most productive people start with purpose and use it like a compass. They allow purpose to be the guiding force in determining the priority that drives their actions. This is the straightest path to extraordinary results." 

57. "A life lived on purpose is the most powerful of all- and the happiest."

58. "One of our biggest challenges is making sure our life's purpose doesn't become a beggar's bowl, a bottomless pit of desire continually searching for the next thing that will make us happy. That's a losing proposition."

59. "Planning is bringing the future into the present so that you can do something about it now.- Alan Lakein"

60. "Love with purpose and you know where you want to go. Live by priority and you'll know what to do to get there."

61. "Purpose without priority is powerless."

Theme# 10: Do less with more time...

62. "My goal is no longer to get more done, but rather to have less to do.- Francine Jay"

63. "Extraordinarily successful people launch their year by taking time out to plan their time off. Why? They know they'll need it and they know they'll be able to afford it. In truth, the most successful people simply see working between vacations."

64. "In A Geography of Time, Robert Levine points out that most people work on "clock" time- "It's five o'clock, I'll see you tomorrow"- while others work on "event" time- "My work is done when it's done."" 

65. "Paul Graham's 2009 essay "Maker's Schedule, Manager's Schedule" underscores the need for large time blocks. Graham divides all work into two buckets: maker (do or create) and manager (oversee or direct). "Maker" time requires large blocks of the clock to write code, develop ideas, generate leads, recruit people, produce products, or execute on projects and plans. This time tends to viewed in half-day increments. "Manager time", on the other hand, gets divided into hours. This time typically has one moving from meeting to meeting, and because those who oversee or direct tend to have power and authority, they are in position to make everyone resonate at their frequency."

66. "To experience extraordinary results, be a maker in the morning and a manager in the afternoon."

Theme# 11: Don't be a victim. Be accountable.

67. "Highly productive people don't accept the limitations of their natural approach as the final word on their success. When they hit a ceiling of achievement, they look for new models and systems, better ways to do things to push them enough." 

68. "When life happens, you can be either the author of your life or the victim of it. Those are your only two choices- accountable or unaccountable. This may sound harsh, but it's true." 

69. "The accountable manager looks for solutions. More important, she assumes she's a part of the solution: What can I do? The moment she finds the right tactic, she acts." 

70. "Granted, "victim" is a tough word. Please know that I'm describing the attitude, not the person, though if kept up long enough these could become one and the same ting. No one is a born victim it's simply an attitude or an approach. But if allowed to persist, the cycle becomes a habit." 

Theme# 13: Saying "No" is often hard but right

71. "Focus is a matter of deciding what things you're not going to do- John Carmack"

72. "No one knew how to go small better than Steve Jobs. He was famously as proud of the products he didn't pursue as he was of the transformative products Apple created. In the two years after his return in 199, he took the company from 350 products to ten. That's 340 nos, not counting anything else during that period. At the 1997 MacWorld Developers Conference, he explained, "When you think about focusing, you think, 'Well, focusing is saying "yes", No! Focusing is about saying no. Jobs was after extraordinary results and he knew there was only one way to get there. Jobs was a "no" man."

73. "Master marketer Seth Godin says, "You can say no with respect, you can say no promptly, and you can say no with a lead to someone who might say yes. But just saying yes because you can't bear the short-term pain of saying no is not going to help you do the work." Godin gets it. You can keep your yes and say no in a way that works for you and for others. " 

Miscellaneous Quotes that i liked:

74. "Perseverance is not a long race; it is many short races one after another.- Walter Elliot"

75. "When i first began to time block, the most effective thing I did was put up a sheet of paper that said, "Until My ONE Thing Is Done- Everything Else is A Distraction"

76. "The people who achieve extraordinary results don't achieve them by working more hours. Tey achieve them by getting more done in the hours they work."

77. "Michelangelo once said, "If the people knew how hard I had to work to gain my mastery, it wouldn't seem wonderful at all." 

78. "Mastery is a pursuit that keeps giving, because it's a path that never ends. In his landmark book Mastery, George Leonard tells the story of Jigoro Kano, the founder of judo. According to legend, as Kano approached death, he called his students around him and asked to be buried in his white belt. The symbolism wasn't lost. The highest-ranking martial artist of his discipline embraced the emblem of the beginner for his life and beyond, because to him journey of the successful lifelong learner was never over." 

79. "The truth is, it's a package deal. When you strive for greatness, chaos is guaranteed to show up."

80. "Oscar-winning filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola warns us that "anything you build on at large scale or with intense passion invites chaos." 

