Monthly Archives: July 2015

Be a fit in the team #3 – Being late at work

Hey, welcome back!

Today’s topic is a bit stranger because it is one of the things that fall under “We want change but we don’t want to change”. The only pre-requisite for this topic to happen is having a schedule. Please note that this topic is not only for the employee, but for the whole team and especially the team lead.

Case presentation:

It happens very often that people arrive late at work. You find it easy to point out why you consider that you are not wrong with this behaviour.

Before digging into the good, the bad and the conclusion of this topic let’s analyse a bit the possible causes. In case you find another that has not been covered please post it down in the comments and it will be included.

1) Not enough relevant workload
2) Irrelevant core hours (too much overtime required, most of the team not available in the morning, team efficiency peak between other hours)
3) Motivation factors too low
4) Schedule too long or too different for the amount of personal social tasks
5) Environment factors (distance from home, traffic, temperature etc)

As we can see the “personal problems” reason has been excluded because those are random, necessary, can occur at any time and might not always be triggered by you.

1) Not enough relevant workload

Short description:

In the IT ecosystem many organisations function on a estimation / deliverable system of one sort or another. This concludes in some work that needs to be done for the project and some other work, let’s call it “filler”. The “filler” is relative to everyone’s job and personality but we all have it. None of us will come to work eager to do the filler but we are expected to.

Action:

Have a discussion to yourself and find the “filler” work.
Write down the “filler” work.
Ask your colleagues about their “filler” work, maybe someone has a similar problem and might be on to finding a solution already.
See if there is any tool or process on the market that can remove that work from you.
Talk to your direct manager/lead, present him your problem, your solution and try to find a common ground that pleases both parties.

2) Irrelevant core hours

Short description:

The causes of this topic are multiple and it should include something like: too much overtime required, most of the team not available in the morning, team efficiency peak between other hours etc. Basically everything that makes you believe that working between other hours would improve the amount of work done.

On this topic the main actor into improving the situation is the team leader and the team member must bring it up.

Action:

Team lead:

1) Analyse the thought of significantly changing the working hours to the desired ones.
Use the numbers and be realistic about the available work force in the local community.
Drop a relevant percent due to the specific skills.
Drop another percent the exotic hours.
Post an employment announce in the relevant place and see how many would apply and how many you need based on who applies.
Based on this analysis see if changing the core hours makes sense or not.

2) Discuss with the relevant company members about switching to an a-sync work mode in such a way that the teams are no dependent. When doing so, having the “executors” in 1 side and the “dreamers” in another is not the best solution. The executors will need feedback from the dreamers about various aspects of the implementation. Just be realistic about it until a good reliable process is in place.

3) Look around at each individual and see for how long they actually work. Try to do that in a non conspicuous way. Explain the team members that the goal is to adapt the working hours and not to judge them. Be fair about the explanation and do not cross the promise. You must not judge the team members nor influence them, just observe and note in an anonymous way. The team has delivered before you running the experiment and you thought they were working 8 hours a day. If everyone works 4 hours and 4 hours stalking on Facebook negotiate with them privately and come up with a better solution for each individual. Test different solutions, ask for feedback from the team. You are the lead, you have the power to transform the 4 efficient hours into 8 efficient hours.

Team member:

When you observe that the core hours do not fit your schedule find the reason why.
Consult yourself with your colleagues that come in late and find their reasons. While doing this do not tell them your reason first. Don’t influence them.
See if you could come up with a better proposal.
Present the proposal to the direct team lead/manager.

3) Motivation factors too low

Short description:

This usually happens when it is not bad enough for the team members to leave but there are very few challenges. In this situation nobody will leave but nobody will be eager to come work either. The action point here is more towards the team lead. The action picked should mostly based on root cause.

Action:

– The technology used on the project presents little or no challenge to the team members

Have a discussion with the team and sort the workload in such way that everyone gets to work on a personal project that will enchant the big project.
Make sure that a thin set of rules that will measure the success and progress is picked.
Everyone relevant should agree with the new technologies.

Be aware of the fact that there are 3 metrics: speed, cost and quality. Understand the direction of the project and challenge your team to find technical solutions that  push into that direction. Make sure you reward this research work because it will generate revenue. Be very open to every solution presented. Even if the desired metric remains constant but the other 2 are increasing the idea is very valuable. The final product will be much better.

– One individual is not motivated due to very specific reasons

Dear team leader, please do discuss with your colleague and help him be as efficient he can be.

