It’s All About
Building great products involves
partnerships bet ween all the
creative, technical and business
functions on your development
team and with your support
teams like IT, HR, QA, etc.
Depending on your company and
project, you may even need to
create partnerships and share
bet ween other development
teams, outsourcers and publishers.
Invest in these partnerships
before the crisis.
Never forget that I am dealing
with another human being
The Story of Warren...
One morning Warren was woken up by his Blackberry. Ed, an
Important Executive, said: “Meet me in Karl’s ofﬁce in 10 minutes,”
and then hung up.
Now awake, Warren waited the 10 minutes and called Karl’s ofﬁce.
Karl and Ed immediately went into all the details of the latest crisis.
Could Karl attend a meeting in t wo hours and help them ﬁgure out
what to do?
Warren was happy to help, but he wouldn’t be able to attend the
meeting because the commute from his hotel room in Hawaii was a bit
Karl and Ed didn’t stop long enough to ﬁnd out that Warren was on
Get to Know the Person
Greet them and ask how
they are doing
Get to know people
beyond what they do at
Recognize when and why
they are stressed out and
ask how you can help
Give them some slack
when they need it
Customers and suppliers will
come and go, but you’ll need
to work with your internal
partners every day.
The Story of Super
We’ve all been there. A customer calls – something is wrong and it needs
to be ﬁxed NOW! You’ve delivered a build that doesn’t work. A focus group
thinks the game needs to be “more fun”. The requirements have changed.
Marketing needs a new demo yesterday!
So what happens next? We spring into Super Producer mode and jump
into action. We demand that the CTO get programmers from the Engine
team to drop everything and be on site NOW to help your programmers ﬁx
the bug. Need more fun? No problem. Tell the outsourcing coordinator to
stop negotiating that contract for that other team and ﬁnd you a better
character artist. What do you mean he can’t get to it now? Well, then
just hand over the list and we’ll take care of it ourselves.
You get the picture. The job may get done, but some bridges got burned
along the way.
Always ask, don’t demand
Take responsibility for
Focus on what needs to
get done now
Your partners are busy,
The Story of Natasha...
As a manufacturing Program Manager, Natasha built her production
schedule from the Engineering bring-up plan that listed all the required
hardware and when it needed to be built.
In a weekly project status meetings, the Director of Engineering decided
that the overall project was delayed because manufacturing wasn’t
delivering. The Director stated that the plan was ALWAYS to build 282
assemblies, but Natasha’s plan only had 260. She was missing an
entire build! The new quantity was decided three weeks earlier in an
Engineering meeting... Natasha wasn’t invited to. Several people who
should have informed her of the decision... didn’t. Yes, she asked. The
bring-up plan - supposedly the deﬁnitive source of information - was
never updated. Still, in front of all the stakeholders, the Director of
Engineering made it clear that she expected Natasha to know.
Make sure all information
is communicated in the
format it needs to be
Use the 5 W’s
Use the 5 Why’s
Look for opportunities to
understand each other’s
The Story of Joe...
Less than a week before Joe needed to deliver an important demo, a bunch of
work-in-progress ﬁles were deleted off of a shared net work drive, killing
about 2 weeks of work. Another artist, needing space for his own ﬁles, asked
his project manager if the ﬁles currently taking a lot of space were actually
needed for anything. Rather than redirecting this artist to Joe, the PM
thought that since he didn’t recognize the ﬁles that it would be okay to delete
them. Joe was devastated when he discovered the next morning that all his
work had disappeared.
Joe’s Producer was livid, blaming Joe for everything from screwing up the demo
to hurting the relationship with the client. When the ﬁles couldn’t be
recovered, IT deﬂected any question about lack of user security and back-ups
by blaming Joe for not following clear ﬁle-naming conventions. Joe
immediately took responsibility for his part in the matter, but still lost yet
another day of work answering to it over and over again.
No one said anything to the PM and the artist about their involvement.
The Story of Veronica...
In a job interview, Veronica bluntly asked the Vice President of the
company whether they had done any layoffs during the last recession.
It was a fair question. She wanted to know how the company
responded to a major downturn.
