Recipes for grandchildren, if not grandparents

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Under supervision

The recipe (for what?) is like this….

  1. Collect two or more of the little tykes.
  2. Provide a fairly large set of safe ingredients (no alligators)
  3. and make sure that deep frying, large fire roasting, etc is avoided for safety reasons.
  4. Ask one little tyke to design a recipe, to be made by another under guidance(of the first tyke) and supervision (grand-parent)

NB: Of course please see that their ideas aren’t strenuous, impractical or fatheaded, and be alert so as to stave off disaster.

By the time they finish, they will be quite hungry. The resulting product will be eaten by both/all the tykes and the grand-parent(s) prepared to be a fine actor; Hopefully they will eat without too much complaining. This will also teach them about food, company and collaboration, if not also conversation. Now, on another day the second tyke designs for the first one to prepare a dish/meal. If there are one two many tykes, a round-robin scheme should be arranged.

I’m sure that the other Friday bloggers will have more mundane, but kindly advice/thoughts: Sanjana, PadmumRaju, Maria, Shackman , Ramana and Conrad

Power

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oh for heavan’s sake! .. the cursory glance at Maria’s post shows she has pinched the thought in my mind, regarding Lord Acton’s dictum. Not really, I wasn’t really inclined to write about power in the normal sense, but I will take a stab. I choose a different path. As I’d indicated elsewhere, the third R of education interests me. Not something Ramana, would have suspected when he suggested this most arduous of topics.

I am inclined to elucidate on something called the power law. It is a term to describe a general mathematical relation, where a quantity depends on another quantity raised to the power of some constant. Such a relation is said to follow the power law. The law of gravity

G = SomeConstant x R-2

can be thought of as following a power law. So this means that farther you go from the sun/earth the gravitational pull will fall very quickly. Another manifestation of a power law is that there are many more towns with smaller populations than towns/cities with larger populations.

However it is useful to know of the existence of this sort of relations, as many entities in nature are subject to power laws. This law (it various strength or power) rules over many things. This is the reason I write about the power law, as an awareness of this law gives one the power to understand and handle situations which otherwise would be mysterious and hence upset calculations. Pareto’s 80/20 rule is also a power law, in form, though it is often explained in a colloquial manner. Summed up snappily by ‘the vital few and the trivial many’ whereupon we obtain a perspective of power holding, if not power.

An interesting aspect of the power law (or even Pareto’s law) is that it is scale free. Which means, if you take the 20%, even within this, 80% will have relatively small impact vis a vis the 20%. That is 20% of the 20% (ie 4%), will make up 80% of the 80% (ie 64%) of impact/effect. This can be extended indefinitely, but the next step means that the 1% will be worth about 50% of the whole.

{ If you’d like to know more about Power laws, Pareto etc…. here is a good explication. Apparently, each additional equation included in a book for the general reader, will halve sales. I hazard loosing interest very quickly by including the equation above. This also seems to be an illustration of a power law, but not really, it is even more difficult to picture. As an aside the current pandemic, isn’t guided by the power law, but by an even more beastly mathematical relation the exponential, which decent people shouldn’t have anything to do with, but unfortunately still are affected by anyway. But that is not for this post.}

I feel that the other other Friday bloggers will have a more engaging, but less mathematical perspective, and surely as interesting a view to offer: Sanjana, PadmumRaju, Maria, Shackman , Ramana and Conrad

Living in the now

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… and here; or living ‘in the here and now’. Can’t be blogging, as this is pretty distant from living in the here and now, isn’t it? Is here and now actually in cyberspace and not in, what is sometimes called the ‘real world’? Alright then, init?

This question exercises me. I’m sure that the FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) can be safely ignored, as something on social media being of real importance is remote. I wonder if the digital natives lost touch with the first five senses, skipped the sixth and latch on to an inimical sense of cybertouch. Well, what of myself? How do I try to live in the now? I’m quite happy leafing through a book, what I miss these days is a nice cafe to hibernate. But I must admit that usually, it is much more of inane interruption rather than immersion. I think I know why that is the case, because they usually don’t play the right sort of music. Therefore it is neither ‘here and now’, nor is it ‘then and there’!

My surmise is that living in the now, is quite difficult, unless you are a student preparing single mindedly for exams, or are exploring something of deep interest… Atleast I can’t think of anything else. So for most of us, we will be living in neither now or then…. Or maybe I’m missing the point. I must stop rambling… ttyl.

