The Book…. unfinished

This was originally going to be a single long post, but I decided to stop the editing this, and just put the posts up.  So you can skim thru this, but read the larger posts.  For Example the Blind pig was updated and detailed.

The Blind Squirrel Theory
Even a Blind Squirrel finds a nut.  I say this, but I have found that this is actually wrong.  The original saying was even a blind pig finds a nut.  Blind Pig I remember the origin of when i learned the saying.  I was in high school, and was playing tennis.  I had to play a girl Sandy Stein.  All I heard was that she was going to beat me etc.  Well somehow I managed to beat her, and my friend Scott said “Even a blind squirrel finds a nut”  Yep it might be true, but for that day, I had a blind squirrel day.

Gorillas and Bananas
The Gorilla and Banana Story.  I use this story a lot at work.  I work in IT, and one of the challenges we face often is that people seem to do the same thing over and over.  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 was told to me by an old boss.  It goes like this.  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.

Teenagers and not listening..
Your teenage athlete will correct whatever you are asking them to do, when they clean their room..   I have given up telling my teenage daughter anything about hockey.  And the line above comes from a conversation with another parent.  He was mentioning his daughter was not doing something and he keeps mentioning it to her over and over.  I asked, “Do you ask her to clean her room” which he replied “Yes.”  “Does she do it?” I followed up, he shook his head to where I said, “If she is not going to listen to you at home, you think the rink will be any different?”  There are people you will come into your life who no matter what advice you give them, will never change.  Sometimes its like raising a teen.  Step back, make a note of it, and move on.  You wont get anywhere saying it 100x over.

Interesting and Annoying
What is the difference between Interesting and annoying.   Interesting is when there is a difficult problem, and the problem happens to be yours.  Annoying is the same problem, and it happens to be mine.   I use this often when working, as its fun to let people know they have an interesting problem.

Get on the steamroller or be part of the pavement.  When change comes, you better be willing to change.  If you don’t you will find yourself being run over, and thrown out.  As Bruce Lee says “To change with change is a changeless state.”  This saying came from a Senior IT manager.  He was brought in to rebuild and IT department.  Lots of employees were afraid of change, it was not the homey place it was previously, that it was going to be cut throat etc.  And a few made the a strange decision to leave.  The funny thing, the ride on the steamroller, was more like a roller coaster, but hey some people like the roller coaster.  I guess the ones who left like the Merry Go Round.

Sunlight is the Best Disinfectant
Sunlight is the best disinfectant. Often you wonder if your employees are good or bad, or can they work well.  In larger companies it is easier for people to hide.  This as a business owner, a manager or even a shareholder is a problem.  The best way to solve this, make everyone and the work they do visible.  The more visible everyone is, their work will speak for themselves.   If work is shown to others to see, it will surface whether or not they are a good employee or not.  Good employees wont want to hide, they would want to stand out and help themselves get ahead.  This came from the same person who talked about the steamroller.  Not only did he want change, but he wanted everyone to have the opportunity to shine.  As stated some people grabbed the opportunity, others hid, and still others, left. Not sure they found sunlight in their new endeavors, but they missed a chance.  Sometimes you need to step into the spotlight, and prove you are who you are.

Communication models:

I believe there are 3 ways to communicate

  1. Asynchronous:  This is when if I am communicating with you, its mostly for your information, or doesn’t need your immediate attention.
  2. Synchronous:  This is where its is somewhat important or very important and I am trying to communicate with you interactively, in real time.  This could be a phone call, instant messaging, etc.
  3. A complete emergency…

Now that said, if i send you an email, then I do no need you to respond immediately.  If you work for me, I hope you do the “important” things first, then get to my email.   If I call or instant message you, this is more immediate attention.  Call me back, IM me etc.   This is saying I do want to interrupt your work, its not an FYI.  What i like my developers to do, is often turn off email, and crank through their code.   If they are using email and an interrupt, they are not getting the work they need to get done.   Now so you understand email, and IM/Phone Calls/Texts.  Now lastly, if it is complete emergency, email and IM wont do, security will come and remove you from the building.   Now this 3rd pillar came during 9/11, where the CEO of the company I was working at was told to leave a building in downtown Manhattan.  Well he argued, and fought until security came and dragged him away.   This was his downfall, as the board started working on his exit soon after.  Your work is not important as your life, it matters.

Toilet Seat Theory
While I was working at a music store as a kid, a few employees always talked about inventions.  Usually dumb things that made no sense.  The owner once said, needs to be like a Toilet Seat.  It took me a while to understand, but eventually I figured it out.  He wanted us to invent something that everyone needs, or has a need to buy at some point.  By doing so, you could sell it to everyone.  By limiting yourself to say music instruments, there is a limited audience and it is harder to make a living.  No, we never came up with the next toilet seat, but we had some great times at the store.

First Corollary of the Toilet Seat Theory.
Once called the Mercedes theory, but more like the Ferrari Theory.  If you choose not to make a better toilet seat, it better be priced really high.  Thus just selling a few, to the few people who would buy it allows you to make a large profit.  This came about while we were thinking about inventions, and noting that some guitars were priced really high, and they made a few of them.  They were intentionally constricting supply, price the guitar high, and thus knowing only a few people who want them.   Selling a guitar at $5000, allows you to make more profit than at $500.  Of course you can spend more on materials etc, hand make it.  The Ferrari is the perfect example, they do not need to be Ford, Ford has to make and sell millions of cars.  Hence the first Corollary.

