Friday, January 01, 2010

Suffering from Featuritis

Recently our users (you guessed it right, users) started at evaluating piece of application to fill a gap in our business needs. In the process, after they liked a system they asked me to look at it. The system have a bunch of frameworks written in Java but only runs on windows!

Why does people do this things in a vacuum? People like the fact that systems offer many features beyond their needs. It seems the primary driver for evaluation is Fear. Fear of being perceived as having fewer features than competitors. Fear that build will take forever and we won't be viewed as complete. Fear that the most features wins and when needs come we won't be ready. Non-experts want a Universal application. Users eventually know for them to Rule, they need to customize the general purpose application. What if instead of tones of features, we concentrate on making the application much easier to use with fewer features?


At least, I'll be satisfied to know if a java based application could complies with the Java specification on running on multiple platform (that is the premise of Java, isn't it).

Friday, August 28, 2009

Are you a micromanager?

Most people will say: "What a ridiculous question. We hire smart people and stay out of their way so they can do their jobs." However, asking the following questions will lead to a much better answer:

1) Do you pride yourself on being on top of your people and details of every project?
2) Do you judge the tasks of your people and think you can do a better job?
3) Do you pride yourself on asking detailed status reports and updates?
4) Do you believe that being a manager means that you have control over the decisions and you are better at making those decisions?
5) Do you believe that you care about quality, deadlines, more than your employees?

If answer to any of these questions is "yes", you need to see a leadership doctor.

"...more you focus on control, the more likely you’re working on a project that’s striving to deliver something of relatively minor value."

- Tom Demarco

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Meetings

Some folks are going to eight hours of meeting a day. Many of them have meetings to prepare for meetings. If you are serious about solving this problem and interested in getting things done you need to ask some serious questions:

- Why am I here?
- Why there are too many people in the room?
- Why is there a default length?

Perhaps this meeting-meter which calculate the cost of a meeting can give a guilt zone for those folks.

Monday, May 18, 2009

The portraits of former CEOs

When I was walking into the lobby of our main headquarter building in my previous company, there was an area where portraits of former CEOs were on the wall. We had every CEO or chairman’s picture back to when company was founded. The company’s focus was very executives heavy.
In the heart of change by John P. Kotter there is a story where the new executive team decided to remove all the pictures of old CEOs and replaced them with the pictures of their customer’s stores. Soon after the new pictures were up, several leaders mentioned that it is about time to focus on the customers and thereafter this become the talk of the company. It seems that little change made a big difference in their attitude toward customer service.
Perhaps next time you see your CEOs portraits – you can suggest a different type of art.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Power tools

I've been working with couple of interesting (great) tools recently. These tools are for those with an attitude and willingness to play around until get it right. “do it right the first time” addicts are doomed!

1) Visualization tool ManyEyes
2) Pentaho – NP and I were paring and quickly we felt that the ETL piece can save you time, money and reveal interesting insights about your data. I would recommend this to any friend who wants to extract, load or want to build a data warehouse application.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Other people's view (perspective)

I keep getting conflicting stories. The story of the blind men and an elephant (originated from India) shows why we need to consider other people's view (OPV) before moving forward with any project.

The blind man who feels a leg says the elephant is like a pillar; the one who feels the tail says the elephant is like a rope; the one who feels the trunk says the elephant is like a tree branch; the one who feels the ear says the elephant is like a hand fan; the one who feels the belly says the elephant is like a wall; and the one who feels the tusk says the elephant is like a solid pipe.

A wise man explains to them:

"All of you are right. The reason every one of you is telling it differently is because each one of you touched the different part of the elephant. So, actually the elephant has all the features you mentioned."

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Visual view of Obama's stimulus plan

I am a big fan of creating information visualization problems in purposeful,understandable, and beautiful ways. While creating some of our own reports this way, Charly mentioned that there is a nice treemap visualization on A breakdown of Obama's stimulus plan. The treemap boxes are proportional to the size of the proposed cost of each program.

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The ones in this posting were created with IBM’s free Many Eyes tool. It is a very simple tool to create many types of information visualization. It gives you opportunity to look at things differently and uncover hidden aspects of data with one glance.

Test your organization

Some people got to the top of your organization. Did they deserve what they have been handed with? Perhaps the better question is "What have they done with that power?"

As Bob Sutton the author of The No Asshole Rule
puts it:

"The best test of a person's character is how he or she treats those with less power."

If the test doesn't smell good then he suggests the following:

"Avoid pompous jerks whenever possible. They not only can make you feel bad about yourself, chances are that you will eventually start acting like them."

To test your organization he says:

"The best single question for testing an organization’s character is: What happens when people make mistakes?"

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Why "As a" in User story template is important

It gets interesting if two different persona (different users) find a given feature of software contradictory. I was thinking about one today, where we worked with one group and same story could cause whole bunch of unintended activities for other groups.

In software development process people write stories in the similar manner that a filmmaker make a blueprint of a movie by constructing story board.

Each feature is captured as a "story", which defines the scope of the feature along with its acceptance criteria. The narrative should include a role, a feature and a benefit.

The template of user story: "As a [role] I want [feature] so that [benefit]" has a number of advantages. By specifying the phrase "As a" within the narrative, you know who to talk to about the feature and also reminds you of a role or persona. Someone who can benefit by using the system (until then the system just costs). By specifying the benefit, you cause the story writer to consider why they want a feature. If you can't actually spell out the benefit, then something is missing.

Having done the homework and describe the same story from different point of views can save time and re-work. It seems like a good habit to write the same feature from different group's perspective.

Here is a an Aesop fable (great for telling your kids at night time) showing two different persona (Fox and Crow) having different goals in a situation.

