4 min read

How to Have a Stress Free Holiday

By Praecipio Consulting on Dec 4, 2020 2:01:00 PM

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In just a few weeks, the holidays will be here. Your partner may be already making needed plans to enjoy the much-needed downtime at home. But inside, you may have an uneasy feeling about work projects. Can you afford to take off and not fall woefully behind? Will important software-based projects stall? Or worse, crash and burn?

If the thought of taking PTO comes with mixed feelings, this article is for you. 

At Praecipio Consulting, we’re business process experts. Every day we work with executives from the world’s most respected companies. We surveyed our partners to learn their advice on how you can take time off to recharge your batteries and have your team keep projects moving at the same time. 

Christian_LaneChristian Lane, our CEO, begins the conversation. “I love taking time off. It’s essential for my well being, and we require everyone in the company to do the same. It’s a non-negotiable. But when we do have key team members out, we have set expectations.”

 

 

Announce your plans and block off your schedule

Let your coworkers know not to schedule anything for you during this time, and be aware of these dates when you are discussing project deliverables. 

Bust your tail for 3 weeks prior

Put in extra hours if you have to, but I prefer to better use the time already allocated for work. Staying focused and being productive now will help you have peace of mind later. 

Empower your #2

For executives in senior management, there may be time-sensitive decisions that need to be made in your absence. It’s important to have a second-in-command that has full authority to make most decisions while you are gone. Have a meeting with this person about the parameters of this responsibility and make sure the other players on your team are aware of who you have delegated to. In addition to leaving decision authority in capable hands, you’ll likely see this person respond well and appreciate the trust. Understand that mistakes may happen, but it’s also a learning opportunity. 

Joseph Lane, Atlassian automation expert and one of our partners at Praecipio Consulting, takes a more tactile approach. He stresses that in the Agile mindset, effective managers must use the right tools that are purpose-built and customizable to keep critical business functions working effectively. If any project relies on any one person for completion, this potential single point of failure is problematic for the organization and stressful for the employee. When this key person needs rest and relaxation, business stops, and that’s expensive. 

joseph_lane selfieMore specifically, Lane is referring to the Atlassian suite of products: Jira, Confluence, Trello, and others. When used to their fullest potential, team members can work independently if needed and collaborate following a quality assurance process the company developed. Users and managers can almost instantly view the progress on a project and comment. Lane recommends having a clear system for accountability and escalation when challenges arise. If this is clearly defined before a manager goes on vacation, team members can bring in more people, access more resources, or find vendor partners to solve problems. Failure to have these processes in place means that projects could stall and teams lose momentum. Lane summarizes, “Be more process-oriented than person dependent.” 

Christian Lane encourages everyone on software teams to develop a mindset for responsibility. That means if you find a problem, you own it. See it through to a solution. He loves the idea of stress-testing your systems by creating fires. “It keeps people on their toes,” he says. An example might be inserting a snippet of code that wreaks havoc. Engineers must backtrack and see where it was introduced. Also known as chaos engineering, it’s the practice of experimenting on a software system in production to build confidence in the system's capability to withstand turbulent and unexpected conditions.

Still, totally unplugging, although the healthiest option, isn’t always possible. Lane tells a story of when he was conflicted about taking his laptop on an overseas vacation. “On one hand, if I took it, I knew I couldn’t help myself and work. On the other hand, if there was a legitimate emergency and I needed to log in, I wouldn’t be able to.” 

In the end, he decided to travel with his computer and stay disciplined to only look at his Atlassian enabled dashboard when he logs in. If he saw all green lights, he would close the laptop after just 5 minutes or so per day. 

In the end, great leaders are measured by how well the business continues without you. As leaders, our job is about driving continuous improvement. When you take off time, operations may not be improving and optimizing, but they should still continue. 

A recap for a stress-free holiday:

  • Announce your plans, block off your schedule
  • Bust your tail for 3 weeks prior
  • Empower your #2
  • Use the right Atlassian tools 
  • Have process and systems for escalation in place
  • Develop a mindset of responsibility
  • Stress-test your systems

 

Topics: blog holiday atlassian-solution-partner work-life-balance
3 min read

How Praecipio Consulting Promotes Wellness & Remote Work Culture

By Robyn Lane on Jun 12, 2020 11:35:50 AM

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Remote work is our new normal, and the statement “I am here for you whenever you need” has always been my truth to demonstrate my availability to a co-worker or client, at whatever cost. I can honestly say that I've removed "at whatever cost" because of the additional time I have in the day due to not traveling or driving in rush hour traffic, which has allowed me to eat better and make time for regular exercise.

