Successful Product Owner (PO) and Business Analyst (BA)

Some of things in the role of PO and BA are quite common. This blog is generic to both roles. Well, it is important to understand the two key questions about the BA role.

What does a BA analyse?

A BA analyses a business requirement to determine how it can best (from a perspective of quality, cost, time) be implemented into the available suite of software applications or products. The business requirement could be around a new feature, upgrading an existing feature, deprecating part or whole of the existing feature, decommissioning a legacy system or related to migration of the application.

Who does he analyse for?

He analyses the above primarily for 2 set of stakeholders.

  • What it means to the end user?

    The requirement may come in different ways (may be just 1 line, 1 paragraph, 1 page or even non-written but out of a conversation). The BA has to analyse how this requirement or change in requirement would impact the application which in turn would impact the end user. Empathy and ability to put himself into end user shoes is important.

  • What it means to the IT team (software development team)?

    The development team is usually more tech savvy and less business savvy. They want to know what it means to them in terms of grass root level implementation. As a developer or technical lead, I would look forward to know what exactly I need to do step by step in the software or application’s components that will meet the business requirement. So, the BA has to slice and dice the end user impact into such a fine grained way so that development team can understand it as actionable pieces of work. And of-course, while slicing and dicing, he also needs to translate and transpose business stuff into technology enabled delivery vehicles. In other words, the BA has to act as a bridge between both worlds (the business and technology).

Essential attributes for success:

Hard-skills:

  • Ability to slice and dice (INVEST principles are very useful)
  • Ability to drive workshops to dissect, deduce and elaborate requirements
  • Analytical mind to understand what it means to the end user, how the customer or end user would act/feel/behave while using the application
  • Top to bottom approach –ability to deduce detailed requirement(s) or use case from very short brief
  • Write acceptance criteria and cover all possible boundary conditions (permutations and combinations where/how each AC may fail)
  • What-if approach – What data user may use and what if he uses incorrect data which may be correct from his perspective
  • Research skills – Need to identify and understand existing capability to ensure nothing is overlooked or broken as a result of the change
  • Organisation – Must be able to work with other teams to determine dependencies and timings of inter-related changes, as well as determine the logical order of small pieces of work building to a whole
  • Ability to analyse a problem, develop solutions and evaluate various options for benefits and drawbacks
  • Ability to plan, execute and document scenarios for acceptance testing
  • Articulation skills – comprehending something in mind is one thing however articulating the same on paper in such a way that others can understand it well is another thing which comes from experience (write user story in such a way that development team could understand it well with minimum ambiguity)
  • Do an impact assessment to a degree that lays the ground for the technical folks to think further
  • Prioritisation of user stories (both in terms of sequencing of stories and also from business value perspective)
  • At times, designing mock-UI and wire-frames also part of BA’s responsibility. If yes, then s/he should have good command over tools like Microsoft visio, lucid charts etc. to draw UI screens. This also needs good imagination.
  • Use of tools such as JIRA, confluence, Rally and so on.

Soft-skills:

  • A good communicator – the BA/PO has to spend a lot of time talking and listening with different sets of people.
  • Calm and patient – BA/PO will be dealing with diverse stakeholders from different background, he must have patience to actively listen everyone and constructively respond
  • Collaboration with development team
  • Self-organising, balancing time and availability in the mid of constantly changing priorities
  • Empathy to put himself into customer’s shoes
  • Reacting quickly to change in priorities or solution approach
    Being able to justify the complexity of seemingly simple changes (the devil is in the details!)

Challenges:

  • Paralysis by analysis – loaded with massive information that too scattered
  • Work in the twin worlds of business and technology
  • Volatile requirements
  • Explaining cost of delay to stakeholders

Successful Scrum Masters

Scrum Masters (some organisations prefer to call it Iteration Managers) should be very good in knowing and implementing scrum practices. The following are some of the essentials skills, they should have.

    • Make sure Scrum practices add value
    • Transparency of team’s work in terms of status, backlog, progress etc.
    • Backlog grooming and Technical readiness of stories
    • Own blockers, impediments, either resolve or find timely work around
    • Ability to see hidden and unspoken impediments
    • Engage stakeholders esp. PO/business
    • Planning well and planning ahead
    • Analytical skills

Besides Scrum, I think it is equally important to have essential soft skills and personality traits which will surely help scrum masters in a big way. In fact, these attributes are applicable to any role (Business Analyst, PM etc.) that deals with stakeholders, teams.

