More on expectations of quality

Just like the false tradeoff between security and usability, I don’t want to play into the notion that light scope and quality are opposing forces. We will not make progress if we habitually shortchange quality. An “MVP” of poor experience quality is certainly “minimum” but forgets the “viable” and a bit of the “product.” You could say it is actually below “minimum.” For another take on this, see Jason Cohen’s Simple, Lovable, Complete.

Weekly wins for the week of 2023 01 30

  • This is the first week in quite a while that I fulfilled all of my at-work weekly objectives. Sometimes lowering your sights slightly can pay off. Yet I also feel I accomplished more than recent weeks. It’s probably a combination of smaller, more accomplishable (therefore likely better-defined) objectives and actual progress on a thing that’s been lingering for a while. We’ll see if this is a trick or a technique.
  • Having to explain my thoughts about product research/design/development to folks I work with, and having them ask me to operationalize parts of it they don’t fully understand, has led me to explaining some of the concepts from new angles. This is challenging my thinking and helping me to firm it up.
  • I had a lovely chat with a person who is contemplating moving from designer to design manager. I find this sort of thing rewarding because I like helping, and I like meeting people, and because it reminds me of what I’ve learned, what I think, and to listen first. It’s tempting to opine, but only valuable lightly and if that opinion is actually relevant to the person’s situation or question.

Quality expectations

Be it version three or an MVP, the experience we deliver should

  • be valuable to specific users
  • be usable by those users
  • conform to or enhance the user’s understanding of the subject area
  • be pleasant to use
  • be visually polished
  • deliver value in results and conveniences
  • minimize toil
  • be complete in its delivery of the uses we offer
  • be complete in its states, messages, and errors
  • make good use of familiar controls and interaction paradigms
  • make success obvious
  • be obvious in expected actions and right action
  • be self-explanatory, relying on recognition rather than training and recall
  • be well-labeled
  • be instrumented so we can witness users’ successes and difficulties

…even if the scope is small, even if it’s a little slice of functionality from a bigger, longer-term plan, even if it is a fragment of the excellent future we envision. Even the basics should be built completely, with thoughtfulness and pride.

Weekly wins for the week of 2023 01 23

  • I installed a bluteotth kit behind the factory car stereo in the 2006 Matrix and
    • it worked on the first try,
    • it sounds great,
    • pairing was easy and the connection seems reliable, and
    • in doing so I accidentally fixed the clock.
    • I also found a decent way to plug the hole in the dash left by the old aux in jack.
  • There’s a personnel issue at work, but it has a bright side and is totally surmountable. It is very likely that the parties involved will grow as a result. That’s not an easy way to get growth, but I’ll take it, this time.
  • I hit a new one-rep deadlift max on Wednesday. 365lbs is a far cry from the max of my youth or even of a decade ago, but I can see my way to exceeding those with time. Forward!

Weekly wins for the week of 2023 01 16

  • It’s downright refreshing to work for a company that doesn’t reflexively look to “try harder” as the answer to its problems. It’s nice to hear the CEO say that he doesn’t think our problem is not stretching enough. (His assertion is that it’s alignment we don’t have enough of, and that’s generally true also.)
  • Our first design critique (of the “expected, not volunteered” style that I favor) went great. I expect it will continue to go great.
  • My wife and I have hatched a plan to get our remaining stuff out of storage that does not involve a supreme concentrated effort. Much like how I’d prefer companies make progress on major initiatives, we have a plan to do a little each weekend. This will help us move items, repack the ones that need repacking, and weed out things we no longer want to keep a bit at a time and get out of the storage unit by March. We’ve already transformed four boxes of books into two boxes to keep and two for the Friends of the Eugene Public Library’s annual book sale. The lesson for everyone: you can get a lot done by
    • getting started
    • taking small bites
    • regularly
    • in priority order.

Weekly wins for the week of 2023 01 09

This was meant to be a week in Santa Barbara for work and a little play. A climate-change-strengthened “atmospheric river” made it a week of travel difficulties, muddy torrents, and missed connections. Even so…

  • One-on-one meetings in person, with folks I’ve only recently met and met only online, went fine. Well, even.
  • Though we were only able to accomplish about half of our agenda, that half was a good half.
  • Santa Barbara has good food.
  • It was interesting to watch, over the course of a few days, our ideas about alternative travel emerge rise and fall in sensibility as conditions changed: roads closed, buses halted, trains canceled, airports shut…ultimately the tie between “take the train” and “rent a car” was decided by Amtrak taking longer to dry the flooded train tracks than CalTrans took to scrape the mud off of the 101. But…
  • …renting a car allowed us to give a ride to two team members, adding a positive to early disaster.