I feel that this shift has made me more available to our team, clients, and family than ever before. Think of all the employees that spend hours in traffic, get sick because someone at the office is sick, or eats a crap diet because who has time to get a real lunch? All of this adds up: long days = lack of sleep and missed workouts. Those are a few things that I do not miss about having to go into an office every day, and I am grateful for the healthier well- being that a remote work lifestyle has allowed me.  

Wellness Challenges

Praecipio Consulting created a robust wellness program where employees can earn up to 5 hours of PTO per month for completing two monthly wellness challenges. They can participate in one or two of the below challenges to earn their extra PTO:

Steps Challenge = 3 hrs of PTO: 10,000 per day x total number of business days per month

Sleep Challenge= 2 hrs of PTO: Women 6 hours/Men 7 hours per night x total number of business days per month 

Water Challenge= 1 hr of PTO: 64 fluid oz per day x total number of business days per month

We use Jira for tracking PTO Credit Hours and Confluence to share information about our Benefits, Health & Wellness Program, a guide to staying healthy. To ensure employees are able to work in the most suitable working environment with tools that help them succeed, all full-time employees can use their annual $600.00 wellness stipend on ergonomic equipment, exercise gear, medical exclusion, health memberships, alternative medicine, and much more. 

For me personally, I've always participated in the wellness program with just water. Being able to work remotely has given me the ability to spend more time with my dog, take our daily walks during lunch, supersede my previous step count, and increase my hours of sleep. Studies have shown remote work, flexible working schedules, and wellness programs contribute to improving employee morale, a decrease in medical claims, and reducing turnover. 

Staying Social While Working From Home

One downside of remote work is not being able to see employees' faces. A solution Praecipio Consulting created was to host a weekly Virtual-Bring-Together, where we connect to Zoom, play games, and engage in fun activities like Bingo, Pictionary, Scavenger Hunts, Cooking with Chef Babb, and Origami. Not only do our team members enjoy our Virtual-Bring-Togethers, but their families do too! 

Considering that most of the country is in a similar position with remote employees (and it sounds like we may be in this position for a while), I feel like we are all healthier and happier because of it. It sure does help that Praecipio Consulting gives me PTO hours for walking, sleeping, and drinking water, AND has found a solution to bring us all together. 

How many raised hands can I get from those folks who do a load of laundry in between calls, only spiffy their look from waist up for that video call, and enjoy the extra money saved from eating whole, nourishing foods from the best diner around (i.e. your kitchen)?

For more tips on now how we facilitate a remote work culture, you can read about how to support remote employees who may feel lonely or how to set yourself up for success when working from home. 

Topics: praecipio-consulting blog culture work-from-home work-life-balance remote-work
4 min read

How To Host A Virtual-Bring-Together

By Marcelo Garza on May 22, 2020 9:15:00 AM

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Remote work has its perks (do a load of laundry in between calls, take your dog for a walk during your break), but it certainly comes with its challenges. Feeling lonely and isolated when working from home is very real, and as a company that operates 100% remotely, we know how important it is to make sure our team members stay connected. 

That's why we started hosting Virtual-Bring-Togethers, which provides a space for employees to interact and have fun while engaging in an activity that has nothing to do with work. Every Thursday evening, our team members connect via Zoom to play Pictionary, stream movies together, or even enjoy a cooking class. You name it, we've done it! 

Best Apps for Hosting a Virtual-Bring-Together

There are different apps available with all sorts of features that can turn social distancing into distant socializing. These are just some of them that might help you in organizing your virtual event:

  • Skype (iOS, Android, Mac, Windows, Linux, web)
  • Zoom (iOS, Android, Mac, Windows)
  • Facebook Messenger (iOS, Android, Mac, Windows)
  • WhatsApp Messenger (iOS, Android, Mac, Windows, web)
  • Google Duo (iOS, Android, web)
  • Marco Polo (iOS, Android)
  • Houseparty (iOS, Android, web)
  • Discord (iOS, Android, Mac, Windows, Linux, web)

For a small company, you can easily organize these video calls with all the employees, and if we are talking about a big company, you might want to think of organizing these by teams or departments.

