If found that using Wordpress, which is what watsol.bardolia.com is built on, was just too heavy weight for they way I’d like to capture and express my thoughts & ideas. As a result, I’m moving my blog to a new back-end system, www.tumbler.com. Going forward I will be using the following url thoughts.bardolia.com, not only because I’m changing back-end systems, but the purpose of my blog as evolved.
I think I found it (the joy that is) at a bar in Montclair, NJ called Just Jakes. My wife and I had gone to see a friend and his band, Hyperactive, play the other night and had an incredible time. Not only was the diversity of music (that ranged from funk to rock to swing to ska) fantastic, but I saw something that night that I hadn’t seen in a really long time. The guys on stage were doing something that they loved. They were performing not because they HAD to, but for the pure joy that they got out of it. Everyone in the band has a day job; but they have found an outlet for the passion of music. Watching these guys got me thinking about the fact that our lives are so focused around work and the daily grind. We tend to lose sight of the fact that it IS possible to have fun. Unfortunately, too many of us spend time working and doing things because we HAVE to and not because we really WANT to. For most of us, our jobs are avenues to make money in order to pay bills as opposed to passions to live and abide by.
As I gazed in amazement at the band, my attention turned to my friend Joe, the lead vocalist. When he is not playing gigs, he spends his days as the wine director of a shop in Bernardsville, NJ called 56 Degree Wine. My immediate thought was, what a lucky bastard. He gets to travel the world to drink wine, which he then writes about on his blog, Le Monstre Du Vin (this means The Wine Monster – I had to look it up) during the week and then plays music at clubs/bars on the weekends. The more I thought about it, I realized that it wasn’t luck at all. He designed his lifestyle to accomodate these two worlds. Joe found a way to take one of his passions and make a living from it, while still having fun with his passion for music. My sentiments then went from jealousy to admiration. Here is a guy that is so passionate about wine and music that instead of pushing these passions aside to maintain his life, he embraced them and decided to make a living from them.
The lesson I think we can all learn from Joe and others like him is that we don’t all HAVE to do things that make us unhappy. The key strategy is to identify your passions, and then have the courage to chase them down. Now don’t get me wrong – I’m not suggesting that everyone immediately quit their jobs so that they can have fun all day. It’s not always that easy. I think in many cases, it is MORE work to pursue your passions than to just make a living. What I recommend is that everyone try to find something that they enjoy doing… and then spend more time doing it. Wouldn’t the world be a better place if more of us spent time feeling satisfaction and joy from our day vs just going through the motions to “get by?”
since my last post. I’m back on the horse now and hopefully I can stay on. I have a few posts that I have been in draft format for a while now, if all goes as expected, they will be published in the next couple of weeks.
I’m also planning on starting a series of posts focused around a trend I’ve been seeing lately, in which companies want to be more “Agile”. In many cases, the leadership team doesn’t really understand what this means. They have been told that being Agile, will solve all of their problems. As a result, too many organizations focus on being “Agile” as opposed to allowing their teams to be more efficient and productive. After all that is the primary goal of being agile. Just as s side note, I really don’t like using the term Agile, because it has been so abused and in many cases has a bad connotation. I am using it because I haven’t come up with anything better. In the posts to come in this series, I’m going to keep the posts focused on the principals/procedures that are important as opposed to the terminology.
More to come.
Or is it the other way around?
If you liked the movie Minority Report, or at least thought the technology scenes were cool, you’re going to love this. A company has built an operating systems that leverages hand gestures to manipulate the information presented on the screen. One of the founders of Oblong was a science advisor on the movie and based the designs of those scenes on his work at MIT.
I’m especially excited about this because my company has been working on a software application that takes data from disparate sources and allows multiple remote individuals to interact with that data in real time. We have focused our efforts primarily on the data integration and collaboration aspects of the system. Next steps are to apply an easy and intuitive user interface to the application. This video has given me a lot of ideas on where we can take our application.
I recently came across a term called Commander’s Intent (CI). I briefly mentioned it in a previous post.
The core idea behind CI is:
- The commander’s stated vision which defines the purpose of an operation
- The end state with respect to the relationship among the force, the enemy and the terrain
- The enabling of subordinates to quickly grasp the successful end state and their part in achieving it
To put it more plainly, it’s the military’s version of the KISS principal. There are too many variables that will dictate the actions taken by the forces on the ground. There is no way every action can be planned out. This is where the CI comes into play. Each person has a clear understanding of the overall objective. Each person will do what needs to be done in order to achieve that objective.
