Supervisors vs. Team Leaders

Supervisors vs Team Leaders.jpeg

Here is a comparison of the roles and responsibilities of supervisors and team leaders. 


Often there can be confusion over who is supposed to do what. 


This table should help clarify what supervisors and team leaders do in terms of strategic planning, work assignments, resource management, employee training, and performance management. 


I hope you find this a helpful resource, and that you can organize your staff more efficiently and productively 😉


(Source Graphic: Andy Blumenthal)

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Agile Processes As An Enabler

Bridge Up

So something that I’ve learned is that processes can be an enabler or a hinderance to progress depending on how it’s used.


On one hand, without a standardized and clear process where people know what they are supposed to do and when, we are likely to end up with a lot of chaos and not much getting done for the customer or organization.  


This is especially the case where tasks are complex and numerous people are involved requiring there to be solid coordination of team members, sync of activities, and clear communications.  


On the other hand, rigid processes that are so prescriptive that no one will get out of step for any rhyme or reason can be counter-productive, since this can hinder productivity, time to resolution, and customer service. 


For example, we all understand the importance of a help desk ticketing system in IT to document issues and deploy resources for resolution and measure performance. However, when customers, especially VIPs are in a bind and need help ASAP, it may not make sense to tell them to go open up a ticket first and foremost, instead of helping them to quickly get back online, and even opening the ticket for them and in parallel or as we get to it afterwards. 


Process should be an enabler and not obstacle to progress. Process should be followed under normal circumstances, but rigidly adhering to processes without adapting to conditions on the ground risks being out of step with the needs of the organization and a customer service model. 


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Acrobatic Fun

Acrobat Acrobats 3 Acrobats 1 Acrobats 2 Acrobats 4

This was a cool show we saw at the Maryland Renaissance Festival this past weekend. 

The show combined some nice acrobatic tricks with a good sense of humor. 

The torture and killing was nasty in the medieval ages, but at least they took the edge off with some daring and showmanship in the joust and on stage. 😉

(Source Photos: Andy Blumenthal)

Dance Robot, Dance!

This robot has rhythm and can dance Gangnam Style.

It is called CHARLI-2 (Cognitive Humanoid Autonomous Robot with Learning Intelligence–Version 2).

Charlie was developed by Virginia Tech’s Robotics and Mechanisms Laboratory (RoMeLa).

At five feet tall, CHARLI is the United States’ “first full-size humanoid robot.”

Charlie can do things like walk, turn, kick, and gesture–he is agile and coordinated–and as you can see can even dance and also play soccer!

One of the things that makes CHARLI special is his stabilization technology–where it can orient itself using sensors such as gyroscopes.

According to Wired Magazine (19 October 2012), The Office of Naval Research has provided a grant of $3.5M to CHARLI’s creator to develop a nextgen robot called the Autonomous Shipboard Humanoid (ASH) to work aboard Navy ships in the future and interact with humans.

CHARLI won the Time Magazine “2011 Best Invention of the Year” as well as the Louis Vuitton Best Humanoid Award.

While the CHARLI robots still move relatively slowly, are a little awkward, and are almost in a child-like “I dunno state,” we are definitely making exciting progress toward the iRobot of the future–and I can’t wait till we get there.

For me, I see the potential and this robot can certainly dance circles around me, but that’s not saying much. 😉

2 Heads Are Better Than 1

My daughter brought this incredible video to my attention–conjoined twins Abby & Brittany–age 22–share a body from the waist down.

They have 2 heads and necks, 3 lungs, 2 hearts, 2 gallbladders, 2 stomachs, 1 liver, 1 large intestine, 1 small intestine, 2 left kidneys and 1 right, 1 pelvis, 1 pair of ovaries, 1 uterus, 1 bladder, 1 vagina, and 1 urethra.

The video asks, what happens if:

– 1 gets sick?
– 1 dies?
– Who is the biological mother, if they have a child?
– How do they handle boyfriends?