Personality Traits: 

    • Be confident and look energetic
    • Constructive interactions, positive responses
    • Helping outlook, empathy

Important professional attributes:

    • Communication Skills
    • Business outlook – Customer Perspective
    • Empathy and Emotional Quotient
    • Stakeholder Management
    • Strategic Outlook and Analytical Abilities
    • Manage expectations

Communication

The way you communicate and carry yourself is the gateway of your perception in the minds of people. Some tips:

  • Be a good and active listener
  • Ask right questions which leads towards resolving the complexity or ambiguity of the issue
  • Analyse in your mind why this person is saying so? Ask yourself questions – is he worried, does he need information, does he expect some decision, wants and needs, try to understand his intent and possibly emotions
  • Tailor your response in such a way that is emotionally well articulated and solution oriented, showing empathy is important
  • Email tips
    • Clear and crisp – language clearly understandable by recipient (no room for ambiguity or misinterpretation)
    • Acknowledge emails ASAP, even if actual reply may take couple of days
    • Your stakeholder may be sitting miles away, how s/he will perceive your email response given s/he may be from different background and different role
    • Give attention while writing customer name – do not misspell

Emotional Quotient and Self Organisation

Cool and Calm in times of adversity [it is always about us, not you or me]

    • Don’t get overwhelmed by number of issues or complexity of issues, there is always a way out
    • Break down the problem into small units which can be discussed independently and identify impact of each
    • Prioritize and plan accordingly, think like devil’s advocate and see what all can go wrong (at times, withdraw and avoid are good strategies in the heat of the moment)

Work Management

    • Know expectations clearly from your stakeholders and also articulate your expectations clearly
    • Define clear and crisp definition of done with objective & measurable parameters as much as possible. Introspect, retrospect and give constructive feedback
    • Remember the golden rule “Under Commitment and Over Delivery”. Everyone feels happy to get more than expected
    • Spend some time alone and reflect back

Business Outlook – Customer Perspective

    • Understand why customer has given this project to you or to your organization– is it domain competency, cost effectiveness, technological excellence, known for quality, high productivity, Agile ways of working or anything else – it can be a combination of many things – find out and make sure that your team delivers that
    • Some customers/stakeholders love metrics and some hate, learn his preferences and produce metrics accordingly which are meaningful (e.g. try to produce data showing how we are progressing towards objective goals set in the beginning as a part of success criteria)
    • Understand the difference between happy and delighted customer

Perfection – try to strive for perfection, no room for error (e.g. accuracy of data, precise and concise information)

Stakeholder Management

Show your stakeholders – you are with him, stand by with him. Show them his success is precious to you, his pain is your pain, strive to secure high reliability index. Your customer/stakeholders should rely on you, trust you. This is built over period of time.

  • Build relation – there is no substitute of building excellent relation. You may be 100% all right, and give perfect solution but until unless you have good relation – your credibility will not be established. Good relation is the first stepping stone to gain Confidence.
  • Winning the trust is half the job done. Good outcome/delivery/solution will take care of the other half.
  • As a good professional attribute, don’t let your stakeholders follow up you, respond on time and respond proactively  before someone asks
  • Learn art of saying ‘no’.
  • Work for success of stakeholders.

People Leadership – connect with team, develop your people

Know your people very well,  analyse 2 kinds of skills – Technical skills to do the job and Soft skills

    • Identify skill level in each area of your team (may not be on paper but at least in your mind)
    • People with high skills in both areas should be given higher responsibility
    • People with moderate skill in each area may need short term coaching, training and fine tuning of skills, online courses, self-reading
    • People having low skill in any area should be given sufficient support such as assigning a buddy with them, pair programming, community of practice, short term and long term plan to help them improve skill, certifications, class room training etc.

Useful links:

Eight Tips to Become the Scrum Master Your Team Needs

Characteristics of a Great Scrum Master

Qualities of Highly Effective Scrum Masters

Distributed Agile Teams – Recipe of Successful Collaboration

 

In today’s global village, it is common to have teams spread across geographies. When this happens, it’s a real test of skills for the management team to make sure that the distributed model works. It’s even a bigger challenge when Agile is the execution methodology because agile demands high degree of collaboration. I am sharing my experiences how I managed Agile deliveries when multiple teams were sitting miles away yet have common goal. Such an engagement should be managed at two levels. First, at process level where everybody must agree and adhere to certain disciplines. Second, at leadership level where top management must embrace this challenge and do certain things.