81. "If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then is an empty desk a sign?- Albert Einstein"

82. "The art of being wise is the art of knowing what to overlook.- William James"

83. "If the people you spend your time with are high achievers, their achievements can influence your own." 

84. "No one succeeds alone and no one fails alone. Pay attention to the people around you." 

85. "Screenwriter Leo Rosten pulled everything together for us when he said, "I cannot believe that the purpose of life is to be happy, I think the purpose of the life is to be useful, to be responsible, o be compassionate. It is, above all, to matter, to count, to stand for something, to have made some difference that you lived at all." 

86. "To get through the hardest journey we need take only one step at a time, but we must keep on stepping.- Chinese Proverb" 

87. "Living large is that simple. Let me share a way you can do this. Write down your
current income. Then multiply it by a number: 2,4,10,20- it doesn't matter. Just pick one, multiply your income by it, and write down the new number. Looking at it and ignoring whether you're frightened or excited, ask yourself, "Will my current actions get me to this number in the next five years?" If they will, then keep doubling the number until they won't. If you then make your actions match your answer, you'll be living large."

88. "One evening an elder Cherokee told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside all people. He said, "My son, the battles is between two wolves inside us. One is Fear. It carries anxiety, concern, uncertainty, hesitancy, indecision and inaction. The other one is Faith. It brings calm, conviction, confidence, enthusiasm, decisiveness, excitement and action." The grandson thought about it for a moment and then meekly asked his grandfather: "Which wolf wins?". The old Cherokee replied, "The one you feed."

89. "Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.- T.S. Eliot" 

90. "Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover"- Mark Twain

91. "Go live a life worth living where, in the end, you'll be able to say, "I'm glad I did, ""not "I wish I had." 
92. "You can become successful with less discipline than you think, for one simple reason: success is about doing the right thing, not about doing everything right." 

93. "Habits require much less energy and effort to maintain than to begin" 

94. "People do not decide their futures, they decide their habits and their habits decide their futures.- F.M. Alexander" 
95. Be like a postage stamp- stick to one thing until you get there- Josh Billings

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Thursday, July 16, 2015

Some Thoughts On Leading Change- A Talk Addressed To Emerging Leaders

I was recently asked to give a kick-off talk around the theme of “Leading change and Innovation” to a great team of Emerging leaders in my organization. Having been involved in delivering these talks in conferences before, one of things that I was always looking to improve was to share the transcript of my speeches and presentation either in video or text form in my blog. This time I am trying to share the stuff more or less in the same flow as I spoke. I took sometime write it post the talk- that's when the thoughts are ripe in the mind. Though it looks like a bit longer (for a 20 min talk), I would appreciate your comments. Here we go-

Starting thoughts:
Standing in front of the talented set of people like all of you, one of the first thoughts that run into my mind is that almost all of us (including myself) remain emerging leaders throughout our careers- probably at different stages of emergence. I would like to count myself as an emerging leader too.  My belief is that when we think that we have become accomplished leaders, we stop growing. I love sports- play a few of them and follow a lot of them. I can quote example from the world of Cricket.
When the Australian team was winning almost everything in the Cricket field from mid-90s through most of 2000s, their captain during the initial stages of its transformation Steve Waugh shared a secret of their success. I remember him once saying that internally the Australian team used to consider themselves as world no. 2 (though they were undisputed #1). This feel of them not being #1, even though artificial one but deeply internalized one, helped them get better even when they won. If they won by 10 runs, they did make sure to celebrate but more than that set themselves the goal to do win by a bigger margin in the next match. So this team remained emerging and constantly strived towards reaching great heights.

There is another opposing example, again from the world of sport, which proves what happens if we believe that we have reached a level of accomplishment and expertise and we are devoid of any challenge. There was an England bowler named Monty Panesar, who was bowling in one of the Ashes tests. Commentating in the match and seeing Monty bowl, Australian legend Shane Warne said 
“Is Monty bowling in his 33rd test or the 1st test for the 33rd time?”

Monty probably stopped growing and probably he started to think of himself as having been an accomplished bowler after getting a break into England playing 11 and didn't improve as much as the situation demanded.

I fully embrace this thinking I shared so here's an emerging leader talking to a group of emerging leaders.

