December 6, 2009

Size Disadvantage?

Posted in Life tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , at 4:09 pm by lindaslongview

It’s easy to benchmark size when rating performance – it is visible and typically easy to measure.  Yet other less accessible attributes can contribute importantly to success:  agility, competence, experience, focus, knowledge, patience, skill, strategy, etc.  Because these other attributes are less visible and are harder to assess, we often choose to measure on the basis of a simple benchmark like size.

In June, I got agitated about “how much playing time?” my son received at a tournament (see Applied to Soccer).  Although my long view leadership advice in that post has merit, I now realize that on a systemic basis, I oversimplified my son’s soccer situation.  There was more to learn and assess…

In the case of sports, bigger players benefit from their size on two counts:  1) they are physically more powerful and 2) youth coaches often select larger players over their smaller teammates on the reasoning “you cannot coach size,” and give them more opportunity early (for example, more playing time on game day).

However, having more diligently watched the dynamics of my son’s development as a soccer player a few more months, I now realize that being small (for a longer duration) is only a near-term disadvantage in terms of opportunity (passed over for the boys who have grown bigger earlier).  In subtle ways, smaller boys, like my son, benefit from their size disadvantage over the long-term because they cultivate their game differently.  For example, my son has impressive knowledge of the tactics and strategy of the game.  His skill, agility, and speed are his primary tools for success (different emphasis than his larger teammates).  When he finally achieves improved size parity within the next few years (he has more growth left than those who have grown early), perhaps like Lionel Messi, he will still be reasonably competitive due to his quiet mastery of the less visible attributes of the game?!

Today’s observation is simply a personal reminder to engage in long-view thinking everywhere when learning:

  • Expand observations,
  • Increase knowledge, and
  • Cultivate more complex thinking for improved accuracy (include more attributes in mental models).

As a result of my agitation, I paid greater attention to the team dynamics, learned much, and now realize that it is all part of the beautiful game.

Nevertheless, I wish my son increased joy (and playing time) as he auditions for a different team in a slightly less competitive league. 🙂

Are you constantly expanding observations, increasing knowledge, and cultivating more complex thinking everywhere?

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September 5, 2009

Moved the Needle

Posted in Life, Technology tagged , , , , , , , , , at 11:52 am by lindaslongview

One year ago, as a result of a running hip injury and a prior history of a hip stress fracture (running), my doctor recommended a bone density measurement even though I am young, active, and have no significant risk factors for osteoporosis.  Obediently, I went for a DEXA measurement.

Shortly after, my doctor informed me that the good news was that I had not lost any height, but the bad news was that I had osteoporosis.  I was shocked.

bone

This diagnosis was opportunity to adjust my lifestyle to improve my long-term skeletal health.  As with any significant emergent problem, the long view response is similar:

  1. Assess priority – does it merit long view investment?
  2. Define improvement/success metric(s)
  3. Create a plan for improvement/success
  4. Execute:  drip, drip, drip…
  5. Measure improvement/success
  6. Reassess priority  (Celebrate improvement/success)

Establishing priority was easy.  To ensure my long-term skeletal health, I was immediately committed to aggressively battling this silent disease.  Complacency was never an option for an Off-the-Scale-Futurist.

Defining the improvement/success metric was also easy.  I needed to increase my bone density to greater than -1.5 spinal t-score (low end of the normal range) as measured by DEXA.

With my doctor, I created a threefold plan for bone density improvement/success:

  1. Increase mineral availability:  take calcium supplements 3×600 mg/day.
  2. Decrease demineralization:  add drug therapy, Boniva 1x/month.
  3. Increase mineralization:  add load-bearing exercise.  This required a remix of my athletic lifestyle.  My typical regimen of swimming, biking, running, and an occasional cardio machine provided limited load-bearing.  Only running counted as load-bearing, and it only loads the lower skeleton.  So, I reduced swimming and biking in favor of weight-lifting 2x/week, along with my usual running.  After a bit, I realized the combination did not give me the joy of athletics to which I was accustomed, so I went in search of new load-bearing sports. I tried both yoga and rock climbing, both of which provide whole skeletal loading.  Although I liked yoga, it didn’t like me (rhomboid strain).  I loved rock climbing – it is so addictive that it became the clear winner!  🙂  I now mix a combination of swimming, biking, running, and rock climbing throughout the week, along with weight-lifting 1x/week.  I still have joy, but I increased the amount of load-bearing exercise.