The Fox and the Crow


A fox was walking through the forest when he saw a crow sitting on a tree branch with a fine piece of cheese in her beak. The fox wanted the cheese and decided he would be clever enough to outwit the bird.

"What a noble and gracious bird I see in the tree!" proclaimed the fox, "What exquisite beauty! What fair plumage! If her voice is as lovely as her beauty, she would no doubt be the jewel of all birds."

The crow was so flattered by all this talk that she opened her beak and gave a cry to show the fox her voice.

"Caw! Caw!" she cried, as the cheese dropped to the ground for the fox to grab.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Important lesson on Credit crisis

"I don't invest in anything I don't understand."

—Warren Buffett

Monday, January 05, 2009

Monday, December 29, 2008

Flip The Bozo Bit

The Term comes from Jim McCarthy’s book Dynamics of software development: Don’t flip the Bozo bits and more rules for delivering great software on time.

Problem. There is an idiot in your organization who drive and wastes everyone’s time.
Context. You are working on a project; one person makes unreasonable demands and pushes the wrong things all the times. One who never contributes anything remotely intelligent.
Forces:
* The work needs to get done.
* You can't fire the guy.

Anti pattern (possibly a wrong solution): Set the guy’s "Bozo bit" to TRUE. This means that, in your mind, everything he says and does can be safely ignored.

In some situations this technique can be used to filter out noise from your life. However ignoring the root cause for too long can lead to disaster.

How many of these guys do you have around?

Friday, December 26, 2008

Santa can help

1. Problem -Kids watching TV too much. Parents need a method to tell their kids to limit the watching time. This is a universal problem. This problem can be outsourced to Santa to have a card which gives kids a timing budget to watch TV.
2. Gift. The old man gives a bit extra time to the kids who watch educational and sport programs and deduct time from the naughty ones.
3. Business Model. Reward can be shared with TV stations who provide scientific programs, book authors and teachers who participate.
4. Texting. Santa card works like magic on the cell phones too. Kids who participate in scientific messages get a break while others get more limitation.
5. Marketing. Santa cards can be a great and empowering presents for holidays. Other companies like toy manufacturers, candy companies, and retailers can follow the same trend to increase literacy, health and Santa’s brand awareness for mutual benefits. This is a stepping stone toward fixing education and creation of long-lasting brand awareness by working with great partners.
6. Competition. None. Unless you want to brand it differently.
7. Brand. Proven character who some people believe in. The new cards can be issued right from your chimneys.
8. Customer base. Total market of two billion children. Children who are joining will have a bright future and a wonderful team to work with.
These are the kind of problems that Santa should solve. We need to solve our future problems by educating our children first and give them a brain friendly approach to deal with distractions.

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Take responsibility for your brain

Too often it is forgotten that our brain needs more care and safely than well being of our financial. We think our work environment is safe and our kid’s school is brain friendly place. Wrong. The biggest risk isn’t the current market crisis – it is the way people think. Worse yet, in difficult times people tend to reduce their creative efforts.
A good new year goal could be that in difficult times there is more need for taking care of your brain and injects creativity than at other times. There may be new situations to consider and new problems to solve.

Here is a wonderful clip by John Medina the author of “Brain Rules”. This video shows the toxicity of environment that exists at work and school environment and what to do about it.


Brain Rule #1 - Exercise from Mark Pearson on Vimeo.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Do something different!

How would you persuade people to call and get help to fix their financial situations? With the game changing in the market - many companies are running expensive ads to attract customers to call and buy their financial packages.

Why not instead hire celebrities to answer the phone randomly once in a while. This will create a buzz and will gravitate customers to call for help. When people see something they like (including a celebrity), they give you their attention. The unknown loan salesman is a mystery; however, the celebrity clearly can sustain your attention. You are watching them on TV or read their email (if the celebrity is your CEO etc) all the time and this is a proven pattern.

Invite Celebrities in your company (CEO, CFO, xxO etc) to answer the support calls once is a while.

Why not?

Friday, November 14, 2008

Mortgage payment

Should people get paid for paying their mortgage payment?

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Variable pay

Wages should be paid variably every week. Every fourth week the wage is more (for example 30-50% more). Other weeks are reduced to give the same overall pay.
Consequence is that people might live on the basic wage and treat the extra amount as investment money. There might be careful planning to get a new mortgage. The fourth week wage should increase depending on the profitability of the company – and that applies to everybody and not just some people on top. People may look at their salary in two ways: 1) current expenses and 2) capital money

This could have a powerful effect on investment attitude and economy.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Real-state market

When real-state price is falling many investors/buyers tend to wait until it falls further. This hurts the economy. As a result the market falls further because some people need to sell at lower price.
Why not, create a new deal that you sell at today's price but contract with the buyer that in a year or two if the house price index has fallen by a certain percentage (you keep that in an escrow but collect interest) then you refund that % to the buyer. There is no point in waiting. The market moves in a self organized way (not by government intervention) and the market stops falling and you may not have to refund anything. This could be a new type of contract which creates possibility of win-win situation.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Credit crisis as Antarctic expedition

Another wonderful whiteboard presentation by Paddy Hirsch. This time he describes the credit crisis as Antarctic expedition.


The credit crisis as Antarctic expedition from Marketplace on Vimeo.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Financial crisis - CDOs explained in 6 minutes

I have posted cartoons used for visualization of financial crisis here before. However nothing is faster and sticker than a 6 minutes white board presentation. Marketplace Senior Editor Paddy Hirsch simplify and visualize the problem at the white board in a 6-minute presentation he calls Financial Crisis 101: CDOs explained.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Just in case education

Think back of most of what you learned in high school. How much chemistry or biology you use in your life? We learn those things just in case if you become a medical student or biologist one day. Unfortunately most of the topics at schools are like that. However if you want to learn how to dynamically include a snippet of HTML in your page - you will learn something that sticks to your brain just in time.

