Rumination on medications March 26, 2016Posted by Edwin Ritter in Grab Bag, Miscellaneous.
Tags: medication, prescription
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As consumers, big pharma ensures we have a wealth of choices to control/manage/cure a litany of ailments. I started a list of the treatment names available and the count to date is at 37. That is a big number from just one media source (television).
The high amount of ads on TV confirms there is a big market here. The ads are high quality and claim to treat a variety of maladies. Each medication uses a unique name to eliminate confusion by the consumer. Ah, sure. The names are totally random and are not indicative of the condition and use almost every letter from A to Z. I have not found a medication that starts with D, K, Q, S, U or V. That’s 6 out of 26. I expect some company will notice and will remedy that to use one or more those letters.
Side effects are mentioned at warp speed as the audio is sped up to get through the lengthy list on how a medication *may* affect you. Thoughts of suicide, vomiting and behavior changes and more might be worse than the treated condition itself. The combinations of medications can be as bad or worse. The ‘disclaimer’ to talk to your doctor seem redundant. How else would you get the medication if you didn’t talk a doctor?
The ads I have seen in prime time cover a gamut – allergies, diabetes, sexual performance, depression, asthma and on and on. They are on a regular rotation on both cable and major networks.
In sports, a HOF football coach once said “You are what your record says you are.” In gastronomy, the adage is “You are what you eat”.
Does the same logic apply for medication? That is, does the medication(s) you take reflect who you are? Take that as a rhetorical question along with 2 aspirin/ibuprofen and call me in the morning.
Ramblings on Software Delivery February 28, 2016Posted by Edwin Ritter in Cloud Computing, Project Management.
Tags: release management, release management process, software delivery
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I expect there will be a time in the not distant future where software development will be easier. So we are clear, I mean predictable, common even.
While not fully equivalent, here is an highly simplified example.The electrical socket outlet is a common fixture found in commercial and residential buildings. This did not happen by accident. The generation of electrical power and subsequent demand caused a great deal of standards, regulation and common design elements. They were required and fundamental to broad use of electrical and ubiquitous availability.
Software best practices constantly evolve and there have been lots of advances from the 1GL, 2GL and 3GL days. Yet, despite those improvements, a recurring challenge on projects for me concerns the final product. By that, I mean delivery and all that goes with it. Not in any order, but these include customer acceptance, integration testing, launch, cut-over, final QA. From my experience, what should be common and predictable instead is anything but. Each project has unique challenges but the over all release process is the same.
And, yet. Here we are with 4 and 5GL programming and the fundamental challenges that remain to be solved. Code objects are inter operable; APIs are well understood but ad-hoc. Seems to me that there should be more common functions and libraries that provide a lot of the basics. And they do – to a point. But not at the same level as electrical outlet.
Perhaps the challenge is more with interfaces and data types (schemas). But I digress. Delivery and integration of software remains a crucial phase (see delivery above). Imagine a time when delivery is the same as generating power and connecting to the ‘grid’. Delivery is then driven by demand and usage among other things. Yes, cloud computing comes to mind and that has made things easier.
Which leads me to release planning using Agile practices. A good step forward toward common delivery. Getting more consistent release process is always preferred to ad-hoc. I have earlier posts about this topic and I expect there may be future ones as well. It is an evolving practice and gets better all the time.
ITIL outlines release management best practices. I know that the state of the art in software development will get to the electrical power example I mentioned earlier. The general consensus is we have achieved a basic process for delivery. Understanding current state, defined and consistent intervals,use standards and automate when and where ever possible are part of best practices.
What other challenges will remain going forward? How will standards be revised, improved to get to the electrical power equivalent state?
Ruminations on Data Security January 24, 2016Posted by Edwin Ritter in Grab Bag.
Tags: password, security
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One of the least expected emails is one dealing with security. The subject may be “We’ve been hacked” or “Major Security Breach” or some other variation of data panic. Not good for you, your staff, anyone. Your initial reaction says a lot about how secure you feel your data is. How confident are with your security practices? The level of security can be achieved across multiple forms – network, data, application, password. Whichever area of security, the basics remain. Be vigilant. Follow best practices. Think Snowden or SONY Pictures.
