March 5, 2011

Buddy Taping

Posted in Business, Life tagged , , at 1:16 am by lindaslongview

Buddy taping is the act of allowing one stronger to support the weaker — a short-term aid to gain long view capability.

Buddy taping can be applied to:

  • a young sapling to help it grow
  • an injured finger/toe to allow it to heal
  • a new recruit learning the ropes
  • <your suggestion here>

This week was a buddy taping week…

As I started my new position this week, I relied heavily on others around me to educate me in the current needs, deadlines, and technology of the organization. The tasks and opportunties that have emerged energize me, but I still need the help of others until I get my bearings.  I am grateful for the generosity of my new colleagues.  🙂

To solidify the buddy taping theme for the week, I injured my baby toe in a running accident. It was wet and muddy on the trail that I regularly run and I slipped on a muddy incline slamming my foot into a rock at the bottom of the section.  My baby toe took the brunt of the force.  Poor baby toe…all black and blue and swollen.  😦  But my injured toe made it the 2.5 miles back to the car without too much complaint — then it set up!

Do you buddy tape when you need support?

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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 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? 

January 4, 2011

Technical Complexity

Posted in Business, Technology tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , at 3:16 pm by lindaslongview

The management of technical complexity and its evolution is probably my favorite subject.  I am simply fascinated by the challenges created by ever more complex technologies and the processes required to see them to fruition.

I read the book War Made New (Boot) a few years ago.  It was a fascinating read, with the most striking element being the evolution of tactics and strategies as new technologies emerged over 500 years of military history.  Boot captures the evolution of weaponry and concomitant strategies vividly because he covers 500 years of the proverbial arms race in time-lapse drama – it’s easy to see the big changes and the impacts of those changes in his case studies over such a long view.

I have wanted a similar treatise of commercial technology discussing the many innovations needed to manage technical complexity since the emergence of industrialization.  I have not found it yet…

Recently I read three separate books (in succession) that each provide pieces that help create a time-lapse perspective of commercial technology that includes social, structural, and historical contexts.  Although there is significant overlap in the ideas of the three authors, oversimplifying the content of each book allows me to divide them into the three domains:

Defining the trajectory of progress is very important to me because as a freelance participant (consultant) in the technology sector, I must continually update and upgrade my strategies for managing and participating in technology development and commercialization.  I must live at the edge…

From this trio of books, I distilled the following long-view insights:

  • We must develop our ability to collaborate to handle the increasing complexity of our science, products, and operational processes.  This is probably the single hardest task, because individually we struggle to maintain the illusions of “victory,” “control,” and “dignity,” which often get in the way of collective engagement. From Roger Martin:  “Erosion in [productively sharing responsibility] skills is hugely threatening in a world of large, complex networked organizations and coalitions and alliances in which joint choice-making and effective collaboration is a necessity.
  • We must encourage adaptability and options development in worker skills (ourselves, our colleagues, and subordinates) to effectively survive extraordinary futures.  We must really harness the instincts and knowledge of the different members of our teams.  We must encourage everyone to take the wide-view and to over-communicate perspectives.  From Kevin Kelly:  “We have lots of choices.  But those choices are no longer simple, nor obvious.  As Technology increases in complexity, the technium demands more complex responses.  For instance, the number of technologies to choose from so far exceeds our capacity to use them all that these days we define ourselves more by the technologies that we don’t use than by those we do.
  • We must understand, prioritize, and manage inherent conflicting loyalties that arise from the variable time scales (short-, mid-, and long-views) that confer operational system stability.  Because we will constantly face short-term vs. long-term conflicts, we must have strategies to prioritize our actions. From Stewart Brand: “The combination of fast and slow components makes the system resilient.

Are you actively developing collaboration, encouraging adaptability, and prioritizing conflicting loyalties?

October 1, 2010

Straight Lines

Posted in Business, Life, Technology tagged , , , , , , , at 9:16 am by lindaslongview

I recently had the pleasure of hearing David Brooks speak about politics and his career as a journalist (now for the New York Times).  He was both funny and insightful.

Mr. Brooks spoke on many subjects, but I was especially piqued by his observations about one specific character trait that makes President Obama unduly effective in his role as leader – extraordinary CALMNESS.

The story he tells about Obama’s calmness is as follows (paraphrased):

When Obama debated McCain in the 2008 presidential election, each man took turns at the lectern. Both could be seen writing notes onto the provided notepad.  An observer later collected those notes.  McCain’s notes were jotted words topical to the debate.  Obama’s notes were six extremely straight drawn lines. 

Wow!

I deeply appreciate those who have mastery of calmness because I am personally a hyperactive, difficult to sit-still person.  Yet I recognize that calmness is an essential ally in gaining mastery over new material or terrain.  It is easy (and natural) to panic when a situation seems overwhelming and futile.  However, panicking never breeds success.