Just in case learning is a huge waste in our education system. Can someone teach kids test driven and context-driven material so that they know why a topic can add value to their life?

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Why open source software works?

Open source developers, scratching their own itches. They don’t suffer from phony deadlines and decisions others make for them. They are the first class customer for what they produce and the problem "let’s check with users and where the requirement …is" simply doesn’t exist.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Creative pause

I am a big fan of pausing after a quick episode of getting something done. It is a good habit – you pause and interrupt the current path (if it isn’t a happy path), thus formulating thoughts about the situations that has not previously emerged in your thinking.

What if you can’t go back into the flow after a pause? Then your brain needs a nap. We are the only mammals who have consolidated our sleeping pattern into a long nightly period. My dogs are far more advanced when it comes to productivity as they follow these principles:

1. They take a nap whenever they want

2. Don’t care who is rambling, if they don’t understand – a quick nap get them back to where they can understand the rest

3. They are honest and not in the business of consolidating things

4. Have guts to admit they are mammals

5. They follow the open space principles – wherever is possible, take a nap

6. They do what they mean

7. They make me jealous

Google has a place to nap. I am wondering as to how best we can have a napping place at work. If you need a full handy tips for learning when you’re most likely benefit from a nap, read the wonderful article of Boston guide How to nap.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Slack

There is a great lesson in watching the faces of Olympic athletes just before they start a race. Bolt the fastest man on earth has a calm and peaceful and playful confidence. Swimmer Michael Phelps has a quiet and intent look and is always connected to his iPod (great unintentional advertisement for iPod).















When facing the project – minimize noise, long meetings, leaks and ask yourself what could I do about this thing to make it doable and great.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Visual thinking

"When it comes time to discover, develop, or share an idea, nothing is more powerful than a simple picture drawn live in front of--and ideally with the participation of-- our audience.

Aside from the cognitive and neurological science behind my statement, the fact is that when an audience sees an elaborate and polished presentation, they instinctively believe it is done and have a very hard time adding anything constructive to it. On the other hand, when they see the picture coming together in front of their eyes, regardless of how simple or ugly it may be, they emotionally respond and participate. "
- Dan Roam - the author of The Back of the Napkin: Solving Problems and Selling Ideas with Pictures

Here you simply watch the video below where Dr. de Bono, presents his six thinking hat ideas to the audience with the drawing in the back of the napkin style (an effective way). I have used the six thinking hats in the planning games for software to cover all the aspects. This video has the sticky factor for me and I can’t imagine getting the same effect through a power point presentation (unless it is a cartoon).



You might consider presenting your ideas on the plain paper next time you are posed to present something for your next project. For sure it won't be boring.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Micromanagement

There is a style of management with which comes from these assumptions: 1) People are motivated by reward and punishment 2) System works best with chain of command and control 3) People should obey their managers 4) Employees must do what their managers tell them to do.

Now you have a system in place where subordinates are incapable of doing the job, giving close instruction and checking everything the person does. Managers seldom praise and often criticize. Whatever their subordinates do, nothing seems good enough.

Your great people now are being treated as if they are incapable and untrustworthy. In this way, people who are micromanaged can become dependent, unable to make the smallest decision without asking their manager. Your system requires robots and "yes man" people to fulfill the top leader’s insecurities and needs. There might be a chain of managers who are criticized and they in turn pass this and become critical to others.

How to cope with micromanage? One way is to build a feedback loop (carefully) to show how these things are broken. When they over-control, avoid them and when they give you space, give them a positive feedback. In this way you have more control yourself (don’t micromanage your boss) and you are on the road of changing the command and control culture.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Random thoughts

1. Finish one thing really well before starting something new.
2. "Loosen up." – life isn’t that serious
3. Exercise — it is more important for your brain that your body
4. Being irreverent and off tangent helps
5. This is geeky - logical data model concept is out of date
6. Your project should have a good story – Hollywood way of making things happen.
7. Why CA does spent 3 Billion on Education and 9 Billion on prisons and criminal affairs?
8. Release your product daily

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Cutting in the bad time

Cutting is typically Recession obsession-preoccupation. It may well be necessary, but smart leaders can always increase profit by promoting great and creative bunch, people like you who read stuff like this. The cutting mentality is deadly – most everyone goes into a demoralizing shell when "cutting" becomes the smell of the place.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

The Dreyfus Model of Skills Acquisition

As well as providing a useful description of each stage of learning, the Dreyfus model describes how best to help the learner progress to the next stage in their learning.
According to the Dreyfus model there are five distinct stages, as the learner gains experience and develops insight and intuition. Very briefly:
The Novice wants recipes, best practices, quick wins
The Advanced Beginner wants guidelines, a safe environment to make mistakes
At the Competent stage you want goals, freedom to execute
The Proficient learner wants maxims, war stories, metaphors
The Expert wants philosophies, discussions and arguments with other experts(!)

Below is a video clip from Ben Zender’s talk at TED where he is coaching the audience to realize their untapped love for the classical music. This is a very entertaining talk which Ben plays like a 7, 8, 9, 10 year old child and then play like an expert. This video is fascinating and shows the Dreyfus model in action.

Friday, June 20, 2008

The Dreyfus Model - from beginners to experts

First Created by Hubert and Stuart Dreyfus in 1980 while researching AI, the model was popularized by Dr Particia Benner in the mid Eighties in her work on theNursing Crisis in the US.

