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Change is the Natural State… 1sts, lasts, and nevers

22 Mar

Seth Godin (best-selling author, consultant, celebrity) does a daily blog that inspires me for two reasons:

1. Anyone who can write intelligent postings every single day (including weekends!) has it going on.  (He’s at one end of the spectrum with an open mind compared to many who blurt out the same drivel every day… and no, I’m not referring to particular TV network “spokespeople”);

2. His range of motion in terms of topics is astounding.

I wanted to share with you his post from today called First and Never (click on the title to access the post) which is an interesting way of looking at change. It is interesting to note that most people devote time to resisting and rejecting change so that they can remain in their comfortable wagon rut (remember TV westerns where huge “ruts” were left by the wheels of covered wagons as they ploughed through mud?)  And yet we talk about the Need for Progress (which only comes with change!)

What Seth doesn’t mention are the “lasts” – which relates to my belief that the gift in life is the present (today).  Seth mentions the firsts (first time experience – often you recognize these immediately when they happen), never agains (which are retrospective looks at past experiences that won’t happen again), but neglect the Lasts.  I believe that the fact that we never realize a “last time” occurrence until after it is past is an important aspect of the experience.  While it might sound morbid to think that anything or everything we do could be our “last time” to do it, I prefer to turn that around and extol the moment for its innate virtue.  While we lament over the never agains, it is my fervent belief that we ought to enjoy every pleasurable moment (as soon as we realize that we’re feeling something positive) and extol the people, places, feelings, smells, sounds, sights and wonder of it all. Should it turn out later to have been a “last” time we will have a fully experienced happy memory to recall.

Think about how this could transform your life – a staff meeting could become less of a chore and a bore if we take the time to chuckle when someone tells a joke (instead of lamenting how lame it was) or when we feel a sense of joy as someone describes an accomplishment.  More than likely it won’t be our last staff meeting (or even a memorable one) but if we take the time to enjoy the little moments of joy as they occur, we’ll find that they are more frequent that we realize (is this what is meant by “take time to smell the flowers”?_

I know how positive this has been for me — when I take the time to recognize the moments of pleasure and joy sprinkled throughout my oft-busy day, the inconveniences and petty disturbances grow smaller.  The gift of life is always the present (live for today) – and I’m finding that the 1sts, lasts and never agains are just a (good) part of overall life.

Thank you Seth for inspiring me to look at life in a different and inspiring way!

Have a good weekend!

Regards,
Carol

Carol Dekkers, Software Measurement and Global Software Development expert, author, speaker. Want to engage Carol to be a speaker at your next event? Email Ms. Dekkers at dekkers@qualityplustech.com or carol@caroldekkers.com or visit http://www.caroldekkers.com for details.

dekkers@qualityplustech.com
http://www.caroldekkers.com
http://www.qualityplustech.com

The freedom to DISassociate is a basic American Right…

18 Mar

Most of us were raised with good morals and values including be nice to others, share, don’t kick sand in another’s face, and if you don’t have something good to say, don’t say anything.  I find that these are good childhood teachings but our current society seems to be more and more devoid of such practices.

In my travels to conferences and public events throughout the world, I have the opportunity to observe human behavior at its best (at charity events where people are truly devoted to making a difference) and its worst (crowded airports on a snow day) and everything in between.  While it seems that the overall societal level of frustration in the U.S. has increased since the recession set foot, the majority of people I meet are kind, considerate human beings.  Every once in a while I encounter someone who is just plain “nasty” and it always gives me pause because they are so different from most people I meet.  Last night was one of those times.

Every year on my friend’s birthday eve, we go out to to a local neighborhood pub to celebrate her birthday and St. Patrick’s Day, and we are always amazed at the variety of “characters” and how the economy doesn’t seem to have affected St. Patrick’s Day celebrations. We were lucky to get seats at the bar and were enjoying the atmosphere and high energy of bar patrons who came up close behind us to jostle for position and attention of the bartenders to order their concoctions.  It was an interesting vantage point for observing patrons who seemed to be invisible despite their courtesy and patience – some simply couldn’t attract the attention of the servers (they weren’t scantily clad) and became increasingly frustrated as others who arrived later were served first. We ended up having “informal jobs” of flagging down passing bartenders when people in our vicinity started to lament the length they waited to be served.  Patrons were appreciative when we assisted them and were relieved to finally get a drink.

