Month: March 2016

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.

What do you want to be remembered for?

It took me a while in life to figure this out.  Bruce Lee once said, the key to immortality is living a life worth remembering. I have quoted that hundreds of times, but not sure I got it when I was younger.  In fact, in most cases I thought it mean being famous, rich etc.  But I was wrong, no matter how I thought about it, and imagined it, it just wasn’t who I was, and who would be immortal.

While working at my first large financial firm, I was taught a lot of things.  A class in understanding financing, they also talked about charities.  Once a year the company had a donation drive, they weren’t forcing you to donate to their charity, just to any charity.  One month a year, they also give you time off to donate time to a charity again of your choice.  This was the first time any place I worked that charity was something that was part of a culture.  I didn’t get it my first 2-3 years of working there, but as some senior managers led the way, I was able to see more of what it was about.  My job was only partially what I needed to be a good employee, I also needed to give back.

Of course the first few year, I gave a little here, and there.  Picking many charities, giving a few bucks to each.  I was often chasing charities of friends and family.   I had magnitude, but not a lot of direction.  There were a few things I believed in, and things that have happened in my life that kept popping up, that I did start to take notice.  The other thing I noticed, was many of my friends had one or more charities that they were close to them.   The spent a bit of time promoting it, I guess I had to figure it out at some point.

Around 2005 my daughter Ariel started playing hockey.  There was a person who ran the local hockey program.  He was a father figure to all the kids, he watched open skates, talked to parents and by himself managed to continuously grow the program.  Many parents thought he was just some old guy, and didn’t know how deep he was into the program.  Unfortunately he passed away.  Not long after (though after a bit of push from residents) the local ice rink was named after him.  It was amazing that one man could have such a lasting affect on a group of parents and kids, and equally amazing that some people were very blind to it whatsoever.

It did hit me, I still had a few charities well many, most charities were ones of friends and it was easy to just give to them.  But I did finally come to a realization, that finding the right charity and giving your time to it actually it something that is more important that even you job.  My job was interesting, but at the end of it someone would say Larry worked here for some number of years, and give me a retirement cake and a card.   A few years later, some people would say I remember him he did this wrong and that wrong, and made a mess out of this.   That’s what people say when you are gone, get used to it.

I did come to figure out like my friends and family have done before, that there is a charity they are close to they seem to be appreciative, and in one case, name something after them.  For one charity, you can be the world to them.  Giving your time and energy to them, and they can give back something that you could never pay for, gratitude.  I remember some people who have passed for things they have done, but now for the changes they helped make.  Like Josh for Hockey in Newark, Bill for Wounded Warrior, John for Old Bridge Arena.  They have become immortal in my eyes, and have definitely lived a life worth remembering.  I hope one day someone else remembers me in the same way.   So find something that means something to you, and instead of being all over the place, help one charity, and make it your mission that you will be remembered for.

Figuring out what to do….

Most people sit and try to figure out what to do.  It is simple, to resolve.  You need to know what is Important.  Done, end of post.  Yeah if it was that easy, everyone would be able to do it.  Most times we have dozens of items, each all important. For those who don’t know I manage software projects, and one day  I asked a business person to list the 10 items in priority order 1-10.   No ties.  Two days later i had 7 1’s and three 2’s.   I reminded him what the exercise was, he said he couldn’t figure it out, so he made them all 1’s.  I offered to help.

The first question I asked, which item would either save the company money, or make the company money, and how much.  Next I asked if any item reduced risk, and if so, what would be the consequence costs if not done.  This started to value the items.    I followed up, does any have a regulatory or fixed timeline or is it useless.  Finally, I asked my development team how long each would take to do.   Now we had some quantifiable numbers, or numbers we can pair against the competing priorities.   It was easy to figure out who the bottom ones are, and who the clear top first and second was.  The middle ones, were a bit more difficult.  The numbers were really close.  At that point I just said, lets go by development time, the key being the business would get more value quicker.  He agreed.