4) Schedule too long or too different for the amount of personal social tasks

Short description:

We all have “things” that have to be handled. Paying bills, obtaining loans, our live evolves together with us and the jobs don’t seem to leave any spare time. As the writer I totally understand you and probably everyone does, however this is still a bad reason to be late at work.

Action:

If possible book the time in advance in the general calendar so that the leader can plan for an amount of work that fits your needs and your colleagues do not have to work extra because of you. Some things can totally be planed ahead of time and they are recursive monthly.

5) Environment factors:

Short description:

We should split those factors in two by occurrence. The constant ones have among them the distance from home, traffic and temperature. The sudden factors are in the lines of thunderstorms, transport system riots, yellow or red code for hot or cold weather, snow storms etc.

Action:

Constant factors:

The team lead could reason with you a bit but only a bit. Maybe you can start the day at home until the traffic thins down a bit and then come to the office. Sadly, since you have agreed to sign the work contract you should have taken them into consideration.

Sudden factors:

Many hours will be spent commuting. If the job allows for remote work the team lead should be pro-active in finding a middle ground for each individual. At the end of the day the business cares about the deliverable end result.

The good:

Being able to start working at your own pace feels quite rewarding.

The bad:

Even if you are doing your work very well, unless this is the agreed form of work, this will constantly be a valid blame topic which doesn’t do you any good.

If a colleague is blocked by your work he will remain block for at last 30 minutes more since you arrive at work.

Conclusion:

It is good to deal with the problem that causes you being late because having a good work ethic allows you to deliver the expected amount of predictability which in return helps the planers to organise the workload better. By being unpredictable you do cancel any chance of delivering more in the given amount of time.

 

Have good day further on!

Gabi

Be a fit in the team #2 – Being a bit too noisy

Hey reader,

welcome to the second article of the series related to how to be a good fit in the team. In the first article, “Be a fit in the team #1” , we have presented the stereotype of colleague who by trying to improve the communication ends up rising his cost and may end up slowing down the whole team.

Now, on the same article structure we will try to analyse why is not the best idea to be noisy.

Case presentation:

You have worked hard recently, spikes of work can happen. You have a well deserved relaxation period. You get to watch your favourite kind of clips over the internet and as you find them interesting you do share the content with your colleagues verbally.

The good:

Your colleagues save some time in searching for the shared information or may find new hobbies. This can be a team builder and can strengthen the relationships (given that the topic is generally accepted).

The bad:

It rarely happens that everyone has the same workload as you. In a lot more cases you end up being a disturbance factor. Indeed, not an un-wanted disturbance. When having to choose many will choose fun over work. Your cost will increase with the level of noise or curiosity you create.

If a colleague of yours needs to use headphones because of you and he misses a piece of information related to an implementation your cost increases with his cost per hour needed to fix it+ the cost of everyone else involved in the process.

If a team bursts into laugh due to your joke and the discussion continues for 10 minutes your cost increases with the sum of each individual’s 1/6*”cost per hour”.

Conclusion:

Now take this into consideration when you expect the next raise. The fact that you are still employed might be more valuable then your raise. Just be happy with it and consider if you want or not to revise your attitude.

Before laughing or sharing a topic with the rest – especially live, put in balance if the team building factor is really necessary.

It is ok to share the topics on a communication channel chosen by the team that can easily be ignored by each member individually based on their needs. This allows you to share with the team into a civilised fashion.

Be a fit in the team #1 – Constantly interrupting your co-worker

Hello reader,

This article is part of a series related on finding out if there is a way to improve your status in your team. We will not treat only the social relationships but also the way in which your personality modifies your cost in an unexpected way. The information present in this article is based on my personal experience both as a tester and team in various companies. Where available resources will be cited.

Case presentation:

You are trying to improve the communication inside the team with your working partners by presenting your needs “live” to your colleague.

The good:

The information is sent faster. The issue at hand might be solved sooner.

The bad:

The team member you are talking to in order to solve the problem cannot work on another problem. Chances are that, as soon as he starts working, you will interrupt him with another urgent matter from the first task. As a consequence, you will be interrupted with the first occasion when the feedback is ready. This will stop you from your second task. This will continue in an iterative manner until the task at hand is completed.

Unless the whole team, is working on the very same task they will be at least slightly disturbed by your conversation. On the long run this results in different means of ignorance such as:
– headphones
– not paying attention to you voice tone anymore
– trying to focus more in order to overcome your conversation
etc.

