February 23, 2011

Transitions

Posted in Business, Life tagged , , , , , , , at 10:34 pm by lindaslongview

I cannot believe that Dannon finally pulled La Crème yogurt (my favorite!) from the marketplace altogther.  I have chased it from store-to-store, letting out a gleeful gasp everytime I found it again in new and different store (only to have it disappear again):  Safeway → Target → Nob Hill.

Now appearing in the yogurt aisle of my supermarket is a plethora of brands of “Greek” yogurt.  I have tried many and to me they just do not measure up in creaminess and texture.  I am hoping that creamy comes back in style and I will eventually find something that I like as much as La Crème.

Not to trivialize the major transition facing my consulting practice clients, this loss of my favorite yogurt helps me to understand why shuttering my year-old business, Process Confidence, has been so wrenching.  Even though I am extremely happy and excited about my decision to transition back to full-time professional employment (a great opportunity!), for my clients, my sudden unavailability is a similar involuntary loss.

Over the long view we will both get beyond these transitions…

I am grateful to my clients for making my consulting business a success.  I enjoyed helping each one achieve process confidence.  I cannot believe how much I learned in the past year about the practice of consulting in general, accounting (taxes), marketing, and sales, all while practicing the technical skills that I know best. Thank you!

I continue to wish all of my clients process confidence even though I have embarked on a new adventure.

February 14, 2011

Valentine Racing

Posted in Life tagged , , , , , at 10:41 am by lindaslongview

In Blue Feet, I declared my goal to run barefoot/minimalist!  This weekend, I ran a local Valentine’s Day 10k in my Vibram Five Finger (VFF) shoes.  It was a triumph of training and perseverance.

Even though I pulled up my mileage a bit faster than I probably should have (from a training perspective) – my feet are still a little stiff today – I am thrilled with the how I felt running.  I was relaxed and comfortable for the entire race AND I turned in a faster time this year (48:05) than last (49:35)!

The efficiency in my stride manifests itself in reduced heart-rate – my average 144 bpm enabled me to be extremely relaxed and comfortable. See inset chart of heart-rate/pace. (Note: I briefly forgot to stop recording data at race end…and the distance on the heart-rate monitor chip is improperly calibrated for the VFFs…)

The hardest part of the race was the ½-mile section of sharp gravel that forced me to focus on every foot placement to avoid pain/injury to my feet.  I successfully negotiated that section at what seemed like a slightly slower pace than the other sections, but the GPS trace suggests that I maintained pace through the entire section!

My long-view perspective on all of this:  goal → execute (perseverance) → enjoy!

It is about how you feel!

Perhaps I should have titled this post, Red Feet?

Happy Valentines Day! 🙂  Especially to my friends and family who ran with me and took pictures…

February 10, 2011

Protective Tribe

Posted in Business, Technology tagged , , , , , , , , at 1:16 pm by lindaslongview

In Linked Segments I worked hard to be succinct.  In doing so, I actually squeezed the life right out of the blog post! Rather than rework it directly, I am attempting to metaphorically add milk, stir, warm, and thus reconstitute the soup rather than a leaving a congealed glob of condensed puree.    :*)

Starting fresh….

I have worked with technical project teams spanning a few to many members .  It’s easy to work with a few members – priorities and progress are easy to update – it occurs naturally in the hallway, across cubicle walls, and informal team meetings. It gets more challenging when there are more than about five (5) team members AND when one (or more) is not co-located – the fluidity declines to the viscosity of……..condensed soup!

I could make a list of many reasons why it becomes harder, but I believe the primary one is that with greater visibility (more team members) there is a tendency toward declining informality.  Members feel pressure (internally?/externally?) to share only polished work stemming from personal struggles to maintain control and dignity (see my reference to Roger Martin’s work at Technical Complexity).  So sharing frequency declines – we wait for members to fully analyze their data, prepare a slide deck, and then present at the next team meeting. These effects mitigate the efficiency and productivity gains of larger groups, because they slow progress down.

Gaining trust and reciprocity that facilitates frequent informal exchange is much easier in smaller groups because protective cliques form readily in small groups.  Yet, gaining trust and reciprocity is not impossible in larger groups; it just requires forming a protective tribe – really.  This is where the newer ESSP (Emergent Social Software Platforms) have a role.  For example, in mid 2008, I began participating in Seth Godin’s online community, Triiibes. I was blown away at how effectively Seth created a large online community that allowed each of us to grow professionally – no polishing required.  My blog post On Triiibes celebrates the 1st anniversary of that community and the value that it created — truly amazing!

