Be more productive by saving up your excitement for when you’re actually doing the work

The longer you think about a task without doing it, the less novel it becomes to do. Writing things in your to-do list and coming back to them later helps you focus, but it comes at the cost: you’ve now converted an interesting idea into work. Since you’ve thought about it a little bit, it’s less interesting to work on.

It’s like chewing on a fresh piece of gum, immediately sticking it somewhere, then trying to convince yourself to rehydrate the dry, bland, task of chewed-up gum. Oh. That thing. Do you really want to go back to that? “We’ve already gone through all the interesting aspects of that problem, and established that there’s only work left”, the mind says.

Original source: Improvisational Productivity

Changing how you do things is important if you want to change your outcomes

The experiences at Boeing, DICK’S, and Merrill align closely with what Gartner found as part of its 2017 Enterprise DevOps Survey, in which respondents overwhelmingly pointed to culture and leadership buy-in as the two most people-centric aspects of scaling a DevOps initiative.

Us thought lords & ladies can get tedious with the “containers won’t fix your broken culture” line. But, you need to first fix your out of date tech & then change how you work to benefit from the tech’s new capabilities. It’s like buying a car & then trying to ride it like a horse.

Also, chart:

Things needed for DevOps, Gartner survey

Original source: Containers Aren’t the Cure: Why Tech is Just the Seed for Digital Transformation

Male managers bias promotions based on hanging out

Our evidence suggests that, unlike the male managers, female managers treated male and female employees similarly.

I’m not sure if I’m reading this right.

Also, this is based on a bank in Asia:

To study the effects of socialization at work, we partnered with a large commercial bank in Asia. We used their administrative records to track the assignments between the employees and managers, as well as the evolution of the employee’s pay grade, effort, and performance. We also conducted a series of surveys to measure other aspects of the employees’ lives, such as whether they take breaks with their managers, or whether they know the manager’s favorite sports team.

The social dynamics of Asia, versus Europe, versus America, versus LATAM etc. could have huge effects. Or not!

As one small thing: smoke breaks were used as some kinds of social encounter. In the States, that’s not a thing.

The finding that males promote males they’re friendly with more isn’t too shocking. What’s heartening is that female managers are wiser, one assumes from the lack of that bias in promoting. Women managers (in this Asian bank, at least) aren’t fooled by friendliness.

Original source: Study: How Schmoozing Helps Men Get Ahead

Argue for change by appealing to things people understand, not bigger picture goods

There’s some general tips on rhetoric here, when it comes to convincing people to do things they don’t want to or that don’t have a clear benefit for them. My summary:

  • Discuss how it benefits the individual you’re talking with, not all of humanity.
  • Use analogous examples instead of raw numbers, e.g., “We have reduced our waste by 50%. That’s the equivalent of X garbage trucks of waste per year.”
  • Avoid arguing with people who disagree, they’re a lot of work. If you have to, try to find “solutions that they don’t see as a threat because they carry positive benefits and/or are good for their bottom line.” The problem here, I think, is that they may not even believe there’s a problem in the first place. Perhaps just ignore and isolate them. Or, “don’t sell to people who ain’t buyin.'”

Original source: A Better Way to Talk About the Climate Crisis

Netherlands government IT

Rijsenbrij wants the government to develop a Dutch cloud to give the government a safe and reliable way to interact with citizens and businesses. “And then it would be perfectly possible to give those citizens and businesses access to that cloud as well,” he said.

Janssen added: “You want a secure and reliable infrastructure for the government on which you can exchange data and run various applications. With such an infrastructure, you don’t have to think about the basics over and over again, but you can focus directly on the real problems in society, such as debt relief.

“Then you don’t have to think about how to identify citizens or how to communicate safely with them, because that is guaranteed in the infrastructure. As a possible second step, you can then make this infrastructure available to citizens and businesses.”

At first I thought this mean, like, IaaS. But I think more of what’s be valuable are services like ID checks. In The Netherlands, there are already some cross-company systems like iDeal (payments) and Tikkie (also payments). I’ve used something called DigiID for logging into government sites.

The government is the de facto identity authentication (this person is who they claim to be) and, sort of through licensing and certifications, authorization: this person is authorized to cut hair or drive a car.

Centralizing that would be incredibly handy and eliminate a lot of duplication, spend, and security worrying in other organizations. I mean, assuming it would work.

In the US, the last requirement would kill the idea before it was born: by default, American assume the government doesn’t work. However, that doesn’t seem as strong a sentiment in The Netherlands.

Related: I think maybe The Netherlands is small enough (~17m people) but representative enough (whatever that means?) to be a test market for technologies. It has good infrastructure (fast Internet), people who are curious about new things, isn’t too expensive (except for rent and electricity) and, well, lots of English speaking (meaning, there’s a common language for business involving outsiders, the companies that would want to come in and test things). I don’t know about the ease or difficult of ripping up the streets and installing IoT doo-dads, but for pure software it seems…good?