Most people achieve a level of 'Absolute Beginner’ or ‘Competent’, with few moving to ‘Proficient’ and fewer to ‘Expert’. It seems people get stuck somewhere in between, they can move from being beginner to competent by their own but beyond that they need proficient and experts around them. Well, it all depends. Listen to the rest of the story by Andy Hunt of Pragmatic Programmer fame interviewed by Rich Sharpe (15 minutes).

Monday, June 02, 2008

Bad for your brain

Multitasking is a taken for granted attitude for many managers. I recently reminded one about the cost of multi-tasking, but the answer was “you can drive while you talk…” Surely this is multitasking. But are we serious about paying attention? When it comes to that your poor brain isn’t capable of multitasking. However, multitasking is a great way of prolonging your projects.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Cartoons for teaching

I always wanted to design games or create attractive stories for teaching things. Why not replacing the boring physics and math formulas with an interesting story where events happens in a city that people move with speed of light and most of the quantum phenomena affects their life in a dramatic way.

I also thought it would be cool to play a game “LoanOpoly” for learning the mortgage banking cycle instead of reading a dry, boring, thick and expensive book on the subject. I love books and presentations that tickle your creative spots using visuals, cartoons and charts. Here is a wonderful presentation [the author is unknown], using cartoons for teaching the subprime story.

All too true!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Virtualization is green

Jon made an interesting comment while we were talking about virtualization of servers. Beside other benefits he added: “it is also green”. It is good for our environment since you don’t need many servers, less heat, less parts and it requires less space.

Buy Don't Build

Now that I am working at a Start up, the concept of build vs buy is the top topic of my daily life. Here is the principle that I am following:

  • Buy big things (operating systems, compilers, database engines) and build small things.

The main question is? Does a system “Upgrade your users” and not just the product? Does it enhance user’s life?

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Reverse Living

I've been too busy changing job and starting things from scratch in the new company. Things like using open source development tools, getting back into creativity mode and working closely with business. I should say that I miss seeing my friends and should have a better plan to meet with them. I also feel younger in a reverse living fashion. As

"Reverse Living":

… The life cycle is all backwards. You should die first, and get it out of the way. Then you live for twenty years in an old age home, and then get kicked out when you’re too young. You get a gold watch and then you go to work. You work forty years until you’re young enough to enjoy your retirement.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

What is your story?

You make a story. You verify your story (if you are a programmer – you write tests to shape up your stories). Then you do work that matches the story. Your decisions are toward accomplishing the story. The story will become true because you're living it.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

New Book on Understanding Patterns of Project Behavior

If you do project work, you need to read the latest book from Tom Demarco and his co-authors, Adrenaline Junkies and Template Zombies: Understanding Patterns of Project Behavior.

This book captures memorable names for frequently encountered situations (project patterns). I am sure these phrases will be used in the future to paint the right concept for a given context and enhance the communication. Some of the patterns:

• Project Sluts—managers who can’t say no
• Soviet Style—building the product no one can love
• Hidden Beauty—an ethic that drives great developers
• News Improvement—status gets rosier as it rises in the organization
• Dead Fish—learning to appreciate project odor

and many more

Sunday, March 23, 2008

When it's time to quit?

It is time to quit when you realize you have been saturated and you need to open the space for your friends to move things forward. If you are working on project O then it is keeping you away from doing project N. It is time to quit when you think what you are changing is small and you can create a much bigger change and opportunity for your friends by conquering a new horizon.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Something that’s framed as a loss is really effective at changing behavior

From NPR Radio:

"Yale professors Ian Ayres, an expert in contract law, and Dean Karlan, a behavioral economist, both entered weight loss bets. And both won. They took off the weight they pledged.

With their new company, StickK.com, they hope to facilitate personal commitment contracts for weight loss and other types of personal goals. If you don't live up to your end of the contract, StickK will give your money to charity or a person you designate. The service is free to registered users. The professors, ultimately, hope to make money through advertising revenues."

“What we know about incentives is that people work a lot harder to avoid losing $10 than they will work to gain $10,” explains Ayres. “So something that’s framed as a loss is really effective at changing behavior.”

Some psychologist estimates the negative effect for an average loss to be up to 2.5 the magnitude of a positive one; it will lead to an emotional deficit. I have seen this effect when my team of 11-12 years old losing a soccer game (big deal) where winning seems just a normal thing.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Estimate using probability curve


Programmers usually pick the earliest possible date when they are asked to estimate. Tom Demarco and Tim Lister make this observation with the probability distribution diagram. The area under the curve shows the probability from 1 to 100%. The most probable date of complete is August 9 and we are certain that 100% of the project will be complete by February 20. Tom Demarco and Lister refer to earliest possible point of completion, June 17 as the "nano-percent date". Nano date is the one that managers like and if you give them a range like this diagram it may not go well with them at all. This explains the fact that programmers estimates at Nano date and things always takes longer.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Appraisal Process

“If the appraisal process is so useful, we should consider using it in our personal lives. Would we say to our spouse, significant other or intimate friend, ‘Dear, it is time for your annual performance appraisal. For the sake of our relationship and the well-being of the family unit, I want you to prepare for a discussion of your strengths and weaknesses and the ways you have fallen short of your goals for the year."

”Also, honey, I would like for you to define some stretch goals for the coming year."

- Peter Block, Forward to Abolishing Performance Appraisals book

Monday, January 21, 2008

Unpredictability with Style

Real leaders use unpredictability to inspire, teach and make the world a better place while tyrants use it to meet their numbers (management by spreadsheet) and profit from people.

Here Victor Borge shows this philosophy with a brilliant piece of musical comedy in an inspiring and unpredictable fashion.