A little about myself:
Further to kind introduction HR gave, one thing I want to tell about myself is that inside office, I try to lean myself towards achieving expertise in the area of my choice- and outside of office, on a lighter note- I try to become the best "Jack-of-all trades". I do try to indulge myself in newer areas/hobbies as I believe this helps you learn a lot about life at a broader level and a lot more about self at a narrow level. Among the things that I have indulged myself in and that has surprisingly stayed with me consistently over the years is the hobby of Technology journalism. I do write on technology areas frequently and this indulgence, more than anything has made me a student of various events that happen in our industry. And my intention is to decipher the events, finding meanings and relevant learnings that could be applied at the workplace.
Ben Horowitz in his book "The Hard things about Hard things" describe the legendary Netscape
founder- Marc Andreessen as someone who is not only a genius in technology but also a master of history of computer science profession. This sense of history, Ben says, is quite important to have as such knowledge often helps give perspective on handling current problems, as much as it does to help to pave way for the future.

I have been a student of learning about leading change. As much as I have thought in the past that I have mastered learning about the change, I have always fallen short as newer situations keep emerging. Having observed our industry quite closely for a considerable time, I can safely vouch that we live in a very dynamic industry in which no two days are the same. In this little talk, I would like my focus to be narrow.  And I would just try and focus on some things that I have learned in my journey around managing change and in doing so, I will try and lean a lot on the learnings that I have had in the field of technology journalism as well as my personal experience.

Key points that I shared about leading change...

Point#1. Anticipating change and adapting to it is a skill…
…and if we don't treat it as a skill we leave a gap open to become victims of change. And one of the things that I often tell myself and my team is that we should not let ourselves be labeled as victims. Being a victim (and sometimes pretending to be one) is not one of the nicest and positive feelings at all. Our attitude should make us accountable to ourselves and own-up things.

One the key events that we saw happen in our industry was the stepping down of John Chambers as Cisco CEO. I call it as a key event because he was at the helm of Cisco for considerable period, around 2 decades. We live in the times when companies find it hard to even survive for even 1/4th that tenure he spent as CEO. In our career times, we have seen some legendary companies like Sun Microsystems, Compaq, Digital Equipment etc. either merge with bigger companies or bite the dust altogether. What makes some companies and CEO tick? Recently, Chambers wrote a piece in Harvard Business Review on his/Cisco’s longevity and associated the same with his ability to stay ahead of technology shifts. Did Chambers view the technology shifts and changes as a “threat”? He says-

“When you’re a large company with significant market share, it’s tempting to view market disruptions as a threat, but we view them as an opportunity. When a market isn’t in transition, gaining market share is hard—you’re fighting to take one or two points of share from competitors. That’s why we’re transforming our entire business, expanding to capture growth, and thinking very differently about the future of information technology.”

While describing how Chambers saw leading change as a skill, he considers listening to the customers are one of the key ways to gain insights about the trends. He further says-

"The best indication of when to make the jump frequently comes from our customers. That’s been true in nearly every market transition. Many years ago, before the market moved from routing to switching, I visited Ford Motor Company, a key customer. Executives there told me they were exploring a new networking technology called Fast Ethernet. I’d never heard of it before. A week later I called on some Boeing managers, and I asked them about Fast Ethernet. “Yeah, we think that might be the way to go,” they said. They told me about a company called Crescendo Communications that was making advances in that area. We ended up buying Crescendo to help us make this transition. 

To generalize the view which Chambers presented, in my thinking, as a leaders we should keep our eyes and ears open and build systems that can help us sniff change and formulate the ways to connect the dots and make sense of what trends and happenings in our industry means to us, to our products, to our teams and to our careers.

If we don't look too far ahead, i feel Citrix as an organization is a great example of how the technology and market changes are anticipated and our response are planned. Citrix started in 1989 and has successfully weathered the storm created by many technology changes that has happened from the pre-Internet days of 1989 and today's times when we are doing all the work that we need to do on miniature devices.

Referring the text from Citrix’s journey-
Citrix's transition: From our humble beginnings as a small start-up, we’ve always envisioned a different and simpler way of computing. Our goal was to centralize applications, virtualize them, and optimize their delivery over any connection available. This core thinking continues to be the essence of our vision for application delivery, and how we imagine a world where people can work or play from anywhere. 

Point#2: As much as we try, it's not possible to anticipate change every time

The second point that I present here is in a way contradicting with the point I just presented and it is that- As much as we try and want, it's not possible to anticipate and predict the change every time accurately. And when we cannot predict it, we should do the next best thing- respond to the situation like the best in the world.