At Process and Agile discipline Level:

    1. Frequent co-location of international team members – across teams and also between Product owner (PO) and teams – must allocate some budget at the beginning of the project to take care of travel expenses.
    2. Daily distributed stand up meeting.
    3. Daily status mails sent to every member with this format what we did today, plan for tomorrow and impediments, the status can also be updated on shared platform e.g. wiki instead of mail – idea here is to record the status somewhere.
    4. Enforce distributed pair programming – when and with whom – this should be chosen carefully, here role of mature scrum master becomes really important:Fingers crossed Distributed pair programming between developers across teams separated geographicallyHigh five  Distributed pair programming across skills e.g. tester and
      developer, developer and UI designer, tester and UI
      designer
    5. Mature tester – tester is the eyes of the product owner:

Light bulbThe tester(s) must take ownership of the entire product and not
the just the pieces being developed in the same sprint

Light bulbIt is highly recommended to have good developer to tester ration e.g. 2: 1

  1. All international team members must have shared vision, shared responsibility and collective ownership.
  2. Take help of advance technology for distributed stuff e.g. technical discussions, pair programming, demo, planning etc. use screen sharing and have best quality of audio and video.
  3. Enforce discipline – Agile meetings e.g. planning meeting, demo, retrospectives must be participated by every member unless there are serious and unavoidable reasons, and when someone misses any of these important meetings, someone in the team must update the absentee ASAP.
  4. Maintain electronic dashboard to track status anytime anywhere e.g. Jira with GreenHopper.
  5. Product owner must be available to all teams across geographies, if he is too busy he should appoint proxy product owner but team must always get full support from this role of PO.
  6. Have scrum of scrums at regular frequency.

At Leadership Level:

Leadership must accept this as challenge, believe in this philosophy of global teams and committed for the success of this. In such a large and distributed set up, leadership plays a very important role for the success of this model, can’t leave up to the core scrum team only.

  1. Must gather knowledge of cross culture and find ways to groom teams with each other’s sensitive quotient, emotional quotient, choice of words etc. to ensure absolute harmony.
  2. Identify strengths and skills of each team, each member and allocate tasks accordingly, it needs due diligence, visionary outlook and experienced.
  3. Take away any hidden emotions such as:Sad smile  fear of job security
    Sad smile superiority complex
    Sad smile feeling of running away with all the credit
  4. Inculcate highest collaboration and team spirit:Left hugRight huga. Total team work, one team feeling – individual heroism is second to none
    b.  Your problem is my problem too
    c.  Every team member brings certain competency, his skills are precious and his suggestions are valuable
    d. It’s always about “WE” and never about you and I
    e. Compassion and cooperation with fellow colleagues is the key to success
  5. Agile and specially distributed agile cannot work with just raw developers – team must have a basic minimum level of maturity, professionalism and hence smartness.
  6. Resolve dependencies quickly – leadership must develop an informal model to first discover dependencies (usually hidden) quickly and then resolve ASAP without impacting the sprint goals.
  7. Strong Emphasis on the following and must facilitate it:Thumbs up Less documentation, more communication
    Star Less process, more trust and relations
    Soccer ball Shared responsibility and collective ownership
  8. Celebrating success together: It has been observed that when it comes to celebrations – teams does it locally within closed circle. It’s but natural for teams to go this way but Leadership must ensure the fruits of celebrations reach every corner of the global teams.
  9. No complacency: This is an ongoing process that never stops. A slight laid back attitude here would impact the global collaboration adversely. Think it like an active volcano which can explode any time. Leadership must watch out this volcano  and must keep it quiet. Although it is natural human behavior to camp with local colleagues but over the period of time, it may result into invisible ganging where team in one location starts dominating over others. It’s very dangerous for the interest of the project and defeats the purpose of having global international teams. Leadership must watch this carefully, guard against building up of local lobbies, act upon immediately on slight discovery of such notions and nip the evil in the bud. To address this, leaders should demonstrate artistic touch to have a healthy blend of soft skills (motivation, cultural incubation) and slight flavor of authority as and when needed.
  10. Set expectations right away: Define roadmap to success of the project in the beginning; set team objectives clearly and deduce individual performance criteria from these bigger goals. Now ‘the highest team collaboration’ must be in the appraisal feedback parameters of every team member and must have significant weight assigned to this parameter. This ensures that if anyone does not understand the language of collaboration (either intentionally or lack of awareness) – s/he must learn it quickly otherwise it will hit his appraisal thereby adversely impacting salary hike and promotion.