Friday, January 18, 2008

Arthur Benjamin - a man faster than calculators!

Thanks to NP for mentioning this TED talk - I had a great time watching this pure entertainment show by the "mathemagician" Arthur Benjamin. Remarkable!

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Productive times of the day

What is your most productive times of the day? Don't go to meetings or tasks around these times of day. Look at your energy level during the day to find out when you are at the pick. After a week - you are positioned to do something about it.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Adjustments! When power adjusts the scientific results

Two Roman rulers, Julius and Augustus permanently got themselves into the western Calendar. I don’t know how many months we would have if other Roman rulers were as powerful of these two!? To accommodate them, there were some calendrical adjustments made. Sept means 7 and Dec means 10 but their months are shifted. August month is so important that an extra day needed to be taken from February, which originally had 29 days (30 in a leap year), and was reduced to 28 days.

I see same pattern happening now in many areas where people with power easily override the outcome of a scientific result. The "I don’t like that number" syndrome.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Use Red to change your attitude towards a habit

To stop smoking, put a red band around cigarettes to give the smoker a guilt zone. By stopping at the red band, the smoker gains control over her or his smoking habit.


Suggested by Edward De Bono.



Monday, November 12, 2007

The Red, Yellow and Green pattern

Using colors can add intelligence and meaning to your work. I found using red, yellow and green pattern in many different situations giving you the control needed to achieve quality. Control is a wonderful feeling when you have been out of control. While busy red indicates that you don’t have time to talk, yellow means strictly business and green shows that you are open for any kind of conversation.

In today world of agile software development, Red is failure, yellow is for code smell and green asserts that you are in control.

Cars use the color pattern indicating oil, gas and other things that are running out. Where else do you see this pattern can be used?

“If you do not design your own life then someone else will do it for you.”

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Key on Caring

Our offshore coordinator asked this via Email:

What courses of technology would you recommend for your staff to take?

He had a list of classes (mostly specific to Microsoft Platform) in the body of email.

My answer. They shouldn't take any of those courses. They shouldn’t key on languages and platforms. They should key on learning to communicate, to think, and to work well with other people as well as to care for their craft. Once they have those, learning the languages and technologies become simple matters.

Reading principle-based books like Pragmatic programmer and Peopleware is by far a better start then blindly following those courses.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Subtracting = Simple = Better = Beautiful

Fresh from several years of computer programming, 137-year-old Sirius settles in the LA to finish his research on the behavior of computer programmers. But during his research he found most of the code written so far follows the Brownian motion that happens in physics. He was fascinated by a gentleman (Danash) who learns all the computer languages alphabetically…Ada, Basic, C, C++ etc. His research shows that people are always adding stuff and he thinks: “Kids should learn subtraction at school prior to learning addition”. He remembers in his dream while having fever, that a fat hand starts writing really bad code in solo. There is only one hand coding and the other one is missing. The hand then opens his mouth and starts drinking coffee and throw up almost instantaneously on the code. This goes on for the entire development cycle.

Over time, his disgust towards bad-code forces him into near-insanity, and finally Danash introduces him to a group of people who actually care about subtracting the obvious and adding the meaningful. He anxiously study and searches for meaning in all the things that had filled and fulfilled his life up to that point.

Their code was like a garden with a few things carefully selected and placed, simple, beautiful. Sirius realized that they also eat in smaller plates, pass the keyboard frequently to each other, laugh frequently, test like there is no tomorrow, and build their software 20 times a day. That was a turning point for Sirius’s research. There were no bad dreams and there were always 4 set of hands involved in any coding episode.

I should take my medicine, before this writing gets totally out of hand.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Sarbanes-Oxley

"When the cost of a new control is small compared with the legal exposure it covers, CIOs will implement the control. But this has always been true. Sarbanes-Oxley doesn't change anything. I predict that Sarbanes-Oxley will still be the law of the land 20 years from now. I further predict that it will have no effect whatsoever (other than causing a bit of panic in the first year or two) and will eventually be universally ignored. It will be like the blue laws still in existence in most states that prohibit a Wal-Mart from being open on Sundays, even though Wal-Mart is open on Sundays in all 50 states."

- Tom Demarco

Friday, September 28, 2007

Blitz

Blitz is a fast game of playing chess game. You must use 40 moves in 5 minutes, as you think and when you go over time you lose. The objective of this tight restrains is to keep the game brief and focused.

It reminds me of stand up meetings (they are Blitz meetings) which give all the members a chance to express their thoughts in a few seconds.

In chess there is a timer to keep track of moves and time. In stand up someone needs to play the role of the timer. How do you make one lose if she goes into details?

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Committees

Some quotes on committees:

"A committee is a group that keeps the minutes and loses hours."
"The length of a meeting rises with the square of the number of people present."
"You'll find in no park or city a monument to a committee."
"Committee - a group of the unfit, appointed by the unwilling to do the unnecessary."
"A committee is a cul-de-sac down which ideas are lured and then quietly strangled."

Sounds familiar?

Saturday, September 15, 2007

I wish had seen this 5 minutes clip before buying my new car

Rob Gruhl the car buyer expert gives some great, practical advice on how to buy cars.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Trust

Most corporate default company assumption is "Employees are NOT to be trusted!"

You can not use a DVD writer, portable devices, access blogs or certain sites. On top of that your computer will log off automatically whenever you walk away to drink a cup of tea (drinking coffee had the same side effect). Actually, company loses money on the policy by wasting its employee’s time and drives the creative one away.

"Do employees who aren’t trusted behave as nicely to the customers as those who are trusted? If we don't trust them why are we hiring them?"