Prior to joining Citrix, I was working at McAfee- which is a well-known company dealing with security software products. When I was there more than a decade back, its product and selling proposition used to be an anti-virus (AV) software. AV software, by definition, works on the premise of preventing the known threats. It creates a layer of security that prevents all the known threats from happening. Over the last decade, the security landscape has changed drastically as much as that it is no longer possible to predict all the threats from happening. The best thing that could be sometimes is the faster detection of vulnerabilities and swifter response to minimize the damage when the security is found to be compromised. Another security product vendor, FireEye- recently acquired a company called Mandiant which essentially deals with faster response after the security has been breached.

Taking a cue from this experience of mine and use this as analogy, it is not always possible to anticipate change as we don't live in predictable world anymore. In those situations, it's better for us to gear us up for a faster response. Sharing some more examples-

The companies that survived the aftermath of 9/11 attacks weren't experts in dealing with such situations. But they were the companies that were most responsive to change, they were the ones who were willing to work on the ground, they were the ones who changed their plans by every hour and do all that was need to get back on feet despite numerous odds. Southwest airlines was one example which survived post 9/11 situation when most airlines just couldn't cope up with the gravity of the situation.

In the similar way, even the great economists couldn't predict the banking disaster of 2008 that lead to wide-spread recession. The companies that were most responsive to the change came our victorious during this time. I remember having been a part of Citrix in 2009 and one of the decisions we made then was to make our core platform product- XenServer free. Whether this move was successful or not is a debate for a different time, but the fact is that we didn't shy away from making a bold move. The intent here was to help our customers who were cash-strapped to try any new technology and pay for it, thereby helping us build a good footprint of the platform, which would have later helped us sell the management applications on top of it.

I would like to quite another case study that I adapted from the book- Nimble: How Intelligences Can
Create Agile Companies and Wise Leaders. It goes as below-

In 2000, Philips N.V faced an "Act of God" disaster. The semiconductor chip manufacturing facility of Philips caught fire after a lightning strike created electrical surges across the state of New Mexico. They had automated sprinklers and a trained staff, as a result of which, the fire was put off in 10 minutes. At the first glance, the damaged seemed minimal. Semi-conductor industry has a concept called as "Clean Room" where silicon wafers are produced. Due to the requirements, this room is kept a thousand times cleaner than operating theaters in hospitals. Philips estimated around a week's delay in production as the water from sprinkler and the smoke itself had done some damage to Clean room. 
Philips semiconductors had 2 major competitors as its customers at that time (who sourced the chips from Philips)- let’s say it- Company A and Company B for the time being. Company B, upon receiving the news about the fire and shipment delay; quickly checked its inventory. It determined that it had enough chips in stock to tide over the week's delay. Thus, they waited for the Philip's factory to be restored.
Company A, on the other hand, went into classic firefighting mode. It took some steps-
1. Setup a team to monitor the progress of the repairs to the factory. It figured out that the problem was bigger than was originally thoughts.
2. As a result of this knowledge, they went fast and contacted other supplier who could help them fill the void. 
3. CEOs got engaged and Philips got into action to rearrange production in its factories in Asia.
4. It redesigned portions of the critical chip so that the chop could be manufactured in other plans.

By the time Company B woke up to this situation, it was too late and Company A took the lead. Company B, not surprisingly, incurred amounting to more than 100s of millions. Company B was Ericsson. Company A was Nokia.
Nokia rode on such thinking and agility to win more than 50% of market by 2007.

What happened after 2007 to Nokia is also widely known and written about. Though operationally, it had the best brains to take them past the fire-like situations with suppliers but strategically, it probably lacked the anticipation machinery that could help them assess the impact of disruption iPhone and Android were about to cause. 
Another aspect in this case is that Nokia failed to part ways with Symbian OS when Android seem to be becoming a de-facto standard.

The author of same book- Nimble: How Intelligences Can Create Agile Companies and Wise Leaders further argues that instead of engaging in the futile exercise of predicting inflections, companies and individuals should develop capabilities that will allow them to deal with the inflections as and when they occur.

 Point#3. During the early days of change, focus more on people who accept change fast than the ones who don’t

I have been quite inspired with former HCL CEO Vineet Nayar's bookEmployees first Customers
second and the management philosophy that he shares. He brought about a massive change in HCL while keeping key focus on what he calls as true value zone for any knowledge based company True value he says, is not generated by the top management or middle management but it is the people who are closest to the product and the customers. In a way, the change he brought, turned the traditional management paradigms upside down.

