Apr 16 2009

Will & Skill

Published by at 12:06 am
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Andrew today shared a tidbit of leadership and motivation with the group. Not too sure other’s opinions of this kind of thing, maybe some people said it was “neat” just to humor Andrew, but of course I eat this kind of thing up.

The concept was looking at the individuals “Will” and relative “Skill” and take the appropriate approach to coaching them. It’s presented in am X/Y matrix, but can be explained just as simply in a list. Skill is just that, the skill and individual has at completing the task. Will is the level of self motivation the individual has at completing the task. Different people have different levels of skill and will for any given task. Some people might have HIGH will for doing very detail oriented work, but LOW will at doing very creative oriented work. So really I see this as not a catch all for all individuals, but needs to be evaluated on a case by case basis.

  • Direct people who have low skill and low will. By doing so, you show them a clear, direct path to success. This kind of coaching is almost on the level of teaching, but this approach will increase skill over time and with relative confidence that comes with the increased skill, their will can increase as well.
  • Excite people who have high skill and low will. By doing so, the aim is to increase their level of will to complete the task at hand through enthusiasm and other soft motivational techniques.
  • Guide people who have low skill and high will. These individuals seek to complete the task at hand, but need guidance on how to get there. You don’t need to completely direct them, but push them in the right direction and maybe even create barriers to help guide their success. Over time as they gain skills, they will need less guidance and that leads to…
  • Delegate people who have high skill and high will. These individuals not only are motivated to do the job, but can be trusted to get the task at hand done right with little to no supervision. Basically these individuals need to be empowered in every sense of the word and you need to support their efforts.

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Apr 15 2009

Understanding another’s thought process

Published by at 2:36 pm
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I’ve been taking a Virtual Leadership course with IHS and thought I’d include a few tidbits in my blog of different angles on how to effectively communicate. I know I struggle with this particular thing and sometimes I know others I communicate with who have a hard time with me as well. Maybe when I’m having a hard time talking with people maybe I can make sure to present them my thoughts in this mode to help them understand my point of view. Likewise I of course need to help people who are trying to communicate an idea to me to follow this process so I can effectively understand what they are trying to communicate to me.

In regards to my interactions with my boss, I think he very quickly skips steps 1 and 2 and immediately jumps into step 3 and 4 without taking the time to appropriately go through steps 1 and 2. This causes long drawn out spin out at times. I think it would be better for both me and him if we took the time to make sure that all the data is understood, how I interpret the data, the conclusions I’ve made, and what assumptions I’ve made. Then if I have holes then please test my assumptions, but don’t jump to that step. 

I’ll see what I can do to work with him on this process and see if it works better in regards to how he and I communicate.

All of us have at one time encountered the peer whose methods and thinking we didn’t understand. They mystify, frustrate and, on occasion, upset us. Rather than give up on him or her or try to glean their next move, you’ll find it more valuable to analyze their thinking process. In any particular coaching moment, start by trying to understand why the person has come to the conclusion they have. Ask them to:

  1. Describe the data and what it means. What’s the relevance of the data to them, to the industry, or to experts in the field?
  2. Explain their assumptions. Based on the data they’ve acquired, what assumptions have they made relative to the project? Why?
  3. Test their assumptions. What’s your impression of what they just said? Do these ideas seem reasonable to you? Are there additional assumptions to make? Encourage others to ask questions at this point.
  4. State your conclusions, and show your reasoning. Consider: Who and what will be affected? How will they be affected? Why did you come to this conclusion? How will it impact the company?

Remember that few people are used to defending their conclusions, and that these questions might make the person uncomfortable. Assure him or her that you are asking in order to better understand their thought process and provide additional perspective. As you continue to work together, start considering some alternative conclusions and possibilities — different ways of thinking outside both your normal realms. Another peer or someone else on the team may offer another perspective.

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Apr 14 2009

New Database Design

Published by at 9:05 pm
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Really made headway today on the new database design.