Having pushed thorough to higher knowledge and performance many times before, I know that every obstacle must be overcome to achieve success.  As I continue to push myself professionally and personally, I often find myself in over my head. At those times, I must channel calmness to proceed.   My personal mantras (long view advice) for learning new things and tackling more demanding challenges are as follows:

  1. Breathe deeply through your nose (channel straight lines) – it helps to retain focus and minimizes irrational thoughts about quitting.
  2. Break down the problem – try simpler versions to validate the strategy or idea before incorporating into more complex scenarios.
  3. Ask for help – consult someone more knowledgeable and learn from them.

Although #2 (teach oneself) enables deeper learning, don’t wait too long to seek #3 (learn from another), because of #1 (irrational thoughts).

Would you benefit from channeling straight lines?

September 17, 2010

Baby Steps…

Posted in Business, Life tagged , , , , , , , at 2:50 pm by lindaslongview

I often encourage my clients to just take baby steps when tasks seem overwhelming and hard to start.

Recently, I have needed to take that advice.

I had an AMAZING summer!  I enjoyed 4 weeks of a European vacation and another 4 weeks of my husband being around because he was on sabbatical. 🙂

The good was that we had a BLAST together — it was wonderful.  The bad was that I got severely behind in my client work and have spent the last many weeks digging out of that situation.

Because I am fastidious about my work and because I was very behind, I abandoned everything non-essential until I could get my work in order. My blog took the biggest hit with my last blog post from France during my vacation.  😦

Since then, I have wanted to blog, but given the lapse I have desired an extraordinary return blog post, yet it has not manifested.  So my long view advice (to me):

  • Take baby steps – the first step is always the start (or restart) of a journey.
  • Continue to strive for more, better, and stronger, but be patient with yourself or you will lose the JOY.
  • Keep taking baby steps until habituated – then push forward with all the passion you can muster.

I’m glad to be back!

Would baby steps help you get started (or restarted) on your adventure?!

June 21, 2010

Answer is 3

Posted in Business, Life tagged , , , at 2:14 pm by lindaslongview

I have had a terrific opportunity to spend some time traveling in Europe on vacation.  There have been many opportunities to learn a bit about perspective, but a really great lesson has been taught to me via automobile parking in France.

As Americans accustomed used to large roads, large cars, and plentiful parking (most of the time), the roads, cars, and parking spaces in urban France were downright micro.  After a few days in France, we became more and more acclimated to the very challenging parking of the densely populated urban areas (often requires curb jumping for success).

When we arrived in Saint Tropez, there was a mix of the micro and large cars and thus the parking situation was mixed.  As my husband backed our rented European car into a marked parking space at our hotel, I was giving him guidance. He asked me, “How many spaces were in the empty back area of the lot?”

My first answer was 2 (from my American perspective based upon the striping of the spaces).  My second answer was 3 (when I realized that the spaces were large relative to the size of our small European rental car and there was plenty of room for another one next to ours based upon my recent acclimation to Paris parking).  My third answer was 4 (when I realized the same was the situation on the opposite side of the back lot based on the more recent acclimation to Marseilles parking which is even tighter than Paris!).

My answer sounded something like 2…, 3…., 4, because my perspective was shifting.

Afterward, my husband gave me a hard time about being unhelpful and indecisive, but it made me realize that he had assumed a single answer to a multiple answer question if you consider multiple perspectives…

In the morning, there were three cars parked in the back lot, so the answer was 3! Perspective was indeed important.

My long view advice:

  • When asking for guidance, recognize that advice might not assume a specific perspective.
  • Be patient with difference in perspective until a specific perspective is defined.

Are you considering the affect of perspective?

April 29, 2010

Eat Right & Stay Cool

Posted in Business, Life, Technology tagged , , , , , , , , at 10:09 am by lindaslongview

I have been guesting at a conference on cell culture engineering.   At this conference, researchers share knowledge and innovations for engineering the processes for making medicines known as biopharmaceuticals (large molecule cancer drugs, heart attack drugs, etc.). These drugs are manufactured on a large scale by harnessing the microscopic cellular machinery of a massive number of cells in culture.

I learned that cells in culture act just like humans, if you overfeed them they will be lazy and not make the desired product.  As I walked through the poster session last evening, I was struck by the importance of nutrition and environment on the productivity of cells to make these biopharmaceuticals.

In fact, researchers demonstrated that changes to the diet of the cell culture media (the food stream) could increase the productivity of the cells by 2x and more!  Apparently, in cell culture there is an equivalent of substituting a diet of ice cream with a well balanced diet of proteins and carbohydrates.

There were also several posters showing that manipulating key environmental conditions, such as temperature, could lead to increased productivity.  For example, most cell culture processes are run at normal body temperature.  One researcher showed that cooling the culture several degrees from normal body temperature increased the productivity of the cells. Make them shiver — their machinery runs faster! Like the cells, I know that I swim faster in cooler water I run faster when the weather is cooler (until it requires too much bundling up and I’ll then head to the indoor gym).    

The cells (and their researchers) reminded me that in order to achieve excellent performance over the long term we should all eat a balanced diet and stay cool.  Thus, today’s long view advice:

  • Eat a balanced diet.
  • Stay cool for improved performance.

Are you eating right and staying cool?

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