I understand that 1 controls the left side of the body and 1 the right side–leaves you to imagine the unbelievable coordination issues to do everyday activities like walk, drive, type, swim, and so on that we take for granted.

Yet, despite their life challenges, they are actually staring in their own reality TV show on The Learning Channel (TLC), which premiered on August 28.

Here is a link for more information about these incredible women.

Some of the things that I think about when I watch Abby & Brittany–are not the physical, but more the emotional, psychological, and spiritual issues, such as:

– Do they ever feel lonely?
– How do they handle the need for privacy?
– Are they introverts or extraverts or one of each?
– What are their personalities like?
– Do they like each other?
– Do they fight often and how do they resolve conflict with each other?
– Do they like/dislike similar things?
– Do they share the same religious beliefs?
– Do they feel responsible for each others actions (like if one hits someone or says something hurtful to another)?
– Do they believe in an afterlife?
– Do they intuitively share thoughts, dreams, ambitions (or only when they articulate these to the each other)?
– Do they consider their condition a random occurrence, a “freak act” of nature, a test, a punishment, or something else?

I imagine that they are hugely inspirational and am looking forward to hopefully watch the show tonight at 10 pm with my daughter and learn and marvel how they do it!

Swarming For Social Order and Disorder

Swarm

A swarm is a large number of organisms generally in motion.  According to Swarm Theory, the collective exhibits superior intelligence or abilities beyond that of any individual.

Swarms are powerful forces that we see in our society today in everything from the worldwide riots of 2011 to crowdsourcing on the Internet–to put it simply as they say, “there is power in numbers.”

And swarms and their immense power dates back to the Bible, where the 8th plague sent on Egypt in Deuteronomy 10:14-15 was the plague of locusts:

“And the locusts went up over all the land of Egypt…for they covered the face of the whole earth, so that the land was darkened; and they did eat every herb of the land, and all the fruit of the trees…”

This past year, we saw the power of swarms in the riots around the globe–from Tahir Square to Occupy Wall Street. In the case of Egypt, Mubarak was deposed after ruling for 30 years and in the case of Wall Street, the Occupy movement sparked protests around the globe lasting for many months.

Similarly, swarms are being put to the test in multiple military applications from the Army’s Future Combat System (since renamed) that envision brigades of manned and unmanned combat vehicles linked via an ultra-fast network creating a highly coordinated and maneuverable fighting force to DARPA’s iRobotSwarm Project creating a mesh network of mobile robots with sensors that can coordinate and perform surveillance and reconnaissance gaining dominance over the battlefield.

The power of the swarm is not just a physical phenomenon, but also a virtual one where crowdsourcing is used online to do everything from building incredible sources of knowledge like Wikipedia to soliciting citizens ideas for solving national problems such as on Challenge.gov.

Traditionally, the power behind the swarm (in nature whether bees, ants, or locusts) was the collective behavior of so many to attack an enemy, build a colony, or ravage the landscape. Today however, the swarm is powerful because of its collective intelligence–whether in pooling information, vetting ideas, or just coordinating activities with such sophistication that the group can outwit and outmaneuver its opponents.

Wired Magazine  has an article for the new year (January 2012) called “Crowd Control” in which the riots of 2011 are viewed as  both “dangerous and magnificent”–they represent a disconnected group getting connected, a mega-underground casting off its invisibility to embody itself, formidably, in physical space.”

“Today’s protest, revolts, and riots are self-organizing [and] hyper-networked”–and just like a swarm, individuals deindividuate and base their ideas and actions on the shared identify of the group and therein, a social psychology takes hold and with basic communication and social technology today, they can spontaneously form potent flash mobs, “flash robs,” or worse.

The age old phenomenon of swarming behavior is intersecting with the 21st century technology such as smartphones and social media to create the ability of individuals to gather, act decisively, disperse into the crowds, and then reconvene elsewhere to act again.

The power of this modern swarm is no longer about “sheer numbers,” but about being interconnected through messaging, tweets, videos,and more.

