15 minute rule

If you have a problem, if no-one else can help, and if you can find them, maybe you can hire the A-Team.

For those of us that are not so lucky to find the A-team, we need another solution. A nice rule I saw implemented in my Lviv team is the 15 minute rule. If you run into a problem and don’t see how to fix it withing 15 minutes…. ask one of your colleagues to assist.

This leads to faster problem solving and more knowledge sharing!

(And it’s always nice referring to the A-team ;))


Update Feb. 11 2011:  Part of the solution is explaining your problem to somebody else in your own words. By explaining it, often you already find the solution.

Team culture

Some time ago I was doing a project in Germany. I worked closely with a lot of people at the client, on location in Germany.  What better way to discover the cultural differences 🙂

I was surprised. Germany and The Netherlands are neighbouring countries, but there were more differences than I expected.

Compared to Dutch people Germans have a more formal way of communication at work. So it’s possible you are good friends for years, but still in business meetings you will call each other sir/madam (if other people are present). In The Netherlands you almost never call somebody you know sir/madam, there are other ways to show you respect people.

It’s also always clear what the hierarchy in the company is, lot’s of people even have that in their signature, which makes escalation paths really clear ;). Disagreeing with somebody above you in the hierarchy is not done in Germany, but Dutch people are always ready to discuss everything with everybody, because it is possible you have a better solution for a problem than your manager. On the other hand it does take much more communication time in NL because of that.

Because of the different cultures within this project (German, Dutch, Greek, Romanian) the culture in the project changed from the local German working culture into a mixture best suitable for this project. For example everybody was on first-name base, but decisions from higher levels were always accepted as a fact.

As always a project team should find its own culture for maximum performance. Working with people from different cultures means you have more options to choose from and more to learn from each other. Of course if the cultural differences are big, everybody needs to change their behaviour more to fit in the culture, althought the tendence is to stay closest to the clients culture.


Coming weekend Scouts all over the world are making contacts with other Scouts. They will do this with the help of amateur radio operaters, then it’s called Jamboree On The Air (JOTA). Or via internet, then it’s called Jamboree On The Internet (JOTI). I look forward to this weekend, which I am co-organising for our local group Scouting Boxtel.

So this weekend is all about communication. When focussing an entire weekend on communication it’s nice to see how much influence it has in society. Mobile phones, e-mail, chats, etc. Everybody considers it as completely normal, but only when you stop and think about it people “discover” that for example radio is also a form of communication,  but normally one-way. But because it’s communication (and fun) we include it in our program. So everybody is sitting in in a radio show and participating in that. People at home can listen to that and lot’s of people (parents, friends) actually do.

By using IRC for chat people are doing something they know, but with another tool. It’s funny to see that because people don’t know the tool the really focus on communication… what do I have to do to be able to chat with that person? Where in MSN you just chat.


For the radio amateurs it’s a bit different. They use technology that’s been around far longer but not really known by most people. Why use that technology when we also have mobile phones? Because it’s fun and different and showing a bit of the past of the newest technology. They need a big antenna for example. That’s why we are building a tower to have more reach.

Communication changes…. fast

While driving to the Bucharest airport (a couple of weeks ago) we had a nice talk about different ways of communication. Specially the extremely fast way it’s changing over the years.

But which media to use?

I have the idea the younger people are the faster the communication must be, easy to use and less personal, meaning less face-to-face, voice, but limited to text. And of course some forms are more formal than others, but also that is age dependent.

A nice example is job applications. My parents wrote letters for that that are being delivered by the mail man. I did my applications via monsterboard or e-mail. Now you even see some people looking for jobs via linkedin.

If you want to make an appointment with people… do you call them, send an SMS, ask in MSN or via a message in a social network. The order here is probably highly linked to the age of the user (old to young). Mobile online tools enforce this trend.

Ask a fourteen year old if it’s normal to break up with a girl/boy-friend via SMS. Probably the answer would surprise you.

Did your grand mother ever send an e-mail? Can you make friends via World of Warcraft? Do your parents use wikipedia? Do you talk to people more online or offline? Is e-mail during work helping you in your work or blocking normal progress?

What’s your communications age?