Sometimes someone writes something better than you could…

And this is one of the times.   19 Things that I wish my daughter learns….

Having two daughters I hope they learn all of it way before that.  The last is to find one charity that you can give to.   I have written about that previously.

My world famous disclaimer…  so, this blog has nothing to do about my current employer.  I provide the information without warranty blah blah blah. I make no money from this blog, there is no advertising, or charges to anyone.  I do this as a brain dump, to leave something behind.  If you want to support me, instead of doing that support one of the charities i care about, the Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital and Hockey in Newark.  Thanks for reading.

Why Management is so “stupid”….

I have seen this in every company I have been, though some of the senior manager were technically the brightest people I know, at some point they seem to be clueless.  Everyone underneath is always saying “why can’t they see X or Y” when its horribly going wrong.  And at the end of the day it turns out more to be ignorance versus brains.

Let start with most of the places I worked for them fathom themselves as a Meritocracy.  And managers try to promote and pay “key players.”  One thing about this is that anyone who is smart is only going to inform management of good things, and successes.  Anything going wrong they will try to hide and fix themselves in a vacuum.  Once fixed, they don’t let managers know as it is not that important.   Sometimes these hidden “gems” or issues are not fixed, and people move off or leave the projects, leave this technical debt for someone else.  Telling managers they made a mistake or there is an issue (whether it is their fault or not) managers often to shoot the messenger,

So this leads to often lower level people not telling their direct manager there is an issue.  Often until its “too late.”   Of course this goes for each level of management.  As each manager in a hierarchy going up gets less and less information.  Thus the senior management often is least in the know of what is wrong.   Hopefully there aren’t people telling management that “Every thing is perfect” who are outside the project, adding to the confusion.

Good senior management can not only see through the bull they is being thrown, but has gained the trust of his employees that he wont shoot the messenger.  In fact they reward people for digging in and finding issues before it causes a widespread problem.  Good management goes back to the phrase sunlight is the best disinfectant.  Its not easy to do, as often when someone gives you bad news, you don’t want to believe you are there, how you got there, and how much there is to fix, but in the end of the day, fixing the problems are key, and rewarding employees for success whether it is adding a new feature, or resolving a large problem creates a great working environment.

My world famous disclaimer…  so, this blog has nothing to do about my current employer.  I provide the information without warranty blah blah blah. I make no money from this blog, there is no advertising, or charges to anyone.  I do this as a brain dump, to leave something behind.  If you want to support me, instead of doing that support one of the charities i care about, the Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital and Hockey in Newark.  Thanks for reading.

Does your dog bite…

One of the funniest scenes ever was from the Pink Panther where Peter Sellers asks an innkeeper if his dog bites.   If you have not seen it, please watch and then come back, it will only take a minute.

Now that you laughed, you should have learned an important lesson.   When problem solving, are you asking the right questions? And are you solving the right problem?  Often I find developers never ask the right questions (good reason to have business analysts) they ask questions like “What do you want to see?” or “What do you do?” or “How do you do it?”   It is amazing how many times I am asked “why” and even I forgot to ask the user.   In fact there is a saying called “5 whys” which was developed  by Sakichi Toyoda for the Toyota Motor Corp.  It is also used by Six Sigma.

Asking why someone does something often gets to the root cause.  I am reminded of this a lot when taking my kids to the doctors when they have a cough.  They are usually given two medicines, one for the cough (the what) and often an antibiotic for the infection (the why.)   If you only solve the what, the root cause will persist, and the problem may never go away. In developing software, not solving the why gives the user not much better experience than he/she already has.

Why is not the only question to ask  But observe with your own eyes.  Sometimes you see what other have missed, and other times people are so “involved” with the symptoms they are missing the root cause.   Or in Peter Sellers case, he was making an assumption that the dog was the innkeepers, which apparently was wrong.  Don’t be afraid to ask anything you don’t know, and some things you do know to make sure.  Plenty of problems are solved simply by asking a question that may sound like every should know, but just haven’t asked.  Peter Sellers should have asked does this dog bite?   Anyway it gives me a great laugh to watch, and a reminder to make sure I ask the right questions, ask why over and over, and make sure I am solving the right problems.

My world famous disclaimer…  so, this blog has nothing to do about my current employer.  I provide the information without warranty blah blah blah. I make no money from this blog, there is no advertising, or charges to anyone.  I do this as a brain dump, to leave something behind.  If you want to support me, instead of doing that support one of the charities i care about, the Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital and Hockey in Newark.  Thanks for reading.

