Sunday, July 5, 2015

Choose your box


Do you buy this idea from Mark Chussil?
A box is a frame, a paradigm, a habit, a perspective, a silo, a self-imposed set of limits; a box is context and interpretation.

We cannot think outside boxes. We can, though, choose our boxes.
We can even switch from one box to another to another.

Boxes get dangerous when they get obvious, like oft-told stories that harden into cultural truth. Letting a box rust shut is a blunder not of intention but of inattention.

Boxes are invisible until we look for them.

In other words: driving yourself to think "outside the box" is a box onto itself. The "outside box" is a box --- gasp!



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Thursday, July 2, 2015

Carl Sagan nailed it!


Are you old enough to remember astronomer Carl Sagan? A very perceptive guy, to be sure (600 published papers, 20 books, TV series .... )

And, here is some Carl Sagan advice which, in my opinion, nails it for the decision makers among us*
  1. Seek independent facts. Remember, a fact is a cause supported by sensed evidence and should be independently verified by you before it can be deemed legitimate. If you cannot find sensed evidence of causal relationships you should be skeptical. 
  2. Welcome open debate on all points of view. Suspend judgment about the event or claim until all cause paths have been pursued to your satisfaction
  3. Always challenge authority. Ask to be educated. Ask the expert how they came to know what they know. If they cannot explain it to your satisfaction using evidence-based causal relationships then be very skeptical. 
  4. Consider more than one hypothesis. The difference between a genius and a normal person is that when asked to solve a problem the genius doesn’t look for the right answer, he or she looks for how many possible solutions he or she can find.
  5. Don’t defend a position because it is yours. All ideas are prototypical because there is no way we can really know all the causes. Seek to understand before seeking to be understood. 
  6. Try to quantify what you think you know. Can you put numbers to it? 
    • Show the numbers
    • Do the math
  7. If there is a chain of causes presented, every link must work. Verify that the chain of causes meets the advanced logic checks defined above and that the causes are sufficient in and of themselves. 
  8. Use Occam’s razor to decide between two hypothesis; If two explanations appear to be equally viable, choose the simpler one if you must. Nature loves simplicity.
  9. Try to prove your hypothesis wrong. Every truth is prototypical and the purpose of science is to disprove that which we think we know. 
  10.  Use carefully designed experiments to test all hypotheses. In other words, be sure the experiment, the observations, and the hypothesis are all internally consistent.



*As shamefully taken from HerdingCats
 

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Monday, June 29, 2015

The first question to ask about strategy


Are you a strategy competition guy?
Do you know the first question to ask about competitive strategy?

Roger Martin says this:
I look at the core strategy choices and ask myself if I could make the opposite choice without looking stupid .... The point is this: If the opposite of your core strategy choices looks stupid, then every competitor is going to have more or less the exact same strategy as you. That means that you are likely to be indistinguishable from your competitors

Well, that's certainly something to check yourself about: is a counter strategy or corollary stategy "stupid"? If so, no one is going to adopt it, and so everyone -- yourself included -- will line up with your strategy. What then is your competitive discriminator? After all, "me too" is not all that compelling.

Thus, the search is on:
  • A strategy with a compelling discriminator
  • A strategy that has a plausible alternative, less compelling, but nonetheless one that your competition could align with
I can't tell you how many business development sessions I've been in where the only thing the sales people (or marketing) can come up with is "me too". How does that win you any business?
Somehow, in the manner of Kano, you need to come up with the "Ah hah!"

And, is there a formula approach to "Ah hah!"? Not that I've ever found. The epiphany just happens, but mostly it happens with a lot of people interacting with high entropy: lots of disorder from which something gells.  It just happens!

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Friday, June 26, 2015

Networking with strangers


I hate, hate, hate networking with strangers, especially in a big ballroom that is ostensibly a "networking session".

It turns out I'm not the only one

Dorie Clark seems to feel as I do (or, I feel as she does) about approaching total strangers with small talk and icebreakers lines.

She writes:
  •  Make them come to you. The very best solution I’ve found for uncomfortable events where you don’t know anyone is arranging to be the speaker.
  • Bring a friend.  When you have a “wingman” at your side to help highlight your accomplishments at networking events, it can give you the confidence you need to approach others and break into conversations.
  • Have a few opening lines ready. They don’t have to be profound; the goal is to kickstart a dialogue
  • Research in advance. Finally, it’s easier to talk to someone if they don’t feel like a stranger. Even if you haven’t met them in person before, having some background information about them can suggest possible topics of conversation.
By the way, there is a difference between introverted and shy. Shy is the problem here, more so than introvert. That's why the techniques Dorie suggests are more aimed at creating comfort in a crowd where a shy person is more likely to be outgoing if there is safety in the environment and setting.

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Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Government Brief: NASA Maintains Positive Trend for Large-Scale Projects


Here's some news you can use: Traditional methods actually can work, even with a lot of software!

Take a look at this report from Appel* News:
A recent GAO report confirmed that cost and schedule growth among NASA’s major acquisition projects remains low compared with previous years.

In 2009, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) was mandated to review selected large-scale NASA programs, projects, and activities to assess the agency’s planning and execution. The GAO’s seventh annual assessment examined three areas: current performance of NASA’s portfolio of large-scale projects, the agency’s approach to developing and maturing critical technologies, and NASA’s efforts to reduce acquisitions risk and strengthen its management of large, complex projects.

Defined as having an estimated life-cycle cost of more than $250 million, the 16 major projects examined by the GAO included 12 in the implementation stage—for which cost and schedule baselines exist—and 4 in the formulation stage.

Among the projects, the GAO found that cost and schedule growth remained low, with a total cost growth of 2.4% compared with 3% for the previous year* and an average schedule increase of just three months compared with original baseline schedules.



Appel: "Academy of program/project & engineering leadership", a unit of NASA

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Saturday, June 20, 2015

Riding a bicycle


Are you steeped in experience? Is doing a project like riding a bicycle? No matter how long it's been, you can get on a ride. There are basics that are so instinctive and built-in that they are almost mindless... you do it the same way every time, and each new experience draws on those instincts.

Take a look at this and you might give your instincts a second thought:





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Wednesday, June 17, 2015

You've got institutional knowledge


Hey team ... Great job ... See you next time we need a job done, for sure.

But what are you leaving behind as institutional knowledge?
  • If Agile, then a working product (but who knows how it works?)
  • If traditional, then a working product plus a knowledge base of documents, some useful and some worthless (but how do you know which is which?)
  • If hybrid --- Agile in the waterfall as it were ---  then hopefully you've worked out a protocol of minimum but useful stuff to institutionalize. 

By now you've probably figured out my bias. Team retrospection is good, necessary, but sometimes too private. Some stuff, especially lessons learned, needs institutional storage, indexing, and retrieval capability. 

Of course on the other hand the traditionalists often big down on document authoring and maintenance, the latter being as important as any other function lest the former be obsoleted. 

So message and media are the beginning of a useful knowledge base to be sure. But, there's actually little institutional knowledge if members of the institution can't find it and can't trust it once found. 

So two issues. 
  1. Store for retrieval, and
  2. Validate for trustworthiness. 

Re 1: as any archivist will tell you, there's a big difference in the "store it schematic" and the "retrieve it schematic".  And regardless of schematic (data schema) you will need indexing and a means to form queries. 

Re 2: this one is expensive and consuming. It's clearly pay me now or pay me later. If you don't invest in validation then you will invest in correcting later on.

Hey, did I say you could leave?!

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