Now the problem I find is often people say they can’t quantify thing.  Or they have Urgent items that are do.  One thing I run into is 3-4 things due in a 3-4 week period, and not enough staff to complete the tasks.  I go back to the last question, what happens if we don’t do X.  Obviously, whatever being asked for, had to be done at one point of time, or faked.  This helps narrow what really can be done to get out.

But this now brings us to the true determination of what you need to think about.  There are two attributes of a task, Importance and Urgent.    If  something is Not important no matter what the urgency is, you should not be doing it at all.   That leaves you with Important items that are Urgent or not Urgent.   If you spend your time fighting fires, you are doing Urgent/Important.  This leaves to burn out ,frustration, and often more mistakes.  The goal is to work on Important stuff that is not urgent, this is known as strategy.  Now unfortunately you can not be 100 percent in the strategic world, life doesn’t work that way.  But try to balance, 80/20 etc.

Well hope this helps in guiding you to making better priority decisions.


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.

Being the better person…

Posted here – on March 12th..

This is the hardest thing in life to do.  Every day it seems we are challenged with something that make use want to outburst, complain, get revenge, or just plain show hatred for.   I see it all the time, from people who you meet treating you not the way you want to be treated, someone at work not pulling their weight, to coaches not treating your kids right, it is all over the place.  I find myself in this situation, and in many cases have conversations about issues and what should we do?  I say a lot you need to be the better person.

But what do I mean by that?  As some situations is by not calling out bad behavior, or not making a statement, what you do is that you reinforce the behavior will get results.  One example I see coaches yelling at kids.  It may work in game one or two, but after the 10th time or so, kids start to tune it out.  The problem is that the person yelling is thinking, wow it happened last week, so it must be the right way to do it.  Am I not yelling loud enough, have I not set the right set of abuse?

The problem, is I don’t have an answer.  I don’t know when enough is enough.  At what point does a person hit the breaking point to where they say “I am tired of being the better person.”  I wish in may instances that it does not get to that point, but unfortunately it gets there a lot.  But as stated previously, the problem stems from the fact the behavior was reinforced as the right thing to do.

So I sit often, have sleepless night, and try to make sure that every morning and say did I do the right thing.  And try not to worry about being “wronged” or being taken advantage of.  The choice to try to be the better person does not come with its issues.  You are going to have to suck it up, and not worry about what lesson you wish someone would learn.  Your focus should be about how others see your actions and look to your as the better person.

I don’t know if it is possible to measure success of doing this, I don’t think there is a way you can say I earned 50 points today being the better person.  I can’t even guarantee you will be seen as a better leader or promoted for being a better person.  I only hope that it does get noticed, and that someone maybe not everyone but someone sees you for the values you adhere to, and then get rewarded for it.

One story I will relate, is work related.  Working in a large company, there are many divisions, some horizontal and others vertical.  Horizontal services try to make things better across a company.  But often, these services are not thought out well, and don’t work great for everyone.  I had to deal with many of them, and when ones don’t work, you have one of three choices.  First do you own thing and ignore the service, Second you can use it and bitch moan and complain to anyone but the owners of the service, and lastly you can become and change agent (company term) by helping the service grow from something that isn’t great, to something better.  Doing so means a lot, it mean not calling to complain, but calling to voice thoughts and improvements and working with the horizontal service.  The key is not to blame worry who’s fault it is, but how to make it better.  You must as the customer of the service but just that a good customer.   I have tried to do this often, and in a meeting with someone who decided to retire, he told me simply put “Our team loves working with you, you may challenge us, but its about finding solutions and not placing blame…”  I wish it was always that easy, and that every time I acted well, I would get a solution, but my response to this particular person, was your team was willing to help find the solutions, and it made my job easier.  It is a two way street, if two people are willing to both be the better person, great things can happen.  The reward here was getting something better done for our company, and at the end being recognized for it.  I didn’t think anyone noticed, and didn’t ask to be, I just wanted to do the right thing.