Original source: Sorting out the Dutch government’s IT mess

Agility is a defense against ignorance

Agility is mainly a defensive strategy against your own ignorance. It’s about dealing with the costs of previous decisions by either failing fast and thereby learning quickly, and/or by lowering the costs of adjustments and re-working them when you learn that what you had built or deployed at first is not quite right. This includes creating an environment and office culture where that is OK and expected, as long as you also learn quickly. In contrast, to maximise efficiency, a more offensive strategy would need to be used when you are confident you have enough information to act quickly in order to maximise your advantage over competitors. These defensive and offensive strategies can look similar in practice, but in reality, the rationale is quite different.

That’s something to ponder.

Original source: Simulating Agile Strategies with the Lazy Stopping Model

Concise kubernetes description

Kelsey Hightower, coauthor of Kubernetes Up & Running, says:

“Kubernetes does the things that the very best system administrator would do: automation, failover, centralized logging, monitoring. It takes what we’ve learned in the DevOps community and makes it the default, out of the box.”

For dev teams, when Kubernetes steps in to manage the dev and deployment lifecycle, from automating feature rollouts with zero downtime to performing node and container health checks (even self-heal), they can focus more on features and functions and less on tedious tasks. And because Kubernetes is largely used with Docker software packages, it allows software engineers and developers to push products to production even faster and more reliably than when using Docker alone

Original source: Kubernetes in 2020 (and how it’s shaking up tech careers) | Seen by Indeed

Governance hacks – business cases

Cut from my writing up of AirFrance-KLM’s modernization strategy for it’s 2,000+ apps.

For each major decision (like modernizing an application, moving an application team to a new toolchain, putting a new platform in place, and other major changes to do how you do software), always have a business case. You have to avoid local optimization too: make sure you focus on the big picture, looking at dev, ops, and the overall business outcome. What does it mean to speed up the release cycle? Does introducing new services and capabilities make your daily business run more efficiently, or attract new customers? Does it help prevent security problems or add in more reliability? As they say “what is this in service of?”

This is especially important for avoiding gratuitous transformation, gold-plating, and other fixing it if it ain’t broke anti-patterns. Also, it will help you show people why it’s worth changing if everything seems to be going well. “[T]eams have applications who are working and sometimes are working quite, quite well,” Jean-Pierre Brajal says, “So people come to us and say, “well, why do I have to cancel my application? It’s already running.” You can use a business case to show the benefits.

Also, he notes, it’s important to make sure you’re improving the process end-to-end, not just one component. Let’s say you make automating testing the software better, but don’t address deploying the software. Now, when you’ve moved the team off their old system – that was working – you’ve introduced a new problem, a new bottleneck that they didn’t used to have to deal with.

There’s a lot more in the talk.

"[M]ost of the time he didn’t even write. He dictated."

I know that I speak for many journalists—and many others—when I say that it is perfectly possible to write after lunch, even if, or particularly if, you have had a bottle of wine. It is simply not possible to do this after dinner; not after booze. I don’t know anybody else who is capable of knocking out first-class copy after a long day and a drunken dinner. There must have been something unique in his metabolic pathways; and what makes it even more astonishing is that most of the time he didn’t even write. He dictated. He would gather his thoughts and then, wreathed in tobacco and alcohol—and perhaps wearing his monogrammed slippers and the peculiar mauve velvet siren suit made for him by Turnbull and Asser—he would walk the wooden floorboards and growl out his massively excogitated sentences. And that was barely the beginning of the word-processing system. Typists would struggle to keep up, but on he jawed, even into the small hours of the night, licking and champing his unlit cigar. Sometimes he would take them with him into his tiny and austere bedroom, and then while they blushed and squeaked he would disrobe and submerge himself in his sunken Shanks bath and continue to prose on, while they sat on the floor and pitter-pattered away on the specially muffled keyboards that he preferred. The sheaves of typewritten paper he would then correct and amend by hand—and we have innumerable examples of his cursive blue-inked marginalia—and then the results would be typeset as they would appear on the page; and even that was not the end. Now I pace across the room to an upright sloping bureau that is set against the wall, like a newspaper-reading slab in a club. It was here that he engaged in the final exercise of word-processing, a ritual that we would now perform effortlessly with our Microsoft programmes. He would fiddle with the text. He would switch clauses around for emphasis, he would swap one epithet for another and in general he would take the utmost delight in the process of polishing his efforts; and then he would send the whole lot off to be typeset again. It was a fantastically expensive method of working, and yet it enabled Churchill to produce not just more words than Dickens, or more words than Shakespeare—but more words than Dickens and Shakespeare combined.

Dictating work seems absurdly impractical and "expensive." But, perhaps that’s how you scale up. As with most improvements and transformations, there’s no magic, there’s just doing new, often weird, uncomfortable, and costly things.