The Healthy cycle

"Listen to your employees, listen to your customers. Do what they tell you."

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Video Specification

YouTube is a great way of learning almost anything. Why not create a similar tool for your company to deliver visual requirements to remote teams besides sending a textual specification.
Those who are remote then have a chance to watch a three minute video and get an idea as to what the topic is. However, if people who are making a 300 page of boring specification are the same who will make these videos then forget it.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Take a personality type test to find out who you are

NP was very excited about his personality type test. Meanwhile I was talking on the phone with AM and he just came back from a personality checking type of a seminar. He was very thrilled too. It is my personality to look into this further, if two smart guys are very excited then I should be too. That itself explains my type. You can check yours and your spouse here. I am not too sure as to how scientific these tests are but some of the points are very valid and fun to play with.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

See the waste

Do you think if you replace a great developer with 10 mediocre ones you save money?

Do you think 10-20 mediocre developers can produce the same thing that a great one creates no matter how long they work?

Would you rather to work with 2 great people or deal with 20 unknown ones that you never see daily?

Final question:

Would you rather fly in an airplane having a pair of extremely skilled pilots or die by a crew of 10 clueless one?

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Contagious

Seth Godin talks about a study that shows obesity is contagious. “If your best friend gets fat, your chances of gaining weight more than double.”

It is very important to have a tool for enticing you to choose what you learn when you’re hanging out with friends. I often tell my kids “Show me your friends, I tell you who you are”. A fat free blog could act as a tool to stay in touch with your selected friends. There is also RSS tool like google reader to let the flow going.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Value Stream Mapping

You are able to see that your process is taking longer than ever and your gut feel says you need new resources to remedy this situation. If application is running slow you think you need new servers or changing the application itself etc.


The question is what tools do we have to map our gut feel to reality? How do you know all the way from start to finish where the waste (waiting) vs. work reside in the process?

Value Stream Mapping - it simply plots the course of the added value vs. non value added (waste) to distinguish where the areas of attacks are. Mary Poppendieck’s presentation on productivity clearly has a great example of this process. You can also watch her presentation here.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

When in doubt reverse it

Language is a tool to express situations. However our language for expressing the software life cycle is very poor and deficient. We couldn’t find a suitable word between 'Development' and 'Test' and we have been stuck with Analysis->Design->Dev->Test cycle. Reversal is a great tool – doing just that you get TDD or TDDA. Now we are equipped with words like “TestDriven” and “Refactoring” coined by Martin Fowler, but there is much more to be done.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Channel 137 - a TV funnel that worth watching

I have created the Channel137 site to contain intelligent videos. This is a channel for people who miss intelligent contents in regular TV channels, topics like agile methodology, Lean, extreme programming, and interviews with great minds on any subject. You just turn off your TV and watch the shows from your computer or by connecting them to your big screen.

You can also rate the channel and vote on its content.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

What should project managers do when it comes to planning?

What should project managers do when it comes to planning? There are tones they can do to avoid wasting people’s time and bore them to death by putting fungible names on a list while playing with fake numbers.

I think there's a better way (this tool has steps), one that gets everybody just about everything they need, project managers, bosses, programmers etc. Here goes:

Step one: download Jeff Patton’s (from Thoughtworks) wonderful article on “It is all in how you slice”. You should print the article on a colored paper (forget the lousy cost savings policy – it costs more not to have it in color). Read it carefully.

Next step: Print more copies for people who might be interested or benefit from this tool.

Next step: follow the steps in the article for one of your projects. See if your team or customers will benefit from this process/tool.

Next step: visualize your exploration. Something 1 foot by 2 foot or so. Printed on cardboard. You can transfer the findings onto a spreadsheet or just take a picture and communicate.

Last step: Make this a habit and invite your best customers to help in your planning. Look into yours and other people energy level and compare it to the way planning was done before.

Send me a testimonial comment if this helps.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Four walls to trigger positive behavior toward having a balanced life



Remember there are four walls in your room. They are for Education, health, Art and friendship. I have drawn a simple picture of walls for my kids and every night they put dots on walls each time there is a success for a specific activity.

Today I looked at my own walls and it looks like this picture. I am not doing well when it comes to Art. To score on that, my daughter decided to teach me how to draw picture of Nemo the fish. I am very excited about getting points on the Art and friendship both. It is amazing how a simple tool can have a long lasting effect on your behavior.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

It Is Up Side Down

Why people who don’t know anything about projects and work impose policies, deadlines and reward on those who perform the work? The mind set is that people are prisoners (of promotion, reward, title, etc) and they should follow orders. The wrongest thing is when they judge an employee and reward an individual or stop their work. I always give a score of 0 to managers who reward an individual publicly instead of acknowledging teams. I often wonder how they treat their own kids. There is a big difference when you say “you are a great kid” vs. “I liked the way you helped your sister today”. The first one is Jugging on the personal level while the second feedback is very useful and sticky.