Another story has to do with clean energy.  About 3-4 years ago I got a letter from our Electric company, that we can pay a little more for money I could get 25% of my electricity from green sources.  So I signed up, the money was not too much, but I thought it was something I could do and would make a difference if everyone did.  I reached out to a few “complainers” who constantly post on Facebook crap about save the earth etc.  I asked if he was going to sign up.  The response “It is not my job, and why should I pay extra….” he then followed up with “the government should mandate it so all have to use it…..”  The thing is, he became the complainer, and was more upset everyone wasn’t forced to pay more.  He thought the government should do it.  I never understood if you talk to talk, you better walk the walk.  Although you can say yes it should be mandated, but until than if you believe its the right thing, and makes the world a better place, why not step in.  The better person would.

Being the better person does include:

  • Being cordial to everyone… even people you don’t like.
  • Taking the initiative to reach out to people, just to say hi, happy holiday etc.  Connections are the best thing you can gain.
  • Helping others that cannot help you.
  • Doing the right things, when people are not looking
  • Giving your best effort, even if the person you are working for/playing for does not have your respect.
  • Treat everyone with the same respect.  This means greeting the janitor the same way you would greet the CEO..
  • When someone does something wrong, you can acknowledge it, but don’t respond.  Walk away, or still do your best at whatever.
  • Doing things that are best for all, not just yourself.   This includes recycling, thinking about little things, and acting locally as best as you can. Don’t worry of others are not doing it, or waiting for someone else to do it.  By the time there is a big enough movement, often its too late.
  • Don’t be the complainer, be the person who does it.
  • Own up to your mistakes, and immediately have the conversation.  The longer you prolong something the worse it gets.
  • Finding reward in doing the right saying, saying the right thing.

I planned to write more, but I think the point is made.  If everyone did the right thing, the world would be a much better place.

Perfect is the enemy of good..

In the Software Building business the goal is to build the best possible software.  In some areas there is tremendous competition and it is easy for people to switch from one vendor to another.  In the phone/app world, people jump to the next app/game very quickly.  An app that is hot one month, can be gone the next.  As a developer you challenge yourself to make your application perfect.  But, maybe isn’t that the best way to succeed.

In this pursuit of being perfect, it may delay releasing the application.   In fact some developers in the pursuit of perfection delay over and over again.  This notion it has to be perfect allows for their competitors gain market share, or take market share from them if they already have a version out.  In the “internet age”  we often heard release fast, and fix.   Facebook lives by this motto.   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.

When I am talking about software being perfect relates to user interface and having every function planned.  My masters is in HCI (Human Computer Interface) now more commonly known as User Experience, and we can be a pain in the ass.  There are UX designers who will go far beyond what is needed for an application to be usable.  I wont go into how UX could be done but reasonably.   Often designers like Alan Cooper and others will do in depth work to come up with the perfect interface and will bring customers.  I will do another post on the 3 pillars of UX another time, but right now the focus is on perfect vs good enough.

Now in internal development (software built to be used by the internal companies) this is where the being perfect could hurt differently.  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.  But being perfect costs firms money, perfection delays releases, and delays benefits.  There should be some feasibility thoughts of what would be the cost of building a better interface and more functions vs. getting benefits to the user faster.

Over the past years a new method of project management called Agile.  This is based on building and releasing small increments of functionality.    This fits in with the theory of release fast and fix.  It has been successfully adopted in may companies with varying success.  It is not a panacea, but just the philosophy drives towards what is call a MVP. Minimal Viable Product.    This is something that just has key functionality but not all.  Get it to the users quickly and let them direct the next set of functions and changes.  I use this currently in my job.

So after years of developing internal applications we use the phrase “Perfect is the enemy of good”

Originally posted in March of 2016, Updated December of 2020.

This opinion is mine, and mine only, my current or former employers have nothing to do with it. I do not write for any financial gain, I do not take advertising and any product company listed was not done for payment. But if you do like what I write you can donate to the charity I support (with my wife) Morgan Stanley’s Children’s Hospital or donate to your favorite charity. I pay to host my site out of my own pocket, my intention is to keep it free.  I do read all feedback, I mostly wont post any of them.

