Sunday, April 2, 2017

Times, they are a chang'in

One of the toughest things to deal with as an agent for change is how people deal with change.

As any type of manager, we constantly look for efficiencies.
Even leaving "process innovation" and its goal of 10x change out of the equation, there are significant gains to be had by implementing a continuous improvement program. Whatever system we are working with, near the top of our managerial todo list must be improvement. This means process efficiency.

Efficiency comes in many flavors and doing a deep-dive into current processes gives us the insights needed to streamline and make better. However, a mistake is to think that our changes (no matter how nobel) are going to be accepted. We have to understand what we are asking and plan strategically for the implementation.

There are two types of change: technical and adaptive.

Making technical change is about picking up efficiency by shifting process - an example would be moving from sticky notes on a white board to a computerized system like Jira. This requires a change in process and tools and will certainly add the benefit of visibility. It will also make backup and arching easier. It won't however force anyone to think differently.

Making adaptive change requires an underlying shift in what people believe. This may come is the form of relinquishing power over certain functions and changing scope on the way their team contributes to projects.
Lets consider a fictitious sales manager who is used to acting as de facto project manager.
In this capacity, project changes to support sales get weighted heavily.
This most likely will frustrate an efficient project delivery.
Changing project leadership from the sales manager to the project manager will force everyone on the tea to behave differently. We clearly see the benefits of this change with more timely deliveries, clear project scope, less stress on the teams, improved customer satisfaction. The sales manager (and maybe even the team) however may find it difficult to ADAPT.

As champions of change, we have been given a mandate for improvement that we are happy to accept. After all, inspiring program efficiency is a worthwhile task and a satisfying aspect of our career. However, strategic change is prudent. Take the time to demonstrate your value first. Plan your changes over time. Remember, the mandate and promise of senior management support today can go away tomorrow if too many feathers are ruffled in the process.

Good luck!

Friday, January 29, 2016

Emergent Design

Basically this post is to point to a fantastic article at

There are a lot of agile primers out there that explain the basics of running agile projects, but they lack implementation details that we as experienced software professionals are concerned with.
For instance, when I first started to learn about agile (after many years in waterfall), I wondered about up-front design.

"How can a scalable infrastructure be developed with a focused view of  deliverable slices of functionality?"

Dr. Rico has authored a detailed article that explains the ideas of Just Enough planning and Emergent Design. Interestingly enough, he recommended a book by Mike Cohn that I am currently rereading.

In summary, please read about these techniques and enjoy the references to further reading.

Dr. David Rico

 Read Dr. Rico's article HERE

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Brainstorming as a Culture

Brainstorming That Works describes it the following way:
The expression brain storm and the word brainstorming was popularized in Applied Imagination by Alex Osborn. The word is a perfect description of the brain's process. Many synapses start firing and multiple associations stored in the brain get recalled. The point is to get so many thoughts coming up simultaneously and triggering so many other thoughts and ideas that your mind's alter ego that likes to think negative thoughts can't get a word in edge wise. 
The little boat is the problem statement :)

So what does brainstorming require? Well really, it is a very simple list.
  1. As stated above, have a clear problem statement. What is the goal of this session? Don't be so focused that you limit the innovation, but still be clear.
  2. Everybody participates. I'm highlighting that one because it is the one I feel is most important. I am dedicated to the Learning Organization and this is a big part of that. I don't think you'll get the best ideas if your STORM is limited to a room of architects. 
  3. As Tom Kelley states in his book, set a goal for a one hour meeting. He found that 100 ideas in that time equals a good session.
  4. Have fun. Consider this a benefit. You are creating a culture that will attract the best talent. Allow the comedic solutions, in fact, encourage them. 
As a Learning Organization we all strive to utilize all brain power to spark innovation. Brainstorming is a must-have in this culture. Not once-in-a-while, but constantly
The more it is used, the more influence it will have on your corporate culture.
You'll see creativity sparking here and there on a regular basis because the juices are flowing and everyone feels that it is not only allowed to contribute on this level, but expected.
Once word gets out, you'll enjoy knowing that you've just updated your company's reputation to "a cool place to work"

In summary, by implementing brainstorming into your planning or sprints, you'll generate more innovative ideas, foster a more collaborative environment, strengthen your learning organization, and build a better reputation that'll attract and retain the best talent. .
Oh yeah, and it is practically free  :)


Friday, November 20, 2015

The Lean Startup

I've been re-reading Eric Ries' amazing book.
It is just as good the second time through - not a skim and jump around read, but good enough as a text to go cover to cover.

What you'll find here is the foundation for building a company. This book wasn't around when I was doing my MBA, and we were given "The New Business Roadtest". I'm sorry for that, because this book belongs in the required reading of any MBA, especially those that focus on entrepreneurship.

This book complements some of my other favorites, The Fifth Discipline and Davenport's Process Innovation.