Security is similar to insurance. A nuisance to maintain, update and adhere to at times. But, when a threat or intrusion occurs, you will be glad that you have it. There are different levels to use for individual and for business up to the enterprise level. For personal use, a password manager makes sense and provides some peace of mind that you have done something to ensure your information and data is safe.
Free versions are available : LastPass, Dashlane, KeePassX and StickyPassword. Some of these keep both mobile and desktop apps in sync and some are easier to use than others. Check the list and a quick Password Manager Options here.
Avoid that email about a breach by using the tools that are available. If you are using one of those mentioned above, what are the pros or cons? Or, if you are using something else, what is it and why are you using it? Comments invited on this or other posts.
2015 Ramblings in Review December 29, 2015Posted by Edwin Ritter in Trends.
Tags: annual review, blog review
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We find ourselves at another year end. Over the course of this year, I have had many successes and a few challenges. Throughout my journey, I am lucky to be in good health and have many people in my life that care about me.
My rambling about this past year is definitely positive. Personally, I am in a much better place as compared to January as I recently bought a house. Professionally, I have a full time role as a technical project manager with a growing company. Very grateful to be where I am and hope to stay here for a long while.
The folks at WordPress sent me an annual summary of my blog here. An OK year for my blog. One of my Top 5 posts continues to be about diversity. Others include project management topics and problem solving. A shout out and Thanks to pmfiles as they are my top referrer along with facebook and linkedin in the Top 5.
You can view the report here: 2015 Blog Report
Curious that last year, I was able to insert the report in a post. Not sure why that option is not prominently displayed to use.
Have a Happy New Year and see you in 2016!
Paix pour Paris November 15, 2015Posted by Edwin Ritter in Trends.
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I am still processing recent events from the city of light. Among the many reactions I have, my resolve to live in a democracy remains intact. If anything, my commitment is stronger to live my life in a free society.
Two other thoughts are top of mind:
I do my thing and you do your thing.
I am not in this world to live up to your expectations,
And you are not in this world to live up to mine.
You are you, and I am I,
and if by chance we find each other, it’s beautiful.
If not, it can’t be helped.
Go placidly amid the noise and the haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible, without surrender, be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even to the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons; they are vexatious to the spirit. If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter, for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs, for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals, and everywhere life is full of heroism.
Be yourself. Especially, do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment, it is as perennial as the grass.
Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be.
And whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul. With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.
Ramblings on Peer Collaborations September 27, 2015Posted by Edwin Ritter in Project Management.
Tags: agile, collaboration, peer, peer programming
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If you had the choice to work alongside someone or work alone, which would prefer? I know, the default answer is “it depends”. What if your experience was more agile team based or some collaborative approach with peers rather than working alone? What your answer be different?
In the increasingly Agile world, peer collaboration to deliver specific tasks will become more popular going forward. With one person being the driver that focuses on the tactics, the observer or navigator can focus on the big picture and strategic aspects.
This approach not only applies to programming – it can be used in multiple parts of the organization. Examples include : finance, purchasing, engineering, sales and project management.
A brief overview of the Pair Programming technique includes:
- Start with a reasonably well-defined task before you sit down. A key part of the process is to get common understanding of current state and what the impact is with the task you will be working on. I also submit this includes support and debug (in whatever form that is) responsibilities after delivery.
- Agree on one tiny goal at a time Keep it simple – Define the approach, ensure you understand the task. This can be a visual of the workflow, a verbal review of the steps and/or a formal write up posted to a common repository. Agree on the best mechanism that works best with your partner and you to complete your goal. As you define the goal(s), you will find that you will…
- Rely on your partner, support your partner. A major benefit in this approach is to tap into your partners’ expertise. Also, your experience and expertise can compliment your partner.Stay committed and focused on the task at hand. When you have a partner with different skills, here is where working together pays off. Together, you both are smarter than when working alone. Use that to your advantage to define a solution and improve it when you….