The Vice President looked her straight in the eye and told her that they
did not do any layoffs. She thought that was strange, since small
companies were going out of business and big companies had major
layoffs and wage freezes. Plus, she passed a lot of empty desks on the
way to the VP’s ofﬁce for the inter view. Thinking she was reading into
things too much, she took the job.
Within days of starting her new job, Veronica found out that half the
company was let go t wo years earlier, in the depth of the recession.
She immediately started to wonder: what else did they lie about?
Choose Truth -
Deal With the Issues
Lying and pointing ﬁngers
always catches up
Admit you don’t know the
Stick to the facts, especially
when breaking bad news
Provide both corrective and
Use risk analysis to help
craft a truthful message
The Stories of Nathan
Nathan was a talented programmer who loved being in the zone where he could work alone
on low-level code and deliver cool solutions within t wo hours. When his lead got promoted,
Nathan, being the next most senior programmer, was pushed into being team lead. This
required him to a) work with teams, b) design a large part of the engine, and c) deal with a
team of artists looking for programmer support. His management team knew he had no
experience with any of thand did not provide any support. Nathan was miserable, the people
around him were miserable, the engine was a mess and the artists were complaining that
they weren’t getting any support. He was eventually moved out of the lead role, but both
Nathan and his team saw that as his punishment for failing. Nathan then had to endure
the daily criticisms of the work he had done on the engine – an ongoing punishment. He also
no longer got to do the type of work he loved. So his misery continued and due to his
declining performance, his raises and bonuses also declined. Eventually, he left the company.
Hannah’s story is different. She had a breakdown in her manager’s ofﬁce. It was a classic
case of stress. The project was going badly, she had been working long hours and just
wanted to let her manager know how she felt. A few days later, the team was gathered in
a conference room where her manager happily announced that he was giving Hannah a
major merit award! He presented her with a nice gift and a cheque for $1000. Hannah was
completely embarrassed because it wasn’t what she needed or wanted.
Provide support to correct Don’t pay for suffering; listen
situation for what they need
3-strike rule: Progressive reward system
1. Informal notiﬁcation; request 1. Deﬁne your project’s key criteria
response/action for reward
2. Formal notiﬁcation; require 2. Establish the levels of important,
response/action key and mission critical
3. Formal notiﬁcation; business
consequences 3. Assign the appropriate reward
If it’s a business-affecting
issue, then go straight to Be consistent!
N Duration Skill Effort 4 & 5 Points = $
(1 point) Bob 6 & 7 Points = $$
8 & 9 Points = $$$
Critical Bob Bob
N (3 points)
7 points = $$
A Personal Story...
After I spent several days on a customer’s ﬂoor, ﬁxing a variety of
issues, several high-level managers came by as I wrapped up my
work and thanked me for being there and helping. That felt
pretty good, but it was a strange feeling. I realized that I had
spent many evenings and weekends doing the same thing on my
own production ﬂoor, but I couldn’t recall the last time I had been
thanked by my own management team. So, I wrote it as the last
point on my trip report.
All of a sudden all the managers on my project were saying thank
you ALL THE TIME.
(This also afﬁrmed a long held belief that managers only remember
the ﬁrst point and the last point on a report.)
We’re Only Human
Take a moment and write
your own list
Build relationships early
Take the time to
Choose truth – deal with
consequences and rewards
Cover: Photo by Jason Della Rocca, http://www.realitypanic.com/archives/415
Slide 2 (clockwise from top left): image courtesy of Google; cisco.com; kensington.com; Photo by
Slide 3: http://www.toastmasters.org/MainMenuCategories/FreeResources/
Slide 6: image courtesy of Google
Slide 10: Photo by Genevieve Gelinas
Slide 11: image courtesy of Google
Slide 14: http:/ vindy.typepad.com/photos/the_neon_lights_of_muncie/psychic.html
Slide 19: Photo by Philipp Hienstorfer
Slide 22: (left) Photo by Adam Jones adamjones.freeser vers.com; (right) Paste’s Tax Refund
Playlist: Cash Money Mix, by Caitlin Strandberg, pastemagazine.com
Slide 26: http://www.soka.edu/giving/ways-to-give.aspx
Slide 28: Photo by Karora
All other photos by Liza Wood.