Here is a great Video illustrates how these kind of small-minded people act as if they somehow deserve to judge far more talented people than themselves.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Boring

Sometimes while driving I see a person holding an advertisement sign. The person behind the sign does nothing all day but waving a sign. If you pay attention around you at work, you see some people having the similar sings up all the time.
Why not make these people helpful? Perhaps we should ask them questions. How is the traffic? Where can I find a nice restaurant? Where is the closest bank? Can we skip boring people with administrivia at staff meetings? Perhaps an engaging experience can help to reduce stress and make this world a better place.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Simple way of gathering metrics

Despite of huge investment in tracking tool still process oriented mangers struggle with gathering meaningful metrics. According to Tom Demarco a useful metric should have the following qualities:
1. It must be a consistent indicator of the cost factors to be projected
2. It must be available early enough to satisfy reasonable political constraints imposed on the estimating process

A very simple and low cost way of gathering useful metrics is suggested by Esther Derby which you draw a picture of all the modules and each time there is a production problem put a color coded dot on the module – red for a crash, yellow for an issue with a workaround and blue for a data problem. You will see quickly the most error-prone modules, and gradually you can tackle those problems one by one.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Turtle

Adding requirements for security, data shield and audit purposes come with a cost of slowness. Look at the nature – animals with shells (security) are far slower than others.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Simplicity

“How come my car is so much larger than my camera, but my camera’s manual is thicker than my car’s manual”.
- John Maeda MIT Professor

Saturday, May 19, 2007

SPECIAL THINKING DAYS

Friday afternoon you feel different since Saturday is a special day. Many groups have special days and they look forward to have them. The concept here is the same, to create special days that increase productivity and enrich your life.

1. SMALL PROJECTS DAYS

Many of us have tasks and projects that they mean to start but don’t for various reasons. Often something unattractive mandate or meetings get in the way. However, on this day we break through by committing ourselves to spend a short specified amount of time 2 hours per pair on doing interesting stuff. On that day we say “No” to meetings – email or any other things to get things done.

2. LEARNING DAYS

Whatever your potential is - you become better through learning, study and practice. It would be a great day to design new tools like inventing a new game for learning the business. On this day you can learn a new skill, new programming language, crafting a new screen you always wanted for administrating your shared files, etc.

3. GETTING THINGS DONE DAYS

On these days your mood is clearing clutters. No email review when you start your machine and allocate time for reading emails same way C programmers do for allocating arrays [1024]. Read email at 10, 2 and 4. Reinforce the habit of making a small to do list of 4 things on a sticky or index card. Set short deadline for each activity and do one thing at a time (multitasking is evil).

4. POSITVE ACTION DAYS

On these days you invest time and energy to help others. Positive actions create a permanent effect of team work and long lasting friendship.

5. CLEAN UP DAYS

Increasingly we seem to spend our lives rushing around with stressful meetings, phony deadlines and many other things passes easily through our firewall. One consequence is failure to extract the full value that every moment offers and emotional bankruptcy. On these days you make “no” the default answer for new tasks, meetings, and other demands. Those things should wait and earn their way into the attention field. On these days you don’t review your email when your day or machine starts. Morning is yours, afternoons you can spend time with your teammate to refactor that piece of a code that make you feel unclean. You delete emails, trash documents and turn off your phones.

6. TRY SOMETHING NEW DAYS

It is very easy to become entrenched in the same habits and get used to your daily habits. There is always stuff in the horizon with the potential to enrich our lives – we just have to be willing to seek them out. On Try Something New Days start trying different kind of food (spray coffee powder on your pasta – it is great), talk with different kind of people, go visiting somewhere you’ve never been. Write a utility you always wanted in new language. (I am not qualified on many of these items, as I am too lazy to go to new places or do some of the aforementioned items; however I believe in trying new things. I have tried the grounded coffee on pasta and can’t eat pasta without it ever since).

7. WORK FROM HOME DAYS

On working from home days we get into the creativity zone and purposely engage our brain into thinking of “possibilities”. Your mode will change and you can perform better at work when you have these days (pauses).

Friday, May 11, 2007

Learning from monkeys

NP told me that monkeys peel bananas at the ‘wrong’ end. I have tried it and it seems peeling is easier and actually banana taste better.
Are there more possibilities at your daily routine that can benefit from this principle? XPers tests before writing code, Dell sells computers before making them…

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Fail over

There is a joke (by De Bono) about the airline pilot who apologized to the passengers for having to shut down one engine. He explained that it meant they would arrive two hours late into New York. A second engine failed and he explained that they would be four hours late. Then a third engine failed. At this point the co-pilot leaned across to him and said:” I hope to goodness the last engine doesn't fail or we shall be up here all night!"

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Welcome to feedback culture

Smart customers know that projects are done by a step by step process, not an event.
Instead of this:
Request ---> Complain
It works like this:
Request---> sample ---> ask for feedback ---> learning ---> more sample ---> accept ---> relationship

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Who says we need our logo on every slide?

Garr Reynolds says: “The logo won’t help make a sell or make a point, but the clutter it brings does add unnecessary noise and makes the presentation visuals look like a commercial. And people hate commercials or being sold to. We don’t begin every new sentence in a conversation by re-stating our name, why do we bombard people with our company logo in every slide?”

He also shows a clip of Lewis Black appearing on CNN and getting fed up with the extraneous graphics on the display. Fun to watch:



Thursday, April 26, 2007

When to stop

Toyota assembly line stops when something is wrong. There is a willingness to quit when things are off track - then they are on the path of mastery.

If you fire your worst boss, clients, stop working with the people who have no value, stop working on wasteful activities, then you free up an enormous energy. Direct that energy toward conquering great things and odds of success go way up.

Your pick?

You are presented with 2 options of picking a bottle of wine in a restaurant. One is going for 20$ and the other one goes for 30$. Which one do you pick? What if there is a third choice for 40$?

Last week I provided estimate to our users in a range, 4-8 weeks, 4 being the probability of have something to deliver. User’s understating was that we are going to finish in 6 weeks!

Monday, April 23, 2007

Better = Simpler

Many organizations view complexity as a sign of getting better. They make things overly complicated by imposing new processes which create metrics (usually they are not based on results) they like to have. The end result however, is very depressing: fear, pressure, uncertainty, and complexity. What suffers? Human CPU is not very good at handling pressure when things are complicated. Since complexity is the default (law of physics), you need highly creative people to make things simple. Creative people survive only in an environment which creativity is allowed. While many advanced teams are implementing proven methods to increase teamwork and creativity, still many managers are at sleep or denial, ignoring possibilities of doing things new ways.

