Saturday, May 21, 2011

What iOS apps are required for iHappiness?

I am the Koontz family's designated Apple fan-boy.  The one that had the first iPhone, the one that talked Mom into buying an iMac.  But lately it has occurred to me that the title is being usurped.  First it was my mother-in-law that got the first iPad, when all I had was an iWant.  Now my mother has an iPad 2, I still only have iEnvy.

While they have the new shiny toys - I've got more apps on my iPhone than they do.  However there are a few iPad only apps I cannot get.  Mom told me to get the NC Muesum of Art's app for the Rodin exhibit.  It is only avaliable on the iPad.  But the HD video is awesome on my MacBook Pro (bigger screen than the iPad).

Rodin: The Cantor Foundation Gift to the North Carolina Museum of Art

So what are the required apps for happiness?

A list:

Blindsided for Happiness - Would you make the Sandra Bullock trade?

Here is an excellent question:  Would you make the trade?  Trade a happy marriage for career success.

Two things happened to Sandra Bullock [in March 2010]. First, she won an Academy Award for best actress. Then came the news reports claiming that her husband is an adulterous jerk. So the philosophic question of the day is: Would you take that as a deal? Would you exchange a tremendous professional triumph for a severe personal blow?

New York Times Op-Ed Columnist  David Brooks The Sandra Bullock Trade

According to one study, joining a group that meets even just once a month produces the same happiness gain as doubling your income. According to another, being married produces a psychic gain equivalent to more than $100,000 a year. 


One method of resolving this question is to understand motivation versus satisfiers as Herzberg described them in his Two Factor Theory.  Money is a satisfier, happiness is a motivator.

Friday, May 13, 2011

My Personal Values start with Happiness

  • Happiness - the pursuit of happiness has equal weight to the rights of life and liberty
  • Knowledge - the progenitor of many others e.g. law, justice, fairness, virtue; one must 1st have knowledge
  • Imagination - the human animal is unique in its ability to imagine a future and then create it; imagination is required for compassion
  • Pragmatism - a balancing power, a moderator that accounts for context and operates within knowledge bounds

David's Personal Values were developed during a Organizational Leadership Master's program (2008).Publishing inspired by Luke Hohman of Innovation Games tweets on the companies values.  So why not publish my own value statements.


Happiness. The founding father's inshrined this value within our Declaration of Independence.  Giving the pursuit of happiness equal weight to the rights of life and liberty (Declaration of Independence). Recognizing that while the framers of the republic considered life and liberty an unalienable right, one does not have a right to happiness, just the right to pursue happiness.  The pursuit of happiness should not be allow to impinge upon other's rights.  Therefore an inherent requirement for just societies, for rules of conduct, and for many qualities found in other core values.

For over 200 years we Americans have been free to pursue our happiness, yet it is not evident that we are a happier people than our forebears.  There is no guarantee implied that we will achieve happiness.  In the business world which we have optimized our society for in these 200 years it is common to measure results.  One universal measure of success is the Gross National Product (GNP) of a country.  This measure focuses upon the total market value of goods and services produced by the nation in a period.  This measure has steadily climbed and become one of many finical benchmarks that we measure our wealth. GNP does correlate well with happiness in some studies. Wilkinson  (2007) states; "high levels of economic freedom and high average incomes are among the strongest correlates of subjective well-being" (p. 1).  Happiness and GNP correlate well at low levels of GNP, however there is an inflection point in the curve.  A point at which the peoples happiness does not rise at the pace of increasing GNP.  Implying that material wealth can satisfy basic needs but not necessarily make us happy. Measuring happiness is difficult, and somewhat subjective.  However many people, organizations and even countries are attempting to measure and increase happiness across their constituents.

Maslow described people having basic needs and once these needs are met they may will strive to fulfill higher order needs.  At the top of his pyramid of needs we find self-actualization  (Robbins & Judge, 2009, p. 176).  I would argue that this is just another term for happiness.  A person that is happy will have found an area that they can achieve self-actualization within.  This may be parenting, or athletics, or politics, or perhaps finance, but self-actualization, becoming more in-tune with what one desires to be, makes us happy.