From The Churchill Factor.

Ideas for you to remember, not art

The point being that your sketchnotes are intended for an audience of one. The point of the sketchnote is to help you retain the information, not be put on display in a museum or shared via social media. Don’t fall into the trap of comparing your notes with others. The goal is not to make something beautiful — the goal is to capture the ideas as they come to you.

Yeah. Linked to from this related production methods piece. Also, more productivity meditating.

Original source: A Guide to Sketchnoting on iPad (using GoodNotes)

Successful pundit tactics

  • Make shooting fish in a barrel seem interesting and insightful. Facebook is evil, Amazon is rapacious.
  • Layer financial analysis into your big claims – talking about valuation, share price, cash flows is impressive.
  • Stick to your stock phrases and concept models. Eventually, they’ll stick. Or, if people don’t laugh at them and repeat them, you can come up with new ones. Own a category and the associated words.
  • Make definitive statements, e.g., Microsoft will burry Slack with teams, like they did Netscape.
  • Find a contrary position that promotes a social good. Or just a contrarian position.
  • Find a position that other pundits don’t have. The “blue ocean” thing. Scott Galloway likes the idea that tech people could easily decide to do social good, but don’t because there’s no profit and there’s no punishment.
  • Point out that people can just actually do things, that it’d be easy to solve problems if you tried. This is a Matthew Yglesias rhetorical trick. The unspoken implication is that they choose not to and are hypocrites or, at best, flaccid.
  • Convert a year’s worth of blog posts, newsletter missives, etc. into a book.
  • Make predictions, wild ones. People love predictions and it truly doesn’t matter if they come true or not.
  • Be independent, not unbiased. To make all these wild-claims you need financial security (or to not care about it) so you can lash-out, er, comment on every opportunity.
  • Always unmask motivations instead of attacking a person’s character – explain why people (or movements) are motivated to do something, not that they’re bad people. Once you explain why they’re motivated to do something:
  • Point out how the rival position leads to unintended consequences, often contradicting the original goals. Too much NIMBY leads to a housing shortage, pushing less wealthy people out of the neighborhood, increasing gentrification, driving wealthy people into your neighborhood and developers to only make sure bets instead of novel ones – now you’re the bourgeoisie!
  • Pointing out that “the medium is the message” (people’s desires and how they express/pursue them in the world shapes what they do and create, regardless of the Truth of the matter) gets them agog every time.
  • Most importantly: never answer the question you were asked, answer the question you wished you were asked and that you have an answer for.
  • However: 15% to 20% of the time let yourself make shit up and just go into a screed of disjoint nonsense that’s poetic and invigorating. We value and respect the insane, inchoate genius more than we’d like to admit. People need a break form being serious all the time to stay sane.

See most all of them in action here.

Write every day even if it’s not on topic

I hear people say they write every day, they make a habit of it. I always assumed this meant writing on topic, on whatever your projects are.

Really, it just means write something. Even complaining about yourself or writing a description of a bird. The point is to be practicing, to stay in training, to keep your sword-mind sharp, as Tyrion once explained when it comes to reading (the other daily practice).

Often, nothing for your deadlines will come. For some people it comes in little slices that will add up over time and be edited into perfection, for others (like me) it’s all at once in a deluge of words that need to be typed down before they flow away down the gutter.

Writing every day gives you the chance to start, and to get closer to finishing. You can rely on the muse to inspire your writing, but the muse needs to know when and where to find you.

And, even if it’s just journaling, you’ll help your psychology, and create a log of what happened that day – filling the tanks for when the muse does come. Think of artists doodling and doing “studies” all the time. So many good books are just worked over diary entries and collections of anecdotes.

(The above is pulled – like those little slices – from writing advice I’ve read elsewhere [esp. the muse metaphor]. Related writing tip: don’t worry about hyperlinks if you don’t have the time: click publish and move on.)

The differences between working at home and in an office

Working from the office, the environment itself sends clear signals: This is where I work. I get home — this is where I play and take care of personal stuff. Without this separation and clear indicators, it was harder to keep things apart. Now, when I reach home, it’s easier to leave work behind and focus on the other part of my life. Yes, remotees can employ certain tricks and techniques to manage “modes”, but one’s surroundings are hard to beat as natural cues.

It’s impossible to train work and family to draw that line, so use buildings.

Original source: Back in the Office

A vision for tractors

Perhaps one of the best sustainability visions I have seen was done by John Deere back in 2015. They outlined a larger challenge to not just build tractors but to feed the world. This gave a clear social anchor to the work that development teams were doing. The simple shift from being a farm equipment manufacturer to being part of the greater good enabled them to design innovations that helped to yield more nutrition per acre of land. Furthermore, this reframing helped to motivate stakeholders and improve the overall company brand value.

Feeding the world.

Original source: Sustainability and Agile