I think that the business world can learn from the concept of Commander’s Intent. The CI defines the where and the why; a finite objective, a way of behaving, or a desired result. This is significantly different than a vision statement that is difficult to pin-point. It’s a leader’s job to provide clear directions/goals for the business and to ensure that his/her team understands those goals and why they are important. It’s then up to the team to execute and achieve those goals.
Using the concept of CI instead of a vision statement also aligns the goals of the different teams, departments, and organizations involved. Because the objectives are more concrete. Any time you align the goals and motivation of a group of people, you achieve significantly better results.
When a business leader tells you what the desired goals are and then lets you go and do it, they are letting you know that they have trust in your abilities to get the job done. Trust between people is the foundation on which effective organizations are created.
The continual communication about the CI is critical to every business. You can/should modify the means of the message, but not the message itself. Aligning everyone’s goals sets the stage for success.
The quote “Eat like a bird, poop like an elephant.” is actually a philosophy that I have adopted recently.
It is fairly simple, consume as much information as you can; read, have conversations and be open to new ideas/concepts.
- Eat like a bird (birds eat a lot & often)
Spread the knowledge as much as you can, share what you have learned with others. This is partly what I’m trying to do with this blog.
- poop like an elephant (elephants poop a lot)
I thought this was worth pooping (sharing)
I believe that one of the most difficult tasks we face as software development professionals is scope management. We have all been there, features are added to a system because someone from a particular business unit says the features are a must have. When any system has multiple business stakeholders the problem just worsens. Here is an example: a CRM application is customized because the order of the data entry fields are not the way the customer service manager would like. In the majority of cases the cost incurred for making this type of change will never be recouped. This is because there isn’t any additional business value in reordering the fields. I’m sure that you have your own stories. If so please share.
What if I told you that I could show you how to mitigate these types of decisions from happening with a simple diagram that contains four boxes and nine labels which can be explained and executed within sixty minutes? You would probably think I was crazy, right? I sat in on a presentation given by Niel Nickolaisen, in which he did exactly that. Below is a modification of the diagram that Niel used in his presentation.
The key principals are to get the business owners to focus their decision making around the business value. I’m sure I don’t stand alone when I say it is extremely difficult to get multiple business stakeholders to agree on every feature set of a system. The diagram is a tool that can be used to accomplish this. As features/initiatives are being advocated, two simple questions can be asked.
- Does this feature/initiative have significant business impact?
- Will this feature/initiative differentiate us in the market place?
If something does not have a significant business impact and is not a market differentiator, then it doesn’t matter and you should not put any effort/dollars towards those features/incentives.
If something does not have significant business impact, but does allow you to differentiate yourself in the market place, then you should look to partner with another organization. Typically if this is the case, that is not a core part of your business. An example here might be if your organization is a book publisher, but and would like to offer products in an electronic form over the internet. You should not spend the dollars to build your own technology to manage the digital right and the distribution. A better use of your resources would be to find a technology company that can take that on for you.
This box focuses on areas which have significant business impact, but are not market differentiators. For these areas, you should try to find out how the rest of the market is doing it and copy that. You should not be trying to out do your competition here. In this area UNIQUENESS = BAD. Now with that said, you do need to be proficient in these areas because it does impact your business. An example would be invoicing & bill collection. This is vital to most businesses, but unless this is your core business, you do not need to create a new way to do invoicing or bill collection. Find industry best practices and follow those, use out of the box applications.
These are areas in which have significant business impact and allow you to differentiate yourself in the market. This is where you should be spending most of your effort/dollars. Innovation is what makes a good company become a great company. As the axis states, this is how you will differentiate your organization from your competition. An organization should only have two to three areas here. Any more than that, will be a distraction.
Now when a decision needs to be made about a specific feature set, have the advocate identify which box it should belong to. Also have the other business stakeholder vet that decision, if you don’t get consensus, push a bit more. Once your organizations adopts this culture, you project/initiatives will shrink in size significantly. As we all know, the smaller the scope, the more manageable it will be, and the more reliable the costs estimates will be.
See how simple it can be. If you do try this approach, please post a comment to this post. I’d love to hear your story.
and stand behind your words
This has been an issue of mine for some time now. Individuals that hide behind anonymity. I am targeting this frustration towards two groups of individuals. Those that post articles or comments on blog sites that won’t identify themselves. Their opinions are masked behind some random username that is only funny or makes sense to them. The other group are individuals within an organization that won’t provide feedback in an open forum. (This one is a bit more personal, because I’ve experienced this often at my company. Everything has to be annonymous.
"I don't feel comfortable providing feedback if people know it was me".