Plan your Dive. Then Dive your Plan.
When i was starting out in IT, I took a lot of classes to get certifications.  Most I realize were kinda dumb and not worth it in the long run.  In fact I think most of the certifications are for companies and software that no longer exists.  But back to the story.

When building and releasing applications the teacher used a metaphor of Diving.  Being a diving instructor as well as teaching IT, he stated I am going to teach you to plan your dive, then dive your plan.  He wanted us to make sure that our turnovers went smoothly, he taught us how to make sure we created install scripts, and tested them.  He wanted each step to be documented, and timed to the minute.   Once the scripts and the instructions were completed, we had planned our dive.   The next step, dive to the plan or execute the turnover.

This has stayed with me for over 20 years of building IT projects, and does help me get things done.

Perfect is the enemy of good..
In the Software Building business, you often want to build the best possible software.  In some areas there is tremendous competition and its easy for people to switch from one vendor to another.  In the phone/app world, people jump to the next app/game very quickly.  So as a developer you challenge yourself to make your application perfect.  But, maybe isn’t that the best.

In this pursuit of being perfect, it may delay releasing.   In fact some developers in the pursuit of perfection delay over and over again.  Their competitors gain market share, or take market share.  In the “internet age”  we often heard release fast, and fix.   It’s hard to find an example of a company that has failed or lost market share because of this, as few people will admit that publicly.

Now, in internal development (software built to be used by the internal companies) this is where the being perfect could hurt.  Applications have to be good, and I even had a boss say “good enough.”  Being good enough gets the application out, and can assist the company in gaining revenue, reducing risk, saving money etc.  Now of course the application had to work, cannot cause issues, but being perfect is not one of them.  Good enough means the applications have to improve whatever process that exists today, and should have good usability.  But being perfect costs firms money, perfection delays releases, and delays benefits.  So after years of developing internal applications we use the phrase “Perfect is the enemy of good”

Fram.. You can pay me now, or you can pay me later…
Fram oil filters used to have a commercial that said, you an pay me now, or you can pay me later.  This was in reference to car repairs.  If you didn’t spend the money on maintenance, then often you would spend a lot more money on fixing a problem.   Funny thing, I found this true to be of a lot of things.  You name it, from software development to home improvement, to cutting corners on almost anything you do.

I wish I could go on a rant about a specific story about this, but I have way too many.  I have failed at this many of times, before I finally realized that I needed to start making better decisions.  But because this is a blog where I just ramble on, here is one story.  When I bought my house, I spent the money and bought a great over.  Its still going strong after 20 years, but the fridge and dishwasher we didn’t spend the money.  Both have been replaced.  The oven cost me a few hundred to fix, but even the repair guy said, keep this, its a great oven  and they don’t make them like that anymore.  I wish I used the same judgement on the other appliances.

Now often I do think about the Fram expression in making decisions.  I ask stuff like what does this short term decision do for me, and what is the cost of the repair later.  You often can’t afford the best of the best, but the question is where do you want to maximize your resources.  In business, often we talk about tactical versus strategic, but what that usually means, what is the cheapest way out of this, versus doing it “right.”  I wish I could say 100% of the time we do it right, as that isn’t feasible.  But we do understand the consequences of our decisions, and those decisions are made with the Fram expression in mind.

What does bother me, is if someone is making the decision and putting a band air on a larger problem that wont surface till they are gone.  This happens a lot, where the choices aren’t made based on the analysis, and the person making the decision doesn’t document what he or she knows will happen long term.  And often when the shit hits the fa, the shit hits the fan.  If you are going to make a decision to be tactical, make sure it is known, and then figure out how to budget later to get the strategic done.  Noting it is possible the strategic could be to get rid of whatever you patched later, just have a plan.    And as always, you can pay me now, or you can pay me later.

What do you want to be remembered for….
You will not be remembered for your job, make sure you do something outside work.  Find a cause or charity that you can focus on.  $1000 and 100 hours of time to one company is better that $10, and 1 hour to 100 companies.  This is something I strongly believe in.  The full post is here.

Decision Making, what type are you?
This can go on the “two types of people in the world” also, but for now I am putting it here.  I have learned there are two different way to make decisions, the first, is by getting just enough information to make the decision, and then make it.   The second is by getting all the information, and making a decision.

Now in both cases it doesn’t guarantee that you will make the right decision.  And actually is the key is not to be a person who always does one or another, but to know when to use each method.  There are times when the decision has to be right, and other time where time of the essence.  They key about making decisions using the “enough” information is, also knowing, if you make the wrong decision, what are the implications.  What is the cost of waiting till you have all the information.   I also have even told people which method I am using and why, just so they know the implications.

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.

Some unfinished thoughts, will return to add more…

Don’t Try to Boil the Ocean

One cannot expect to sprint faster, if all you do is just job in practice.  Bruce Lee.

Efficiency, the more tasks your try to do simultaneously, the more inefficient you are at doing them.