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In the solution space

Just finished listening to The Ripple Effect podcast, with Mike Barnes from Golfnow. It’s a great cast and I recommend giving it a listen!

I’m just going to pick up on one thread that Mike teased out; that of

“how do you identify which problems to work on”?

Mike started at one end of a spectrum; early in his time at Golfnow he was known as the “spreadsheet-killer”. The set of problems here is a collection of ways that are used as workarounds or short-term fixes, that get adopted as the “main branch” of your business processes. These are often defended quite passionately by the people running them!

An opposite set of problems is when someone presents the issue or problem as solution design or system they want to adopt. Better known as “a solution in search of a problem”. This approach shortcuts the first stage – requirements gathering – and proceeds directly to design. The issue here is that now it is difficult to tell if you are fulfilling the requirements at all.

There is a fruitful middle ground here, with identified or semi-identified issues, but no formal requirements or projects started.

This issue – finding the right thing to work on – requires some decent domain knowledge, and a left/right combo of business smarts and technical possibilities.

A couple of other gems:

Mike points out that, initially, going after low-hanging fruit (automation, standardizing processes) will give you quick wins.

Once the immediate is dealt with, you are left with the genuine hard problems – these are difficult to deal with, but offer much in the way of optimal path for your organisation, as well as satisfaction for yourself!

Roger vs Wilco

The single biggest problem with communication is the illusion that it has taken place.

George Bernard Shaw

I found a great model of how good teams communicate, sometime last year.

  • Transmit (the message, or post, or letter)
  • Receive the communication
  • Understand the communication (bonus = understand it *in the same way*)
  • Agree on what the new understanding means
  • Commit to action / execute / launch

The genius is the recognition that understanding does not mean agreement. This is the difference between:

"roger" - 
I received your communication 
and I understand what you are asking


"wilco" - 
I agree with your request and will comply

An Aristotlean model would have us believe that the power, in communication, is all from the origin – if the source can be all things, every recipient needs to “wilco” properly for maximum profit. Unfortunately, this puts a lot of pressure on the “headwaters” of the origin – if it is not perfect, at all times, there are going to be downstream issues. This is a sort of “benevolent dictator for life” model, where everyone is a sort of programmable computer carrying out algorithms communicated from above.

I actually think this this structure is unwieldy, but it also misses a major point: people can be much more than algorithmic clock-punchers. Creative, imaginative options, solutions and ideas can occur everywhere. Being able to bridge disagreement and get to “wilco” – *now* we are talking about good team communication.

Can you fly that thing?

I was struggling just tonight to explain to my wife the incredible impact of using Docker, containers and the power of the modern toolchain.

I was trying to put it across in the language of 10000 hours and effortlessly achieving mastery of a complex system.

Her: “oh… like that scene in the Matrix?”

Nailed. It.

If you are a server, getting a matching environment and capabilites *can* be done manually, like Gladwell’s 10k hours…

But you can also be like Trinity:

Neo: “Can you fly that thing?”

Trinity: “Not yet”

***downloads a complete image of the skills and abilities required***

Trinity: “Let’s go”

win / win…

Under Pressure

Amazing, amazing performance of Queen / Bowie track “Under Pressure”, by Paul Dempsey and Bernard Fanning.

RightDesign redesign

An update!

The old site was looking a little long in the tooth… time for some new functionality.