August 1, 2014

Business, Leadership

The Four Essential Attributes of any Organization

In order to survive and thrive, any organization must possess the following four characteristics.

  1. Identity
  2. Integrity
  3. Differentiation
  4. Profitability

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February 16, 2014

Film

My Favorite Movies in Glorious Black and White

For Stephen and Kelly. Grouped by director. To be continued.

Directed by Frank Capra

When watching Capra’s films, it’s worthwhile paying attention to all of the contributors who made his films so special. Most visibly, there are his leads, with Jimmy Stewart and Jean Arthur turning up most often. Then there are the supporting and character actors, including Lionel Barrymore, Edward Arnold, and more minor figures, who always turn in inspired performances. Then there are the screenwriters, with Robert Riskin being his most frequent and notable contributor. And then there’s the loving black-and-white camerawork by Joseph Walker.

If you really enjoy Capra’s work, then his autobiography The Name Above The Title is definitely worth reading.

It Happened One Night - 1934

One of the classic screwball comedies, starring Clark Gable as a newspaperman and Claudette Colbert as a willful and independent heiress. There is a certain art to starting a movie with two characters who can’t stand each other and couldn’t be more different, and then spending an entire movie throwing up barriers to their coming together while at the same time drawing them ever closer towards their ultimate union. At worst, movies like this are formulaic, but this is one of the originals, and utterly inspired at every turn. Underneath the comedy and romance is a story about the vitality of the American working classes compared to the idleness and and enervation of the high society folks – a theme that will be repeated through much of Capra’s work, as well as many of my other favorites of this period.

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December 15, 2013

Culture, Humanity, Philosophy

Human Nature

What does it mean to be human?

This must certainly be a foundational question for all of us, when contemplating almost any aspect of our existence.

And while any brief answer to this question must admittedly be no more than a starting point for further discussion, I think it perhaps worthwhile to provide such a beginning.

And so, here they are: the primary traits we share that I think make us human.

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November 23, 2013

Software Development, Thought

This Thinking Business

A sure sign of danger on a software development project occurs whenever anyone says, “Don’t worry about the problem – just trust the process.”

This danger is equally present whether the process to be followed is of the waterfall variety, or of an agile persuasion.

The chief danger is not in picking the wrong process, but in placing an excess of faith in any process, no matter what it is.

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October 11, 2013

Lean and Agile, Software

The Inconvenient Truths of Software Development

Software development has often been managed using a predictive planning model based on the following principles.

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August 28, 2013

Leadership, Lean and Agile

Fighting Organizational Friction

Elimination of waste is one of the core principles of lean. But we often think of waste and its elimination in purely economic terms: a particular lean improvement saved a certain number of dollars, or a certain number of hours per year.

There is also value, though, in visualizing waste in the form of organizational friction: the resistance that workers encounter when trying to do their jobs, or when trying to change the way that their jobs are done.

I say this because, in my experience, managers and workers often have different motivations when it comes to lean. Managers are often motivated by numbers, especially when they figure prominently in their annual goals and objectives, and especially when they have dollar signs in front of them.

As managers, though, we need to realize that these sorts of quantitative measures are in some sense just an abstraction of what is happening on the floor, or wherever the work gets done in our organizations.

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May 10, 2013

Business, Culture, Diversity, Software Development, Technology, Web

Reflections on Postel’s Law

Jon Postel was an American computer scientist who helped to develop the basic protocols on which the Internet is built. Among other accomplishments, he is remembered today for the formulation of a robustness principle, now often referred to as Postel’s Law.

Be liberal in what you accept, and conservative in what you send.

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March 30, 2013

Apple, Business, Software Development

UX and IT

Usability has become a top concern for corporate CIOs in recent years. A big reason for this has been the success of Apple, since the difference between the iProducts (iPod, iPhone, iPad, iMac, etc.) and their competitors is often summed up in a single word: usability.

Unfortunately, once we enter the walled garden of corporate IT, we quickly find many more weeds than flowers, in terms of the quality of the User Experience (UX) being offered. It is tempting to think that we can fix this problem simply by investing more time, energy and dollars on usability labs, UX experts and associated training for corporate developers, but in my experience a more nuanced approach is called for.

Here are my top five recommendations for those who would attempt to improve the user experience for IT applications.

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December 3, 2012

Apple, Microsoft, Software

Thoughts on the Microsoft Surface

Microsoft aficionados have been claiming that the new Surface “has all the convenience of a tablet plus the benefits of a PC.” It occurred to me this morning that this would be a bit like Schwinn and GM announcing a partnership to produce a vehicle that has “all the convenience of a bicycle plus the benefits of an automobile — just snap on the other two wheels and you can get some real driving done!”

The question, in both cases, is whether the engineering appropriate for one device will serve the needs of the other....

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October 26, 2012

Business, Culture, Humanity, Integral, Lean and Agile, Philosophy, Wilber

The Four Quadrants of Human Knowledge

I first came across Ken Wilber’s work late in the last century when a friend handed me a copy of A Brief History of Everything as a birthday present.

Since then, Wilber’s influence has been cited by figures as diverse as Bill Clinton and Deepak Chopra, which should give you some idea of how broadly his work can be applied.

Wilber’s work is tremendously dense, deep and broad and deserving of further study, and I can’t hope to do justice to it in a couple of blog posts. However, Wilber offers a couple of models that I think deserve greater exposure and more general application, so I will attempt to give you my understanding of them in this post and a succeeding one.

Let me start with the Four Quadrants model.

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