Quality, a Way of Life

In IT industry, every company talks about Quality. I think there is widespread misconception among IT professionals that quality means quality of the software only. This is not true completely. In my opinion, quality is a way of life. Anything that you do in office should be of the top quality. Quality should be practised every minute in every small thing that you do. Besides programming, quality is also equally important in the following.

  1. The way we speak
  2. The way we write
  3. Our behaviour
  4. Personality (the way we carry ourselves)

I have seen technical people who do great in everything but there are such people also who give less importance to anything which is non-technical and hence end up doing poor communication, bad in building relationship, pathetic in email writing. IT is a technology driven industry. Having great ability to write top quality code may fetch you compliments like ‘great developer”, ‘good programmer’ ‘develops high quality software’ etc. But it may not invite comments like ‘a true professional’, ‘an asset to organisation’, ‘top quality professional’, ‘privilege to work with’ etc. To be a true professional, you really have to be top class in everything and not just limited to quality coding. Quality should be like the blood flowing from top to bottom every minute.

In my experience, many people usually give less importance to writing emails. Email is the virtual face of you. The choice of words, tone, knowledge of target audience and clarity reflects your personality. We must take email writing very seriously and strive for perfection in this skill as well. Though definition of Quality is not limited to what is explained in the following diagram, but this diagram explains some of the key attributes of office life where Quality must be practised.

Art of Corporate Relations

Human relations in corporate world are as important as in personal life. Success is always a team event. Having excellent and healthy relations is the foundation of any team. The word ‘team’ is a noun that represents a set of individuals working in absolute harmony with common goals. No two individuals can work together until unless they have humane relations. In this article, I would like to share my thoughts about what it takes to build relations in the corporate world. Relation between two human beings can be as simple as you want and as complex as you want.

Before publishing this article, I was thinking what would be the right title of this article. I thought of a few ones that may fit into the subject like – “When Manager becomes Leader” or “Where Managers Fail”. I finally settled for “Art of corporate relations.” Intended audience here is anyone who has a team to manage and those professionals aspiring to be managers and entrepreneurs.

There are 3 basic building blocks between any two human relations.

1. Respect
– pious and prestigious

2. Trust
– beautiful but hard earned

3. Honesty
– as rare as cool breeze in dessert

We must have read and heard these 3 words, thousand times in our life. On first look, it may seem very simple and almost everyone would say that “yeah, I know it well and always follow as well”. But trust me; there are very few people who know real essence of these three gems (respect, trust and honesty). In my humble opinion, some of the old fashioned and traditional managers especially in hierarchical communities who believe in authority and consider being manager as luxury, do not understand the science behind these 3 building blocks of relations. That’s where team starts maintaining distance from them and starts looking at them as evil. When this happens, you as manager has failed. Another way of saying is a manager becomes a leader when he understands this beautiful art of managing relations. Leader is not a title given my companies but it is a state of mind of your team members where:

• They start looking forward to their manager for all their problems

• Strong belief that this man has to be right even though I don’t understand his reasoning very well but I am sure my career is in safe hands and if I follow him, I will be good and protected

• Willing to do anything for him

When the above happens, manager becomes leader. It happens if and only if you show highest level of respect, utmost trust and honesty to your team. Let me explain my perspective of these qualities.

Respect

It means you treat the other person with utmost dignity as you want to be treated by others. You consider other person on equal footing at par as you yourself. You understand the emotions of the person equally good as the person himself. You give due respect to the feelings of the person. You acknowledge the competency of the person and give highest value to it. You are excited when he is happy and you feel bad when he is sad. You are worried when he is in trouble. Show compassion to the human being and believe everyone is a divine creation of God as you are yourself. His happiness is precious to you. When this happens, it is respect in real sense.

On the contrary, I have seen managers showing authority, killing people’s emotions with disdain, treating people like commodities and focused upon to please their own bosses. This way, you will always remain manager. In this process, you will draw people’s anger and anguish along with curse. Believe me; curse of a distressed and honest person never goes waste. It is going to come back and come back very hard directly and indirectly to you one day. Do not be manager to achieve targets set by your boss only. If you are a good  leader, targets will be achieved anyway but more effectively and efficiently.