This Blog is a labor of love, and was originally going to be a book.  With the advent of being able to publish yourself on the web I chose this path.  I will write many of these and not worry too much about grammar or spelling (I will try to come back later and fix it) but focus on content.  I apologize in advance for my ADD as often topics may flip.  I hope one day to turn this into a book and or a podcast, but for now it will remain a blog.

Plan our dive… Then dive your plan..

When i was starting out in IT, I took a lot of classes to get certifications.  Most of the classes were kinda dumb and not worth it in the long run.  I say dumb they were specific technologies that did not last, how many people took Novell 3 Certification, Novell 4 also?  Novell does not exist, and many of the certifications were so useless.  But back to the story.

I had one teacher who not only had a grasp on the technology, but some great metaphors.  He used the metaphor of scuba diving and compared it to building and releasing applications.  I later found out he was also a diving instructor.  He stated I am going to teach you to plan your dive and dive your plan (Link for entertainment purposes only – this was not the instructor –  He wanted us to make sure that our turnovers went smoothly.  He taught us how to make sure we created install scripts, tested them, documented each step 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 when I follow it, it usually is a flawless release.  I have a short-cutted it a few times with some bad consequences.

Originally Posted in March of 2016, Editing in Dec 2020

This opinion is mine, and mine only, my current or former employers have nothing to do with it. I do not write for any financial gain, I do not take advertising and any product company listed was not done for payment. But if you do like what I write you can donate to the charity I support (with my wife) Morgan Stanley’s Children’s Hospital or donate to your favorite charity. I pay to host my site out of my own pocket, my intention is to keep it free.  I do read all feedback, I mostly wont post any of them

The Toilet Seat Theory…

Toilet Seat Theory
While I was working at a music store as a kid, a few employees always talked about inventions.  There were usually dumb things that made no sense, things no one really would ever use.  I made a statement that what we need has to be like Toilet Seat.  It took others a while to understand, but eventually figured it out.  What you need to invent is something that everyone needs or has to buy at some point.  By doing so, you could sell it to everyone.  Limiting yourself to say music instruments,  you are limited to a smaller audience and it is harder to sell millions.  No, we never came up with the next toilet seat, but we had some great times at the store.  (The story has more but its a good summary)

First Corollary of the Toilet Seat Theory.
Once called the Mercedes theory, but due to the fact Mercedes is not the Uber luxury car I will change it to the the Ferrari Theory.  If you choose not to make a better toilet seat and you are only going to sell a few you need to make something very expensive so there is a good margin in selling each one.  Thus just selling a few, to the people who can afford 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.  Most of them were custom guitars or guitars that are made in a “limited” manner.  Companies intentionally constricted supply, this kept the price the guitar artificially 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, use better electronics, paint, get endorsements etc.  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

The second Corollary…. The Apple Corollary

Apple found a way to sell something at a Ferrari price (Raised the price of phones from $299 to thousands of dollars) while having it be something “everyone wants”.   This magic company has somehow found how to sell millions of a product and at a high profit margin.   There are few people who complain about paying the “apple” tax, as there are competitor phones that can be purchased for much less, but there is something apple did.  They were not the first smartphone, they just did it better. It is a master of marketing, product and feeling.

Notes:  I also restyled the site a bit, and have a bunch more of things will continue to write, I have some many notes all over post-its, and notebooks, will get to it all.  I also think I am going to split out the Deal site next, would be cleaner.

This was originally posted in 2016 and updated in 2020

This opinion is mine, and mine only, my current or former employers have nothing to do with it. I do not write for any financial gain, I do not take advertising and any product company listed was not done for payment. But if you do like what I write you can donate to the charity I support (with my wife) Morgan Stanley’s Children’s Hospital or donate to your favorite charity. I pay to host my site out of my own pocket, my intention is to keep it free.  I do read all feedback, I mostly wont post any of them

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