Since DEXA bone density is measured no more frequently than annually – I committed to a full year of execution.  Keeping the faith, I impatiently and anxiously awaited my next DEXA results, drip, drip, drip, …

I recently received my results and I moved the needle!  I went from a -2.6 spinal t-score to a -1.6 spinal t-score; a full standard deviation of change.  Woohoo!  Although I didn’t quite reach a number greater than -1.5, I certainly made a significant gain.  Time to celebrate!

Because load-bearing is now integrated into my lifestyle, I no longer need aggressive focus.  Time for a new adventure…

What are you doing to ensure your long-term health?

July 27, 2009

Shoe Fit?

Posted in Life, Technology tagged , , , , , at 11:23 pm by lindaslongview

ClimbingShoesToday I bought a new pair of climbing shoes.  These shoes represent a milestone in my (indoor) climbing that marks that I’ve made it past “beginner” and I need a bit more performance from my shoe.

Selecting climbing shoes is no different that selecting tools for technology applications.  My long view advice on ensuring functional performance of equipment is as follows:

  1. Understand the function – borrow, rent or purchase an inexpensive model to learn. Identify the characteristics that are important.  Sometimes, expert advice can define the key characteristics, but it is always important to come up the learning curve enough to understand what you value.
  2. Measure/Differentiate performance – there is no substitute for testing the product and measuring difference. Whether you are purchasing large liquid handling equipment or shoes, try different models/brands in the intended application!

As an aside, when I started rock climbing in the mid-70’s there was no such thing as rock climbing shoes, we wore hiking boots!  Even though specialist shoes did not exist, gear was still key. The early-70’s introduction of a simple belay plate provided the necessary mechanical advantage for a 13-year-old girl weighing less than 100 lbs. to belay a full-grown adult male.  It was this device that allowed me to participate with my Dad and his friends before I left for college.

Today, rock climbing has come a long way with the advent of indoor gyms and the plethora of specialist equipment.  It can be daunting to select the most basic item: shoes!

Climbing shoes are notorious for being uncomfortable, yet I know that comfort is important to me. (I am just not tough enough or good enough to need the pain.) Since my current shoes are comfortable, what I really needed were shoes that have less slip (the better to smear with), more touch (improved grip on small holds), and a friction surface all the way across the footbed and heel (the better to stem with in tight spots).

I bought my first pair (Scarpa Marathon) online for $25: #1 purchase inexpensively to learn. This time I needed to assess slip and touch on a climbing wall: #2 measure performance.  I tried on just about every pair that my climbing gym offered – three different brands, two different models, and a few sizes.  Each time, I headed to the bouldering room to test their slip and touch.  I admit that I did not buy the most aggressive technical shoe, rather I bought one that is still considered a beginner shoe (Scarpa Veloce) but proved to be more sticky (less slip), more tactile, and yet comfortable enough to wear for a few hours in the gym.  Or perhaps I just liked them because they were Kermit-the-Frog green…

Maybe someday I will need a quiver of climbing shoes, but not yet!

When you purchase a new performance item, do you learn first and then test performance?

March 28, 2009

Measuring Success

Posted in Business, Technology tagged , , , , at 5:30 pm by lindaslongview

magnifyingglassAs a process development specialist, measurement advice, admonitions, and charges are entirely imbedded in my psyche. As I think about measurement, the two adages that immediately surface in my mind are Goldratt’s observation: “Tell me how you measure me and I’ll tell you how I’ll behave” (this is about the behavior of people in organizations) and Deming’s popularization of what has now become the Six Sigma mantra of “Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, Control” (this is about improving inanimate processes).

The challenge with measurement is sometimes it is hard to figure out how to measure something or collect the data in real-time. I, for one, have developed some of the kookiest measurement schemes ever (if you are interested, ask). Yet some measurements do not lend themselves to monitoring over time – they do not become systems or processes. As such, I have always been a bit envious of internet based processes and marketing campaigns for which is almost trivial to collect data real-time.

As a hard-core data junkie, when I read Super Crunchers by Ian Ayres, I was in awe and intensely jealous of the ease with which definitive process improvements were possible. However, I read a blog post yesterday that reminded me that even though it is may be easier to measure and improve (some?) marketing campaigns, organizations sometimes do not take the long view and measure performance!

So, even though it is well known that measurement is a key to success over the long view, organizations require constant reminders to measure their success. Consider this your reminder…plan your systems to include measurement and build them that way!

Do you have a measurement story?