Things were going swimmingly until a “mean” (I’ll explain) bartender yelled “don’t point” and then “don’t call my attention” – loudly scolding three separate people at the bar for trying to aid stranded patrons whose pleadings for service fell on deaf ears. I can understand frustration (the pub WAS crowded) and the stress of working (but there were another 6 bartenders on shift behind the bar) — but the behavior was so sudden and disrespectful that it attracted the attention of everyone within earshot including other servers – who stopped to pause – before continuing on.  Everyone around us was stunned!  Had any of the other bartenders reacted or if they had with anyone else at the bar, it could be considered to be a single mean moment… but as we sat there in shock and silence we realized this same server had done this exact behavior last St. Patrick’s day!

I remember reading a Dec 2009 column from RealSimple.com called “10 Truths I wish I’d known sooner” by Amy Bloom. #7 on her list came to mind “Mean doesn’t Go Away”. In the article, Amy states:  Mean people suck

“7 Mean doesn’t go away. Some people get better looking with age; some don’t. Some people soften; some toughen up.  Mean streaks tend not to disappear. A person who demeans and belittles you and speaks of you with contempt to others is probably going to be that way for years. The first time it happens, take note. The second time, take your coat and go.”

That’s exactly what we did – took our coats and went – since it is a pub we want to revisit again, we will register complaints with the management.  Over the past several weeks I’ve come to realize that a basic freedom is the Freedom to Associate Freely, which we readily embrace – but we don’t often practice the freedom to also DISassociate freely.  Whether it is in our homes, our neighborhoods, at work, or in public – as adults and Americans we have the choice and the freedom to DISassociate! With over 7 billion people in the world, we need to know that there are many good people with whom we can CHOOSE to associate.

I spent far too many years defending and justifying mean behavior because I simply didn’t recognize it and didn’t exercise my right to DISassociate, but I’m learning. Disassociation from mean people is an important part of our own health and welfare – yet somehow we fail to practice this freedom.  What do YOU think?

Wishing you a productive and happy week and weekend!

Regards,
Carol

Carol Dekkers, Software Measurement and Global Software Development expert, author, speaker. Want to engage Carol to be a speaker at your next event? Email Ms. Dekkers at dekkers@qualityplustech.com or carol@caroldekkers.com or visit http://www.caroldekkers.com for details.

dekkers@qualityplustech.com
http://www.caroldekkers.com
http://www.qualityplustech.com

Read Carol Dekkers’ other blog (Musings about Software Development) at http://musingsaboutsoftwaredevelopment.wordpress.com

Copyright 2010 Carol Dekkers – All Rights Reserved ———————

Too many Choices Kill the Sale

16 Mar

It’s a basic American right to choose — we want to choose french fries or mashed potatoes with our meal, our salad dressing, our clothing, our partners, our lifestyle.  To be robbed of choice is tantamount to prison – even when it comes to minor things like paper or plastic bags at our grocery checkout.  But, can there be too many choices?

choiceResearch shows that the human brain can handle only a finite number of choices at once without losing track of what was already presented – if I remember correctly from a research presentation, I think the ideal number was six or seven – and choices beyond our limit causes what I call “choice paralysis”.  One study cited on the American Psychological Association’s website states:

“Chernev reports on four studies where he finds that the bigger the assortment, the harder it is for people to choose, except under one condition: when they enter with an articulated preference. In that case, they often choose what Nobel Laureate Herb Simon, PhD, first referred to as a “satisficing” option: the first decent choice that fits their preference as opposed to exhaustively scanning all options until finding the perfect, or “maximizing” one.”

Think about your own Encounters with Choice

If you don’t believe that too much choice is paralyzing, consider what you think is the most popular flavor at a Baskin-Robbins ice cream parlor – despite the 53 flavors of ice cream (changing daily) the favorite remains – are you ready for this: VANILLA!  We are creatures of habit and not up for that many choices when it comes to testing our palate (or our life) on new things.

