Archive - February 2013

24.02 20130

Learning the Code

Although in today’s market many people are looking for jobs, in the technology field, there is a shortage of talent.  Organizations need talent, rather than resources, because resources cost money, but talent adds value.  Despite a large pool of people looking for work, the market for the technically talented is tight… talent is usually employed elsewhere, and other companies are continually trying to poach our talent. In the face of stiff competition for talent, what should we do to keep our companies moving?  The answer lies in developing our own talent by hiring those with great potential and placing them in an optimal learning environment.  Established talent is expensive and hard to find; however, those promising candidates with great potential can quickly become invaluable in a learning environment. In his book, The Talent Code, Daniel Coyle talks about how people become fast learners—writers, musicians, math students, chess players, artists and athletes.  Coyle determines that the fastest learner in the world is the kid learning to ride a skateboard.    He describes a kid with a skateboard in hand that starts messing around and before you know it, he is mysteriously skilled without the aid of any coaches, instruction books or classrooms.  Why, you ask?  Coyle’s answer is feedback. Coyle points out that skateboarders learn so fast because they receive a stream of immediate and continuous high-quality feedback… every action creates an immediate and clear consequence.  Mistakes are detected quickly, patterns are intuited and the brain circuitry is quickly built.  Coyle notes that the problem most of the time at work and school is that the feedback we receive isn’t timely or clear.  This lack of feedback causes us to wander and get lost.  The way to develop talent in your organization is to create a superior feedback environment where the right signal is delivered in a timely way. Scrum provides a work environment of intense feedback… interpersonal, co-located  and timely.  Sitting close with workers allows constant conversations that prevent extended periods of work without new information passing between the team members.  Daily stand-ups help keep the team focused on the short-term two week sprint goal.  Demoing the results of the sprint to the product owner at the end of the sprint allows for immediate feedback from the business as to the acceptability and usability of the product created.  The business owner also has the opportunity to take customer feedback and switch the direction of the team on an every other week basis.  At the end of the sprint, the team sits together and talks about ways to improve…discussing what went right and what went wrong.  There is no annual performance review, rather the review happens every two weeks.  This type of interpersonal, timely feedback helps create very usable talent in an organization in a short period of time. As Coyle points out in his book The Talent Code, the same rule applies no matter what industry--the more timely, vivid, accurate feedback you get, the more skill you can build. The scrum framework allows organizations to create a vivid, timely feedback loop.  Fast learners in such an environment will become our most valuable resource.  When we identify the potential in our candidates, we can help them become established talent, and if we provide the right environment, we will produce an environment that retains the talent.            

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