At one time China was ahead of the West in science and technology then they started to believe that information was enough and progress came to a halt because they never developed “possibility”.

Simplicity is the best indicator of “getting better”.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

The more "done" something appears, the lesser and narrower feedback get

One of my colleagues at work has asked me to give feedback on his vision document (position paper). Oh well, the document is so strongly voiced that I am not sure that it is a vision document, a road map or a solution to a perceived problem. The document is definitely looks sharp with pretty pictures of sunny vision and green road maps. It also has an appendix section containing code snippets of a tagged language (xml/xslt). I am sure that our friend has put tones of work into this and his document is well thought out and incisive.
So, why am I losing energy as I read through the document? So much of what I read strikes me as correct but somehow belittling of the problems real domain face. The vision: Reuse, shared components and shared database. The document then goes through some lengths to show a solution along with a possible implementation.
The problem with such a generic vision statement is more or less the equivalent of a manager advice/order to "get better." That is no help at all if not insulting. I am also not a big fan of vision first, team later approach. Most successful companies define a domain to explore, build a team and then have the team to come up with the vision.
I am losing more energy as I see the perfectly fonted and formatted draft, every sentence seems more done than you’d like it open. The solution proposed deal with small amount of real problem, pretty much like an iceberg where 90% of it is underwater. The best design is emergent and done through exploration rather than a perfectly prescribed solution.
Am I just grumpy, or others may get annoyed as well? I shared the document with NP and DR, they both reacted the same way as I did - just a little stronger.
Don't make the Vision or a design document look done. Here is the most damaging part of this exercise besides setting the wrong expectation as Kathy Sierra suggest:
The more "done" something appears, the lesser and narrower feedback get.
If you show me something polished and pretty, you’ll get feedback on font sizes. The possibility of getting feedback is far more achievable if you do it on a piece of paper, napkin or white board. Java people use Napkin Look and Feel, for the same reason.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

When measurement becomes dangerous

Tom Demarco - based on the Rob Austin's book, Measuring and Managing: Performance in Organizations is that measurement is a potentially dangerous business. When you measure any indicator of performance, you incur a risk of worsening that performance. This is what Rob calls dysfunction.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Make the study interesting by using test driven approach

I was helping my daughter with the goal of making the social study subject interesting. Initially she was torturing herself by reading a page passively trying to get through the chapter. I was thinking that timing of this material isn’t right for an eleven year old person. We all get interested in these subjects later in life when we are busy working and there is no time for literature, social study and other great things.
To achieve our goal (learning the topic by injecting interest) – my daughter and I decided to use the test driven approach. Without reading any of the chapters we tried to answer the questions first. It was kind of like a guessing game which you do your best to come up with the answers. Now that acceptance criteria were defined early in the game and our brains were sensitized to those questions, we started reading the chapter. Every time we hit the line containing an answer – we look at each other, if we’ve gotten it correctly we smile, nod and hi five, otherwise we learn and that learning sticks.
This is a fear reducing method that can help your child [team] overcome something that is perceived as boring or scary.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Helping people determine if they work for an asshole.

This is the test of ARSE (Asshole Rating Self-Exam ) scores based on Bob Sutton’s book, The No Asshole Rule . Clearly, I am not a fan of profanity and forgive me for using this word here; however "asshole" is the only word that delivers the proper message in some situations.

How do you improve the productivity of meetings for software developers?

Bring a mobile projector to meetings. Many people may raise their eyebrows by saying it is expensive but if you use a projector in your working session you’ll see the difference. These days I say that every team should have one projector handy.
Why is this important? If you have a working meeting and need to share and see different things, it is far better to show everyone the same thing on a big screen. If you print screens on paper people will drift off and meeting can’t follow its course. The feedback loop increases once everyone is on the same page and usually your meetings are very focused and productive.
This is not as expensive as most people think. One of my friends said the price for a mobile projector is in the range of 1000 to - $2000. People are expensive; it doesn't take much to recover that kind of cost.
Sharing ideas over a big projector screen is a wise investment and cost reduction act.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Measurment Rules

"Isn't it about time we quit measuring professional success in one dimension, vertically, and start considering how much your actual work matches your desired work?"

1: A useful measurement should help you to understand and make decisions.
2: The cost of gathering metric shouldn’t exceed the benefit it provides.
3: The aim of metric shouldn’t threaten the safety of employees.
4: People who measure shouldn’t design it to nudge the numbers to make themselves look better.
5: Management shouldn’t have a preconceived outcome in mind and are open to whatever the data tells.
6: It is about learning
7: Use “Just enough” measurement to understand the system
8: Don’t measure individuals
9: Create Safety – Before collecting data, talk with the entire team. It’s critical that your team understands that they will not be blamed, ranked, or rated based on the data.
10: Assure your team that you won’t be using the data to evaluate them. You are depending on the team to collect the data, and you want accurate data.
11: Having distorted data is worse than having no data. If your team starts reporting the data in a way designed to make their performance look better, you will be relying on distorted data.
12: See the whole - Increase employee safety by only seeing aggregate data, not the results associated with any one employee. Otherwise you lose trust.
13: Gather Data based on your department goals, anything else is irrelevant.
14: Find the motivation - Ask why five times to get to the root cause of why we need these data in the first place.
15: You don’t have to have fancy automated data collection or an elaborate measurement program to do this.
16: Make sure the collected metric is used in a way to increase customer satisfaction.
17: Check the progress
18: Stop - if there is no reason to keep collecting the data.