Another example is Girl Scout cookies.  I always found it easy to select one or two different boxes to purchase at a grocery store exit when there were only 5 or 6 choices displayed.  Did you know that now there are actually ELEVEN different flavors of Girl Scouts cookies available including the 2010 introduction of “Thank  U Berry Munch”?  Fortunately for me, the current display outside my grocer in FL features only the five most popular choices. This is a good thing for me – and for the Girl Guides (who make money on sales) or I’d probably leave without making a purchase (actually in the case at hand I’d always purchase at least one box since Samoas are my “satisficing” favorite!)

Derek Severs posted a blog in the fall of 2009 about research outlining the Jam Experiment where shoppers given too many choices purchased 10x less jam than those presented with a smaller array of options. Here’s an excerpt:

“For 10 years, Columbia professor Sheena Iyengar has been studying choice.  For her research paper, “When Choice is Demotivating”, they ran a great test:

  • They set up a free tasting booth in a grocery store, with six different jams.  40% of the customers stopped to taste.  30% of those bought some.
  • A week later, they set up the same booth in the same store, but this time with twenty-four different jams.  60% of the customers stopped to taste.  But only 3% bought some!
  • Both groups actually tasted an average of 1.5 jams.  So the huge difference in buying can’t be blamed on the 24-jam customers being full. “

Derek’s assessment (click here to read the entire post) goes on discuss rationale for such results but the bottom line is that those with too many choices bought TEN TIMES LESS PRODUCT — buyer paralysis indeed!

ChoicesThink of times when you’ve had too many choices on a website or on a restaurant menu – nested if’s become too difficult in our already too-busy lives — and quickly we yearn for simplicity.  For example, do you want grande/venti/colossal/mega/gargantuan/enormous, with/without/soy/almond milk/skim/full-fat/half-fat/half and half/whipped/partially whipped/steamed?  My response is ‘duh’ – not only do I not know what I want, I have no idea what my friend asked me to buy… Eventually I either order two medium regular coffees to go, or nothing at all (and all I can think is “get me out of here!”)

What can we Learn from Too Many Choices?

Following the Pareto Principle (80/20 rule) we know that we can capture 80% of the market with purely 20% of the options we think we need to provide.  So, save time, energy, and development time by limiting the options available to five or less, and earn more sales and bigger profits.  At the same time, you’ll save your customers stress and decision-making gymnastics as long as you provide them with a choice – just not a vast array of overwhelming features!

Wishing you a highly productive (and stress-reduced) week!

Regards,
Carol

Carol Dekkers, Software Measurement and Global Software Development expert, author, speaker. Want to engage Carol to be a speaker at your next event?      Email Ms. Dekkers at dekkers@qualityplustech.com or carol@caroldekkers.com or visit http://www.caroldekkers.com for details.

dekkers@qualityplustech.com
http://www.caroldekkers.com
http://www.qualityplustech.com

Read Carol Dekkers’ other blog (Musings about Software Development) at http://musingsaboutsoftwaredevelopment.wordpress.com

Copyright 2010 Carol Dekkers – All Rights Reserved ———————

Can’t Focus with all the Noise? Try Kanban…

15 Mar

Too much to do, too little time! seems to be the mantra of today.  With our minds racing at 100 miles an hour and distractions coming at us from every direction (sound, sights, demands, emails, tweets, Facebook pings, instant messages, texts, phone calls, ARGH!!!) it’s amazing that we get anything done that we set out to do…

I’ve stumbled on a solution from software development that I think is equally applicable to our everyday lives and can dim the ongoing noise and clatter of living in a modern world – it’s called “Kanban” (from Japan) and it is the newest cooperative approach to agile software development (for more information see www.kanban101.com or AgileManagement.net).  For non-technical readers, one of the advantages of the Kanban approach is to “Limit the amount of work in progress” and I’ll explain in a bit how this will benefit everyone who wants to increase productivity and the quality of life!

