Last Sunday evening our summer league Monarchs hockey team had a game against the Ice Dogs. In our previous game we tied against this team so I knew this would not be an easy game. To compound things we had a short bench (10 players and a goalie); enough for 2 forward lines and 2 defense lines. It was a hard game and our team really congealed and we played one of our best games this summer season. Just like the saying ‘when the going gets tough the tough get going.’ When you have a great team of people they don’t sit around and cry like a bunch of panty wastes, play the victim card, point fingers, or incessantly complain. A good team buckles down in hard times in spite of the difficulties that might lie ahead and work together to get things done. Individual hero’s need not apply. Team’s don’t worship heroes; they value every person on the team.
The weekend hockey game was a good break for me. You see, we have been in ship mode for our Mango release on the Windows Phone. The hockey game was a good outlet for some pent up frustration. Every D-man had at least 2 shots on goal, and I blocked a couple of shots; one off the mask and one off my inner thigh of course where there are no pads, and yes it left a pretty good bruise. But, as they say, “pain is temporary; a win is forever.”
Seemingly against the odds, we ended up winning the hockey game 5 to 1.
Ship mode often times gets a little crazy. Second guessing takes on a whole new meaning. “Did you test this"?” “What about that?” “I have a situation when I do such and such, and the sun came out (remember we’re in Seattle) something bad happened. Have you seen this before?” Some people run around looking for fires, others are trying to start them.
As I get older I have learned not to react to fires as I did in my younger days. I have learned that sometimes fires aren’t really fires at all; it’s just a spark that someone is recklessly trying to fan into a flame. Sometimes there are fires that burn themselves out, but you just have to manage them in a control burn. And then there are the fires that have to be dealt with. Dealing with fires late in the product cycle is not fun for on the team. But, a team of people are responsible for doing just that and it is seldom easy; and it happens in the ship room.
Our ship room looks at a lot of data every day throughout the product cycle to help us manage our release schedule and stay focused. In ship mode, data is scrutinized even closer and every bug goes under the microscope. Managers must now work together to make some hard decisions about whether to take a fix. There is often intense discussion, but you will never hear anyone play the consultant card saying “it depends.” These guys in ship room have been in the game a long time, they know the risks and they know the business. Of course they know “it depends.” They don’t want a bunch of hand waving and bloviating, they need facts to make hard decisions. If you say an issue going to adversely affect customers you better be able to explain how customers are impacted, how many customers are impacted, how customers get into that predicament, and know if there is a potential work-around.
In the end, a team of senior managers must make hard decisions about what issues to punt and which to fix based on the information that is presented. This never easy at anytime during the product cycle, but in ship mode each issue is carefully investigated down to root cause, the fix is understood, and the impact of fix and testing considerations are well defined before the final decision is made. Of course, many products are schedule driven, but at the forefront of every decision in our ship room is customer impact. Perhaps that is why customer satisfaction for Windows Phone 7 is at 93%, and why I am glad to be on a team that works hard to do the right thing for our customers.