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.

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

Whispering

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.

Wednesday Oct 03, 2007

Just finished reading "Goal-Free Living"

Goal-Free Living: How to Have the Life You Want NOW! by Stephen M. ShapiroJust finished reading "Goal-Free Living: How to Have the Life You Want NOW!" by Stephen M. Shapiro. Recommended reading for anyone who has that lurking suspicion that there's more to life than what they're doing.

I enjoyed reading the book and it was a refreshingly intelligent contrast to the more usual business/life/self-help books. Similar to the latter there's an element of "this worked for me, it can work for you too!" - Stephen has done very well as a motivational speaker - but he does document many people's goal-free successes - are we're talking happiness, not necessarily money.

There are some excellent reviews and interviews available so I won't duplicate that effort, check:

My personal take was one of identification. I'm a little wary of how we tend to identify ourselves when it suits us, much like horoscopes, however it rang true for me in a number of places. The book lists eight 'secrets' and then fleshes them out with details such as the how and why. While you could just read the secrets and put the book back on the shelf it's worthwhile reading about the people Stephen interviewed as he worked on the book. As copied from the Amazon Editorial Review ...

  1. Use a compass, not a map
  2. Have a sense of direction, and then let yourself wander and try new things on the way to fulfilling your aspirations.
  3. Trust that you are never lost
  4. Every seemingly wrong turn is an opportunity to learn and experience new things.
  5. Remember that opportunity knocks often, but sometimes softly
  6. While blindly pursuing our goals, we often miss unexpected and wonderful possibilities.
  7. Want what you have
  8. Measure your life by your own yardstick and appreciate who you are, what you do, and what you have . . . now.
  9. Seek out adventure
  10. Treat your life like the one-time-only journey it is and revel in new and different experiences.
  11. Become a people magnet
  12. Constantly seek, build, and nurture relationships with new people so that you always have the support and camaraderie of others.
  13. Embrace your limits
  14. Transform your inadequacies and boundaries into unique qualities you can use to your advantage.
  15. Remain detached
  16. Focus on the present, act with a commitment to the future, and avoid worrying about how things will turn out.

I particularly like 1 (use a compass not a map) and 4 (want what you have).

I was reminded of a BBC 1 documentary and accompanying book called "In Search of Happiness" by Angus Deayton. Superficially it was about finding the strangest things that people do that make them happy and make jokes about them. More fundamentally it illustrated that happiness is subjective and not necessarily the goal-orientated, financial, career-enhancing future we so often seek.

Note that 'goal-free' doesn't mean 'goal-less'. Read the book for more details.

In the meantime it is probably worth mentioning that I've taken a management role at Sun. Still working in the same area (Solaris Engineering) but understanding how the organisation and people work rather than the kernel. How goal-free is that?

Don't get me started on SMART goals. That's another blog entry ...

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