Activity Ideas

As far as the activities you can do, here are some that have been a huge hit with our Praecipio Consulting team members:

Family-friendly 

  • Virtual Pictionary: Divide into teams and use the Whiteboard feature on Zoom to draw pictures. When it’s your turn, you’ll share the screen and draw, and your team will have to guess what you are drawing during the set time limit. 
  • Yoga nights: Let the yogi of the group lead everyone through a restorative yoga flow and some simple sun salutations! Or, if you're feeling adventurous, try some hard moves and bond over the shared silliness.
  • Cooking lessons: If there is a chef in the group, he or she can give cooking lessons for everyone. It's a good way to share dishes, especially if you work with multicultural teams.
  • Playing cards: Organize your regular set of poker, and because you play virtually, it's easier to bluff and you won't have to worry about someone picking an eye on your cards.
  • Book clubs: You can organize book clubs normally would. Just pick a book, have them read a chapter or two to read during the week, and during your Virtual-Bring-Together, discuss different themes and listen to everyone's perspectives. 
  • Cribs: Have team members show off their homes and personality in quick, self-made videos a la the iconic show from the early 2000s. 
  • Costume party: Set themes and have a contest for the best costumes. You don't need to wait for Halloween to dress up and goof around!
  • Origami zoo: Origami nights are easy to organize. Have someone email them instructions before the meeting, and all people need to do is show up with some paper and scissors.
  • Icebreaker questions: Icebreaker questions are simple prompts that allow you to get to know your peers better. For example, you can start a remote meeting by having each attendee share their name, role, and what they like to eat for breakfast. Icebreakers are a simple and effective way to build relationships with remote teams, and to increase the personal connections between your people. You can set different levels for the questions depending on how well you already know each other

Grown-ups only 

  • Bar crawl: If you miss a night on the town, it’s time for a virtual bar crawl. To do this, set up a few spaces in your home to be “bars.” You can try to mimic your favorites or create themed bars! Have a signature drink for each bar! If you're looking for low-cal cocktail options, try some of these!
  • Virtual beer pong: We all know (and love) this classic game, but don't know how to play virtually? Check out this short video with a pretty simple example.
  • Virtual flip cup: Another classic. This one is simpler to play through a video call than virtual beer pong, so I would suggest you try this one first. All you need is your magic red cup, establish an order of turns in between teams, and have a good flick of the wrist.

This last two can also be done with the whole family, just swap your beer out for some water!

Try it yourself!

Socializing amongst team members opens the door to knowledge sharing, builds alliances, encourages teamwork, allows people to get to know others outside of their department, and gives everyone a "big picture" view of the company. When people start socializing, it creates bonds, which translates to caring for others. Having a team that genuinely cares for one another will create a greater sense of belonging and promote collaboration, resulting in improved performance across the board.

A company that provides a space for its employees to relate with one another, to relax, to have fun, and to be humans, shows that it cares for them. So, we encourage you to implement Virtual-Bring-Togethers or something similar with your teams, especially as many of us will continue to work from home for the foreseeable future. 

Topics: blog tips collaboration virtual-bring-together work-from-home work-life-balance remote-work
6 min read

Distance Learning With Atlassian: Remote Training Your People

By Amanda Babb on Apr 2, 2020 5:01:46 PM

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When I was growing up, my parents taught me all kinds of useful skills. By age 12, I helped my dad build my lofted bed. Routers, saws, drills, clamps, hammers: you name it; we used it. At age 19, I rebuilt a 1968 El Camino from the ground up. Everything from tearing down an engine to rebuilding suspension to (somewhat terrible) electrical. Even today, if you've read some of my other blogs, I've installed floors, rebuilt our fence, and completed other small home improvement projects throughout our home. Since a young age, I have constantly been learning new skills and putting them into practice.

At Praecipio Consulting, we help organizations streamline their processes and drive business with the most powerful digital transformation tools, yet their end-users struggle day-to-day with how to use them the right way. After all, you can give the worst carpenter the best hammer, but it doesn't mean they can build a chair.

Employee Learning as a Business Pillar

We've worked with clients of all sizes to implement the Atlassian tools as part of their digital business transformation. Our clients are always pleased with the results (lifetime Net Promoter Score of 70), and the subject matter experts we work with daily walk away with a deep understanding of the processes that the Atlassian tools facilitate. We always recommend expanding that knowledge beyond our champions to end-users and managers alike via training and training programs. While there are a lot of statistics regarding Return on Investment (ROI) for training, instead, we should focus on the learning and development of our employees as a pillar of our business. 

According to this article in Training Magazine, measuring ROI is not enough. Instead, we need to look at five key areas when evaluating the effectiveness of your learning approach: 

  • Individual performance
  • Time to effectiveness/productivity
  • Employee engagement
  • Ability to respond to market conditions
  • Voluntary turnover

The authors go on to say that learning is not a static exercise. Employees should continuously learn throughout the digital transformation process. The article also mentions that learning and development should be strategically aligned with the business, yet only 40% of organizations surveyed stated that their learning strategy is well-defined. We see this with our clients as well: they take time to implement the Atlassian tools to facilitate industry best practices, however, they can't afford to take the time to teach their people how to properly use them. Implementing and using these tools are tied to overall business objectives, and there should be a clear learning strategy for educating your people about them. 