Two of the very best primers on the subject of forming a tribe:

When I realized that large organizations (agri-business, pharma, and medical research) were beginning to use larger work groups to increase efficiency and productivity (segment and specialize) I felt compelled to crystallize my most important insights. Unfortunately, my efforts to distill the essence left a blog post with the consistency of solid goo!  I hope this greater context makes Linked Segments more readable. 🙂

My long-view message:

  • Team members need to feel protected and valued.

Better?  Your feedback is welcome and appreciated!

February 8, 2011

Linked Segments

Posted in Business, Technology tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , at 9:31 am by lindaslongview

I have received some unflattering feedback that I made this post so succinct that I squeezed the life right out of it! (Thank you for gently letting me know.) Rather than rework it directly, I have attempted to reconstitute it at Protective Tribes, feel free to go there FIRST!

***********

Since my post Technical Complexity, I continue to deepen my thinking on subject of technology collaboration.  Recently,

  • I read Enterprise 2.0 (Andrew McAfee), a treatise on collaboration platforms (software) for organizations, and
  • I attended the Lab Automation 2011 conference in which a number of speakers addressed their experiences with collaboration platforms.

From these, I gained some new insights on the profound need to link organizational segments

Although segmentation and specialization are not new to industry (see Scientific Management), research and development activities have retained craftsman-like approaches because of the need for pattern recognition in problem solving and innovation.  Traditionally, within a narrowly defined research area, one or very few steward experimentation, analysis, and the accumulation of structured knowledge. However, more and more, segmentation and specialization are being deployed upstream of manufacturing changing the dynamics of pattern recognition and the accumulation of structured knowledge.  In fact, speakers at the conference described harnessing automation, outsourcing, and scheduling to fuel faster innovation across agri-business, pharmaceuticals, and disease research in ways that startled even me!

Having spent many years facilitating technology commercialization, I know firsthand the challenges of transitioning craft-sensitive loosely defined processes to robust segmented processes (research → development → manufacturing).  In my experience, the most critical factors for success are as follows:

  • Commitment to the transition – participants must understand deeply the constraints of the status quo and the benefits of change (the why)
  • Team collaboration – participants must be engaged and timely share process understanding to create new knowledge (the how)
  • Role valuation – participants must understand their responsibilities, feel valued for their contributions, and foresee continued opportunity (the human need for self-actualization)

With increasing scale and penetration of segmentation and specialization, the need for collaboration platforms such as dashboards, messaging, wikis, blogging, and tagging (described in Enterprise 2.0), is apparent – the proliferating segments need to be linked.  One of the pharma speakers at the conference provided an excellent primer on the demands and challenges of linking the segments.  He eloquently made the point that success requires a proactive creation of collaborative structure that encourages productive behaviors – “it’s about the conversations not the tools.” Concurring, McAfee describes common obstacles to implementing collaboration platforms:

  • Need to achieve 9x superiority (overcome status quo bias)
  • Reluctance to relinquish successful interpersonal behaviors of private communications (unilateral actions and defensiveness) that fail in public collaboration (due to mistrust and rigidity)
  • Impatience (adoption is slow and is thus a long haul effort).

Distilling the different observations and experiences, I conclude that the accelerating shift to a collaborative culture of linked segments requires a deliberate long-view transition with special attention to interpersonal behaviors. It is not enough to add the new collaborative tools into the organization along with automation and segmentation, but requires an integrated program that addresses commitment, valuation, and known obstacles for success.

Are you deliberately moving towards linked segments?

February 1, 2011

Initiative

Posted in Business, Life tagged , at 9:34 pm by lindaslongview

I received two unrelated but tantalizingly connected links today in my email inbox:

  1. One claimed that there is an economic emergency caused by a lack of initiative (Poke-the-Box by Seth Godin)
  2. The other was to Google’s new application (ngrams) for trending the frequency of words appearing in books from 1800 to now.

How could I resist trending initiative (along with self esteem) over the long view?

Wow!

From 1800 to 2008 there has been an explosive growth in the occurrence of the term initiative and then a decay starting about the 1970’s.  Interestingly, there is concomitant growth of the term self-esteem during the same period that initiative begins its decline.  Hmmmm….

I bought Seth’s book!  Will you Poke-the-Box?