I’m starting by dumping all the completely useless tables which drive the UI part of the old UI framework. I’m also consolidating a bunch of tables that are uselessly 1 to 1 for no good reason. For example user data is spared out between about 12 different tables and user privileges are sparsed out in about 10 different tables. I think that we’re going to go with a fundamental redesign of roles and rights in the software, so for now I’m simply dropping those tables and compressing the user tables into the 3 or so tables that need to exist. From there I’ll start converting the easy stuff, mostly correcting logical problems with table relations, clean up PK, FK, Tables, and Column names. Oh and also dropping all the SP’s and Views since those won’t be necessary anymore once we start using the Entity Framework. I will of course look at the old database for purpose of learning some of the SP logic to keep that in the new development, but it’s not necessary in a project LakeView database.

My hope is to have the majority of the database redesigned by the end of the week or at least cleaned up so I can import the current database into VISIO, map out the entities in a clean way, and have a good ERD discussion with Gloski and Michael, possibly comparing it to the way the EPA, the EU, and most importantly how customers think of the data.

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Apr 13 2009

Project LakeView

Published by at 4:47 pm
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As Michael and I continue to develop the business case, drivers, and road map for the upcoming project, Michael made the suggestion that we give it a code name: LakeView.  I think it’s kind of neat to be using code names because that means I can talk about it in a more concrete named fashion without giving it a version number or using the infamous word that seems to scare people the “R” word.

I’m really excited about Michael’s enthusiasm to the project and he even brought up some other business drivers I hadn’t even thought about. I mean I was mostly doing this for three purposes: fix architecture issues that cause new feature implementation to be painful and slow, drive up customer delight, and fix other architecture problems that makes hosting multiple customers on one machine near to impossible. Michael piled about 10 other BIG things on top of that along with all my smaller bullet points that explain my main drivers. He also pointed out initiatives he needs for the software in the coming years and those initiatives would be near to impossible on the current architecture.

At this point we just need to communicate our new plan up the chain of command and get buy in from key stakeholders. Michael is going to drive approval up the business side of the organization. Gloski for example is a key stakeholder who needs to feel comfortable about the plan since he does carry the pulse of the customer. My job is to get full buy-in from the IT organization: Andrew, Tim, all the way up the ladder.

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Apr 12 2009

Global Climate Changes, seeing results, and analyzing it’s causes

Published by at 12:46 pm
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The Facts
Satellites Show Arctic Literally on Thin Ice*:

  • Satellite monitoring of arctic ice began in 1979
  • 2008-2009 winter had the fifth lowest maximum ice extent on record
  • Six lowest maximum events recorded have all occurred in the past six years (2004-2009)

*Source: NASA (http://www.nasa.gov/topics/earth/features/arctic_thinice.html, 04.06.2009)

What is causing the accelerated melting of the Arctic ice sheet?
Potential Conclusions or Hypothesis

  1. This is just part of the natural cycles of the earth
  2. Volcanic and other tectonic activity has caused temperature changes in arctic ocean temperatures
  3. The steady and constant increase in global CO2 production has caused global climate change due to CO2’s greenhouse effect

On the basis of my personal and professional knowledge of global climate change, these are the facts that I know regarding the natural cycles of the earth and man’s “unnatural” influence on the natural order of things. Personally this is an important topic for me, being environmentally conscious, but professionally this is an important topic because I manage the development of Environmental Cap & Trade software, so I’m well versed in all the supporting information like the Kyoto Protocol and global legislation regarding climate change.

  1. There is a natural order and cycle of the earth that results in global warming and global cooling cycles, but these cycles happen over a long period of time, generally over hundreds of thousands of years.
  2. CO2 and other green house gas producers and reduces are the primary drivers in global warming and cooling.
  3. CO2 has been globally recognized by the Kyoto Protocol as one of the 4 leading green house gas contributors to global warming.
  4. Man has increased the production of CO2 globally, consistently, and at an ever increasing rate.
  5. Volcanic and tectonic activity might be contributing but there is little data to support this hypothesis.