STOP: , BUT, I can’t…. living in the moment. Here is something I just happened to bump into last night. I’ve not read the book, but it promises much. ‘Permanent Present Tense’ by Suzanne Corkin A somewhat literal perspective of our topic: In 1953, 27-year-old Henry Gustave Molaison underwent an “experimental psychosurgical” procedure—a targeted lobotomy—in an effort to alleviate his debilitating epilepsy. The outcome was unexpected—when Henry awoke, he could no longer form new memories, and for the rest of his life would be trapped in the moment.

I hazard that the other other Friday bloggers will have a more constructive perspective: Sanjana, PadmumRaju, Maria, Shackman , Ramana and Conrad

Medical Practice today

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A peep, no link, just a hint.

That is a slightly inaccurate title for what follows, but only slightly. I shall simply provide a path to an entertaining sketch regarding (a somewhat irregular, but commendable) patient practice along with doctor practice. The basic subject is a bit much for me, so my strategic retreat…. However, I aim to please. Of course, compared with the rest

…this will be the most enjoyable post … and the reason for this most audacious boast?

Ah, the material is not mine and you will have to lift a few fingers for it; but please see that your computer/phone sound system is top of the pops.

Go to that audio-visual trove, youtube and first type ‘pixie goodness’ in the search field and pick the first result (Rowan should be waiting, Pixie isn’t half bad) play and be exceedingly pleased. I think you will be gagging for more… in which highly possible case…. type ‘sellers sophia goodness’. One of the rare instances where the remake is an improvement on the original.

Why, all this mystery? Just for the sake of it, I don’t like to spoon-feed intelligent birds, by putting a link to youtube in my posts. Don’t mention it.

but other views, I dare say a bit more serious but very relevant, are here: Seven other Friday bloggers: Sanjana, PadmumRaju, Maria, Shackman , Ramana and Conrad.

What’s the fuss for

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We must make a fuss about, what we make a fuss about. Is the comma placed correctly? A short, yet convoluted sentence that, eh what?

Well, this is because the things one makes a fuss about, reveal something about the type of person one is. Is it the wilting rose on second plant in the slightly misshapen flowerpot? or the dangling participle? or the smudge on the windscreen? or possibly the demolition of that quaint, distinctive auditorium making way for the neat but ugly steel and glass office building sheltering blank faced, mindless, self-important yuppies. Or maybe the new education policy, which is a bit of a curate’s egg, but that is a different discussion.

So, even if we cannot always fuss over what others are fussing about, each of us can make a fuss about what oneself makes a fuss about! This is a path (not the only) to self improvement. What the newspapers hyperventilate and people focus on, while ignoring more important matters is a result of fussing over the insignificant. What we fuss about, is a reflection of what we attach importance to, and by default exclude much that could be a path to elevation.

I shall now, with a moderate amount of fuss, encouragingly point to seven other Friday bloggers: Sanjana, PadmumRaju, Maria, Shackman , Ramana and Conrad.  This week’s topic was suggested by Maria.

Why my blog is named Ceezone

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After many many moons I return to some writing. This was where I penned my views and analysis on matters ‘Scrum’. Those of you who have some familiarity with the sport Rugby (not that asinine imitation on the other side of the planet) this site will disappoint you, since Scrum is a software project/product development approach. But that was many moons ago. Now I shall write about this, that and the other; Pontificate on, pillory many and placate a few topics or people as the case maybe.

Originally CeeZone meant ‘C’- zone, and ‘C’, in turn stood for chaos.

or classically ‘Kaos’ the primeval Greek God, who preceded Earth (Gaia). Being something of a frightening mayhem, represented complete lack of order. So, to be avoided or at least wary of, in this oh so perfectly orderly world. Anyway, Chaos had some connection with the background theory of Scrum, and Rugby looks chaotic to the uninitiated.

Or beautiful, depending on your tastes.

But that isn’t all. Chaos theory is a fascinating interdisciplinary area with wide applicability and an offshoot of mathematics, where fractals are a manifestation of this theory, in some round about way. And it seems the Greeks were on to something, as order can arise from chaos (maybe another post later on). In general order and chaos can co-exist and as such need not be taken as a contradiction. A chaotic process can give rise to a beautifully ordered fractal. And so it came to be, that one of the more common fractal patterns was chosen as the logo of my consulting company. The Sierpinski triangle to be precise:

That's a fractal; if you take this into a good image editing software tool, and cut a smaller triangle, and then zoom in, you will see the full shape appearing again. Sort of wheels within wheels; you know, it's turtles all the way down.

But, as the years roll on, I see a various manifestations of complexity in the world, I think this title is apposite. So there! That is why.

