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Wednesday Mar 17, 2010

How people actually develop - 70/20/10 rule

Many moons ago Sun introduced SunTOPS (Sun's Talent Optimization System) for development planning. Included in the notes, sadly I no longer have a copy, was this intriguing diagram:

how people write development plans versus how people actually develop

I've since found what I believe to be the underlying research behind this, it's the 70/20/10 model. There is a reference to it in the Princeton University Learning Process.

I've not found a reference to the idea that developmentactually plans usually turn this in its head - in other words, we incorrectly assume that development is 70% training, 20% learning from others, 10% job experience. If anyone knows where this came from please let me know.

According to Princeton:

70/20/10 learning concept was developed by Morgan McCall, Robert W. Eichinger, and Michael M. Lombardo at the Center for Creative Leadership and is specifically mentioned in The Career Architect Development Planner 3rd edition by Michael M. Lombardo and Robert W. Eichinger.

The seriously chunky and expensive The Career Architect Development Planner isn't in my local library or searchable on-line. I'd love to take a peek :-)

Monday Dec 07, 2009

NIS+ is now NIS-

As already blogged by Chris,

With the push of this feature into Solaris:

6874309 Remove NIS+ from Solaris
PSARC/2009/530 Removal of NIS+

a bit of Solaris history is made. The namespace that was to replace NIS (YP) has been survived by the system it was to replace.

My first day at Sun Microsystems in 1995 was the day I first touched NIS+ having geekily read and re-read the white papers prior to my joining. Chris was already service's recognised NIS+ expert world-wide so I was in excellent company as tentatively typed my first niscat.

To witness its removal is eerie to the least. The irony is that I'm now the manager responsible for the team that just removed something that's been been a golden thread running through my career at Sun for what is almost 15 years. I'll raise a virtual glass to all the people who've worked on it and with it - cheers. As Chris said, "it was fun".

Thursday May 28, 2009

Working from home? Make sure you're adding unique value

Mechanical TurkInteresting article in the Guardian on crowdsourcing - companies using large numbers of distributed people rather than technology to solve problems.

While not directly related to working from home it struck a chord with me. I commented on Rands's article on "The Pond". One of the things I wrote was:

"One concern whether remote or not is that if my work is so precisely defined then the company may decide to contract the work elsewhere, possibly off-shore. Human nature means that the unquantifiable work that keeps me valued is so much more visible in the pond."

Occasionally I entertain the idea of working remotely so that I can live where I want to live and all the other good stuff around home working. The article was a useful reality check and had me thinking about where I and the people I work with add value.

Friday May 08, 2009

Rules, incentives and Barry Schwartz's call for "practical wisdom" - and what of goals?

Another extraordinary TED presentation, this time by Barry Schwartz on The real crisis? We stopped being wise. It echoes a theme I'm seeing in many areas around how an over-attention to goals, metrics, rules, incentives, etc not only demonstrates a lack of trust by those setting them, it actually encourages the very behaviour they are seeking to avoid.

I'm a little leery about SMART goals. It's in all the management books of course and as a manager I'm expected to set them but we tend to over-rely on them. As Barry says in his presentation, we need rules, we need incentives but not more and more of them. They have their place but understand the limitations. I also recommend When Goal Setting Goes Bad which discusses the working paper entitled Goals Gone Wild: The Systematic Side Effects of Over-Prescribing Goal Setting.

Barry talks about how any scheme of incentives can be subverted and calls for wisdom and ethics to be nurtured. There's a Wired interview with Barry where he says:

"When you rely on incentives, you undermine virtues. Then when you discover that you actually need people who want to do the right thing, those people don’t exist because you’ve crushed anyone’s desire to do the right thing with all these incentives. And if you bring in a new set of people to replace them — virtuous, moral people who want to do the right thing — and they’re subjected to the same set of incentives, they’re going to become just like the people they replaced.

I’m not talking about getting rid of incentives; people have to make a living. But people need to understand that rules and incentives aren’t enough…. The more rules and incentives you have, the less wisdom you will have. There needs to be room left on the one hand to nurture in people the desire to do the right thing and on the other hand to give them the tools so that they’ll know what the right thing is. This incredible pressure to increase payoffs is an obstacle to doing the right thing. You will never be able to create a system of incentives that rewards people for doing the right thing. The system of incentives may start out that way, but very quickly clever people will find ways to … game it."

Amen to that.

Thursday May 07, 2009

Recommending "Managing Humans" by by Michael Lopp (aka Rands)

Managing Humans cover picture

I thoroughly recommend the book "Managing Humans" by Rands, aka Michael Lopp. The pearls of wisdom come thick and fast, it's an easy read and you'll find plenty to laugh and cry about.

I'm a manager in Solaris sustaining - essentially we fix bugs in our released versions of Solaris - rather than product development which is more Rands territory. Having said that, there's lots of commonality between the roles.

It was recommended to me by Dave Walker, a colleague of mine here at Sun UK. It was his tip for the engineer-begat-manager - ie me.

All the chapters are available on-line in Rand's blog, eg Meeting Creatures, but the book neatly groups them and is handy for dipping in and out of when the mood takes you or the panic sets in :-)

You're a bad man Mr Gum cover pictureOn the theme of book reviews - for those with children I also have to recommend the "Mr Gum" books. Full of nonsense words, mad characters and slapstick humour. It certainly amused me and my children (4 and 7) were laughing out loud. Favourite quotes include this description of Padlock the bear:

"He was a proper fat shaggy rumble-me-tumble sort of a roly-poly flip-flap-flopper of a big brown bear"

I had to read that description out loud several nights in a row.

