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Newsletters 2024

February

Take one small step

I am currently working on developing my new workshops, and often I feel a bit overwhelmed with the task.

So I know it’s easy to feel like certain challenges are out of our hands, like staying on top of tech debt and quality in the code base. What helps me in this situation is to shift my perspective and focus on the power we hold to make meaningful changes, even with the smallest actions.

Action in 15 Minutes:

  1. Identify the Challenge: Take a moment to think about a specific aspect of your codebase that feels like it’s slipping beyond your control. It could be recurring bugs, code complexity, or even the integration of new technologies.
  2. Find the Smallest Actionable Step: Ask yourself, “What’s the smallest step I can take right now to improve this situation?” It might be as straightforward as refactoring a small block of code, writing documentation for a tricky function, or scheduling a code review session.
  3. Take that Step: Don’t wait. Implement that simple refactor, document that function, or set up the meeting. The key here is immediate action, turning thoughts into tangible improvements.
  4. Reflect on the Outcome: After taking this step, take stock of the change it made, no matter how minor. This is about appreciating our capacity to drive improvements and the cumulative effect of small actions.

Why It Matters:

  • Empowerment: Realising that even the smallest action can lead to improvements in our code quality can transform our outlook from one of powerlessness to one of control and influence.
  • Momentum: Each small action sets the stage for more positive changes, fostering a culture of continuous improvement.
  • Perspective: Breaking down our big challenges into manageable actions helps us to see problems in a new light, making them seem less daunting and more solvable.

Feeling stuck or overwhelmed is common in our lives, but it’s crucial to remember we’re never truly powerless. This week, let’s commit to identifying and acting on those small but powerful steps that can enhance our code quality and, by extension, our product.

I’m excited to hear about the steps you take and the impacts, however minor, that you observe. Your insights and experiences are vital to this journey, so please share your stories by replying to this email.

To small actions,

K

The 15 Minute Catalyst

PS. If you want to learn more about the power of small steps, I highly recommend reading James Clear’s “Atomic Habits”, it truly changed the way I think about achieving lasting change.

January

Psycho … what?

This one has been a bit of a buzz word in recent years – Psychological Safety. And you might think it’s one of those massive tasks, one that you want to put off for “when the time is right”. That time is now! Like most things, much can be achieved with consistent, small steps.

Why Psychological Safety Matters Psychological safety, a term coined by Amy Edmondson, refers to an individual’s perception of the consequences of taking an interpersonal risk. In a psychologically safe team, members feel confident to voice their opinions, take risks, and express their creative ideas without fear of embarrassment or retribution. This environment is essential for fostering the kind of innovative problem-solving and risk-taking your team needs to thrive.

Practical Steps to Enhance Psychological Safety

  1. Lead with Vulnerability: As a leader, openly share your mistakes and learning experiences. This sets a tone that it’s okay not to be perfect and encourages others to do the same.
  2. Actively Solicit Feedback: Regularly ask for team input on various decisions and discussions. Ensure that every voice is heard, especially those who are typically quieter.
  3. Normalise the Not-Knowing: Encourage questions and curiosity. Make it clear that not having all the answers is a part of the learning process and crucial for growth.
  4. Show Appreciation for All Contributions: Acknowledge and value different perspectives and ideas, even if they do not align with the majority. This reinforces that every team member’s input is important.
  5. Establish Clear Expectations: Be transparent about roles, responsibilities, and objectives. This clarity helps reduce uncertainties and insecurities within the team.

Your 15-Minute Action This week, dedicate 15 minutes to start a conversation about psychological safety with your team. Ask them how safe they feel in sharing their ideas and what can be done to improve the environment. Remember, the goal is to listen and understand, not to defend or solve immediately.

As always, your insights and experiences are what make our community thrive. Share your thoughts or challenges on building psychological safety in your teams by replying to this email. Together, let’s transform our workplaces into spaces where innovation isn’t just encouraged, it’s the norm.

Wishing you a productive and insightful week!

K

On making mistakes

As many of you will have noticed, and some of you (thank you, I really appreciate the feedback!) have told me – there was a mistake in last week’s newsletter. The platform I use to send these has a minor bug, that led to the subject line coming out a bit mangled. I am sorry for this, and I hope you still found value in the content of the email.

So, what have I learned from this?

  1. Triple check everything before sending out the newsletter. You’d think I know this already, but some days get hectic, and I’m human, so mistakes still happen.
  2. My readers (you, my dear friends) are a discerning audience. The number of opened emails dropped by 15%. Ouch.
  3. Never waste a good opportunity for a coaching moment, right?

Let’s talk about the art of gracefully admitting our errors and turning them into learning opportunities.