- Talk a lot! Think out loud and often. In the early stages, you need to get the ‘creative juices’ going. Bouncing ideas off each other helps to sort out what is and is not feasible to solve the task at hand.
- Sync up frequently. Avoid dominating the conversation and direction. Get feedback, ask questions and confirm you both have a common understanding. Work both the tactical and strategic levels and ensure agreement.
- Take a moment to celebrate as you complete tasks and overcome problems. Victories are always short lived – All too often, being successful gets overlooked. Take a moment to bask in the glow of your accomplishments. You probably learned a bit about yourself and your collaborator as well. Feel better? Good. Now, get back at it!
- Switch roles often—at least every half hour. Related to the driver and observer. As a guideline, switching on that interval may or may not be possible. Define a reasonable interval works for you both and then adhere to it. This may take some time initially to sort what works best. It may also impact office hours and the time commitment you both are willing to make for this effort.
I have use this approach with success in the past working with peer project managers. I understand the hesitation by management to use this approach and to be successful. Collaborating requires a higher level of trust and commitment up and across the organization. By definition, collaborating is a more social way of working that combines strengths and can reduce development cycles. The result is a better work product with fewer defects and delivered in a shorter time.
There are many sites that provide details on this agile technique. Here are a few references to get more background :
Comments invited. Are you comfortable working alongside someone? Would your management support this agile approach?
Ramblings on Release Management August 30, 2015Posted by Edwin Ritter in Project Management.
Tags: release management, release management process, software configuration management, software development, software development lifecycle
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From a recent project, one of the lessons I learned concerns release management and who drives that process. What I find most interesting is the developers’ view that once code is checked in, the deliverable is complete. I have worked organizations that use a formal software configuration management and release management process (SCM/RM). That role can be a fully staffed position working with development teams to get code changes tested and released.
Related to this topic is environment management and configuration, the related tools and workflow to keep the organization working on the right things and at the right time. Ultimately, the changes are provided for use by external customers to meet their business needs. Let’s not forget that customers keeps the business going.
The SCM/RM process can easily be used with change control to manage the code base consistently. When the SCM/RM is not the responsibility of any single person, I submit that the developer shepherd their respective code changes through the test and release cycles. What I find lacking is ownership from developers on following that through to getting code changes released.
While my expectations are influenced by past experience, I am aware that it is naive to expect other team members will have a level of ownership and commitment consistent with mine.
So the next time there is a change, I will use my greater understanding on what is needed to keep things moving and align my expectations. A lesson learned and one that I am willing to share with others.
Comments invited on the level of effort and ownership with release management. Who drives changes through to release? Is it automated in your shop? What tools and process do you use to manage the code base?
Robots to displace humans in certain jobs July 26, 2015Posted by Edwin Ritter in career, Trends.
Tags: carbon based life form, jobs, labor force, robot, robots
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Let’s get this clear right from the start – I am a human writing this article. That can change some day in the future, but for now, a carbon based life form is forming these thoughts and expressing them to you. I enjoy seeing the musings that predict how the labor force will change as robots are being used in more and more job roles. One thing I know for sure is that the rate of change is never as fast as the predictions say they will be.
I think the definition of what is, and is not, a robot is still a bit elastic. For me, a simple definition is a device using mechanical, electrical and software components that can perform a series of steps that result in a work product repeatedly with quality similar to, or, exceeds when the same work product is performed by a person. Regular readers know I have mentioned the topic before and I have been paying specific attention to the progress with robots driving cars. That is a change I welcome and hope to see in my lifetime. In the interim, there are jobs that robots are performing already and we will see other jobs that can, and will, be performed increasingly by robots.
I expect one area that robots can be a competitive advantage is in business recovery. Simply stated, using robots ensures the business is always available using redundancy and fail over/recovery tools performed by robots based on triggers set by humans. Relative to the definition used for robot, there are companies that can state they already are doing this. Going forward, I expect this capability will be common place in more and more industries.