Please read to your children.

Friday Apr 17, 2009

The Knowledge Distortion Field


I'm sure there's a better term for this - the Knowledge Distortion Field is an observable effect created by those who know something that they are unable to share.

I've noticed it more as a manager as I'm privy to more confidential information such as personal details and management decisions. It's particularly noticeable when you yourself are also aware of the confidential information.

Probing the KDF is a little like the old Black Box game. Asking direct questions isn't allowed, or at least won't get you anywhere. Asking indirect questions or observing actions taken allows you to build up a picture.

Why do I mention this? It's simply something to be aware of no matter which side of the fence you sit. If you are in possession of confidential information be wary of any KDF you generate. If you are seeking that confidential information then quiet observation and indirect probing may help.

If anyone knows a better way of describing this I'd love to hear about it.

Thursday Apr 16, 2009

Why security bugs are different to other bugs

Red Light Way back in 2000 I had the following insight on security bugs and had this weird urge nine years later to share it. I can't believe it's original...

Security fixes are different from every other kind of fix. As every good troubleshooter knows, when problems occur something almost invariably has changed. For most bugs it is something like load, configuration and so on which can be undone.

With security bugs it is knowledge that has changed and a security weakness can't be unlearned by the world at large.

I don't have insights like that very often :-)

Friday Jan 09, 2009

Happiness is a healthy social network

Once again New Scientist justifies my subscription - a fascinating article on how your friends' friends can affect your mood such as happiness. In other words, not just your immediate circle of friends.

The tips provided were:

Five tips for a healthier social network

  1. Choose your friends carefully.
  2. Choose which of your existing friends you spend the most time with. For example, hang out with people who are upbeat, or avoid couch potatoes.
  3. Join a club whose members you would like to emulate (running, healthy cooking), and socialise with them.
  4. If you are with people whose emotional state or behaviours you could do without, try to avoid the natural inclination to mimic their facial expressions and postures.
  5. Be aware at all times of your susceptibility to social influence - and remember that being a social animal is mostly a good thing.

The article questions whether Malcolm Gladwell's Tipping Point argument that social epidemics are dependent on certain key individuals is correct - though my recall of that book is that connectors are one of the key individuals who by definition have wide social networks. The key point of this article is that the effect spans several degrees of separation.

The comments on the article are well worth reading too including the slightly concerning consequence of the above advice which means undesirable people (eg depressives) could end up isolated.

Some of the happiest times I've had are hanging out with dance friends. Find the right music, venue and dance partner and your cares and woes are soon forgotten. However, that joy extends beyond the dance itself - it's infectious.

Wednesday Nov 12, 2008

Prototype Sun Ray laptops

My wish for an Intel Metro Sun Ray laptop still lives on - but I was somewhat chuffed to find my 6- and 4-year old had prototyped some for me.


2008_1109_084512 2008_1109_084812 2008_1109_084917 2008_1109_085005

Lightweight, packaging can be recycled, ultra-low power consumption and surprisingly economic to manufacture. A touching moment, especially when I found that the older one had written "Sun Ray" on the lids. Geek dad moment.

Thursday Oct 23, 2008

Father of three

New babyDelighted that I'm now the father of three children - a lovely little girl born on Wednesday morning in lightning quick time. We arrived at the hospital at 0800 and the baby was born at 0850 - certainly kept the midwife busy.

All's well with mother, baby, older brothers not to mention dad.

Tuesday Sep 30, 2008

Teaching critical thinking in schools?

Given my training in SGRT I'm interested in how critical thinking, call it rational management if you will, could be encouraged. In particular, now that I have children of my own, I'm wondering why problem solving, decision making and critical thinking in general is not taught in schools.

Lots of "joining the dots" here, I found a letter in New Scientist that suggests we should. Lynn Stoppelman, Reston, Virginia, US wrote:

... Improving risk literacy is more complicated than switching off the TV. To encourage more people to use rational, less emotional decision-making we must train youngsters in critical thinking skills before fearfulness born of insecurity becomes habitual - not wait until the last year of high school or the first year of college. Conscious parenting focused on raising secure infants who have benefited from a healthy attachment to a parental figure remains the fundamental way to ensure a clear-thinking society.

The original article requires a New Scientist subscription and is well worth a read.

There was a related article in the Guardian's "This column will change your life" by Oliver Burkeman which covered similar ground and is a shorter read - it gets to the point though:

... The researchers' basic point is this: when we lack definite information, we make very poor judgments, and we do so in predictable ways. ... The findings of Kahneman et al suggest a different approach: rather than trying to change that feeling in your gut from negative to positive, learn to be sceptical of your gut feeling, whether it's negative or positive - because there's good reason to believe your focus is completely wrong. (There are sound evolutionary explanations for why we ended up this way, but our brains were designed for an environment in which we no longer live.)

Fascinating stuff.

Update: Turns out there's a non-profit organization that supports the teaching of the basic KT principles in schools, check out Looks like it's aimed at teenagers - pass it on.

Saturday May 17, 2008

links for 2008-05-17

Tuesday May 13, 2008

links for 2008-05-13

Saturday May 10, 2008

links for 2008-05-10




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