Conclusion:

By applying this way of working your cost increases without a valid gain. By not using this opportunity, the progress might be slower. An advice would be use this way of working only if the extra cost matters so much for the gain. If possible, get a room. Else at least stay close and be aware of the fact that it will be a long day.

Setting up and building a pond

Planing before the construction:

Chose the desired fish species. Document on their needs. Calculate the desired on the size of the pond. Order the equipment and read the instructions manual. We will need this information later on when we plan the internal layout.

Pond size:

A minium size would be 2m width * 2.5m length * 1.5m depth. If the pond is too big it is very difficult to catch the fishes if they need medication. It is also quite difficult to see the fishes if they chose to hide, this might be a good or a bad thing depending on your own taste. Unless you opt in for a natural pond, all the water has to be cycled every 3-4 hours. This will translate in a very big filtration system.

For very big ponds consult the local legislation. There could be legal problems with the large bodies of water in some countries.

Shade:

Consider having some kind of shade nearby during part of the day. The algae grow really easily on sunlight and will compete with the rest of the plants for nutrients or require additional water treatment and maintenance.

If the sun warms the water all the time there is a high amount of evaporation and a higher then expected temperature. Consider the preferred water temperature of the fish species that will live there.

If the tree above the pond has needles they can get to the pump. Make sure that the mechanical filtration is adequate or there are intermediary reservoirs where they can sink.

Before starting to dig consider where the excavated earth will go. Building a framing it is one of the best options.

Mark on the ground, with wire, wood, rope etc the shape of the pond. Reposition the marking until you are fully satisfied with the location. If possible leave the marking for about 24 hours just in case you get a better idea. Moving a very big whole is not an easy task especially after the pond has been filled in.

Place the equipment on the ground and make sure the desires shape can accommodate it. Also place the hoses and pluming. Don’t add un-necessary labor for cleaning.

Plan the depth and the shape of the pond. Do take into consideration the height of the insulation, underground hardscape and pluming. Remember the intake should be on the opposite side of the outlet in order to create a natural water flow.

 Plants:

The plants should be planted at about 1m in depth because the fishes like to swim around their roots and if they are not deep enough they will get eaten by the wildlife. Also consider the plant roots system. There are some that required about 30cm or more. The plants will help with the filtration but they do not allow a powerful water movement. Most plants like still water.

The downside would be that the fish’s waste will not reach the filters fast enough and sediment on the bottom of the pond. In case of water treatment, with medication, the plants may melt. The plants should be moved before the pond is medicated. Be very careful when adding new plants. They should be quarantined before.

The sick fish will hide among the plants.

If you want plants just for the looks of it do look into ferns. They like humidity, provide shade and look beautiful.

Liner vs. concrete:

The liner it is more labor intensive but cheaper. It is preferred by DIY community because of the cost. The concrete is more general and easier to be dealt with. The pluming for the liner will be covered by the whole body of water and it might flatten the pipes at some point. With concrete this is not a problem.

The concrete it is more smooth and easier to clean. The liner can get punched. The concrete can’t.

It is generally easier to spot and fix a concrete pond with some water resistant solution. However, the liner has a rubber-ish texture and it needs to be patched and glued.

Shape of the pond:

Try not to build edges or places that crate still bodies of water. In those places the filtration will be very inefficient.

The bottom of the pond should not be flat. If it is flat it has to be cleaned all the time because the debris will collect in a layer. There should be draining sections on the bottom of it so that waste will reach the skimmer as soon as the fishes scramble the substrate.

A new bottom drain should be added for every 2 square meters of pond. The minimum depth next to the walls should be around 1.2 meters in order to maintain a constant temperature. Another upside of this depth is the amount of gallons of water. A larger water body helps with a way more stable ecosystem. The small changes in water chemistry are close to non existent.

 

If the liner will be all the way to the bottom of the pond use wooden beans on the upper lip of the walls in order to allow the viewers to walk on them around the pond. Else have in mind that the wet earth will not sustain a human’s height and build some pylons.

In case of opting for a concrete based insolation before building the internal frame place the stones that will sustain the concrete.

Waterfall

For the waterfall consider the speed of the water according to the fishes’ size and species. They should not be washed away by the current or struggle to keep up with it. A wider waterfall will have a slower speed. A narrower one will have a faster speed. The height of the waterfall matters as well. A 3% slope is required in order to create a water flow.

Consider the amount of concrete required to build the walls and floor. We might talk about some tons of concrete.

Make sure you dig in the space required by the equipment: filtration, lightning, reverse osmosis etc.

Planing during the construction:

Before proceeding with the liner in any way set up the pluming.