Turn down the Noise! Most of us who are over the age of 35 can remember the days before ipods and mp3 players when teen years were challenging to find the exact volume for music that was loud enough to hear and quiet enough to stop the lamenting calls from mom and dad.  The same thing happens these days in our heads – there is so much clutter, distraction, and ongoing interruptions as we go about to complete our days that it becomes difficult to focus on any finite group of tasks – and as a result we end up spending our days like robots – shifting focus and effort every time another demand calls for immediate attention.  If we can find a way to limit distractions to those that are urgent or minimal – then we can complete more work in less time. This is the goal of Kanban – more, high quality work, completed in record time, with minimum bottlenecks and maximum focus (my paraphrasing!)  So, let’s see what we can take from Kanban and apply to everyday life…

Kanban works on the notion of having an “Input Queue” or pile of tasks that need to get done – think of this like your weekly or monthly to-do list, from which “work” is taken off the pile and started. This piece of work or task enters the “work in progress” pipeline (my visual term) and goes through what is referred to as “swim lanes” (whatever you are doing goes through steps from start to completion) before it gets to the end where it is completed and is “done”.  At this point, the work is no longer “in progress” but finished or passed on to another person or stage or simply crossed off the queue.  Once a task enters the swim lane (forward moving progress), life happens!  The task might take longer to do or be harder than you thought (and you might return it to the queue for later retrieval or adjust your schedule to accommodate this), you might need additional help, other more urgent requests may come in – there’s all sort of things that can happen before you complete the work. The neat thing about Kanban is that you only work on things that is important (i.e., there is a priority and classification step for the queue) and you Limit Work In Progress to the capacity you have!  Wow, industry principles we can use in everyday life

Kanban Principles for Everyday Living. Here’s my short list for Kanban trials in my own life this week (I’ll  report back on my own results next week):

To-do list1. There is no limit to the amount of things that can go on the queue – but you have to document what’s in the queue! (Like the old to-do list) The difference is that each item must have a description (as short as two words – sort laundry), a requestor (who asked for it, partners who will help, etc), a work type (is it a fix, a routine, something new, what’s it going to take to do it), and priority (date driven, mandatory, nice to do, etc). Over time, items in the queue can be added, dropped, changed, merged, etc.

2. Nothing is taken out of the queue to work on by accident. Unless there is capacity (you have the time, resources, extra help,  or something else has been removed from the work in progress pipeline) – nothing new is added to the work-in-progress pipeline.  This doesn’t mean that we cannot be multitasking or attending to children’s or answering the phone while working on something – it simply means that we LIMIT the amount of items we work on at once.

3. Focus on the WIP (work in progress) and don’t go back to the queue unless something urgent arises. When we have too many things presented as urgent during the day, we end up being paralyzed by choices.  There is a limit to the number of choices we humans can handle at once (think of the overwhelming menu choices at some restaurants) – and when we try to tackle to many things at once, we become ineffective at doing anything!

4. Don’t be afraid to take WIP out of the swim lane /pipeline if it doesn’t fit today. Too often we overestimate our abilities to get something done alone, or the amount of time something will take, or the resources we need to complete a task.  This is one of the beauties of Kanban – a task can be taken out of the pipeline and placed back on the queue for later completion or can be set aside until a bottleneck is removed – and there is no harm done!  We want to limit the amount we put in so that we can guarantee what comes out!  We can also “Block” a task (and not work on it) until something downstream becomes available to complete it (e.g., after someone else picks up a needed ingredient) and work on other items in the pipeline (still within our capacity) . It is a flexible but FOCUSED approach to our work.

5. If an urgent item must be done, put another WIP item aside. Similar to #3, urgent matters can interrupt and take precedence over an item in progress. The key principle here is that we consciously take (or block) the WIP to be able to handle this new item.  We are not constantly surveying the queue to see what else might be coming (diverting our energy and focus), and we are not constantly looking over our shoulders for distractions. We are focusing on and working through whatever item(s) we have the  capacity to do at the current point in time.