LrAu

 

 

Gorillas and Bananas

The Gorilla and Banana Story.  I use this story a lot at work, I do not remember when/where I heard it first, so I cannot attest to its origin, the earliest i can find is in this book.  I work in IT, and one of the challenges we face often is that people seem to do the same thing over and over, this can be the business or even other technology.  They often don’t know why, the history, nor if it really is needed anymore.  When asked why do you do it, they say “cause someone showed me…”  The Gorilla story as told to me by an old boss.  A researcher had 3 gorillas in a cage, in the center of the cage there was a ladder, and on top of the ladder was some bananas.  The gorillas of course climb the ladder, but the researcher would shoot them with a hose.  After a while they gave up going to get the bananas.  At that point, he took one gorilla out, and put a new gorilla in. The new gorilla tried to climb the ladder.  What did the other 2 gorillas do, they stopped him.  Not wanting him to get water sprayed at him.  Once the new gorilla gave up, the researcher switched another old gorilla with a 2nd new gorilla.  The 2nd new gorilla of course wanted to climb the ladder.  And again the 2 gorillas, one new, and one old tackled the new gorilla.  Once the 2nd new gorilla gave up, the researcher did it again.  He took the last of the gorillas who got sprayed with a hose out, and put in a 3rd new gorilla.  The new gorilla climbed up the ladder, and the two gorillas who never were sprayed do what.. Yes they tackled the new gorilla.  Why, because that way it has always been done.

Now the story has different version, I have heard 4 or 5 gorillas, i have heard monkeys instead of gorillas.   But whether the story is true or not (I am leaning towards not) the lesson is there.  Just because something is working, doesn’t mean it is broken.  Dig into, ask questions and don’t accept the answer “that is they way they always did it”

This will have to be the disclaimer, so, this blog has nothing to do about my current employer.  I provide the information without warranty blah blah blah. I make no money from this blog, there is no advertising, or charges to anyone.  I do this as a brain dump, to leave something behind.  If you want to support me, instead of doing that support one of the charities i care about, the Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital and Hockey in Newark.  Thanks for reading.

LrAu

As Mark Twain said… “Eat a frog first thing in the morning”

 

Mark Twain: Eat a frog first think in the morning.

 

I often forget to follow this simple piece of advice.  Everyone has dozens of things they hate doing, and the procrastinate doing them.   Its a common problem, everyone like doing the easy thing.  In fact what i see is people often go read emails first, or do some surfing of the web.   They really avoid the biggest problem.  I eat breakfast and start reading emails.  Now at the end of the day I write the list of to-do’s for the next day.  And usually I get that list completed.  Often though its by the end of the day.

What I should do, is prioritize by what I don’t want to do first, and do that first.  The expression eat a frog first think in the morning, is saying do the thing you hate most first.  If you get that done first, the rest of the day can only get better.   Later in the day when you review your to do list instead of looking at the thing that you still didn’t do you and dread doing, it will be done.  Before you go home, and you are making the list for tomorrows to do’s the list will be shorter by one frog.

I did this for the last two days (Thursday and Friday) and found myself a little relieved.  I have changed my calendar a little bit, the one thing being I know block some time to eat frog along with my breakfast.

I should be adding a disclaimer, so, this blog has nothing to do about my current employer.  I make no money from this blog, there is no advertising, or charges to anyone.  I do this as a brain dump, to leave something behind.  If you want to support me, instead of doing that support one of the charities i care about, the Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital and Hockey in Newark.  Thanks for reading.

LrAu

Very few see the work, and less the mistakes.

I know I have told this story a lot.  I have an artist friend, he was amazing.  There were some paintings he did that were of chrome that was sick.  I mean, you swear it was a photograph it was that good.  I was fortunate enough to go to his house once and hang out with him and his wife.  I got to see more of his work, one painting was more impressive than the next.

After a while, I told my friends wife, that she is married to an amazing painter.  Then I found the secret.  She walked me to the backyard to the shed.  In the shed, dozens of broken up canvases, and an ax that he had used to trash them.  Those were all the mistakes that he had made.  For each successful painting that I saw, there was probably more than one bad canvases.   For the first time I realized that artists (and really good ones) were not perfect.  In fact they need to practice and practice, they make mistakes, they are human.   Before that moment, I really thought that they would start a painting, and finish it.

It made me realize, than in my job, I don’t have to get it right first.  I just need to get it right.  When I design screen, or system architecture.  I ask for opinions from other team members. I use the feedback, and sometimes go back and scrap the original design, or just make some changes.   I do not worry that people don’t like my first attempt, as long as we get the last one right.  I even now have a presentation on how one application went from initial design to final application.   So now people see the work that went into building the final project.

Just a reminder, I am not doing this for profit,  this is not my day job, I am just doing a brain dump.  I don’t spend any money on marketing, design or images.  I welcome comments (but moderate) and all I ask for you is to enjoy it.

My world famous disclaimer…  so, this blog has nothing to do about my current employer.  I provide the information without warranty blah blah blah. I make no money from this blog, there is no advertising, or charges to anyone.  I do this as a brain dump, to leave something behind.  If you want to support me, instead of doing that support one of the charities i care about, the Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital and Hockey in Newark.  Thanks for reading.

Parts is Parts…..

Years ago there was a Wendy’s commercial.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y_oem9BqUTI Now, although it was making fun of parts is parts.  What people don’t realize is the cleverness behind that statement.

