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High performers hold themselves and others accountable not only for results but the methods to achieve those results. The end does not necessarily justify the means with these people.

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8+ years without a chair in my office and loving it. The first six months are the hardest (read = tiring), but after that it’s such a welcomed break to sitting in meetings.

Stints of standing while working may reduce back pain

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Good article describes the different personalities that can exist in a company and how they map to the way people take vacation. It’s certainly harder to long vacations here at Contactive because we are trying to grow a brand-new business with minimal resources, which was almost the opposite of my last role, but I still value immensely taking time off. I try to be as disconnected as possible when I’m actually on a vacation; it helps me to decompress and avoids my wife threatening to throw my phone into the water. 🙂

The employees who never take vacation time: How companies are prodding them go

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For example, he says at the company everyone knows what a developer does and what a product manager does. But those roles need an overhaul, and that’s what he meant in his memo when he said “nothing is off the table.”

“Satya Nadella: This Is How I’m Really Going To Change Microsoft’s Culture” via BusinessInsider

I saw the role of the Program Manager change only slightly in my ten years at Microsoft. The explicit separation of the Program Manager’s responsibilities from the non-code side of the business – marketing, business development, KPI’s, etc. – made it such that you could get really good at designing a UX interface but have no idea if customers liked it (or really needed it in the first place). Not every team or individual PM had such clear separations, but it was definitely less than common. 

I’m still in a bit of the honeymoon phase of working for a tiny startup where everyone’s roles are naturally wider (due to the work vs. resource balance). Yet my short time here has convinced me that for the PM role to evolve at Microsoft, it absolutely must move more towards a Product *Management*-style discipline, one driven by metrics, KPI’s, and customer-driven development. This was happening on my last team where we were building Mail, Calendar, and People on Office 365, and I hope that the style of work we were beginning to embrace (more agile, metrics- and customer-driven development) continues to spread.

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The Internet is a psychology experiment.

Building a product for the Internet is now the easy part. Getting people to understand the product and use it is the hard part. And the only way to make the hard part work is by testing one psychological hypothesis after another.

Great article by Scott Adams entitled “The Pivot” on his blog.

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Employees are vastly more satisfied and productive, it turns out, when four of their core needs are met: physical, through opportunities to regularly renew and recharge at work; emotional, by feeling valued and appreciated for their contributions; mental, when they have the opportunity to focus in an absorbed way on their most important tasks and define when and where they get their work done; and spiritual, by doing more of what they do best and enjoy most, and by feeling connected to a higher purpose at work.

This was in the Times last Sunday and is an awesome summary of how to think about motivating and retaining great employees. It highlights simple but critical points like taking breaks to avoid burnout, helping employees gain a feeling of mastery by providing specific and customized challenges, and maintaining a constant feedback loop.

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Employees should use the products and services produced by the companies that employ them. They should be emphatic fans of their company’s products. Nothing less.

Great article, “How to Get People to Eat Dog Food” via AlleyWatch.

I remember when I first heard the question “are you dogfooding?” shortly after arriving at Microsoft in 2004. I was puzzled for a second about why anyone would not use their own company’s products, especially when they were on the product team building them.

Fast forward a few weeks to the mid-point of the Outlook and Exchange 2007 release, when our dogfood email environment would periodically go completely down for days at a time, and we would resort to using IM and our bug reporting system to exchange important messages. I remember that some of our execs were not in the dogfood environment, but when they heard about the issues we were having they asked to be moved into the pre-production environment with us. They wanted to see for themselves what was going on, and provide feedback. Want a quicker way to get your day-to-day product stability in shape? Inject a few executives and put their real email on the line, and you’ll get feedback ‘fo sure. 

My point here is not that we were in terrible shape in early Office 2007 engineering (we weren’t), nor that we weren’t dogfooding (we all were), or even that execs are the best way to do Q/A (they’re not). The point is that it’s easy to get stuck staring at the trees and to forget about the forest, and it’s something that happens more (I believe) as teams get bigger and more specialized. I would be heads down working on a specific and critical issue in Search (one of my features), and would assume that someone was seeing the reliability issues I was having with sending email. I remember bringing up one of those reliability issues to the team that owned Mail Transport and finding out that a specific issue with my setup of Outlook (having multiple POP accounts loaded into a profile) was causing an issue, and no one else on the team was seeing it. It was a critical bug because many of our customers had a setup similar to mine.

As teams get bigger and more specialized it’s critically important that everyone dogfoods their specific feature or product. It’s equally important, if not more so, to make sure you are always dogfooding end-to-end experiences outside of your area and across the entire breadth of products you build. We found that by adding the execs in during a time of difficult product stability during Outlook 2007 development, we were able to inject some “new eyes” into our day-to-day work and get some great objective feedback.

Here are Contactive, as our products get more complex and are our team grows, we continue to dogfood every day and have recently added in weekly team-wide bug bashes to help get fresh eyes on new areas of our code. We put up a whiteboard, crank the music (usually 80’s workout montages on Spotify), and everyone writes the bugs they find up on the board. We sometimes award “most interesting bug” and other fun topics – you’d be amazed by what you can find with that kind of intense focus. We have a “Bugs” email alias that gets traffic at all hours of the day as we’ve all adopted the habit of sending screenshots and bug reports the minute we see them. 

Our goal at Contactive is to be proud of our products and deliver amazing experiences to our customers. We believe pride comes from quality, and quality comes from eating your dogfood. Yum. 🙂