I must thank Ramana for his kind encouragement to write. In this blog cluster, I see two of the three Rs of education represented exuberantly. So,I might, to attendant groans, occasionally fill in the third. But don’t let this put you off, I can only tangentially refer to mathematics, I will be changing this blog from a specialist to a generalist one.

The other seven bloggers, in some disorder, who write on the same topic every Friday are Sanjana, PadmumRaju, Maria. Shackman , Ramana and Conrad.  This week’s topic was suggested by Conrad. I’m sure there you will be a fine mix of entertainment, education and enlightenment.

Brave new world?

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Organisations should be interested in Scrum adoption, because there is something to gain. Incidentally a reduction of pain, would be concomitant. So what are the common benefits?

The benefits are significantly better quality and productivity, but there  are a handful of other important benefits(possibly even more important):

1. Focus (reduced re-work/confusion, therefore happier floors)

2. Higher possibility of building the right product

3. Speeding up learning, which increases the rate by which previous benefit is accrued.

Coming back to the topics of productivity, I’ve personally helped teams increase it in the range of 30 to 60% and am convinced that those teams can do even better. So the claims of a 200% increase in productivity by some others are not necessarily codswallop. (However I’d caution against productivity becoming the MAIN/ONLY goal of adoption.)

It is surprising how few organisations are able to realise these benefits; this is often due to management not really holding teams (the WHOLE team) accountable, and, not creating an environment where quality is key and teams, SM and PO are empowered.

It’s a nice new world, if we can get there; Not simply the ‘brave’ new world.

(For those who haven’t read Auldous Huxley’s classic, ‘The Brave New World’ is a dystopian novel with prescient – I think – warnings on modern human societies, which are technologically advanced)

Why do we need self-organisation when we have micro-management!?!

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Good question!

I’ll try to explain, while avoiding a close coupling with Scrum, though some tangential references may well slip through. Let’s start by considering something which is going to be familar to the gen-X managers: Pseudo-code, a key step in structured software development (or defined s/w dev processes). As the design phase is winding down, the last level of detailing was being filled in by way of pseudo-code. Pseudo-code: a detailed description of steps of a computer was supposed to execute, but not in a programming language. This was to be simply translated into code, by a worker bee (programmer) into a computer language, viola, ofcourse we have a flawless system. The need to write pseudo-code for someone else (the worker bee/mule) is, an admission if only latently, that we are hiring dimwits. If we follow this train of thought, another conclusion looms: usage of psuedo-code is a strain of intense micro-management, and a failure to understand the real nature of programming (at least programming in the small). As an aside: devotees of big-upfront design may have diagnosed correctly, that programming in the large, brings about its own set of problems; However they have unfortunately taken the wrong pill. They can detoxify, by reading Jack Reeves thoughts on software design. BTW, the gentleman, has nothing to do with the agile jamboree, just a very clear sighted (an endangered species) thoughtful, software developer. There is nothing wrong with a limited amount of upfront design, as long as we don’t try to develop the ‘perfect’ solution, while keeping in mind that this upfront design is just a draft, which can only be final, when the software works! (testing time, anyone!?!). So, unavoidably, we have to grapple with all sorts of detail, where the devil is hiding. So who is going to do all that grappling?

This brings us nicely to consider micro-management of teams. Serious software development takes place in a far more complex and fast changing environment than ever before. The work is highly interconnected with frequent changes (and surprises) streaming in. Many competencies are involved, with many things having to come together for a a successful result. It is impossible for one manager to do all the basic thinking and detailing. Much of the simple software has already been built, and most worthy teams are left with the implementation of involved software solutions. Therefore, the manager in question has to continually re-issue instructions to the team as events occur, surprises spring, lessons knock hard and the real target (software we need, as opposed to have wanted some time ago) reveals itself. It is, I’m afraid something of a losing battle.

Instead, the manager must work more as a facilitator, who ensures that the necessary resources and tools are provided to the team, and that impediments to team deliverables are removed. Having done this, it is best for the manger to get out of the way. It is not the manager’s job to order the team around; rather, it is the team that decides on how much to commit and how to deliver (from the top of the product backlog).

Breathing down the team’s neck and micro-managing it from the outside sends a signal that the team is not responsible. It then becomes the manager’s job to commit and then worry about how to get things done. This limits productivity, innovation and creativity in the team, chokes communications and, in time, results in disengagement and apathy. Actually this state of affairs is so widespread that it is the new normal.  That is why, we should encourage self-management.

