Friday, February 15, 2008

Managing Software Personnel by the Stroke of the pen

Wishing all of you a rather delayed Happy New Year! After being offline from my blog for quite some time, here I am- Refreshed and Recharged.
I would like to begin the New Year with a post on a subject that is quite close to my heart. I have been passionate about the science of Graphology (Handwriting Analysis) and hold a professional qualification in the same. Over a period of last few years, I have found out an interesting co-relation or rather a very powerful way in which the science of Graphology helps in the day-to-day life as a Software tester, lead and a manager. I am hereby posting an un-edited version of my article that recently got published in the print and the web version of “TheSmartTechie” magazine in the month of Feb 2008.

“Factual Approach to decision making”- This principle is an integral part of Quality Management System offered by ISO 9001: 2000, any TQM recognition award such as Malcom Baldrige National Quality Award or a Quality initiative like Six Sigma.
It can be concluded from the above principle that effective organizations involve decision making based on analysis of data and information. In above context, the “Factual approach to decision making” principle mostly deals with decisions about products, processes, sales, profits etc. as there are proven statistical techniques that aid decision making in these areas.
An area that is often neglected while considering data driven decision making is the one involving human related decisions.
Every Leader, Manager or Supervisor in Software arena has a responsibility of human resources in addition to the successful launch of product and processes. Further, in Software field, every leadership, Managerial position requires an individual to possess certain capabilities of a Human Resource Manager because people in these positions are involved in important human related decisions such as Selection of right candidate for the job, Ideal team formation, Ideal resource and work Allocation etc. It is often noticed that such decisions are made out of gut feel and intuition without effectively considering the personality traits an individual possesses. This can lead to wrong human related decisions being taken and that eventually affects goals of team, productivity, Return of Investment from a particular team. Thus, there’s always a need of more realistic approach to decision making in human related areas.
Graphology is one such tool that accurately reveals one’s personality traits. Graphology is a scientific method of identifying, evaluating, and understanding a person's personality via the strokes and patterns revealed by a person’s handwriting. Handwriting is a visual representation of one’s thought process. Consider the following situations-

Case study 1- Hiring the right candidate:
As a Manager of the Software group, you intend to hire Engineers with diverse Technical skill sets. As a general Interview process that is followed in most of the organizations, the Technical skills gets evaluated by series of Interviews by experts and practical tests would give fairly accurate insights into candidate’s technical competencies. Every job requires an applicant to posses certain soft skills that ultimately plays an important part in success or failure of an individual in the profession. E.g. a Software Developer, in addition to strong technical skills, would require soft skills such as Analytical, problem solving skills, creative in approach etc. On the other hand, a Software tester might require skills such as Good attention to details, persistence, Organizational ability etc. Importantly for the organization hiring an individual, adequate time should be spent evaluating these skills in the candidate along with the technical skills. The usual way this is done in most of the organization is at the tail-end of the Interview process when an experienced manager or an HR manager asks the questions. The whole method of evaluating the soft skills of an individual sometimes turns out to be more a subjective exercise. How can Graphology help here? With the help of Graphology, one can get to know a lot of personality traits about an individual even without meeting him/her once just by having a look at the handwriting. It would definitely be unfair here to make hiring decisions simply on the basis of candidate’s handwriting but this powerful medium can be used to ask right questions to candidate in the Interview thereby helping to bring out the necessary personality information and making more informed decisions E.g. by means of handwriting one can easily know about the Thinking Patterns of a person. A Software Developer may require Comprehensive Thinking ability for most part of his job whereas a Software Tester involved in manual testing would do well with Cumulative thinking ability. Having this knowledge before-hand, the Interviewer can ask right questions to judge the Thinking patterns in an individual.

Case study 2- Relaying the right feedback:
Feedback sessions or a One-on-One meeting between Employee and Manager is one of the most important conversations that eventually defines the success or failure of Employee-Manager relationship. Of the many traits that Graphology helps one know is an individual’s Sensitiveness to Criticism. The people who are sensitive to criticism do not always take feedback in right way as they become quite defensive during such sessions. Knowing this information in advance through Graphology can help a Manager handle feedback sessions more effectively.
Conveying an employee what he needs to improve upon should obviously be based on the facts but the role of Manager does not end there. It is equally important for the Manager to help the employee improve upon a certain aspect under discussion. Having accurate understanding of employee’s personality traits helps the Manager drive the necessary improvements in an objective and effective manner. This is where Graphology can be of immense help.
Likewise there are innumerable number of situations where knowing the personality traits of a person accurately before-hand can add enormous value. Graphology is indeed a useful tool that helps achieve exactly the same. I am sure by this time you might already have a lot of questions about credibility and working of the science of Graphology. Let me try to address some of these-
How does Graphology work?
Handwriting is instantaneous photograph of your mind. Your nervous system acts as a wire from brain to hand. Your muscles are coordinated in a more or less writing movement. It begins with a thought in your brain, which is transmitted to central nervous system and then to your hand and fingers, the latter of which are only the vehicles that put in writing.
Handwriting is driven by brain and since hands are the natural vehicles to write something, it is called as “Handwriting”.

Does Graphology accurately reveal one’s personality characteristics?
Graphology does not work on intuition or guess work- it is a science. The accuracy of this science in revealing the personality traits depends upon the skill of the practitioner. In my experience, I have found this to be as accurate as 95%. It’s not my claim but the admittance of the people whose handwriting got analyzed.

What kinds of personality traits can be revealed using Graphology?
In general more than hundred individual personality traits can be revealed accurately using Graphology. It becomes much more when one considers precisely the impact one trait has on others.
Handwriting Analysis provides glimpses into subconscious mind, emotional responsiveness, intellect, energy, and traits such as Thinking patterns, Self esteem, ambitions, concentration, attention to details, Ego strength, Diplomacy, Enthusiasm, Fear of success, Fear of failure, Self consciousness and many more.

Is there anything one cannot tell using Handwriting?
Handwriting cannot reveal one age, gender, nationality, religion, whether writer is left-handed or right-handed and Future of an individual.
Graphology has a great potential to become a powerful tool in Managers’ toolbox. It definitely helps in better understanding of people and minimizes, to a large extent, the intuitive approach in dealing with human resources. It’s not something that is too difficult to learn as more than anything else it involves desire, passion and interest.
Welcome to the wonderful world of Graphology!

The views in this article are my personal thoughts on the subject and it does not depict these being a practice in my current or previous organization.