If multiple liners are used make sure they are overlapped for a good section – about 1 meter.

1) Make the pond abrupt at the edges. It prevents the predators from fetching the fishes.

2) The pond should be as deep and large as possible/desired because it is very difficult to expand it afterwards. Nearly the whole setup has to be re-built.

3) Use big boulders on fast flowing streams. The small pebbles do get washed away by water.

4) Do not use too many boulders, create some terraces on which flowers can grow. It creates a more natural look.

5) Use dirt and gravel to simulate the natural look as much as possible.

6) Do not plant too many water plants one next to each other. All the plants tend to expand and grow.

7) There should be crevices and tunnels in which the fish can hide from predators.

8) Have proper water movement and aeration. Else the algae will keep on growing and take over the pond. Have the intake and outlet in opposite directions in order to create a water flow. Avoid the 90 degrees turns. It does not look or function ok. The water wants to go forward not to the left or right. Have multiple smaller waterfalls along the way if necessary.

9) Allow proper and easy access to the mechanical and electrical systems. This ensures maintainability on the long run.

10) Make sure there is a grill with the wholes small enough in front of each intake. It should prevent the fishes from getting into the systems and die. The flow water should allow the fry to swim against and not get sucked into the pumps.

11) Have ledges on which you can stand next to the water and enjoy the fishes.

12) If you opt in for a more self-sustaing pond do not have the liner on the very edge of the pool, allow some dirt on the sides for the plants and worms. This area for regeneration and filtration should be almost equal in surface with the deeper area. The more fish we are having the more insects they require and the more waste they produce. Consider a fish’s belly. Its digestive system is not optimal. It needs to fill its belly a few times a day. On top of this, the fish’s food needs to eat healthy and regenerate back as well. Having this in mind let’s hope we understand why we need so much space and water for a healthy environment.

Make sure that the liner is covered with rocks, dirt or gravel. The UV rays from the sun will age it and it will leak.

If you use underwater lightning now it is a very good moment to hide it among the rocks.

After the rocks are added, use waterfall foam to cover the undesired cracks from the waterfall stream. The water should flow on top of the rocks not underneath. The scope is to have a beautiful landscape.

Post construction:

Render the pond with waterproofing material if needed.

In case the pool has also an above the ground wall add the desired decoration.

Before adding water to the pond, for clarity, do wash the rocks and gravel. Use a suction pump to remove the dirty water.

Place bolders around the fertilised ground used for the overground plants. This will lower the erosion. Of course, only if it is desired to have a different dirt then the rest of the yard. Else leave the dirt as it is and plan at will.

Fill the pond and start the waterfall. Adjust the flow with rocks until the desired aspect it is achieved.

Cut the extra liner but leave a decent width on the side. Cover the edge with gravel. This should create a transition between big rocks and the dirt.

The landscaping of the waterfall mould and the addition of optional fertilisers should be done now.

Add the optional beneficial bacteria or a small amount of small fish and cycle the pond for a while. In this period the pond’s perimeter can be cleaned of dust, dirt, rocks, debris.

Maintenance:

1) Make sure the systems are clean else the flow lowers and other problems are triggered.

2) The extra food will get stuck into the filters.

3) Have loads of natural filtration from plants. Waste decomposition is a very good thing. The insects and frogs will pop up and they are a great source of food for the pond. The plants should be both floating, submerged and emerged. The fish do eat some of the leaves naturally. Various sizes of Duckweedwater hyacinthpickerel weeds and Anacharis. Do note that all those plants are invasive. They should be planted and have some delimiters on the body of water limit their territory. A separate part of the pond can be used as a filter with all those plants leaving the rest of the water body for viewing the fishes. Alongside with the fast growers we just discussed about, have some slower growing plants.

4) Have various species of fish, They have their own role. The ones with their moth upwards (like guppies) eat mosquito larvae. The ones with theirs straight eat insects and everything that swims in the water. The ones with theirs downwards will help up clean the algae.

5) If possible and desired try to set up a few grow-beds nearby for vegetables and flowers. They do grow really fast with nitrates enriched water and help a lot with the filtration. This can be done along the pond’s river, the water will flow naturally.

6) Have some of the roof’s drenches (if not all) to collect the rain water in a big pipe and direct it towards the pond. Also, if possible, have some kind of storage facility for the more dry reason.

7) Have solar power for the water pumps.

Food:

1) Create a natural food chain as much as possible. This should include some fast breeders as well which are the food source of the other creatures.