12 Tools To Improve Management Skills

By Walter Abrigo, Managing Director at Santex

Blog

Aligned with the old concept of Continuous Improvement, among the most common managerial skills, are some aptitudes that should be put into play day to day every time you try to achieve an objective through the work of others. For example:

  • Plan
  • Implement
  • Evaluate
  • Learn (reformulate, adapt, standardize)

Although this cycle holds much truth, today’s reality presents important differences when compared to the past. The following among others:

  • Before what took months actually takes days, hours.
  • Before, steps were consecutive. Now they overlap.
  • The amount of affective variables are of a superior class than in the past.
  • The idea of this article is to present 12 tools that help us better record and follow the significant variables in the development of these skills, so as to alleviate day-to-day burdens.

a) Tools that will up us PLAN:

A Compass
So we don’t begin any activity without clearly knowing where we want to go or what we aim to validate. And to ensure that said activity is aligned with our mission.

Scissors
To make processes easier and to cut or eliminate any step that does not add value. This allows us to question and eliminate tasks that don’t make sense.

Dice
To remind us that sometimes our plans are affected by random events that we cannot control nor prevent, iterating that adaptability in the face of uncertainty is a critical skill.

b) Tools that help us IMPLEMENT

Blinders
These allow us to see straight ahead and not to the sides (toward other difficulties) so we direct all our energy toward the result.  This enables to reach extreme deadlines more efficiently.

A Stationary Bike
So we achieve maximum agility in day-to-day management – from having short, effective follow-up meetings that add value to establishing high-impact policies in record time.

Earphones
To amplify all that we hear, enabling us to listen empathetically to our daily conversations, especially those involving disagreements. Searching to understand before being understood can reveal key information for overcoming differences.

c) Tools that help us EVALUATE

A Clock
So we don’t finalize any critical activity or validation of proposals without having measurements, without having a quantitative result that permits us to compare, analyze, and discuss facts rather than perceptions or interpretations.

A Filter
To help us in the judgments we make everyday. To help us separate intentions from the people who committed a certain action and to make visible our own negative contributions before finding fault in others.

A Magnifying Glass
So we may see beyond the surface and find relationships between variables that may be hard to detect with the naked eye. So we may find those little variables that have a big impact on the end result.

d) Tools that help us LEARN

An Hourglass
To know that the integral development of a person takes time. It is sacred land and improvements may be incremental. Not everything improves at once. It’s like a plant: you have to plan the seed and tend to it before you can cultivate its fruits.

An Alarm
That sounds every time:

  • Before tying processes to people (collaborators, clients, providers, bosses, colleagues, activists, our families, etc.).
  • Instead of being hard headed toward problems and nice to people, we act in the reverse.

A Gong
To remind us that patience is the mother of all virtues and that an error is the path to learning. To capitalize on a mistake develops greater character and more sustainable companies.

About the Author – Walter Abrigo is a Managing Director at Santex. In addition to his large academic career, he possess market expertise in several organizational processes such as management control, change and strategy, recruiting and staffing as well as performance and engagement.

Digital Ecosystem: Even Bicycles Need Technology To Stay Competitive

The Santex Team Editorial

At Santex, we constantly help companies thrive in the Digital Ecosystem. The Digital Ecosystem refers to technology that disrupts how the world conducts business while connecting individual human beings to one another. For businesses, surviving the digital ecosystem necessitates a level of technology and information that matches market demand. Take Gi FlyBike, for example: the fast-folding, smart-phone integrated, electric bicycle that recently took Kickstarter by storm a few months ago. As a company dedicated to integrating technology into the lives of individuals seamlessly and meaningfully, it only makes sense that Santex be the brains behind Gi FlyBike. I was reminded of why even the simplest of products like bicycles need technology to be successful while checking into JFK International Airport. Giflybike - electric folding bike.jpg

A massive, centralized billboard in Terminal 8 of JFK International Airport explains further, “Welcome to the application economy, where every business is in the software business.” While a large sign stating, “Welcome to Terminal 8,” may be more appropriate, JFK International’s current billboard does not even feel slightly out of place. Consider the people within the airport: they efficiently pre-purchase their flight tickets on their phones and then receive continuous updates regarding delays as their departure time nears. They might order a driver to bring them to and from the airport through a mobile application or have a bracelet that estimates the amount of calories they burn as they walk from gate to gate.

Gi FlyBike is no exception to these technological advances. The electric bicycle has its own mobile application that syncs to Android and Apple Smartphones. Through the App, riders have the ability to control the level of electric assistance they receive and to choose their preferred cycling route. Riders can even create a user profile and share both fitness statistics over social media and the bike itself with friends and family through the mobile application. Last but certainly not least, Gi FlyBike has a built in USB port so you always arrive to your destination with a fully charged phone.