Trust

It means you believe that your team is doing everything right with right intention. It may be the case that team does not have enough experience to handle a situation or may not have a particular competency to achieve highest business results (no one is perfect) – but then a competent manager should help them succeed by adding his own experience, holding hands of team members and taking them to the ladder of success along with you. It also means that if you have different opinion, you still (as a first step) appreciate the actions and thoughts of him. Then explain your perspective as someone who is refining his ideas, coaching him on missing aspects (if any) and giving him a sure shot recipe of success. Also show him that you as leader stand behind him in every scenario and will be there to protect and support in every situation. When I say show, I don’t mean show-off but you should really mean it. These things cannot be borrowed or pretended superficially but it is inherent to good leaders and comes naturally to them.

Unfortunately, traditional managers just impose things on subordinates. Such managers always try to prove in front of team that “I know better than you, you don’t know anything, you are wrong, just follow me because I am your manager” anyway. This is not trust but sheer authority exhibited in an autocratic way.

Honesty

Be very transparent in your intentions, be very open in communication explaining everything why you want a particular thing to happen the way you want – what benefits team would have if they follow you as manager and how it will help the team to succeed. Your words, body language, and emotions – everything should be pious and truthful. Create an atmosphere where team can open their mind, speak from heart, and talk freely and fearlessly in front of you. A good manager must inculcate the honesty as religion in his life and thereby inspire team also to believe in honesty. First you have to be honest to yourself, only then you can expect your team to be honest. You lie and believe me you will be caught one day or sooner. Now a days, people of new generation are smart enough to find the truth and then gossiping makes it even tougher for you to hide a fact. Honesty is still the best policy and would always remain. In front of customers, you can be politically correct but again, no hiding facts, no lies.

Where relations go sour

1. Bad intentions : In the pursuit of quick bucks, sometimes people follow short-cuts, too focused on appraisals and do everything to please the boss, start playing politics and back biting, stealing credits of other people around etc. In this process, they compromise with basic principles of life. There are primarily 2 root causes why people have bad intentions. Everything else revolves around these.

a. Incompetency : In my opinion, competent people rarely have bad intentions

b. Super ambitious : Impress the bosses by hook or crook because of the desire to rise up the corporate ladder super quickly makes you follow short cuts

Incompetency and being highly ambitious is a deadly combination. I have analyzed why this happens. It is because people want to achieve primarily 2 things in their life – Money and Authority. There is nothing wrong in it. But for talented and competent people, money and authority is the natural outcome and they are bound to get sooner or later. Problem starts when instead of focusing on developing skills, they focus day and night on money and authority. It makes them lose focus on competency and instead try to find quick and crooked ways to achieve this. It is here people enter the dragon of corporate evils (politics, lie, deception, flattery, yes boss etc.). At this stage, relation takes a back seat and you can never have good relations with your team.

2. Poor communication : Sometimes even though intentions are good but your communication is not mature and skilled enough to convey your true message. Remember the golden rule; you are as good as you can communicate. Probably I will write another blog on art of communication.

First make relations with your inner strength. Be honest to yourself, trust your skills and respect your life and your moments of joy – be a leader of yourself. Always remember to apply these 3 principles with other forms of life. If you are there, people will like you can be leader of masses.

Engineering Team needs Mature Leadership to succeed

Engineering team usually needs a mature leader to support them on various things. For any IT assignment to complete successfully, its not just technology but a lot of other aspects have to be addressed. Some of those could be:

  1. Programming – knowledge of technology
  2. Customer management – this needs different perspective
  3. Communication – this is an art, communication has many dimensions as you start interacting with various stakeholders
  4. Building relation with various stakeholders – does not come naturally to everyone
  5. Consultancy beyond programming – proactive approach
  6. Finding repeat business and explore more business opportunities – need vision and business outlook
  7. Foresee risks and handling escalations – leadership skills
  8. Resourcing decisions and resource movements – need to have company-wide resourcing perspective and vision, knowledge of the contract
  9. Bailing project out of crisis when in serious trouble – out of box thinking, crisis management  that comes with experience and ability to solve problems

I wonder how many items of the above backlog a technical team along with scrum master can pick up. The software development team who is too focused (team must be focused) in development, playing with technology every minute – it’s hard for them to focus in all of the above mentioned areas. I am not saying it is impossible. There are teams who have done this. But this is something which is not possible for every individual and every team to follow successfully. First of all – it needs good amount of time which a team focused on technology and feature development cannot find it too easily. Then it needs all together different perspective. It does need experience and niche skills. Teams may have all of these but at times, may not at that level and to that extent where it is required. That’s why you need someone who can pick non-programming stuff from the above backlog and help team’s effort align with these.

