365 Day Picture Project


I love books. In a recent interview on the Harvard Business Review podcast discussing, “Talk, Inc.: How Trusted Leaders Use Conversation to Power Their Organizations” the authors discussed the four I’s of communication. The first I was intimacy. Intimacy suggests that “personal conversation flourishes to the degree that the participants stay close to each other, figuratively as well as literally.”  Talking at someone does not build intimacy.

In order to build intimacy and real trust, communication has to flow in both directions and built on a shared reality. Books and other one way communications can help shape a shared reality but until we experience it in the real world it can only be ethereal. Personal conversations and interaction are experiences to shift shared realities into the real world.  Books are monologues, intimacy can only occur if you don’t just relay on monologues.

Do Not Erase



I can still hear the panicked conversation from down hall “I came in this morning and the plan we worked on all day yesterday is gone.” There were other words but I would like to keep this  business friendly. We have all probably had something like this happen. Early in my career as a consultant I got some great advice, “always have a backup”. Unfortunately you tend to get that kind of great advice right after something really bad happens. If you have not experienced the cleaned blackboard or presentation file that won’t open yet take this advice to heart.

Having a backup does not have to be a big deal. Keep a copy of your presentation on paper or thumb drive. If you have spent the day noodling on a black or white board use your cell phone to take a picture or go old school and copy everything down. I have always wondered if the cure for cancer has been made only to be erased overnight when someone misses the “please keep” sign.

2-15 2013 Happy Chef Giant

This photo is is from the trip my daughters call the “Idols and Graven Images” road-trip in South Dakota.  There will be others from this trip.

There is a fine line in marketing that is over the top and marketing that is effective. Change requires planned marketing whether formal communication plans or word-of-mouth campaigns. All too often software professionals that have been pressed into action as change agents overlook marketing or if they address marketing it is understated.

The owners of the Happy Chef did not understand the concept of understated. In the crowded world of middle tier restaurants understated will tend to be overlooked. The big audacious marketing move gets people in the door where the Happy Chef employee’s have a chance at satisfying customer needs and generating repeat customers. Change agents need to learn enough  about marketing techniques to generate interest or hope that a management edict or word-of-mouth drives the change virally.

The Happy Chef?  We went in the door and if I remember correctly would have gone back if we were not just passing through. The big audacious marketing move only works if you deliver.

Stairway to Heaven

Albert, the King of Belgium was a hiker. When he visited Brazil 1921 a set of 117 steps were carved into Pico da Tijuca (a mountain outside of Rio). According our guide, King Albert was quite taken aback by the steps as they were at odds with his expectations.

Delivering without consistent business feedback is apt to miss the mark. Software methodologies have struggled to find mechanisms to generate feedback. Techniques have used to date have included Phase gates, reviews and sign-offs to enforce agreement. Agile leverages collaboration methods such as daily interaction with the business or product owner to generate communication and feedback.  While both might end up same place the journey counts for the long run health of the organization.

Got Soul?

Found art can be fun, uplifting, profound, stupid, irritating or just plain silly but for it to “be” anything you have to see it. Talk less, observe more and have soul!


In the States it has become fairly common to find an impromptu memorial where a major traffic accident has occurred. I recently on a hike ran across a memorial to someone’s favorite dog. It has become easy and acceptable to memorialize loss. Kubler-Ross in her book “On Death and Dying” described in her famous book identified five stages of grief which includes denial, arguing  bargaining, depression and acceptance  I would suggest that memorialization reflects acceptance.

Change and loss tend to follow similar paths. Memorializing how we worked in the past may well be a reflection of acceptance of what is being done now. As a change agent you do not need to react to every memorialization as a sign of push back  Reflect carefully what is being really said and try to help your organization through acceptance.

Sherbrooke Dam Wild Water

A few drips of water are fairly non-threatening. Rarely can a drip or two wash people or cars away or change the flow of a river. Constricting the flow of water harnesses a great deal of potential energy that when released can be used to generate power if it is run through a turbine or if released randomly the impact might be difficult to control.

Develop a backlog of potential changes and keep the list prioritized so that the effort you have to affect change can be channeled for greatest value. A backlog of process improvements is very much like the dam that collects the drips of water until it can drive the turbine of change. Like the dam if it is always collecting and never being relieved it burst and change will happen in a much less controlled manner.

Moral High Ground?



Own The Moral High Ground

A few months ago I was walking the streets of Washington DC and I came across five DC police motorcycles parked outside of a bar. While I believe the police were working a crowd down the street I heard a number of people wondering if they were inside drinking. Perceptions count.

If you are documenting and selling (ok persuading) processes you need to make sure you are using the same basic processes.  Way too often I find that change agents and process teams seem to believe that process is for “those guys” but not for them. They seem to be amazed at the level of animosity that their perceived arrogance creates. Own the moral high ground! Owning the moral high ground begins by holding yourself (and your team) to the same or higher standard that you hold up for others and being aware of where you park.

Arcane Snow Blowing

Change agents need to have knowledge of many arcane skills when practicing organizational change.  Sales is one of the most arcane.  Sales brings to mind used car salesmen in plaid sports coats. Fortunately the perception does not have to be accurate nor is the skill arcane.

Why are sales skills important?  Ask any professional salesman or woman and they will tell you that an immediate pain is an important motivator to making a sale, maybe the most important motivator. At least 99.9% of the people in the world want pain to go away when they have it which is why an aspirin is an easier sale if someone has a headache.  The art of persuasion, sales and requirements gathering is the ability to peel back the layers until you can expose the root cause so the pain can be solved not just masked. The ability to successfully navigate the “pain” conversation to get to the root cause and not irritate person feeling the pain is a skill not consistently found on IT project teams. Bottom-line: I highly recommend a course in salesmanship for all change agents and requirements analysts, make sure your process improvement program solves current problems and always carry a snow shovel and an aspirin.

Water Color In The Fog

Left to its own devices the camera will report the stark reality of the world it is presented with. Almost all environments have imperfections that, if you look hard enough, will make them look less appealing. The same is true when viewing team members (this is probably true for everyone you interact with). It is very easy to view team members by the standards you have for yourself or an even harsher standard. This can cause you to waste a lot of energy on worrying about the actions of those around you.  In severe cases it is possible to become a drain on the team itself. A different filter may make the behavior around you seem to be at worst innocuous or perhaps even complementary.

I am not suggesting that if you have a an ax murderer in your midst, someone that spends the day playing on-line poker rather than supporting the team or hides the status of a project that you don rose colored glasses and pretend everything is beautiful. Rather, if your default position is a positive outlook you don’t jump to the worst conclusion first. A mechanism to achieve a good starting point for a team (any team) is chartering. As part of chartering the teams should spend time defining a set of values and norms and talk about problems they are having . . . Well maybe not the ax murder thing. Defining norms and having a conversation will help everyone on the team view their fellow team members with all of their pluses and minuses in a less harsh light. Save your energy for the big things, it will enhance your productivity by saving a lot of negative energy.  A little fog can soften even the harshest edges making the world just a bit more enjoyable.

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