6. Inform everyone that there is a limited WIP size! This goes for yourself first, then friends, family, co-workers, strangers, phone callers – everyone!  It is mature and healthy to figure out our capacity and limitations for our WIP limit – and the number should be somewhere less than six, ideally a maximum of four items depending on the size and complexity of the task.  Once you inform everyone of this capacity, they will begin to understand the impact that interruptions, urgent requests, and constant demands make on the work in progress. It is simple common sense (seldom practiced in this area) to know your own capacity for work.  The saying goes – how do you eat an elephant?  One bite at a time… If we place a task as large as an elephant in our work in progress pipeline – there is room for NOTHING else!  So, divide the elephant into bite size pieces and place them on the queue and tackle them one bite at a time as your WIP pipeline allows.

7. (This is the maximum number of steps or choices we can ever handle at once!) Revisit the queue only periodically or when you complete work! This is a disciplined step that many of us will struggle with. Only check your email inbox (a queue) once a day or when you’ve completed other work. I’m doing that now. My WIP is this posting and I haven’t checked email or answered the phone during this writing.

That’s it!  What do you think?  Want to try Kanban on your life today and see if it makes a difference in your week?  Let me know how it works for you.

I’ll be back here next week with a Kanban board (visual chart of what I’ve used to track my WIP) and how it worked for me.

Best wishes for a productive week!

Regards,
Carol

Carol Dekkers, Software Measurement and Global Software Development expert, author, speaker. Want to engage Carol to be a speaker at your next event?      Email Ms. Dekkers at dekkers@qualityplustech.com or carol@caroldekkers.com or visit http://www.caroldekkers.com for details.

dekkers@qualityplustech.com
http://www.caroldekkers.com
http://www.qualityplustech.com

Read Carol Dekkers’ other blog (Musings about Software Development) at http://musingsaboutsoftwaredevelopment.wordpress.com

Copyright 2010 Carol Dekkers – All Rights Reserved ———————

Procrastination drags your past into the future…

10 Mar

At the beginning (or end) of a day, if you’re like me, you use lists and mental notes to keep track of all the things you have to do.  After years of “listing” I’ve come to realize that there’s really three parts of every to-do list:

  1. Must do’s:  Things you have to do that are mundane or tedious (like doing laundry or paying bills) and are time-sensitive;
  2. Will do’s: Things you have to do in the coming days (for me it’s things like completing an article or creating a workshop) that are movable throughout the week; and
  3. Dust do’s: Things that come and go on the list and gather “dust” because they’re not going to get done anytime soon (like replacing the trim on my doors due to dog damage, or confronting someone who promised me something that they have not yet done).

And I do realize that if I had a significant other, there would be a 4th category: the Honey Do’s (the things that need to be done that your “Honey” should/could/would do), but since I don’t we’ll ignore that one!

It’s the third type, the Dust Do’s, that often take up a lot of unnecessary real estate in our heads and take away from our productivity.  Dust Do’s symptomize Procrastination and drag our past unwittingly into our future – where we can end up holding onto negative emotional baggage for months, and sometimes even years!  The Dust Do’s are typically things that we’ve put aside several times in the past due to them either being too large, too expensive, too difficult, too emotionally draining, or we’ve just plain gotten used to living with not doing the task.  But, I contest that if we could remove just one item from the Dust Do list a week, we’d be healthier, happier and more productive!  As a nation of procrastinators, we often spend more time talking (and bemoaning) the item on the list than it would take to actually do it and put it into the past!  And we become procrastination enablers of others who involve us in their own procrastination.

Let me give you an example:  Following my divorce, my ex-husband was tasked with securing a legal financial document and after a multi-year delay, his lawyer finally submitted court documents that the judge asked to be rewritten.  The procrastination continued for another year as the lawyer did not complete her duties and I took action myself. I finally realized that the ensuing delays and the fact that this task was still on the list for completion (it is money he gets from my retirement) was keeping me stuck in the past.  This past December, I again went to court, incurred expenses to do the work that his lawyer was tasked to do, and finally got things done.  With this task almost in the past, I know that having it off of my Dust Do’s will lift a burden which has far too long been inflicting a toll.  