Learning outcomes and measuring success

As we move to remote work, we must first look at where we were. In-person courses were generally considered the most effective. Why? Because of the interaction with the instructor and the accountability of being in a room with your peers. I have served as an Atlassian instructor since 2015, so I have seen a breadth of engagement in my classrooms. Generally, I received high marks for the content and depth-of-subject knowledge. How do I know? Because we ask. At the end of each course delivery (whether it's at a conference, such as Summit, or a private course for an organization), we provide surveys as well as retrospectives to our clients. The surveys are for attendees to provide feedback, and the retrospective reviews the entire process of obtaining the training, from scheduling to logistics and delivery.  

If the organization releases an on-demand training, what is considered a success? First, the organization should ask what the intended outcome is. Learning outcomes depend on the "why" we've provided this training. For example:

  • Is it compliance/security regulated?
  • Is it mechanical (I can do) or do we explain why?
  • Is it tied to a strategic outcome? 
  • Is it tied to organizational change?

Each of these learning outcomes are measured differently. One client organization required every employee and contractor to complete annual compliance training. They revoked access to their systems if not completed within the expected timeframe. Success was measured at 100% completion within 30 days of your start date and every year thereafter by the end of January. This is a binary measurement, however. Did you complete it? Yes or no. 

When looking at other learning outcomes, success becomes less black-and-white. Many organizations are tying agile and agile-at-scale training to strategic outcomes and organizational change. The strategic outcome could be the number of departments or programs that have moved to agile. This is measured by the number and type of certifications held by employees. This is still binary: are you certified? Yes or no. Again, this metric does nothing to evaluate the overall effectiveness of the training or certification as it relates to the organization and general business strategy. 

The Kirkpatrick Model provides both the foundation as well as the "new world" evaluation for the effectiveness of training. While this methodology has been around since the 1950s, it is still relevant today. As with any model or framework, it's the application of these items that become an indicator of success. 

Organic versus formal learning

At Praecipio Consulting, we encourage our consultants to seek additional learning. Certifications are an option, but we also encourage Udemy courses, continuing education courses at colleges and universities, and networking or professional groups. We organize a monthly Skills Exchange for all members of the company, and we have weekly meetings to discuss what we learned the week before. But outside of these formal discussions and learning exchanges is the day-to-day interactions of our people that result in organic learning.

For internal communication, we use Slack. We have dedicated channels based on topics as well as client delivery efforts. No topic is off the table: everything from troubleshooting a problem to a specific function in the tools. If someone needs more dedicated help, we hop on a call to solve the problem. No one of us is as good as all of us together.

What is even more amazing (and I fully credit our people for this) is how much we learn from each other. Because we can teach one another, this reinforces what each of us has learned in the products. Moreover, when we consult and advise our clients, they learn best practices as well as tips and tricks to impart on their peers. Learning does not have to be formal: simply talking through a topic with a peer can teach both people. Providing a solid foundation, however, is where training courses can benefit everyone.

Distance learning and student engagement

While many of us may be working from home for the first time, many a company is scrambling for alternate ways to engage in training. Learning management systems are a great way to provide training content, but as stated before, are these systems delivering the right outcome based on the "why"? Are students actually engaging with the content or are they just checking off a box after completion?

If you can't bring an instructor to your people, bring the people to your instructor. Virtual Training is a great way to provide knowledge and guidance to your people. Praecipio Consulting instructors are live and on camera. They walk through the content and manage questions and discussions through virtual platforms. Hands-on exercises and guided demos provide students with a greater depth of understanding of the Atlassian tools and ecosystem. Other benefits include: 

  • Cloud and Data Center/Server options
  • Audience-specific courses
  • Options to license a recorded session for internal distribution
  • Custom training program development and delivery

Engaged employees equal business success

Overall, your organization must embrace employee training. While the Atlassian tools can facilitate your digital business transformation, your employees need guidance when it comes to working within them. Make the time to provide access to quality instruction and training content on the Atlassian products. And it doesn't have to be delivered in-person to be considered quality; virtual delivery is just as effective, and now is a great time to explore remote training opportunities. Reach out to us to discuss training options for virtual delivery. 

REACH OUT

 

Topics: atlassian blog training work-from-home atlassian-certification-program work-life-balance remote-work

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This means that we have the most experience working with Atlassian tools and have insight into new products, features, and beta testing. Through our profound knowledge of Atlassian environments and their intricacies, we can guide your organization as you navigate these important changes.

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