At the forefront of the trend to measure and optimize a group of people's happiness is the country of Bhutan.  Their King, His Majesty Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, instituted a policy and a measure of Gross National Happiness (GNH).  For His Majesty, "a GNH society means the creation of an enlightened society in which happiness and well-being of all people and sentient beings is the ultimate purpose of governance"  (Ura, 2008).  The reasoning behind this is sound.  Indicators such as GNH embody values of the people and their government, the indicators influence policy, they create a scoreboard in the imagination of the people, and most importantly they will drive society to change  (Ura, 2008).

Happiness may be difficult to define or quantify and measure, however, no more so than other phenomena that social science tries to model.  Yet, this indicator may have a much larger impact upon our daily lives than any other standard.  If I could optimize only one dimension, happiness or wealth, for example, I would certainly choose happiness.

Knowledge.  After happiness as a core value that I desire for my self, I choose knowledge.  There are many types of knowledge, empirical, systemic, semantic and logical for example.  Each of these types of knowledge is a claim of truth.  Something that we know to be valid.  How we come about that knowledge differs in these cases, but the commonality is that we have a belief in the truth of the claim.  Many times the truth may be verified.  Without some justification of the nature of the claim, it is not knowledge.

I believe in knowledge as a core value because knowledge is the progenitor of so many other values.  Values such as law, justice, and fairness must have their roots in the knowledge of actions and consequences and knowledge of right and wrong.  A value such as virtue, the behavior of high moral standard, can only exist if there is knowledge of a moral standard.  Without knowledge there is no virtue.

Knowledge along is not enough.  It is not a value that can easily stand alone.  One could learn to split atoms, thereby making terrible explosions.  That knowledge is neither good nor bad.  How it is used, the purpose the knowledge serves may be described as good or bad.  Socrates is quoted as saying: "The only good is knowledge and the only evil is ignorance"  (Socrates, n.d.).

Imagination.  I enjoy playing with young children, young enough that they still use their imagination as a central part of every moment.  I now have a nephew, age four, with an extremely active imagination, he is a pleasure to be around and consistently astonishes the adults with his imagination.  Entering his world of super heros, space ships, dinosaurs and monsters will exhaust the adult imagination in twenty minutes, but he continues non-stop all day long.  I worry that the education system will diminish this talent rather than encourage and cultivate it.

What does imagination do for the human, why did we develop a brain that was capable of creating space-men with blasters that didn't harm the blue dinosaurs but would kill monsters?  Humans may be the only animal that is capable of imagining a future and then creating that future.  Dr. David Suzuki  (2010) stated it well: "In our short time on Earth, we humans have emerged from a chaotic world, imposing order and meaning in myriad ways, imagining the world into being. That was our great gift" (¬∂ 1).  This ability to create from our imagination a world that we wish to live within, now powers much of our civilization. It has created increasing more complex environments, with as many problems as solutions.

Imagination powers the creative side of humans, but it is also at the heart of what it means to be humane.  When we act out of compassion for another person or even another animal we are using our imagination.  Our imagination powers the ability to read the thoughts of another, to place our selves in the mind of the other and imagine how they must perceive the situation.  This great ability leads to empathy.

J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter series, described in her Commencement Address at Harvard the power of empathy.  Rowling  (2008) said: "Amnesty [International] mobilises thousands of people who have never been tortured or imprisoned for their beliefs to act on behalf of those who have. The power of human empathy, leading to collective action, saves lives, and frees prisoners" (para. 33).  In her speech Rowling describes how this very human value of empathy is derived from our imagination.

Pragmatism.  One last value that I hold is the balancing value of pragmatism.  This value holds that in every thing there must be moderation.  The moderating control is to measure against what is realistic within the context.

My bachelor's degree is in mechanical engineering.  In this degree of study, we learned that one can make the design of a bridge so very perfect given the materials and resources you have to work with, but that when built the true test is does the bridge function.  In the first year of study we designed simple bridges of various styles.  Then we watched a documentary of one of the most spectacular bridge disasters, the Tacoma Narrows Bridge, nicknamed Galloping Gertie.  In the film the bridge is seen to be bouncing. Cars and people are being thrown around by the violent oscillations.  Later that day the bridge collapsed.  It is a sobering thought to consider all the energy that went into building the bridge and then a 40 mile per hour wind was its destruction.  To me this was an early lesson in the compromises that are the practice of engineering.  In this awesome failure, much was learned and bridges today are aerodynamically stable.