If ownership firmly rests with the team, there is greater focus, sense of responsibility and motivation to perform. Let the team manage itself. The manager’s job is to keep the focus on the bigger picture and help if the need arises. At the same time—and paradoxical though it may seem— the manager must not lose sight of the critical details (important when teams are dealing with the rest of the organisation).

So, get your team together, emphasise goals, facilitate learning, offer to help, make it clear that you are watching and then,…let go! You should rather be spending your time to prepare for a role at an n+1 level than get bogged down with the details at n-1. Potentially a depressing corollary, is that one circumstance micro-management could succeed is where the project on hand is relatively straightforward! So, maybe, that project you are so successfully micro-managing, is just a run of the mill work, where low intelligence finds a comfortable home. It would also be interesting to know what you think of the BBCs advice on micro-management. Actually if you think about it, many managers cannot even really micro-manage, but try to give the impression that they are on top of things. A waste of energy, time and in acute cases, even space.

Therefore, in general, I advise eschewing micro-management, but hold your breadth, further flutters await you….

Some thoughtful birds in my circle of acquaintances, debated over the need for managers at all (in all shapes and forms !?!). I’m all set to write about that as well, in a day or two.

Management 7.0

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You might have heard of management 3.0 or was it 4.0 !?! … in these inflationary times, I just have to bring you the latest.

The trigger for this post was the panel discussion at India Agile Week (IAW), 2014 event held in Bangalore last week. I was part of the panel discussions, sharing space (and the mike) with Mr . Tathagat Verma (aka TV), Mr Manish Mishra and Mr Raj Stanley.

We discussed a variety of topics and issues. The exchange was interesting and informative. At some point,  the role of  managers came up and TV remarked that managers are rewarded for doing (more of) the same tasks/activities. They do not have an incentive to innovate.

TV could not have put it better. This is how it is. This view of the manager’s role is so trite, that such a mode of working and the resulting work environment is seldom questioned,  let alone overturned.   Nevertheless a more mature view of management (and one that Scrum espouses) is that “Managers are not there to make the inevitable happen”. A well- written explanation of the manager’s role is at http://www.goodagile.com and much material on related ideas can be gleaned from http://www.stevedenning.com

At the conference, there was a comment/question about the lack of conclusive answers as to how team appraisals can be conducted as well as redefining the role of  managers . In such a case, due consideration must be given to long-term  planning and changes  needed in “agile”.

Lack of time precluded a detailed explication. However, the Scrum community has had some well- formed answers to these Questions for sometime. Briefly,  appraisals are team based (with 360 degree feedback) with the manager providing a conducive environment for self-organised teams to flourish. Long- term planning is done based on an aggregation of current team capacity to deliver working software increments. Each of these can be the topic of a post in itself, and I intend to share my views and information in the coming weeks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Event report

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A bit late, but I did attend the event  mentioned in the previous post. It was time truly well spent. So here is the report, with a bit of opinion thrown in.

The highlights were the talks by Dr Wintersteiger and Mr Tathagat Verma.

Dr Wintersteiger gave a very interesting talk on the landscape and development of this whole Agile business, around the world, including India. One of the key points is how the management approaches are still very 20th Century, while the behaviour as well as aspirations  of organisations, teams and indeed the younger generation of people is very different. How seating and office ambience is very different. This got some people thinking and there were questions during the panel discussion I’ve mentioned Lynda Gratton’s recent book. This discusses the changing nature of work and makes some predictions (not all of them brand new) and offers a sane way forward. Worth a read, even though I think the LBS fraternity generally tends to provide examples from large pedestrian and traditional companies. Q n A session at the end of Dr Wintersteiger’s talk was absorbing (yours truly asking many questions)

Tathagat’s talk was very interesting. Generally when people talk about/of Agile, I tend to go into an semi-slumber, often punctuated by mild irritation and sometimes dislike.  For a change it was a an enjoyable and informative talk. Excellent examples, context setting and explanations. Not common at all these days. I even learnt something very useful. He (With help of Linda Rising) explicated what is meant by mindset and what a mindset constitutes of. This word is used commonly but without a lot of understanding (A bit like ‘agile’, eh?) .  He compared the fairly opposing mindset of companies/people. This understanding is actually very critical. I hope everyone is better for this.

The rest of the conference was fairly decent, with Mr Nitin Dhall giving a very nice talk and honest (hence useful) QnA at the end. I’ve not attended a lot of other talks (which may very well have been wonderful) as I was busy talking to people whose interests overlap with mine.

Ciao

 

P.S: I’m about to give a talk at an internal conference and have half a mind to report on this as well.  But then I think enough of general reports, I’ll see if I can write on a particular problem/area soon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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