Gi flybike - electric folding bike.jpg

The bicycle, a 200-year-old invention and the iconic cornerstone of all childhood mobility, is no longer just a hardware product. Instead, Gi FlyBike has innovated the bicycle to another level by combining hardware and software to create a new bicycle experience – one that meets the needs of the modern commuter. And the modern commuter responded with a resounding, “yes.” Gi FlyBike met its initial goal in its first five hours of launching and has since raised well over $500,000.

The fact that the billboard is in an international airport is a particularly telling metaphor because it speaks to the digital age as a global phenomena. People from all over the world are drawn to webs of connectivity because it makes their lives more productive. While we may think of bicycles as simple modes of transportation, Gi FlyBike challenges the traditional bicycle design and makes the claim that even the simplest of things can be successfully integrated into the digital ecosystem that surrounds all of us.

Avoid Burnout and Improve Quality

By Juan San Martín – Senior QA Analyst at Santex

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The purpose of this article is to detail the problems that arise from having a static Quality Team working on a given project during long periods of time. To this effect, the analysis that was done was based on both practical and theoretical concepts, and on the personal experiences I’ve had regarding this issue.

Before we start, I must say that the sample taken for this study considered only people that currently work as Quality Assurance Analysts, taken at random from the populations provided both by Santex itself and from an online testing platform.

The start of this investigation was founded on one of the principles of testing called “The Pesticide Paradox”, that reads: “If the same kinds of tests are repeated again and again, eventually the same set of test cases will no longer be able to find any new bugs.” The idea has been to apply this paradox not only to test cases, but also to test teams as a whole. The first step is to understand why this could be applied, and it came in the form of Burnout Syndrome – a psychological term coined by Dr. Freudenberger in 1974 that describes a disorder characterized by exhaustion, lack of enthusiasm and motivation, feelings of ineffectiveness, and diminished mental capacity while working.

As a quality engineer, I’ve sadly had to go through the same feelings after being trapped in the routine of a project that lasted for over a year, yet didn’t change much, so the work that had to be done was a repetitive and meaningless task most of the time, this in itself is the prime cause of Burnout in the workspace, considering any industry, not just our own. This experience was what led me to believe that there should be a way to keep the workers motivated, which in turn will better the effectiveness of the quality team, and the quality of the end product that the client receives.

After speaking with several coworkers and people that work in the same area, I’ve been able to see that many other testers have gone through the same thing, or are still going through this. What must be understood is that anyone that is suffering from burnout will not give his all to the project and will do just enough to go through the day. This has a massive effect on the quality of any product, but worse is the effect on the person itself – forcing him/her to take medical leave or requiring treatment from a mental health professional. While this is not the normal case, it should be taken into account and seen as a prime reason for any enterprise to avoid letting the situation go out of hand to this extent.

I’m not going to discuss in depth what the burnout syndrome may do to a person, so for now we’ll focus on the proposed solution to this problem: rotating quality assurance analysts over time to alleviate the symptoms.

This technique offers a few advantages to the team itself. Firstly, obviously, is preventing burnout. But it also offers a new point of view on the project that usually finds bugs that were skipped by the team because they were either minor issues or not in critical areas of the software. As ISTQB compliant testers, we know that defects tend to group themselves in certain modules of a given software, and our attention will focus on these modules. But a new person to a project is free of these vices and, given the freedom to explore the software, will most likely find things the team didn’t see, consequently bettering the quality of the product.

But as with any technique that alters the way we normally work, there are disadvantages and it would detrimental not to mention the most important ones. First is the time lost due to the need of knowledge transfer and training. Additionally there’s the loss of experience in the group, which occurs when a member does not perform a full rotation. Team communication will also be disrupted.

Now it’s a matter of balancing these attributes and keeping a close eye on team performance to see if the benefits outweigh the cons. As it has been said before, burnout eventually will have an impact on overall product quality. It’s the main factor we are trying to avoid, and the reason it’s best to rotate teams if the client allows it.

By maintaining a healthy, confident, and happy team we benefit our clients by giving them a product of the highest possible quality.

It is my advice to any Project Manager reading this to look at your teams, see if they are exhibiting any of the symptoms of burnout, and if they are, consider the possibility of rotating them to new teams. By doing this, you will help both the tester and the team in general.

Please keep in mind that while this investigation was performed considering Quality Teams, it also applies to most jobs.

About the Author – Juan San Martín is a talented Software Engineer who specializes in Quality Assurance. Juan is a strategic team player capable of realizing multiple forms of Testing. Great analytical skills and quick learner.