It was unimaginable in the 1930s that the bridge would be blown down by a slight wind. Its designers didn't have the knowledge that they would gain by the failure of putting their best engineering into practice.  Practical real world applications of our knowledge is important to validating that knowledge.  Some times the world is very different that we assume we know.  This is why knowledge alone is lacking, there must be a utility of purpose for the knowledge.  It is the pragmatic use of knowledge that we can increase our well being and our happiness.

Organizational Values I search for:
I work in a very young industry, it is one of the fastest growing and ever changing sectors of our economy.  The software industry is approximately 50 years old.  Robert Holleymam  (2009), CEO of Business Software Alliance stated: "The software industry is a remarkable engine for jobs and economic growth. The software and related services sector employed 1.7 million people in the US in 2007 in jobs that, on average, paid 195 percent of the national average. This sector contributed more than $261 billion to US GDP in 2007" (para. 3).  However the young industry has been plagued by poor project success rates.  The 1994 Standish Chaos report noted: "Only 9% of projects in large companies were successful" (p 3).

One answer to this industry aliment has been a movement to be more responsive to customers changing requirements, more collaborative in developing software and a focus on the outcomes of the development process.  This movement is called Agile, and is defined by the Agile Manifesto.  The values stated in the manifesto, are values that I strive to uphold in my organization.

Manifesto for Agile Software Development
We are uncovering better ways of developing software by doing it and helping others do it. Through this work we have come to value:

Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
Working software over comprehensive documentation
Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
Responding to change over following a plan 

That is, while there is value in the items on the right, we value the items on the left more.
--  (Beck et al., 2001)

While these values alone will not change the industry, they have proven to be a wonderful start.  These operational values resonate with me, and are in alignment with my core personal values.  I and thousands of other software professionals have joined the original signatories of the Agile Manifesto.  It is a movement to continuously improve and to deliver value to the organizations that use this philosophy.  I have been involved in the Agile transformation of software development shops.  It is truly a transformational process, requiring leadership. 

Strengths Finder 2.0 by Tom Rath

In 2012 I took the popular Strengths Finder assessment of the 34 "themes" these are my top 5 - my strengths:

  • Learner - People exceptionally talented in the Learner theme have a great desire to learn and want to continuously improve. e process of learning, rather than the outcome, excites them.
  • Self-Assurance -  People exceptionally talented in the Self-Assurance theme feel con dent in their ability to manage their own lives. ey possess an inner compass that gives them con dence that their decisions are right.
  • Arranger -  People exceptionally talented in the Arranger theme can organize, but they also have a exibility that complements this ability. ey like to determine how all of the pieces and resources can be arranged for maximum productivity.
  • Ideation - People exceptionally talented in the Ideation theme are fascinated by ideas. ey are able to nd connections between seemingly disparate phenomena.
  • Relator -  People exceptionally talented in the Relator theme enjoy close relationships with others. ey nd deep satisfaction in working hard with friends to achieve a goal. 
See Also:
Psychometric Assessments - a peek inside the person - a selection of David's assessment.
Are you Empathic? 3 Types of Empathy. by Ronald E. Riggio Ph.D.

References:
Beck, K., Beedle, M., Cockburn, A., Cunningham, W., Fowler, M., Grenning, J., et al. (2001). Manifesto for agile software development. [Web page] Retrieved from http://agilemanifesto.org/
Robbins, S. P. & Judge, T. A. (2009). Organizational behavior. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall.
Rowling, J. K. (2008). The fringe benefits of failure, and the importance of imagination. [Web page] Harvard Magazine. Retrieved from http://harvardmagazine.com/commencement/the-fringe-benefits-failure-the-importance-imagination
Socrates (n.d.). Quotations by author: Socrates. [Web page] Retrieved from http://www.quotationspage.com/quotes/Socrates
Suzuki, D. (2010, January 8). Imagine a brighter 21st century. [Web page] Vancouver, BC: David Suzuki Foundation. Retrieved from http://www.davidsuzuki.org/about_us/Dr_David_Suzuki/Article_Archives/weekly01081001.asp
Ura, K. (2008). Explanation of GNH index. Gross national happiness [Web page]. Thimphu, Bhutan: The Center for Bhutan Studies. Retrieved from http://www.grossnationalhappiness.com/gnhIndex/intruductionGNH.aspx
Wilkinson, W. (2007). In pursuit of happiness research: Is it reliable? What does it imply for policy?. Policy Analysis: Cato Institute, (590). Retrieved from http://www.cato.org/pub_display.php?pub_id=8179

Sunday, May 8, 2011

A List of Agility Tests

How many forms of Agility are there?  I know my friend's dog is a champion at doggy-Agility.  That form of Agility is well know (in the dog community) and it is all about the test.