Action in 15 Minutes:

  1. Reflect on a Recent Mistake: Take a short pause to think about a recent decision or action that didn’t pan out as expected. It could be a misjudged deadline, an overlooked customer feedback, or a technical oversight.
  2. Admit It Openly: In your next team meeting or communication, openly acknowledge this mistake. Example: “I want to bring up a decision I made regarding [X], which I realise now was not the best course of action.”
  3. Share Your Learnings: Discuss what you learned from this experience. It’s about showing your team that every misstep is a chance to grow. For instance, “This has taught me to pay closer attention to customer usage data, which I overlooked.”
  4. Invite Feedback and Discussion: Encourage your team to share their thoughts or similar experiences. This not only cultivates transparency but also communal learning.

Why It Matters:

  • Building Trust: Admitting mistakes as a leader builds trust and shows your team that it’s safe to take risks and own up to errors.
  • Fostering a Learning Culture: It sets a precedent that every mistake is a stepping stone to better understanding and improvement.
  • Encouraging Open Communication: Such honesty paves the way for more open and constructive communication within the team.

In a field where the only constant is change, acknowledging our missteps is not a sign of weakness, but a testament to our commitment to continual learning and growth. This week, let’s lead by example and turn our mistakes into valuable lessons.

I’m eager to hear how this approach resonates with you and your team. Your experiences and challenges are what make this newsletter. Feel free to share them by hitting reply.

Lead with wisdom,

K

The power of small wins

This tip came from my friend Lisa, and it’s a great one!

We often focus on major milestones and long-term goals. However, this week, let’s shift our view to something equally critical yet frequently overlooked: celebrating small wins. Here’s why this simple practice can be a game-changer for your team.

1. Fueling Motivation: Every minor achievement, when acknowledged, serves as a reminder to your team that their efforts are valuable. This recognition keeps them engaged and energised, eager to maintain or even surpass their current performance. Imagine the cumulative impact on your project’s quality when every team member consistently performs at their best!

2. Building Confidence: Acknowledging these small victories fosters a sense of achievement. It’s not just about success; it’s about realizing the capability within your team. This boosts confidence, encouraging your team to embrace more significant challenges, often leading to innovative solutions and superior outcomes.

3. Strengthening Bonds: Celebrating together is more than just fun; it strengthens the team fabric. It’s about recognizing and appreciating each other’s efforts, which in turn enhances collaboration. In an environment where everyone feels valued, communication flows freely, fostering a hotbed for high-quality, collaborative work.

4. Reinforcing Positive Behavior: When you celebrate small wins, you’re setting benchmarks for success. These become the standard your team strives to meet and exceed, creating a consistent drive for quality in their everyday tasks.

5. Creating a Culture of Excellence: Consistent recognition of small achievements cultivates a culture where excellence is the norm. This creates a positive feedback loop, with your team members naturally inclined towards delivering their best work.

Bonus Tip: Tailor Your Celebrations Remember, a small win for one team might be a giant leap for another. Customise your celebrations to reflect the achievement’s significance and align with your team’s preferences. This ensures inclusivity and keeps everyone motivated.

In conclusion, don’t wait for the big milestones to celebrate. Start recognising the small steps today. You’ll be amazed at how these tiny ripples can create waves of positive change in your team’s morale, confidence, and work quality.

Keep scaling and celebrating,

K

The 15 Minute Catalyst

Permission to refactor

I hope y’all had a restful and delightful break, and are back for the new year refreshed and ready to make an impact!

Today’s topic is something that used to drive me up the walls: engineers who didn’t do any refactoring when they came across a bit of unwieldy, confusing or plain wrong code. Because “That’s not what I’m working on right now.” and “I don’t have time to refactor this now. I’ll write a ticket.” And of course, that ticket would be written, and then never be seen again. Infuriating!

But you can stop this: tell your engineers they don’t need permission to refactor. This week’s tip is about empowering your engineering team to maintain the health of your codebase proactively.

Refactoring as a Default, Not an Exception

Refactoring – the art of restructuring existing code without changing its external behavior – is often seen as a task requiring approvals, scheduled into future sprints, or worse, postponed indefinitely. It’s time to change that mindset.

Why Encourage Refactoring?

  1. Code Health: Regular refactoring prevents the codebase from becoming a tangled mess. It’s like daily exercise for your code – keeping it fit and functional.
  2. Efficiency: Engineers who refactor proactively spend less time deciphering legacy code, leading to faster implementation of new features.
  3. Quality: Better-structured code reduces bugs and improves testing, directly enhancing product quality.

Actionable Step:

  • Empowerment Message: In your next team meeting, communicate explicitly that engineers are encouraged to refactor as they see fit. Make it clear that this is a trusted part of their job, not an extra task.

Expected Outcome:

You’ll likely see a short-term uptick in refactoring activities. But, as this becomes part of the routine, expect smoother sprints, fewer bugs, and a more agile response to new features or changes.

Remember: Refactoring is not about big rewrites. It’s about small, continuous improvements. Encourage your team to make refactoring a habit, not a hurdle.

Keep Coding Smartly,

Kat

The 15 Minute Catalyst

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