New Game – New Rules
Fishbowl Secret Sauce: Financials are Not the Primary Focus
Our Development team’s defining moment inspired Forbes column: “The Hidden Debt That Could Be Draining Your Company.” Read the article and return here for the rest of the story.
It’s tough to be a leader. Anyone who steps up to the plate these days deserves a hand of support. Traditional methods of leading no longer serve this brave, new, innovative world. We celebrate those daring souls who continue to take risks and try new things. At Fishbowl, everyone has opportunities to lead; in fact, we anticipate it and expect it from the moment they are hired.
To the leaders who still love a good game of work, we offer a few of the Fishbowl strategies from our “secret sauce vault” that help us stay relevant, in the game, scoring, and winning.
The softer side of our Harley-riding CEO
When we enter the world of work as rookies, we are instructed to never take our eye off the ball – which is the financials and or revenue creation and profit making. We are taught that companies live or die by the numbers. We are taught that the numbers determine our annual budgets and ultimately our paychecks.There comes a time when we need to take stock of who we are and what ultimately matters and why.
At Fishbowl, we never take our eyes off the long-term health and wellbeing of our people. By the time the numbers are posted, the work has already been accomplished. The numbers are merely the output or result and we can see where we need to make adjustments.
There are a lot of good leaders today who believe that they must forsake everything else to drive the financial metrics to extraordinary heights to accomplish short-term wins. They eventually run out of steam when the personal debt becomes too high and many are benched or thrown out of the game. Too many good leaders never get the opportunity to become great or achieve great things for their organizations.
The all-consuming pursuit of what we call personal debt creeps in slowly and can drain away our vitality and drive to create extraordinary outcomes for ourselves and our organizations. Fear of losing a dollar or the forced need of a dollar can mandate projects to grow too quickly or fall apart because of lack of planning.
Personal debt begin accumulating when we start doubting ourselves primarily because we have not achieved projected financial outcomes. When our numbers are low at Fishbowl, we focus first on taking care of our people. We assess what we can do better as leaders to serve and support the teams who are comprised of our people.
What is really important is not what we acheive as leaders, but what our teams achieve.
That’s where the magic kicks into high gear.
While focusing on financial growth and stability is important, other key performance indicators (KPI) are even more important. There are essential KPIs that actually guide your financial trajectory, and they can impact you on a personal level, as well. In fact, they are the fuel that ensures an individual, team, department and company continues to grow and excel for the long term. These KPIs are technical debt assessments and personal trust accounts.
Our Tribute to the Fishbowl Development Team
We are honored to share with you how this extraordinary group of individuals managed to save the ship (our Fishbowl product) from sinking in a sea of bugs and revitalized their team at the same time.
At Fishbowl, we follow the “Extreme Programming” Agile Methodology. We view our products as dynamic and always open to change.
Our Development team creates products that are relevant today and will continue to evolve to meet our customers’ needs in the future. We don’t create products based on hype or fads. We listen to our customers, then pause and assess our 7 Non-Negotiables (respect, belief, trust, loyalty, commitment, courage and gratitude).
In our early days we coded like most traditional development shops. The team banged out a ton of code and popped it over the cube to testers. This created a tsunami of bugs – so big, in fact, that we broke our internal tracking system.
Our Fishbowl testers and programmers demonstrated high courage in offering up a better way. Several individuals actually eliminated their jobs in the process. Fortunately, these testers have all become great programmers for Fishbowl. Another result was the elimination of cubicles, but that is another story for another day. Cubicles and people are never a good mix.
The team believed that the “develop then test” paradigm should be replaced by a single quality development process. As a result, many of the developers and testers decided to leave Fishbowl during this time. Brett Campbell, one of Fishbowl’s six original employees, hung in there and supported the changes made by Kevin Batchelor, who oversaw our testing division.
In 2010, Fishbowl closed down the testing division and began building code in a way that put a higher priority on stability. We focused on creating little technical debt, meaning we would not release anything new until we had fixed all possible bugs in the existing software. We believed that we needed to commit to building products right the first time.
Development focused on making sure no new bugs were introduced into the software when they created new features, and we adopted a “test first” attitude that helped us write code that could not be broken again. Finally, we agreed to refrain from adding new features if they might risk breaking something that was working. In 24 months our products were transformed and new life was breathed into them.
We owned and celebrated our challenges in the market space and with our customers. Kevin didn’t lose his job at Fishbowl when he abolished his position. He continued to work with the team to create our Product Management Division. Brett is going on his 10th year in the Bowl. Kevin’s paired leadership partner in Development, Heber Billings, led the charge in removing more than two years’ worth of bugs – paying down a ton of technical debt.
TEAM = Together Everyone Achieves More
Kevin and Heber credit the team for doing all the heavy lifting. They are the true rock stars to strap in to their chairs each day and create the magic that brings our Fishbowl product to life. To us, they are not coders, developers or programmers. They are master craftsman, artisans and the most forward innovative thinkers on the planet.
Each member of the team brings an extraordinary uniqueness, personality and style to the Bowl and to our products. We believe this is “the secret sauce” that sets Fishbowl apart from other similar products in the marketplace today.
In keeping with our commitment to transparency in all things, Development posts its technical debt ratio for everyone in the company to see, just like we share our monthly financials with all employees.
Are you building teams and organizations that fully support your people in their actions? This starts with seeking to understand them. Not just in word but in every deed that you do. Do you “walk your talk” day in and day out?
Our development teams eat, play, and create together. To the world, it looks like they are goofing off and sometimes they are, but they are also creating from the best space within them – a place of inspiration and creativity.
“Understanding the technical debt of projects is often impossible those who are not directly involved in the delivery of code, managing that cost is vital to controlling the cost of a project and also understanding how to delivery high value features,”
Kevin Batchelor – Our VP of Product Development, still gainfully employed after abolishing his testing job at Fishbowl
“It can be hard to get a bunch of men to sit around in a circle and talk about their feelings, but our weekly retrospectives help our development teams improve each day. Building trust and respect through regular retrospectives has helped to keep all of development happy and working with great efficiency.”
Heber Billings, our VP of Development, who brings a wealth of talent to the Bowl every day
“A byproduct of Agile methodology is a vastly improved working environment. When we were using a standard waterfall programming model, the programmers experienced increased stress and worked long hours. Using the Agile methodology, we have a much more carefree and productive work environment, and we can usually get our work done within the normal 40-hour workweek. The improved working environment directly contributes to fewer bugs and less technical debt being created each week.”
Brett Campbell, 10-year Veteran at Fishbowl
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