Hence there is always need of some mature leadership who can work closely with the scrum or development team and make them successful. Different organisations call this role with different names such as Engineering Manager, Agile Coach, Principle, Technology Manager or whatever suits as per company’s ecosystem.

 

 

 

Importance of Professional Character

In my opinion, the following professional traits (positive traits) are very important in corporate life.

Positive Traits: Honesty and truthfulness, polite and courteous, down to earth, ownership and accountability, self-organized and self-dependent

I give a lot of emphasis to the above mentioned traits. I believe the above mentioned traits define your professional character. And if you have the highest quality of professional character, sky is the limit and you can do any work with ease. One of the fundamental differences between these behavioral characteristics and technical skills is that – these traits are inherent and cannot be taught to large extent. One can try to inspire a person to follow the path of honesty but only to a certain extent. If the person’s natural wiring of mind is such that it knows only vicious intentions then even best of the teacher’s can’t do much.  On the other hand, technical competency is a science which can always be learnt provided one has the aptitude to know and work with technology. Technical knowledge of respective job function (be it programming skill or any other skill like HR, sales, project management) can always be developed easily if someone has right attitude and ability to learn.  IMO, working in IT industry is not a rocket science. But still people fail, people get terminated, people develop poor quality software and develop poor relations – all of this because they miss one or more of the above mentioned positive traits.  People become so much focused on impressing the boss that they stop learning, stop developing skills, take short-cuts using below mentioned negative traits. Continue reading “Importance of Professional Character”

Art of Writing Resume

Resume is the generally the corporate identity for any individual. In professional life, this is the first thing shared with anyone. Psychiatrists can even guess the personality of a person by looking at the resume. It is the first impression of you to any stakeholder who wants to engage you. Besides, resume also represents our written communication skills and presentation skills.

 

While making any professional document, it is very important to know the target audience. For resume – anyone from any background can be the audience. In fact, language of the resume should be written in such a manner that any kind of audience can easily understand. Another attribute of resume is that it should be able to generate interest in the reader and the interest must continue till the end. Here are few tips that might help:

 

  1. Short and simple sentences.
  2. Avoid abbreviations. If required, use extension at least first time.
  3. Nouns should be used as it is. (e.g. JUnit, JBoss, WebLogic).
  4. Same tense (past or present) throughout the document.
  5. Avoid repetition of phrases.
  6. Be explicit wherever possible. Write objectively. Avoid ambiguous words like etc., many, approximate. Idea here is – if you don’t know precisely about yourself – who else would know?
  7. Consistency in font, style.
  8. Avoid local references. Resume generally goes to international customers. For them any local reference (name of local university) has no meaning unless it is a well known thing (e.g. IIT, IIM etc.).
  9. Avoid highlighting (using bold) things unless it is of really significant importance.
  10. Grammatically correct. (e.g. no uppercase letter in between a sentence,  full stop at the end etc.)
  11. Avoid using copy paste from other person’s resume.
  12. If you have written any article or blog, it is good to give URL(s).
  13. Header and footer should appear on every page and must be consistent in font.
  14. Project description should be simple and concise so that it is easy to understand by anyone and generates interest.
  15. After finishing the resume, take a print out and verify if everything is in right format, no truncation.
  16. The project history should be in reverse chronological order.

 

Ability to recruit right people

Interview is a conversation during which you do an assessment of a potential employee if s/he is the right fit for the organisation that you represent. Taking interview is a big responsibility. It is not only about asking right questions from the candidate but also to facilitate him or her in such a way that s/he gives his/her best. It is also not about power or luxury being other side of the table, it is about responsibility to find right match for the organisation. The interviewer must provide comfortable environment to the interviewee. Treat equally the way you want to be treated in such a situation. Dignity of the interviewee must be upheld. Here are a few tips for interviewer:

  1. Show empathy – please keep in mind that the candidate might have come from long distance to travel all the way to your company for the interview,. Do everything to make the candidate comfortable, ask for water/coffee etc. and make sure environment is comfortable.
  2. Start with your own introduction and a glimpse of your company. Never jump into questions straightway.
  3. Break the ice by starting a light or fun conversation.
  4. Never sit across the table. It gives a feeling of hierarchy and hence creates a hidden element of fear which in turn is a barrier to bring best out of the candidate. IMO, we should prefer to use a round table and create an environment of freedom.
  5. Ask questions on those areas only which are claimed to be the knowledge areas of the candidate. Objective is not to find out what s/he does not know but to find if s/he knows right thing(s) in her/his area of strength which is required for this job.
  6. Judiciously choose between leading, objective questions and open ended questions – depending upon if you just need short/boolean answer or details to know the approach, mindset of the candidate.
  7. Tips to check behavioural skills:
    • Role Play – It always helps to know candidate & his thought process, approach, spontaneity and maturity.
    • Ask the candidate to give examples from the past experience that demonstrates the skill/behavioural attribute in question.
    • Sometimes candidates try to take credit of the entire team by portraying as if ‘I have done everything and that too from scratch’. Ask the candidate about his/her contribution in that situation, number of other people in team and their role. This will help you delve deep about the credentials.
    • Give situations or hypothetical scenarios to the candidate then ask his choices, approach etc. This will help read his mind unlike plain vanilla questions which can be answered superficially.
    • Ask competencies (essential attributes) required to perform his/her job. It will help you know how well s/he understands the job. A follow up discussion could be to ask the candidate to give self-rating on those competencies. It will open the door of next level of discussion
  8. A few questions that may be useful:
    • If we ask your 2 good and 2 areas of improvements from your colleagues in current company – what will those people say about you?
    • Tell me about a situation when your work was criticised.
    • What was the toughest decision you ever had to make?
  9. Questions around aspirations:
    • How far or close you are to achieve your aspirations in professional life
    • What are missing skills to achieve your aspirations and what is road-map to fill the gap (clear thoughts and understanding of one’s goals)
    • What new skills you have added or learnt in the past 1 year that might have helped you bring closer to your goals

Conclude the interview by giving an opportunity to the candidate to ask questions. Do express gratitude; the interviewee has given valuable time to you and your company. Please don’t forgot, you are an ambassador of your company. Based on that conversation during interview, the candidate will make an opinion about you and your company. Be very professional, polite and respectful.

Art of Appreciation

I am starting a series of blogs where I will share my thoughts about human behavior in the context of corporate life. The first one in the series is about ‘Art of Appreciation’.

Appreciation is one part of human psychology that brings smile to the other person. Nature has provided human beings abundance ability to appreciate. It does not require any special skill to appreciate someone and it does not cost anything. Objectively, it has following hidden benefits:

  1. If people around you are happy, it will help you also to be happy.
  2. It motivates people and helps improve performance which is required to be successful
  3. If people around you are successful, then as a part of team you are bound to be successful
  4. It brings people closer to each other, increases harmony reduces enmity

Everyone has his own way to appreciate and how s/he wants to be appreciated. There is no rule of thumb to determine what the best way to appreciate is? I am highlighting a few types of appreciations:

  1. Public appreciation or in private
  2. Written or verbal
  3. Formal (email) or informal (skype, test message)
  4. In meetings in presence of peers or one-to-one

Frequency and timing of appreciation is also important. Some people need it too often and for others, once in a while is good enough. Timing of appreciation determines the impact of appreciation. If you appreciate today’s good work tomorrow, it may dilute the impact. Various ways to appreciate are:

  1. Words (can do wonders)
  2. Certificate (friends and family too can cherish)
  3. Monetary Incentives (e.g. movie tickets, gift vouchers, any other form of cash incentive)
  4. Gifts (e.g. book, souvenir)
  5. Bigger Responsibility

Sometime people don’t appreciate. Reasons could be:

  1. Lack of awareness about the importance of appreciation
  2. Peer competition prevents people appreciating others. It’s a myth that by appreciating, they are giving away advantage to peers and bringing others in limelight. In other words, people want to take all the credit themselves and hence prevent them to appreciate which is a violation of team spirit.

Appreciation must always be real based on your true judgment of good work of others. It must never be fake just to impress someone. Motive of appreciation is never to impress but an expression of your happiness straight from your heart about good work. We should be generous to appreciate colleagues, friends, and customers. Ability to appreciate is a reflection of your ability to collaborate. It has direct link if you are a team player or an individual contributor. Appreciation at the right moment in appropriate manner to the delight of the other person can spark someone’s performance to reach to new peaks. It can also help bridge the broken relationship.