For the purpose of this list I'm referring to the software development philosophy of Agility (as in Scrum, XP, Lean, etc.).  Since there is only one definition of Agile in the software community - the Agile Manifesto and it's 12 principles; it would appear to be easy to know what Agility meant.  Alas, it is more elusive than a simple Webster's dictionary definition.  There are too many personal and subjective measures.

But is a subjective experience beyond the ability to measure?  No, it is not.  The nature of an Olympic Platform Dive is a subjective event.  Yet it is measured and scored to a high degree of precession and accuracy to determine the winner in an event.  This is the process of moving the subjective beyond the laypersons personal feelings and into the realm of expert opinion.

Every assessment tool used for measure has aspects of reliability and validity.  Do the instruments (surveys) you are using have these aspects quantified?  If not then they are just ad-hoc hunches and in my opinion you are much better off not subjecting a team to them.  Because this form of directive, will prove to the team that you do not believe in good scientific process (after all you have suggested they use an arbitrary instrument of little validity to measure them).  You have also suspended your belief in the Agile Manifesto's "individuals and interaction over processes and tools" by choosing to use a tool when an interaction with the group would achieve the same results.  Results - what results?

What is the expected outcome of an Agility Assessment?  What results are you after?  Most of the companies I've dealt with wish to assess teams agility in hopes of identifying where to concentrate interventions.  Interventions are then designed to address areas in the team's performance where some action is desired to improve that dimension of Agility.  In so many cases one could just as easily ask the team - where do you wish to improve your Agility.  Wow - with just that one question and response (dialogue) not only have you identified a gap but there is an implicit "readiness to change", because they have identified the area for improvement rather than having been told.

List of Agility Assessment Tools
Ben Linders has a list of over 50 agile assessments - doesn't the magnitude of that list prove a point?  There are more agile assessments than there are principle of agile - surely someone is gilding the lily.

For Kanban:
By some measures the light-weight Agile processes have very few rules (about 9 for Scrum).  So how could a test of the process be larger than the process itself e.g. if Scrum only has 9 rules, then a test of scrum would be 9 questions about those rules.

Which Agile Process Should You Choose? a comparative study of Agile processes


Do you know of others - if so please add a comment.

See Also:

Assessments are not evil, however, I believe that if one choses to consume the teams time in performing an assessment then it should be a valid and reliable measure of what you wish to measure. Of all the assessments above I would argue that as of this date (May, 2011) none have been validated. The Nokia test has expert validity (Sutherland) to strongly suggest that it may be valid, however, it's reliability may be questioned as the data that Sutherland sites typically comes from himself (is there a bias conflict within that expert/validation and reliability claim?). My recommendation is the Comparative Agility survey. Rumor has it that Rubin & Cohn are interested in studying the surveys psychometrics (validity & reliability). This survey is very well executed and allows one to compare their relative score to their own over time (longitudinal study) and to other in their industry sector. With over 2400 surveys collected it may be the only large database of Agility surveys in a public domain. Why not chose to support the community by adding your team's assessment to this resource?

Here is a blog post for results of the Comparative Agility Survey on a very agile team I work with back in 2009.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

An innovation in Books

Yes I own "Our Choice" by Al Gore, for two reasons:
  • It is the best book on the most important question of our era - our choice to save humanity.  
  • It is the first innovation in books since Gutenberg.

Al Gore Invents a Showpiece E-Book

 By NY Times David Pogue.