Many today are finding the power of the swarm with both friends and foes.  Friends are using swarming to try to accomplish new social and scientific feats.  While foes such as Al Qaeda are utilizing swarming for hit and run terrorism–moving agilely between safe havens and targeting their victims with tools of terror such as IEDs, car bombs, and other flash attacks.

Swarming is not just a behavior found in the animal kingdom any longer, today it is a fundamental source for both social order and disorder.

Swarming is now a strategy and a tactic–we need to wise up and gain the edge with social swarming behavior and technology to “outwit, outlast, and outplay” those who want to threaten society, and instead use it to improve and secure it.

(Source Photo: here)

>TEAM: Together Everyone Achieves More

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People are selfish; they think in terms of win-lose, not win-win. The cost of this kind of thinking is increasingly unacceptable in a world where teamwork matters more than ever.

Today, the problems we face are sufficiently complex that it takes a great deal more collaboration than ever to yield results. For example, consider the recent oil spill in the Gulf, not to mention the ongoing crises of our time (deadly diseases, world hunger, sustainable energy, terrorism).

When we don’t work together, the results can be catastrophic. Look at the lead-up to 9-11, the poster child for what can happen if when we fail to connect the dots.

A relay race is a good metaphor for the consequences of poor teamwork. As Fast Company (“Blowing the Baton Pass,” July/August 2010) reports, in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the USA’s Darvis Patton was on the third leg of the race, running neck and neck with a runner from Trinidad when he and his relay partner, Tyson Gay, blew it:

“Patton rounded the final turn, approaching…Gay, who was picking up speed to match Patton. Patton extended the baton, Gay reached back, and the baton hit his palm. Then, somehow it fell. The team was disqualified.”

Patton and Gay were each world-class runners on their own, but the lack of coordination between them resulted in crushing defeat.

In the business realm, we saw coordination breakdown happen to JetBlue in February 2007, when “snowstorms had paralyzed New York airports, and rather than cancel flights en masse, Jet Blue loaded up its planes…and some passengers were trapped for hours.”

Why do people in organizations bicker instead of team? According to FC, it’s because we “underestimate the amount of effort needed to coordinate.” I believe it’s really more than that – we don’t underestimate it, but rather we are too busy competing with each other (individually, as teams, as departments, etc.) to recognize the overarching importance of collaboration.

This is partly because we see don’t see others as helping us. Instead we (often erroneously) see them as potential threats to be weakened or eliminated. We have blinders on and these blinders are facilitated and encouraged by a reward system in our organizations that promotes individualism rather than teamwork. (In fact, all along the way, we are taught that we must compete for scarce resources – educational slots, marriage partners, jobs, promotions, bonuses and so on.)

So we think we are hiring the best and the brightest. Polished resume, substantial accomplishments, nice interview, solid references, etc. And of course, we all have the highest expectations for them. But then even the best employees are challenged by organizational cultures where functional silos, “turf wars”, and politicking prevail. Given all of the above, why are we surprised by their failure to collaborate?

Accordingly, in an IT context, project failure has unfortunately become the norm rather than an exception. We can have individuals putting out the best widgets, but if the widgets don’t neatly fit together, aren’t synchronized for delivery on schedule and within budget, don’t meet the intent of the overall customer requirements, and don’t integrate with the rest of the enterprise—then voilá, another failure!

So what do we need to become better at teamwork?

  • Realize that to survive we need to rely on each other and work together rather than bickering and infighting amongst ourselves.
  • Develop a strong, shared vision and a strategy/plan to achieve it—so that we all understand the goals and are marching toward it together.
  • Institute a process to ensure that the contributions of each person are coordinated— the outputs need to fit together and the outcomes need to meet the overarching objectives.
  • Reward true teamwork and disincentivize people who act selfishly, i.e. not in the interest of the team and not for the sake of mission.

Teamwork has become very cliché, and we all pay lip service to it in our performance appraisals. But if we don’t put aside our competitiveness and focus on the common good soon, then we will find ourselves sinking because we refused to swim as a team.