These natural and unnatural systems seem to be in conflict. I believe that this is both a natural process, but also man’s influence on the natural process is worse than some people would like to believe. The change we are seeing is faster than earth scientists believe can be explained simply through natural systems. Therefore, I select the final hypothesis as the most likely reason for the accelerated melting of the Arctic ice sheet: The steady and constant increase in global CO2 production has rapidly increased the speed of natural cycle of the earth, causing accelerated global climate change.

Supporting Argument for the Thesis
Earth scientists agree that the “natural” cycle of the earth is as follows. During an ice age period of hundreds of thousands of years, the global ice sheets advance as global cooling occurs. Once they advance, more and more trees are killed by advancing permafrost. Less trees means less CO2 reducers and the global CO2 amount increases dramatically over hundreds thousands of years. Once CO2 levels are high enough, more solar radiation is trapped in the atmosphere, global warming occurs and the ice caps recede and trees advance north. The cycle repeats itself.

Man has changed the “natural” cycle of the earth by the following actions. Burning fossil fuels such as coal and oil based products has advancing the rate at which CO2 is generated in our atmosphere. Not only has it accelerated, but if it wasn’t due to recent efforts by global governments, the rate would be increasing more and more every year. Countries like the US and China continue to advance the rate of CO2 production year after year. On top of CO2 production, man has also deforested, reducing the amount of CO2 reducers globally.

Climate change is a *hot* topic these days. Arguments continue on both sides of the table, but people have begun to see the global effects of climate change. This change has affected our agriculture, ocean currents and weather patterns, coral reefs have begun to die due to temperature increases, and worst of all we have begun to see increases in global sea levels. Countries are beginning to make legislature change recommended by Kyoto Protocol. Even the United States, one of the largest CO2 producers in the world, has presented The American Clean Energy And Security Act of 2009, which would meet and exceed the suggestions of the Kyoto Protocol within the United States. Global climate change is real and the world is beginning to realize and support my hypothesis that CO2 production need to be reduced to bring balance back to the natural order of things. 

*Note: I originally wrote this as part of a logic and critical thinking assignment for school, but decided to post it here as well.

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Apr 11 2009

It’s good to be coding again

Published by at 9:51 pm
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I’ve been coding all day today and all last night. Yes, I’ve been coding on a Friday and Saturday pretty much. It’s so good to be coding again. I got the site converted over to using the newest blue print from Kenyon’s team and going forward on starting to build out the skeleton of the site as well as doing some proof of concept moving data from the Entity Framework up through the WCSF layers and presented in a loosely coupled way on the user interface. So far everything has been fun and exciting and even fixed a few bugs on the master page / CSS while I was at it.

Next week I think my focus will be the database. I don’t want to go too far into development before doing a redesign of the database. Any good data application starts at the database and works it’s way up. Although I can start from the UI and go down. Either way the middle two layers need to wait until the bottom is built appropriately.

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Apr 09 2009

Just do it!

Published by at 7:51 pm
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Today Andrew told me that he talked with Michael and said in no more words… “Just Do It!”.

Do it as in let’s get going on the rewrite. I’m not 100% sure how things will progress at this point, but I’m looking forward to positive momentum on the project. At least at this point I won’t feel like I’m breaking the rules if I work on the project here and there as I have extra time to spare.

Next steps would be that Michael and I need to continue to work on a game plan and get that game plan ok’ed by people like Gloski who I know is external to the company, but represents the customers and people do hold high opinion in pretty high esteem. I know Gloski is probably the biggest obstacle at this point because he’s nervous about any kind of rewrite happening due to what happened last time. Hopefully with all the good work we’ve done with the product, maybe he’ll have some better hope that we can get the job done and get it right this time.

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Apr 03 2009


Published by at 8:30 am
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I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again. I don’t take compliments well.

Especially when I get compliments on something like what I did last week. Getting that architecture document and presentation done, in my opinion, had to be frackin’ done. I busted my hide for the better of the team, company, and frankly for my stress level. I wanted to get that out because I had talked about it, and talked about it, and talked about it, and even though I wanted it to be more collaborative than it ended up being, frankly I got to the point where I didn’t goddamn care anymore. I got it done and asked for feedback afterward.