Problems often seem huge, like a giant mountain.  And there is there a fear of starting something (change) that also seems overwhelming.  But if Parts is Parts, then break the big problem into smaller pieces, and keep breaking into smaller pieces until the problem is solvable.  And just solve one problem at a time.  You don’t need to tackle the biggest piece first, often talking any part, starts momentum.

I once decided to replace the screen on an iPhone.  The first time i watch the video and saw how small the parts are, and how many parts there are was daunting.  But after watching the video and seeing how they broke down the fix into some steps, and parts is parts.   I did it, in fact eventually I was doing it regularly (having teens that break phones is not fun)  but that video reminded me, that the iPhone is just parts, and parts is parts.

Are you Edison or Tesla….

I always thought that you need a great team combined of the right skill set and diversity.   You can look at the meyers brigg types, or other types that you think are right.  But there is one that I am starting to realize that you need, you need an Edison and a Tesla.

Tesla is widely known, and someone even admired him so much he named a car company after him.   But at the end of the day, what did he invent?   He was pure visionary, had great ideas, great thoughts but limited execution.  Edison is looked at in two lights, first for the sure number of inventions he created, and lastly his attitude.  Lets drop his attitudes and issues, and go with purely the stuff he created.  He worked hard, he sweated constantly to come up with products and inventions.  He remarked that inventions are 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.

I admire them both for what they accomplished.  And when building a team I need at least one Tesla, and as many Edisons as I can find.  If i have all Tesla’s i would  not deliver as much as I need to.  If I had all Edisons, I would miss many things we should be thinking to create.

I ask people, are you Edison, or you Tesla, or maybe you are combination of the two…

How you phrase a question….

Do you think by simply changing the way your phrase a question can change the answer you get?    The answer is yes.   One of my favorite TV shows, Brain Games.  had a great example.  I apologize for not remembering the episode, but they are on the national georgraphic channel web site.  The setup, was simple.  Show a car accident, and then have a policeman ask questions of witnesses, and see if they can help figure out who was at fault.   The policeman asked 2 different groups the same question, but in two different ways.  In fact it was one word in each sentence was changed.

The officer asked the witnesses, how fast do you think the car was going when it tapped the other car, or how fast do you think the car was going when it smashed into the other car.  The witnesses had 2 different answers.  And it should be obvious.  Those who believed that the car was speeding, and those who thought the car was barely moving.   So changing one word in the question actually changes what someone saw.  The car was going the same speed for everyone.

Just seeing that, I now think about more about what I say, and how I phrase questions.

My world famous disclaimer…  so, this blog has nothing to do about my current employer.  I provide the information without warranty blah blah blah. I make no money from this blog, there is no advertising, or charges to anyone.  I do this as a brain dump, to leave something behind.  If you want to support me, instead of doing that support one of the charities i care about, the Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital and Hockey in Newark.  Thanks for reading.

Having two stamps, Yes and Hobby.

I was reminded a bit ago of a story from my college years. I wanted to be a musician, not just a musician it a professional. A star, famous, everything that came with it.   Of course I was not the most talented person, nor did I always have the best work ethic, as I wanted to do 100 other things also.  But I was out there trying.  To make it in the music business it is partly due to “persistence” more than anything.  You keep writing, making demos, and knocking on doors.   When I was a kid there was no real way to publish yourself on YouTube, soundcloud or ITunes.

Often I was hit with a lot of No’s.  It was often disappointing, and in fact sometimes it was downright depressing.  I needed to pick myself up and try again.  But someone did motivate me, but in a very different way than you would think.   Some people are motivated a lot by no’s and push through to finally succeed or crash.  Some people get a few no’s and that is the end of their desire.  Many of those quit playing altogether.  They were not going to become musicians, so they would now focus their energy on something else.  This was a travesty.  But sometimes there is something better than a no.

Upon one of my many attempts to succeed I ran across a record executive who had a different approach than most.   He didn’t reject anyone.  He had two stamps.  One that said “Contract” which meant he was going to sign you, and you were on your way to coming a star.   But he had a second stamp, that was a bit unusual compared to many of his competitors.   This stamp was “Hobby.”   In a quick conversation with him, he never wanted anyone to quit playing.  He thought everyone should be playing an instrument.  Not as a professional, but for fun.   So he came up with another stamp other than no.  The Hobby stamp was used a lot, and he let people know that only a few people can get contracts.

This was the first time I saw something like this, and I don’t think I ever saw anything like it in any other endeavor whether it be sports, arts or business.  People often hate rejecting, in fact many times they hide behind keyboard and texting on phones.  If the lesson to be learned is if you need to reject, figure out the right way to do it so that it directs the person forward not backwards.

My world famous disclaimer…  so, this blog has nothing to do about my current employer.  I provide the information without warranty blah blah blah. I make no money from this blog, there is no advertising, or charges to anyone.  I do this as a brain dump, to leave something behind.  If you want to support me, instead of doing that support one of the charities i care about, the Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital and Hockey in Newark.  Thanks for reading.