Does Corporate America Finally Get What Working Parents Need?

Originally posted on HBR Blog Network - Harvard Business Review:

At this week’s White House Summit on Working Families, President Obama and others made a moral case for changing the way we work. “Family leave, childcare, workplace flexibility, a decent wage – these are not frills, they are basic needs. They shouldn’t be bonuses. They should be part of our bottom line as a society,” the president remarked.

Yet there was also a strong business case for change, with vociferous and impassioned representation from our nation’s private sector. Bob Moritz, PwC’s US Chairman and Senior Partner, called on his peers to make significant changes, saying that “CEOs need to make this happen.” He reported that when PwC increased their flex options they saw higher productivity in return.  When they transitioned to unlimited sick leave, the actual number of days that employees took as sick days declined.  PwC offers back-up childcare and other family-friendly benefits because they have found that…

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Got Chrome for Windows? Your extensions have to come through Google’s Chrome Web Store

Originally posted on Gigaom:

Google announced in November that it was going to start cracking down on Chrome extensions, particularly on the Windows(s msft) platform. The warning became reality this past week as Google is now enforcing the policy it laid out last year. If you run Chrome(s goog) for Windows — either the Beta or Stable channel — all of your browser extensions will be had through the Chrome Web Store. Chrome Canary and the developer channel of Chrome on Windows are exempt from this; these channels can still install Chrome extensions from any source.

Why the new policy? There have been too many reports of malware-infested extensions for Google to ignore. Some extensions were doing things behind the scenes and unknown to users, such as, according to Google, “silently installing extensions on your machine that do things like inject ads or track your browsing activity.” And that’s a no-no. So…

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Google is harnessing machine learning to cut data center energy

Originally posted on Gigaom:

Leave it to Google (s GOOG) to have an engineer so brainy he hacks out machine learning models in his 20 percent time. Google says that recently it’s been using machine learning — developed by data center engineer Jim Gao (his Googler nickname is “Boy Genius”) — to predict the energy efficiency of their global data centers down to 99.6 percent accuracy, and then to optimize the data centers in incremental ways if they become less efficient for whatever reason.

Part of Gao’s day-to-day job at Google is to track its data centers’ power usage efficiency, or PUE, which demonstrates how efficiently data center computing equipment is using energy. Traditionally many data center operators were seeing about half of their energy consumed by cooling equipment, but in recent years data center leaders like Google, Facebook(s fb) and others have focused on tools like using the outside air for cooling, or running the server…

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4 mistakes engineers make when building a SaaS company

Originally posted on Gigaom:

Before I joined Loggly as CTO and VP of Engineering, I built seven cloud-based products. From my perspective, four mistakes separated the SaaS companies that stumble from the best.

1. “Adoption for our offering will take time, so we can build fast now and build right later.”
Look at how steep the technology adoption curve has become. Every SaaS product needs to be built for scalability and robustness from the start.

technology-adoption

Image courtesy Udayan Banerjee

2. “Our customers have predictable behavior.”
Be ready for something unexpected that will threaten to break your service, and have processes for managing out-of-policy activities. For example, Loggly must deal with customers that send a huge burst of log events, inadvertently or during a fire, 24-7.

3. “We don’t need operations automation.”
Operations is at the heart of every SaaS business, and they shouldn’t be treated like sysadmins. By automating defrag of ElasticSearch, Loggly devops saves about 15…

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A Shared Purpose Drives Collaboration

Originally posted on HBR Blog Network - Harvard Business Review:

Imagine coming back home from work, calling the family into the living room, and urging everyone to collaborate more. Sounds odd, doesn’t it? Ever wondered what makes collaboration seem so natural at home but unnatural at work?

The answer: Purpose. Purpose is collaboration’s most unacknowledged determinant.  While it can be taken for granted within families, that’s not true of most organizations. “If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work but rather, teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea,” pointed out Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, the French writer and aviator, who wrote The Little Prince. 

Yet, companies and executives spend endless amounts of time and money trying to foster collaboration through technology, training, and memos instead of quickly defining the problem, framing the challenges, and inspiring people to come together and tackle it.

Let’s remind…

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11 Books Every Young Leader Must Read

Harvard Business Review:

This is a great collection of books. In my opinion, Seven Habits by Covey should be read first, if you haven’t already read it. This is a book that I read and read again and again.

Originally posted on HBR Blog Network - Harvard Business Review:

Recently, I wrote that leaders should be readers. Reading has a host of benefits for those who wish to occupy positions of leadership and develop into more relaxed, empathetic, and well-rounded people. One of the most common follow-up questions was, “Ok, so what should I read?”

That’s a tough question. There are a number of wonderful reading lists out there. For those interested in engaging classic literature, Wikipedia has a list of “The 100 Best Books of All Time,” and Modern Library has picks for novels and nonfiction. Those interested in leadership might consult the syllabus for David Gergen’s leadership course (PDF) at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government or the syllabus his colleague Ron Heifetz uses for his course on adaptive leadership (PDF).

But if I had to focus on a short list for young business leaders, I’d choose the 11 below. I’ve only included books I’ve…

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How to Manage Verbal Requirements

imageAll the project management practices advocates that the requirements should be properly documented. I agree to this. But it is not very infrequent that you get the requirements over the phone or verbally. Someone just called in and asked you to some changes in the module that is currently being developed. And if you are not unlike me, you know the consequences sometimes are  very drastic in nature.

Let me explain this by an example. Once there was a psychotherapist – highly educated and very talented. He decided to open a clinic in the city. Once everything was done, he called up a local painter and asked him to paint his signboard. The painter did his job very well but when our psychotherapist saw this, he fainted. He then starts shouting at the painter. And painter was not able to understand what went wrong. What actually happened was that the the painter was asked to pain ‘Psychotherapist’ on the sign board. However, he painted ‘psycho the rapist’.

I hope you can now imagine what happens with the verbal or telephonic requirements. So how to cope with these? In practical scenario, you cannot avoid verbal requirements. I follow a process, which I call ACR (or Accurately Confirmed Requirements, as my teammates call this) to cope with such situations. The three step process goes as below:

  1. Accept the verbal or telephonic requirements – since you cannot avoid this, it’s better to accept this strategically.
  2. Confirm – once you have received the verbal or telephonic requirements, review them in your head to make them more clear. Once you know clearly what the caller wants, draft a mail. Write down what you understood and send it back to the person who gave you the requirements. Ask him to confirm whether your comprehension of his thoughts is right. This will help you both to be on the same page.
  3. Record – After getting the confirmation from originator of the requirements, document it. You may need to update the requirement documents or project scope statement.

ACR is always followed by the planning and execution on the new requirements.

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