I just read an article, albeit a year old, that suggests preventable medical errors persist as the number 3 killer in the US, behind heart disease and cancer. I wasn’t surprised for two reasons: a) I had seen similar literature before from other sources, and b) I had worked with companies in the medical field and large IT infrastructure projects. Read more
I started building musical instruments last summer. It’s a great way to push the envelope, a challenging and entertaining hobby, and you get something at the end of the day that you can continue to use over the years (if things work out, that is). While there are many things that make each instrument an interesting project, it is not safe to say that every instrument created is a project unto itself. Read more
A friend of mine has gone back to school to do some research into cognitive biases and how to mitigate them in the context of technology projects. As part of his research, he is reproducing an experiment that looks at the drivers surrounding particular tasks in projects – in this case, estimation. While the results are not yet comprehensive enough to satisfy the statistical gods, there is a trend coming out of the data that is interesting to ponder. Read more
I got a note recently from someone halfway across the world, asking about a detail in my white paper about quantifying the quality requirements of a system. The query me ponder for a moment before I came up with a reasonable response, but I think it highlighted something that applies in a broader sense as well. Read more
It is interesting to see what happens at some point in almost every workshop I run. Just after talking about some topic, often a topic where I get up on a soapbox and go off on a rant that takes us well beyond the standard training fare, I’ll have a few people come up to me at the next break. Almost in unison, they suggest that their managers need to hear what I had to say about this topic. For me, it’s an indication of the difference between training and education. Read more
Way back in 1939, the great and powerful Oz had this to say to the Scarecrow, who was in search of a brain:
“Why, anybody can have a brain, that’s a very mediocre commodity. Every pucilanimous creature that crawls on the earth or slinks through slimy seas has a brain.
Back where I come from, we have universities, seats of great learning, where men go to become great thinkers. And when they come out, they think deep thoughts, and with no more brains than you have.
But they have one thing you haven’t got – a diploma.
Therefore, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Universitatis Committeatum, E. pluribus unum, I hereby confer upon you the honorary degree of Th.D. (Doctor of Thinkology).”
Receiving that piece of paper didn’t make the scarecrow any smarter, as evidenced by his screwing up pythagorean and isosceles triangle theorems. He clearly received an empty credential.
More than seventy years later, we still struggle to recognize the distinction between certification and education. Read more
We’ve all been in situations where we find ourselves slogging through our work, and the focus (if there is any focus at all) is to get the work done, rather than get it done well. Certainly household chores can fall into that category, and around the office there are similar activities like month-end reporting that can feel more like drudgery than uplifting activity. It becomes easy to find excuses for not getting the work done, procrastination becomes an art form, and while the result might pass muster, it certainly isn’t a masterpiece. When the core work we do starts to feel this way, when we just want it done and over with, it’s time to rethink what’s going on. Read more
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
We often make commitments to get things done within a given timeframe. Whether the time constraint was handed to you or you chose it is moot, as long as you have agreed to the commitment. If that time commitment is firm, and you find that it is not looking possible at some point, strange things start to happen. Read more
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