An excerpt of my 2020 self-evaluation

Do you have any suggestions for the management team?

1) If you make a decision, tell us. Better yet, tell us right away and tell us why, especially if that decision reverses a prior decision.

2) Please consider different/additional business models for the consulting business. I wrote a bit about this in my prior review and shouldn’t repeat it here except to point out that it is apparent to me that the strict hourly model places a lid on profitability, quality, and employee engagement in the work. That’s probably necessary to point three below.

3) Please consider how to make compensation and benefits more competitive. I also wrote about this in my prior review. I’ve since realized that this is not just a competitiveness problem; it is also an equity and inclusion problem.

At the time I said “there also are numerous small compensation-related disappointments that I’ve mostly gotten over” — I was wrong about that. A few of them have run their course and no longer affect me directly; these are PTO accrual from zero, no benefits until well over one calendar month plus the month of start has elapsed, no profit sharing after a cutoff date rather than prorated profit sharing after a cutoff date, no key to the office for the first month. These will remain disappointments to new hires and in one case (benefits delay) is distinctly family-unfriendly.

No holidays is a real problem, as it takes fifteen days of PTO and makes it behave like eight. Eight days are VERY easy to consume and exceed in a year’s time, and folks in young families, with elderly parents to care for, or with disabilities or medical concerns are likely to burn through this allowance rapidly and find both their earning potential and ability to recharge harmed as a result. This is (unintentionally) as anti-diversity as it could be, as the least likely to be negatively affected are unattached young men followed by men in multi-earner households.

We’ve since learned from our research interviews with Directors and VPs that low offers plus lack of holidays is also a distinct brake on hiring, as they are a double blow to total compensation. We’re in a competitive environment where parity with local employers is no longer sufficient (and are we sure we meet even that standard?).

All the more reason to examine the business model or add additional business models to our portfolio.

Weekly wins for the week of 2023 01 02

Back to work! Back to school!

  • I had good workouts this week. I’m going heavy, pushing the intensity, and I can tell the day after, but it’s not coming with the little injuries and issues that it once did. I’m adapting.
  • I let my diet go a bit (a bit?) during the holiday break and have not been that quick to come back to plan, but things are fine. I could do better at getting enough protein, and my discipline with sugar is a bit off, but nothing terrible. I’ve noticed that unless I need to report my diet to someone it’s a lot harder to keep up with logging, and thus staying on plan. It doesn’t make rational sense, but it makes emotional sense. Renting accountability is a thing.
  • The good meetings with good people at work continue – including a refreshing chat with the CEO. I remembered to ask him how he would notice if I accomplished the transformation we are hoping for, and he had an answer and a promise to think more deeply about it.
  • The real question will be whether or not this transformation and the attendant results are contradicted somehow by coming OKRs. Since the company is new to OKRs there’s widespread fear that each important thing that should be done will be crowded out if it doesn’t directly and strongly map to an OKR. The reason this is a win is that it represents the company trying to focus more, which is better than the all-too-common alternative to try harder.

Weekly wins for the week of 2022 12 26

Weekly wins seems to do its job, reminding me to remember what good is happening. Sometimes it is quiet.

  • Two words: LEGO Minibus. It’s a super fun set, though delicate in some areas (attachment of the front roof, attachment of the front bumper) and weirdly overbuilt in others (steering, pop-up roof). It’s stuffed with enjoyable details like the refrigerator, tilting table, folding rear seat, cooktop, and boxer engine.
  • Two words: holiday shutdown.
  • I almost always type “weekly winds.”

Weekly wins for the week of 2022 12 19

Things are quieting down at work as people prepare for the holidays and tack a little more break onto the company’s end-of-year break next week. Even so

  • I managed to interview twenty or so key employees and pick up the names of another nine I should talk to
  • I started to plumb the depths of what we do and don’t know about our users – there are many opinions about the adequacy of what we know, and I suspect most of them are at least directionally right (most folks I have spoken to think we know at least a little less than we should).
  • I moved portfolio items to this site and dropped the other host. It all looks like a dog’s breakfast at the moment, but phase one of my “online presence improvement project” is thus under way.
  • I had productive one-on-ones and critique with the few members of my team that aren’t yet on vacation. It’s nice to get back into the routine and to be helping.