Frankly this is B#LLSH#T (fill in your own vowels). If you honestly believe in something than put your name to it. My perspective is that these folks really don’t have conviction in their points of view, because they don’t want to associate themselves to their comments. If you can’t stand behind your words, then your opinion doesn’t matter. Just like you should have pride in what you do, you should have pride in what you say. Within an organization, I can understand why people might feel this way, I don’t agree, but I can understand. There is a lack of trust between the individual and the organization. That’s a different topic, that I’ll address in another post.
I’m email@example.com and I have approved this post.
I apologize for the rant style of this post, but this just gets under my skin. If you didn’t get it, I’m not really firstname.lastname@example.org. I was trying to make a funny
Four principals to live life by.
This book discusses the importance of innovation and how it separates good organizations from excellent organizations. The Ten Faces of Innovations also details the different personas that can foster & create innovation within an organization.
Go out and buy this book today, you will not regret it. Some books inspire you, others can make you feel something, still others allow you to look at things from a completely different perspective. This book did all of these things for me and much more. It validated my views on the importance of constantly trying to improve on what ever it is that you are doing. Companies that can evolve and adapt quickly to consumer needs will succeed, all others will be left behind. I am constantly looking for ways to push my company ahead of our competition and this book provided me with many insights on how I can achieve that.
“In the long history of humankind (and animal kind, too) those who learned to collaborate and improvise most effectively have prevailed.” – Charles Darwin
For me the book articulated what I have been trying to formalize in my mind for some time now. It provides a language that you can use within your organization. One key aspect the book highlighted for me is that innovation is what your are, not something that you do. It is more pervasive than just saying that you have an R&D department that creates cool stuff, it is about how your entire organization operates from executive management to the folks on the ground doing the daily grind.
As the title suggests, the book discusses 10 different personas that push innovation through an organization. Instead of me trying to paraphrase for Tom Kelly, I’m going to pull a few sections from the book directly that crystalize my thoughts almost exactly.
“So who are these personas? Many already exist inside of large companies, though they’re often underdeveloped or unrecognized. They represent latent organizational ability, a reservoir of energy waiting to be tapped. We all know plenty of birght, capable people who would like to make a bigger contribution, team members whose contributions don’t quite fit into traditional catagories like engineer, or marketer or project manager.
In a postdiciplinary world where the old descriptors can be constraining, these new roles can empower a new generation of innovators. They give individuals permission to make their own unique contribution to the social ecology and performance of the team.”
The ten personas fall into three categories. I’m going to be pulling text directly from the book. Again, I think Tom Kelly is a better writer than I am. I don’t want to paraphrase and loose some of the meaning in the translation. Because of this, this section is a bit lengthy.
Learning Personas: These personas are driven by the idea that no matter how successful a company currently is, no one can afford to be complacent. The world is changing at an accelerated pace, and today’s great idea my be tomorrow’s anacronism. The learning roles help keep your team from becoming too internally focused and remind the organization not to be so smug about what you “know.”
- The Anthropologist brings new learning and insights into the organization by observing human behavior and developing a deep understanding of how people interact physically and emotionally with products, services, and spaces.
- The Experimenter prototypes new ideas continuously, learning by a process of enlightened trial and error. The Experimenter takes calculated risks to achieve success through a state of “experimentation as implementation.”
- The Cross-Pollinator explores other industries and cultures, then translates those findings and revelations to fit the unique needs of your enterprise.
Organizing Personas: These personas are played by individuals that are savvy about the often counterintuitive process of how organizations move ideas forward. Most people believe that ideas should speak for themselves. However even the best ideas must continuously compete for time, attention, and resources. Those who adopt these organizing roles don’t dismiss the process of budget and resource allocation as “politics” or “red tape.” They recognize it is a complex game of chess, and they play to win.
- The Hurdler knows the path to innovation is strewn with obstacles and develops a knack for overcoming or outsmarting those roadblocks.
- The Collaborator helps bring eclectic groups together, and often leads from the middle of the pack to create a new combinations and multidisciplinary solutions.
- The Director not only gathers together a talented cast and crew but also helps to spark their creative talents.
Building Personas: These personas apply insights from the learning roles and channel the empowerment from the organizing roles to make innovation happen. When people adopt the building personas, they stamp their mark on your organization. People in these roles are highly visible, so you’ll often find them right at the heart of the action.
- The Experience Architect designs compelling experiences that go beyond mere functionality to connect at a deeper level with customers’ latent or expressed needs.
- The Set Designer creates a stage on which innovation team members can do their best work, transforming physical environments into powerful tools to influence behavior and attitude.
- The Caregiver builds on the metaphor of a health care professional to deliver customer care in a manner that goes beyond mere service.
- The Storyteller builds both internal morale and external awareness through compelling narratives that communicate a fundamental human value or reinforce a specific cultural trait.