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OSCON: Everything Counts

Jul - 25 - 2013
Nicole C. Engard

Next up was Everything Counts with Mari Huertas (Obama for America).

To help all of your work count Mari breaks things down in to three things:

Shape

If you lead with design and shape your project. Mari shared the following quote: “Good design used to make you stand out on the web. Now it’s the price of entry” – Ev Williams. You want to prototype, prototype, prototype!! Along those lines Mari shared a quote from Mike Sellers

An idea is not a design
A design is not a prototype
A prototype is not a program
A program is not a product
A product is not a business
A business is not profits
Profits are not an exit
And an exit is not happiness.

Learn who’s voices really matter and listen. This doesn’t mean you blow off people, it means you just want to stay on task.

Remember your objective. Tech is cool, but you don’t want to use it just for the sake of using it – you want it to help with your objective.

Next, define your deployable – you don’t want to save this until the last stage.

Make your staffing plan clear and post it publicly – try RACI Charts for this. Also make sure that you organize your staff so that people who have issues with each other aren’t on the same teams.

Most importantly (in my opinion) build your QA plan while you shape your product! Usually people wait until the end for this and it causes you to miss things and waste time at the end on finding issues.

Shepherding

This is not only done by the project manager! Make sure that your processes are as simple as possible. Get out the way of the work so people can do the work. You also want to recognize and respect preferred channels for communication. Each group might have a different preference. Some people like GitHub, others like BaseCamp, let them use what they want as long as it’s working. If it’s not working then you want to jump in and find a new tool.

You need to communicate issues with people. Don’t just keep people in the dark if something isn’t working. Just tell people that it’s broken and you’re working on it – people appreciate this (that’s how we handle support at work). There is no room for pride or fear here – don’t keep it to yourself because you can’t admit that you made a mistake or that something is not the way it should be. And if you’re the manager of the project make sure that your team knows that this is okay – put it out there and tell the team that you’d rather know that there’s a problem when it happens.

Make sure when you’re communicating that you speak plainly, openly, frequently and briefly. Put your documentation somewhere public.

Ship

Build fast, but build smart. Do code reviews and talk about why you’re building the way you are. Also document document document!! And document along the way instead of after. If you wait until the end then you have to remember why you made the decision you did.

Final Thoughts

“Default to calm.” When you’re working with a team it’s on you to bring your best self to the table. It sets the tone for the entire project. No one wants to work with people who are freaking out. Make sure you have fun – Mari was in a high stress situation but they still made time for fun. Remember you’re all people trying to do great things and do your best work.

Keep in mind that there are different techniques for working with groups that are all in the same place or distributed (virtual). At ByWater we use IRC all day, but that might not work for you so you have to organize your time/day according to the people you work with. Make sure that you learn (just like in person) the ways people like to be contacted/dealt with.

Remember that Everything Counts! Mari can be reached @marihuertas.


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