So when I got compliments from Tim, Andrew, and other people in the office, I guess I could only respond with “I did what I felt like had to be done” or “I just wanted to get shit done”. I dunno. Maybe I need to take compliments more. Maybe it says something about my own insecurities. Hell I don’t even feel the document / diagram is really all that amazing, although people have said as such.  I mean I’m proud of the work I did on it. I’m am glad that people are complementing on the work I did. I guess the best compliment that anyone could give me is ACTION. I want to see something happen now. I guess it’s an action speaks louder than words concept. 

You know… to think of it. I’m feeling the same way with my guild. Skies, one of my officers, complimented me last night on all the hard work I’ve been doing recruiting last Friday through Monday. I was happy to be recognized for my hard work, but what pisses me off is that she says that, but do I see her doing her job in the guild? Do I see her creating and organizing PQ and other Tome Event activities? No. Actions speak louder than words. If you are really excited and happy about all the hard work I’ve been doing, then show me you care by helping keep those recruits by organizing events and helping evaluate them for membership.

Going back to the work related thoughts, I really think that action will take place here. That’s when I’ll get really excited and feel that the actions match the feedback I’ve gotten. If they feel the vision is “really really cool”, then they need to act upon it.

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Mar 25 2009

Communicating Vision

Published by at 4:10 pm
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Back in January, I discussed with the team that we have a duty to define the scope of what we need to accomplish. I beat this drum and beat this drum and no one was really paying attention. I continued to beat it up to and including the environmental summit last week. Still we didn’t have a complete vision of what we wanted to accomplish. Monday I came in ready to define that.

Tim asked me to develop a slide deck talking about architecture as well as some details about how we can intersect data. Finally I was getting my chance to communicate the vision that I’ve been trying to communicate for the last two months. To add fuel to the ugency fire, on top of it, we were hoping to have a good presentation in response to some things written by a stock analyst who we are presenting to next week. What this guy was proposing is what we’ve been collectively saying for some time, which is we need one unified product for the Environment. 

So I got to work. Monday I drew up an architecture document and Tuesday night I wrote a 9 page architecture document. Today I’ve been busy communicating with everyone from individuals on the team to Don, Mark, Brian, everyone who would listen to get their buy-in on the vision. I think I have a sound group of people supporting the vision and Tim seems to like what I’ve come up with as well. Today we made some more refinements to the documentation including input from Michael.

Now that we have defined the scope of what we hope to accomplish. Now it’s up to Tim and Andrew to discuss it with their higher ups and get buy-in. Maybe they like it. Maybe they think we’re crazy. All I know is that our duty to define the scope of what we need to accomplish is done. Now it’s up to them to define when and who will do the work. If given the green light, then we have the exciting challenge to figure out how we’re going to make it happen (along with everything else on our respective plates).

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Mar 19 2009

Environmental Summit 2009 Day #4

Published by at 6:04 pm
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Today’s focus was resource allocation, resource allocation, and resource allocation. We really went outside the box on how we could move things around, how we could reorganize efforts to accelerate things, how all these new initiatives gave us opportunities and challenges, and how (as Andrew put it) we needed to “Do the impossible”. Well I never thing anything is impossible, just highly improbable. We need to change the game being played to make the odds better suited to making the impossible the most likely outcome. We got the resource allocations written down, but unfortunately we still don’t have a full game plan yet.

When we were talking about the BIGGER picture of a unified architecture, I got REALLY pissy with Brian and went overboard on how I communicated TO him how things needed to happen. I’m just frustrated with his point of view that we need a WHOLE new team to re-write everything from the ground up. It’s not reality. It’s not going to happen. I need to figure out a constructive and non-abrasive approach to communicating a different vision of how we get from 3 separate products onto one single consolidated platform. Ironically, the vision isn’t even my vision. It’s someone else’s vision and I am just acting like the champion of the vision, tyring to get people’s buy-in. I’ve communicated it before, but people don’t get it. How can I communicate this vision better? Meh, I’ll try not to think about it over the weekend. Maybe I’ll have an epiphany on Monday.

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