Oh - maybe there are many more reasons - the interactive info-graphics developed for the "book" by Push Pop Press, but then that just falls under the heading of innovation, doesn't it.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Tools for Collaboration in Remote & Distributed Teams

I'm researching tools for collaboration.  I'm a firm believer that the best tool for collaboration weighs in at about 3 lbs, is made of 100 billion neurons and consumes 20% of the energy your body uses.  This tool uses other tools like that mouth of yours and the big ears on the side of your head to communicate.  Along with those tools it uses the facial muscles to form expressions that are interpreted by other 3 pound blobs.  All of which gets synthesized into a cognitive mental model.
diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) measurement of a human brain.

All these other tools are substandard replacements for pieces of the above ecosystem of collaboration in a face-to-face manner.  But let's take a look at some of them anyway.

One very interesting tools is Mind Mapping in a collaborative tool.  Follow the rules of brainstroming and this tool may rock your next retrospective.  MindMeister.com


Here's a list of tools for collaboration and many other things related to knowledge work.

One of my favorite tools is CardMeeting.com  a virtual 3x5 card wall which allows concurrent creation of index cards and placement on the wall.  Very useful for retrospectives with remote teams.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Performance Appraisals what have we learned in 50 years?

I've got to write my personal Performance Appraisal Goals & Objectives.  So in the process I thought I'd see what experts think about the whole system.  It appears that the system of performance appraisals crossed the chasm back in the 1950s.  Peter Drucker's Management by Objectives (MBO) spurred on this new technique.  Previous to WWII very few companies used this technique, the military did.  Going back even further the Civil Service Commission's system was in place back in 1887  (from Dick Grote's "The Performance Appraisal, Question and Answer Book").


McGregor's 1960 book  "The Human Side of Enterprise"  introduced the Theory X & Theory Y concepts of management. McGregor writes in Harvard Business Review (1957):
  "Effective development of managers, does not include coercing them (no matter how benevolently) into acceptance of the goals of the enterprise, nor does it mean manipulating their behavior to suit organizational needs.  Rather, it calls for creating a relationship within which a man can take responsibility for developing his own potentialities, plan for himself, and learn from putting his plans into action."
 In 1960s General Electric conducted a scientific study of the effectiveness of it's annual appraisal system.  McGregor had singled them out as a company that was using the Theory Y approach.  Yet GE still found their system had concerns.
  • Criticism has a negative effect on achievement of goals.
  • Praise has little effect one way or the other.
  • Performance improves most when specific goals are established.
  • Defensiveness resulting from critical appraisal produces inferior performance.
  • Coaching should be a day-to-day, not a once-a-year activity.
  • Mutual goal setting, not criticism, improves performance.
  • Interviews designed primarily to improve a man's performance should not at the same time weigh his salary or promotion in the balance.
  • Participation by the employee in the goal-setting procedure helps produce favorable results.
  • -- D. Grote, Performance Appraisal, page 4.
Note the language is from the era before equality of the workforce (..."a man's performance"...).



The point on coaching is an interesting one to me.  Assuming that a manager spends a whopping 6 hours a year per person on the performance appraisal, then they have only consumed 0.3% of their time coaching on the performance appraisal.  Tell a manager they will spend 6 hours per person and watch them squirm out of that requirement.  How many system's address performance more than once or twice a year?

See Also:

Management 3.0 #Workout - Feedback Wrap by J. Appelo - "This chapter dives into the solutions for companies that support trust-only work environments. How do you keep connected and increase team collaboration? How can you provide feedback? How can you increase employee engagement?"


Why Leaders Need To Stop Using Performance Reviews by former Disney executive Ken Goldstein. "They are obligatory, perfunctory, dreaded time sucks for both giver and receiver, putting a check mark in an annual rite of passage that is largely ignored until the Earth completes another full orbit around the Sun."

Do we really need performance management? by John Wenger

Get Rid of the Performance Review! by Samuel Culbert

Employee feedback: How to make it less painful - “The first thing I would do is kill the performance appraisal system,” Burbage said. “I 100-percent guarantee you that everyone at your company hates it.”

HBR: Why Your Brain Hates Performance Reviews by Gretchen Gavett

Why Performance Reviews Are a Waste of Time and Money  (Inc.com) Want to help your employees improve their performance? Start by getting rid of traditional evaluations.

What to Do After a Bad Performance Review by Carolyn O'Hara of HBR

Reinventing Performance Management by Marcus BuckinghamAshley Goodall of HBR