The forest, trees, and weeds

I’ve advised on how to be a better lead, architect (“The other side of quality”), and PM. A problem all these positions share is not seeing the forest for the trees, an expression that refers to getting so caught up in immediate concerns (the trees) that you miss the larger issue (the forest). Leads caught…

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Lost in space: The value of teamwork

What is the higher-order bit in software development: individual productivity or feature team productivity? Five years ago, in The flow fallacy, I argued that responsive delivery of customer value was the goal, and that goal was best achieved by feature teams, not individuals. Thus, feature team productivity outweighs individual productivity. While many readers agreed that…

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Customer obsession

You love your customers. You care about them. You design for them. But, are you truly obsessed, or do you let technology and personal preferences creep into your decisions and communications? I sometimes recognize when my personal agenda is creeping in—it requires real vigilance to keep personal bias in check. To help me stay customer-focused,…

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Good engineers

It’s time at Microsoft for midyear career discussions. I’m often asked what makes a good software engineer. I used to think it was writing quality code, as I describe in Nailing the nominals. Good engineers review their software design with peers (that’s right, they think first and consult others), write code and unit tests, ensure…

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Off for the holidays

There’s no Hard Code column for December and January, as I take a break for the holidays. The next column will be published in early February. Hope you all have a lovely holiday season. Eric.

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Management malady

Eric Aside Before anyone gets the wrong idea, this is not directed toward anyone in my organization. The column idea came from a reader—many thanks to her. When you have an illness, the road to recovery starts with identifying the problem. One of the most serious and insidious illnesses an organization can have is poor…

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Proactive obsolescence

Technology changes quickly. As fast as hardware, biotech, genomics, nanotech, quantum computing, 3D printing, and robotics are advancing, they are snails compared to software. UI frameworks, machine learning and AI, augmented and virtual reality, networking, big data, cloud services and computing, and every other aspect of software is revving daily, thanks to continuous integration and…

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You don’t need a publicist

If you are a Microsoft engineer, you are receiving your annual rewards around now. You might be wondering why you didn’t get the promotion you sought or why someone else did. If you ask your manager why, she’ll provide insightful feedback and might name several reasons. Among the most common and misunderstood reasons is that…

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This is the war room

You’ve got a big, important project. It’s not converging toward completion within the expected timeframe. There are too many incomplete tasks and too many unresolved bugs. Burndown charts and nasty reminders from leadership haven’t been sufficient to get the project on track. It’s time for a war room, and you might need to lead it….

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Are we functional (part deux)?

 It’s been over seven years since Windows 7 launched. Inside Microsoft, one of the more controversial elements of that launch was the change Steven Sinofsky made to the Windows organization at the start of that product’s planning and development. Coming over from Office, Steve switched Windows’ structure from having many product unit managers (PUMs running…

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