The motto of this posting – Dust off the “Dust Do’s” from your to-do list and get them done!  And soon your life will be moving forward with new vigor – instead of being dragged into the past by tasks that should have been completed long ago.

Have a good week!

Regards,
Carol

Carol Dekkers, Software Measurement and Global Software Development expert, author, speaker. Want to engage Carol to be a speaker at your next event? Email Ms. Dekkers at dekkers@qualityplustech.com or carol@caroldekkers.com or visit http://www.caroldekkers.com for details.

dekkers@qualityplustech.com
http://www.caroldekkers.com
http://www.qualityplustech.com

Read Carol Dekkers’ other blog (Musings about Software Development) at http://musingsaboutsoftwaredevelopment.wordpress.com

Copyright 2010 Carol Dekkers – All Rights Reserved ———————

New Year’s Resolutions…

29 Dec

As the year 2009 comes to a close, I find myself again making resolutions for the new year… only this year, I’ve got questions before I make them.  While I don’t ask these questions of anyone in particular, my self-discovery reading has given them rise.  Here goes:

1. If what we think and believe determines where we are in life, why am I not financially abundant?  I purposefully set in my mind the concept of ultimate prosperity during 2009, and along the lines of “The Secret” envisioned it, breathed it, wished it, felt it, and truly anticipated its manifestation for months. (Thankfully I did not spend the money before I had it in hand).  While I realize that proponents and writers of “The Secret” say that you cannot set the timeframe in which the universe will deliver to your thoughts, I’m wondering how much longer I need to wait. 

2. Can resolutions be made for things that are outside our control or which depend on the behavior of others? For example, if my resolution is to earn more money or attract love into my life in 2010 – can I truly deliver on the resolution when the result depends on the involvement of other(s) outside of myself alone?  Should we abandon resolutions if we cannot achieve them on our own?

3. What is reasonable to set as an achievable resolution?  I resolve every year to lose 20 pounds and yet even when I exercise, diet, refrain from fast foods, I seem to remain at the same weight or even gain a couple of pounds. Perhaps this is because I don’t NEED to lose weight (I just want to) and therefore, even with focus, doing the right things, and commitment, sometimes resolutions fail.  Should I alter my resolution or simply stop eating all together?

4. Is it better to make lots of resolutions so that we can enjoy some success, or make a couple of big ones that really matter? There is a mixed opinion on the internet about this. Some “experts” purport to making lots of realistic resolutions so that at least some level of success is attained, which in turn will inspire further success.  Other “experts” say that this is folly and frivolous – it is better to concentrate on those issues that will cause you to achieve more success in one aspect of your life.

Meanwhile, I’ve decided that instead of making resolutions, maybe I’ll do something different at year’s end. Based on the lunar eclipse on Dec 31, 2009, it’s a good time to make a list of all that I want to rid my life of (anything beginning with an Ex!), excess debt, excess weight, excess negativity, X anything!  AND, based on the solar eclipse coming on Jan 21, 2010 I’ll make a similar list of everything I want to attract into my life in 2010.  That way, I’ll eliminate the negative influences from my  life as the year comes to a close, and attract positive influences in once the year is underway.  Or at least that seems to skirt the questions I’ve got about resolutions, and replace the old ways of making resolutions with something new. And after all, something new and positive should be what the new year is really all about anyways!!!

Happy new year to you and yours! May 2010 be YOUR year to shine, thrive, be healthy, safe, and prosperous!

Regards,

Carol

Carol Dekkers, Software Measurement and Global Software Development expert, author, speaker. Want to engage Carol to be a speaker at your next event? Email Ms. Dekkers at dekkers@qualityplustech.com or carol@caroldekkers.com or visit http://www.caroldekkers.com for details.

dekkers@qualityplustech.com
http://www.caroldekkers.com
http://www.qualityplustech.com

Read Carol Dekkers’ other blog (Musings about Software Development) at http://musingsaboutsoftwaredevelopment.wordpress.com

Copyright 2009 Carol Dekkers – All Rights Reserved ———————

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