Archive for the ‘New way of thinking’ Category

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.

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:

  1. The commander’s stated vision which defines the purpose of an operation
  2. The end state with respect to the relationship among the force, the enemy and the terrain
  3. 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.

I realize that this is a fairly strange title, but it is actually a quote from Rules for Revolutionaries a book by Guy Kawasaki.  I haven’t read the book as of yet, but it is on the list to read.

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)   ;-)

Author:

Tom Kelly

Premise:

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.

My Thoughts:

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.”

Book Details:

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.

So in conclusion, go out and buy this book.

Laying the foundation

Improve the efficiency of your team simply by changing the way you organize and think about your work. Organizations are typically composed of separate functional groups/departments that perform specific functions. Most organizations are setup this way regardless of their size or industry. Within these departments, there are the people that make the decisions (managers) and then there are the people that do the work (team). The managers are held accountable for the output of their team. Smaller departments roll up into a larger department. Those larger department then rolls up into another department and so on. Until you get to the very top, which is headed up by the elite executive team. The executive team is then responsible for the output of the entire organization. In this typical corporate structure, each department has it’s own management structure and team with their own goals & priorities. I’m sure that this isn’t ground breaking news for anyone, we’ve all seen this before.

So, what’s the problem?

The work within an organization is divided based on the function of the department and more specifically the role individuals play within that department. Managers define the work, the team executes on it. This is not to say that the managers don’t execute themselves, it just highlights that the team usually isn’t involved in the decision making process. Looking in from the outside, this all looks fairly normal and a good way to operate. You have people with specialized skills functioning within those parameters. This works really well in an ideal situation when there is enough work within each department to keep everyone 100% utilized.

Experience shows however that that there isn’t an ideal environment, there is always flux, especially in the services industry. All organizations experience this flux, which creates availability in one department while leaving a deficit in another. In most cases the groups that have an abundance of work will try to increase their team size, while the groups that don’t have enough work will either try to reduce theirs or will have availability which doesn’t add value to the organization. Availability should be viewed as inventory, you want just enough to service the current needs. Too much or too little inventory costs an organization money. There is enormous waste in individual departments continually trying to manage their own resourcing needs/constraints.

Well what else can be done, this is just the way it works. Every company faces this problem. The problem might exist for every company, but that doesn’t mean that you should try to solve it the same way as everyone else.

A different approach

The problem here isn’t how the teams/departments are structured, but how the work is divided and assigned. It turns out that this problem has already been solved, just in a slightly different context. Principals within lean manufacturing can be applied at the corporate/department levels. Instead of creating work based on functional groups/departments an alternative is to create and organize the work based task & priority. Many in the software development community have already embraced this new approach and have been applying it successfully towards their projects. Focusing the team on the tasks and priorities for the organization, puts the responsibility on the entire team not just the department heads. Teams will then organize around the task as opposed to their function, promoting cross functional collaboration. This approach allows the organization to leverage all of the skill sets of the team vs the specific function of their department. Not only can the organization take advantage of the untapped potential in their teams, but can prioritize the work based on what is going to add the most value to the company now. This now optimized the teams ability to add value and improved the overall organization efficiency.

The goal of this post is to create awareness of the problem. Subsequent posts will discuss specific things organizations can do to solve this problem.

I’ve recently been updating my resume, this is something I haven’t done in over 8 years. I’d recommend that you don’t wait as long as I did to get yours current. Let me tell you, it more difficult than I thought it would have been. I think there are a few reasons for this. The first issue is that I don’t think I’m a good writer, anyone see the irony here. The second issue was, it’s really hard for me to remember what I did last week let alone over the past 8 years. The third and most significant problem that I ran into was how the information was being presented. I’ve hired plenty of people over the years and have seen a ton of resumes. So my natural reaction was to copy the style and format of what I had seen in the past. The problem with that approach was that I didn’t like what I was putting together and I couldn’t figure out why. I was having a really hard time trying to articulate what I was really good at and what I wanted to do.  I then got a bit of inspiration from Garr Reynolds. After watching a few videos of Garr presenting and reading his book, I realized that my resume was a tool that I should use to present myself to others.  It’s really about showing who I am and what I am capable of.  Everyone has their own story and you should show off your uniqueness by telling that story.  I’ve tried to craft my resume in a way that tells my story.  Most resumes are just a bunch of bloated bullet points in which people are trying to cram in as much information as possible.  Hence the title of this post.  I am not a bullet point person, although my resume does contain them.  I am much more comfortable explaining complex ideas visually, drawing out relationships.  Why couldn’t I do that for my resume?  Why do I have to follow the same format as everyone else?  The key thing was to make sure I presented all of the relevant information.  The text of my resume now revolves around two diagrams that I created that for the most part capture everything I was trying to articulate in words.

 

My work history over the past 13 years

My work history over the past 13 years

In a fairly quick glance someone will get a really good idea of where I worked and what roles I played at each organization and for how long.  

My growth as a professional from a technologist to an executive

My growth as a professional from a technologist to an executive

The second diagram, which I think the more useful, shows the growth in my skill sets and the level of influence as my career evolved.

I am by no means saying that my approach is better than what has been done in the past.  I am merely showing there are alternatives than the status quo.  I’m always trying to learn so if you have any suggestions on how I can improve my resume please feel free to comment.

As I was putting this post together, a bunch of other questions came to mind.  I’ll talk about those in future posts.