For companies that strive to build a Learning Organization (and the best ones do), the Build-Measure-Learn feedback loop is integral to driving for success.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

10X v 10%

The title looks like a horrible math problem.
However, in reality what it comes down to is "Innovation & Improvement: Not the Same Thing"

I've recently decided to go back to basics and re-read the best book on 'Process' ever. I refer to Davenport's HBS edition of Process Innovation. If you can read past the early 90's predictive voice in regards to IT, the rather immutable facts present themselves. Its best to start by just getting the terms defined.

There is a lot of confusion in the terms -to name a few:
  • Process Redesign
  • Process Improvement
  • Continuous Improvement
  • Process Innovation
Davenport makes a dramatic distinction between Process Innovation and Improvement.
Process Improvement sets it's goals at 5 to 10%
Process Innovation however has goals of 50 to 100%. That's a 10X change
So does that answer the question as to whether these terms are interchangeable?
Yes, there is a huge difference between them.

Does this mean that we should choose Process Innovation over Process Improvement?
No, they work together.
Buying a new car is a big change, but you need to have a maintenance plan or it'll break down.

Process Innovation effort makes large cultural changes across organizational areas (big risk - big reward). Process Improvement continuously updates the resulting processes to make them more efficient over time.

These two disciplines work together for the health of the business.
Process Innovation handing off to Process Improvement.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Does a Klout score matter

Early last week I was at lunch with some folks that I work with time and again. I was checking my klout score on my phone because I have been monitoring its fluctuations based on what was happening with my social accounts. I'm always curious about impressions that others may have, so I asked how the rest of the group felt about Klout scores. Overwhelmingly, the group was aggressively anti-klout. Now if it stayed there I would have given more weight to their arguments, but then it became an anti-social networking discussion. I want to share with you how it went and what my thoughts are after this give & take.

First off, we're a friendly bunch. Yes, we can be intense at times, but I am very comfortable with the folks that I was eating with and like them very much. They are all bright people and that is why I was soliciting their feedback. It turns out that they didn't know much about Klout and asked me what goes into the score.
Klout's algorithm is proprietary I'm sure, but I know that it takes accounts that I sync up with into consideration (whether it uses them all at this time, I have no idea). But you can sync up Facebook, Twitter, Blogs, Instagram...etc.

And here is where the Devil's opinions came out to play

There was a tidal wave of negative feelings towards social media. Some of the comments were: "waste of time", "I don't get it" and "who cares". I reminded the group that it also takes blog sites into account and that lead to a sub-conversation - Is Blogging Social ?

I have the opinion that blogging is not social.
I am happy to entertain arguments that consider it social (because I could see that POV: following blogs, or commenting on posts, even sharing blog posts), but I think there is more to it than that.

As a blogger I feel that I am contributing to the community

Bloggers don't just consume information, we contribute or even curate content for use by others.
Don't we all want to be viewed as Subject Matter Experts? The web gives us the most amazing opportunity that mankind has ever seen to get our opinions, experiences and research out into the world. By contributing, others can benefit and we in turn build our reputations.

By this time, I brought up the now famous story of the marketing exec that lost out on a job because his Klout score was a 35 v. a 65 for the guy that got the job. My point was that other industry professionals are valuing this metric. One response from the table was "I wouldn't want to work for a company that took Klout into consideration."  ---- HERE IS WHY I AM WRITING THIS POST

Why not?
A executive marketing position means that the candidate understands marketing in 2014.
A high Klout score means that the candidate has worked hard to be seen as an influential person on the web. Web marketing is where it's at and where it will continue to go. Therefore, I would rather hire a marketing person with a high Klout score too.

I really get frustrated with people that I work with if they don't cultivate their online presence. Does this mean that they don't understand how business is done now, or they don't have a vision for how business is moving to a global - distributed model? I have a hard time accepting that.

Klout measures how much weight you have on the web.
I don't know it their algorithms will stand the test of time, or if other, better ways of measuring will come up, but the discussion is the same.

Is being influential on the web valuable?

Of course, I say "immensely"

Monday, May 12, 2014

Price Wars in Cloud 1.0 Land

There is not much to say on this that hasn't already been written about in Forbes, TechCrunch and the like. Well, except that it makes me very happy.

It seems that Cloud 1.0 services are perceived as a commodity these days. The innovation in is happening in Cloud 2.0 (and not by the big guys that are slugging it out 1.0 land). So that leaves giant providers like Google, Amazon and Microsoft to create value by slashing their prices. In April, Amazon had their 42 price reduction since 2008. This is great. It is just what we all expected of IaaS. We get great service, security & stability, set-it and forget-it functionality and falling prices. I am happy to benefit.

But what about Cloud 2.0?
I'm happy where I am, but I always want more.
AWS gives us tier pricing and we can pick different specifications, but cloud 2.0 will allow us to build our own. This functionality will allow us to save even more.

Question is, will we see a new innovative company emerge to challenge the giants, or will they be assimilated? I'm sure a little of both. But however it works out, it'll just keep getting better for us.