As Vineet says, a change initiative can’t be termed as successful if affected people are not onboard. It is generally not possible to have everyone onboard right from the day the change was introduced. When he first began to drive the changes in his organization, Vineer Nayar understood that not all people would come on board immediately and in fact there are three different groups of people depending largely on the way they embrace change-

Transformers: Transformers are the people who were just waiting for someone to initiate the change and they join the bandwagon almost immediately. They are the ones who are usually aware of shortcomings in the current environment but probably were not the influential enough to drive the change themselves earlier on. They are the people who not only embrace change but also are ready with suggestions, ideas and raise their hand to implement some to completion.

Lost Souls: They are the people who would never support any kind of change. They always have this negativity surrounding them and they somehow are never able to lift themselves from their hopeless state. They somehow believe that every new initiative is an eye wash from the management or the organization. Whenever the new idea is suggested they would simply go ahead and dismiss that not only in their minds but also knowingly and unknowingly try to spread their negativity by airing their views.

Fence sitters: These are the third bunch of people, who generally are reluctant to share their views, rarely would ask the questions and would rather play a wait and watch game. They may not openly criticize the change but won’t either embrace it with wholeheartedness. When asked their opinions, they are likely to say nice things rather than be upfront honest. They would closely watch "Transformers" and the "Lost Souls" and may even change their opinions in short time. In any change initiatives, such people are usually in the majority. They get easily influenced in either direction.

During my early years as a leader, while driving any change initiative I used to focus too much on getting a buy-in from the Lost Souls as a measure for success. As I learned from Vineet's experience here, I figured out the leader should focus more on Transformers at the start of change initiative and empower these set of people to show positive examples of adopting the change to the Fence sitters and Lost Souls and use Transformer's energy to help get buy-in from Fence sitters first.

In my experience, in any hierarchical organization, any mid-level leader plays the role of a leader to his/her team and at the same time- plays a role of a follower to his or her boss. Thus, we get to play the role of initiator and a leader of the change in some cases and in some, it is aptly following the change and ensuring the alignment of the teams. Both these situations requires different skills to get the buy-in from the team and from the management upwards and leaders should be willing to think of these differently. 

 Bonus point: Have a beginner's mindset
Years ago, the original product of Intel was D-RAM which is basically memory for computers and they had just started to invent the micro-processor. They had a real business problem, the Japanese were killing them in the D-RAM market, just destroying their market share.
So Andy Grove and Robert Noyce were at the office late one night and they were talking to each other.
·       Andy says to Robert: Wow we got a problem!
·       Robert says we sure do.
·       Andy asks- If Board says we would get the new guys to solve this problem, what would the new guys do.
·       Robert says Oh that’s easy, they will get us out of the D-RAM business.
So Andy Grove says, Yes why don't we do that before these other guys get in.

To me, Andy’s question about “what would new guys do” is quite profound because it reflects that Andy was more willing to be a beginner again. And to me that is what is needed the most when we drive the change efforts.
Most of the organizations fail to cannibalize the stuff at the right time.
As John Chambers also said-
"For Cisco, each transition required a decision about when to jump from selling a profitable product to a new technology—often one that would cannibalize our existing product line. These jumps were critical, though, if we wanted to stay ahead of the curve."

Even when we attempt to reinvent our careers, most of the people tend to focus a lot of learning new stuff but in reality the harder thing in any reinvention efforts is to unlearn what we already know that will not be needed in the future. As a leaders, we should help our teams unlearn stuff that’s hampering the growth to drive the positive change.
The Book “One Thing” narrates this story about Steve Jobs that reflects further on adopting beginner’s mindset.

"No one knew how to go small better than Steve Jobs. He was famously as proud of the products he didn't pursue as he was of the transformative products Apple created. In the two years after his return in 1999, he took the company from 350 products to ten. That's 340 nos, not counting anything else during that period. At the 1997 MacWorld Developers Conference, he explained, "When you think about focusing, you think, 'Well, focusing is saying "yes", No! Focusing is about saying no. Jobs was after extraordinary results and he knew there was only one way to get there. Jobs was a "no" man."
As a key learning, we should be ready to cannibalize something that's working for the sake of something better that you foresee coming.

Closing thoughts:
I will close the talk with the words of our CEO, Mark Templeton that he shared after one of our difficult change initiatives-

“Truth is people don't like change. And the older you get, the less you like it.
Change has to start here (pointing towards mind). You have to move mind before you move your bodies. Change is an intellectual process that you have to work to see it for what it is. It’s about staying relevant and not becoming a dinosaur.”

Thank you.

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