Leveraging the Frog in the Pot

July 1, 2010 by · Comment
Filed under: Leadership, Process, Quality, Teamwork 

Everyone has heard of that metaphor of a frog in a pot of water: put the little guy in hot water and he’ll jump right out, heat the water gradually and he’ll just hang out there. The gradual changes are too subtle for him to perceive them and do anything about it. This explains why a lot of team environments are the way they are, and might even give us an idea about what we can do about it. Read more

Focus on the Craft

April 2, 2010 by · Comment
Filed under: People, Quality 

In his book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell provides a rule of thumb that people will get good at their craft after they have spent 10,000 hours plying it. He talks about the Beatles and their years in small clubs in Germany, Mozart and his long tenure in music, and describes the early years of Bill Joy and Bill Gates as well. I’ve heard similar 250,000 word rules for writing (I’m well past that mark and think there’s still lots to learn), and the practice time put in by some of the sports greats is legendary. Seems there is something to all this: that time – lots of time – is an important part of becoming good at something. Raw talent or innate genius will only get you so far. Read more

The Rule of Three

January 21, 2010 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: People, Process 

When I first started focusing on improvement initiatives (over a dozen years ago now), the typical approach was to perform a deep analysis and come up with a big laundry list of recommended changes. That never did much more than pad the wallets of the consulting firm that provided the recommendations. For that reason alone, I’m sure the approach won’t be going away soon. For the improvee, though, the victim of these massive recommendations, there remains hope for a better way. Apply the Rule of Three. Read more

Many Sources, One List

January 12, 2010 by · Comment
Filed under: Process, Project management 

On any project, regardless of the size or complexity or uncertainty involved, there is one thing you know darned well to expect: things will change. To ignore or be surprised by potential changes is to set yourself up for heaps of trouble. It is important to recognize that change can come from many different directions. In addition, once you have collected all these potential changes from all over the place, it is critical that you triage all of them together, in a single list. Read more

A New Year, A New Start

December 29, 2009 by · Comment
Filed under: Leadership, People 

A year ago, I wrote about dealing with difficult times as a means of driving appropriate change. A year later, unfortunately, the same message holds essentially unchanged. For many organizations (those that are still working to make it through these times), we are at a point where we get a second shot at starting the New Year on the right foot. Here’s another business perspective, but it isn’t aimed at your employer. Read more

Planting Seeds

December 22, 2009 by · Comment
Filed under: Leadership, Quality 

When it’s time to act as a catalyst for change in an organization, the last approach you want to take is the old ‘bull in a china-shop’ method: taking charge, giving orders, ignoring feedback, making demands. While you may end up delivering the proposed changes and maybe even an accurate analysis of what really needs to be done, you will fail in the end. There will be massive overt push back and passive resistance, and you will likely sour the team’s attitude toward change in general. A better approach is to think of yourself as a farmer, and to plant seeds. Read more

Best Foot Forward

November 7, 2009 by · Comment
Filed under: Leadership, Process, Quality 

There are many approaches that teams can take to improve. One thing that any team needs to understand before they should even try to get better is to understand why they would even bother to do so. There needs to be a clear and compelling reason for doing something different than they are currently doing, or any attempt to change is doomed to failure. Usually, that ‘why’ is sitting right under their noses, hiding in plain sight. Read more

Control and Management

October 20, 2009 by · Comment
Filed under: Leadership, Process, Project management, Quality 

The terms Control and Management are often used interchangeably for a variety of activities in product development: configuration, change, risk, process, and so on. From my perspective, there is a difference between the attitude (implied or expressed) with these words, and for a couple of reasons, I tend to lean towards management over control. Read more

Norms and Rules

October 13, 2009 by · Comment
Filed under: Leadership, Process, Project management, Quality 

I was chatting with someone the other day about my upcoming trip to Germany (I’m actually writing this one in the departure lounge). He was over there during the summer, and as a way of helping me ensure I had a good time, he noted “just remember, there are social norms over there, but there are no social rules”. Makes me ponder the relationship between the two. Read more

Back to School

September 8, 2009 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Leadership, People 

Throughout my career, I have found that effective team dynamics trump individual performance when it comes to delivering great products. While heroic efforts may get the job done and can be the stuff of lore, the damage to relationships and corporate risk with such an approach are not sustainable. That stated, there is one area where personal focus is imperative: learning. Read more

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