At present, here is a NBC News article that lists these 9 jobs robots can do as examples:
- Lawyers and Paralegals
- Driver (Can’t wait!)
- Store Clerks
- Baby Sitters (way distant future)
- Sportswriters and reporters
Each of these is plausible where a human could eventually be displaced by a robot. From this list, robots are already working in some of these roles. For other jobs listed, many changes are needed before a robot is capable to do the work. Last, for others, there will be much resistance, consternation, hand wringing and posturing in opposition to robots working in those roles. Also, notice jobs that are absent from this list (teachers, doctors, programmers, managers).
While robots transition into these jobs as well as others, that implies that us carbon based life forms will be working in new jobs. That is a consistent theme from what I have read. The robots will enable us to do new work as we use the results of their labor for our jobs. Here is another article that begins to describe that effect.
The changes implied in the transition will range from the simple to the complex. In many cases, a one to one direct replacement from carbon life form to silicon based worker is possible. In other jobs, getting work to a point that the steps involved are repeatable (and, consistent) may drive ripple like changes to other jobs. The resulting changes required will happen with more and more frequency and in jobs that we do not anticipate at this time.
How will you prepare for this change? What impact will that have on your job? How can you use robots for your business?
Comments invited and the next update on this topic may, or may not be, written by a human.
Multitasking is a myth June 16, 2015Posted by Edwin Ritter in career, Project Management.
Tags: Cognitive neuroscientists, decision, multitask, multitasking, priority
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All employers want it and every employee attests they can do it. Cognitive neuroscientists will tell you that multitasking is not possible. A myth, popular misconception and a white lie employers and employees accept while knowing it is a fallacy. In fact, studies reveal that only 2% of people can effectively multitask.
I understand how multitasking is a desirable trait to have. But, the reality is very few have this ability. Studies also have proved that you are less effective doing multiple tasks versus being singly focused. So, let’s agree to ban multitask as a phrase from job descriptions and be realistic about how to get work done. Having the ability to work on many things in different phases is not multitasking. It is just that – working on many things concurrently. Being able to prioritize is a highly desirable skill to make effective decisions. Maybe that is the better term – prioritization.
Recently, I read about how the mind works and how we organize information. Turns out that we have a system for what grabs our attention. We process information using an attentional system and it has four parts.
1) Default mode – fluid and non-linear thinking (let the mind wander). This is the default mode when the brain is resting. Leads to the creative state. In this mode, thoughts are inward to desires, feelings, planning, daydreaming. While in this mode, we feel refreshed after a nap or vacation.
2) Central Executive mode – stay on task; focused. This is the other dominant mode for attention. Opposite of the default mode; they are yin-yang and exclusive. When one mode is active, the other is not. Writing reports, problem solving, painting are examples while in this mode.
3) Insula – is the ‘switch’ between the default and central executive. Enables shift from one mode to another. A neural switchboard. If the brain switches too often it can lead to dizziness with information overload as a result.
4) Attention Filter – What grabs our attention and causes a change in focus from what is in the sub-concious.
Our brains have a finite capacity to process information. We can keep about 4-6 things in mind at once. Keeping track of too many things requires switching and leads to fatigue. All that switching takes energy, can cause information overload and leads to mistakes or otherwise being unproductive.
Along with information overload, our attention filter has a blind spot. Things that we need to pay attention to; details that impact our decisions can be easily missed. A famous example of the blind spot and selection attention involves a group of people passing a basketball. Clink on the link and watch the selective attention video if you have not seen it before. I’ll wait. See what I mean?
This is formally known as Attentional Resource Theory. When we are focused on a specific thing, it uses most, if not all or our ability to process information. Cognitive studies prove the theory and explain why performance is hampered when multitasking.
We know the brain is a very complex instrument. We continue to learn how it works and these new learnings on how we manage information and make decisions will shape how work is organized, performed and how productive (see post on Capacity & spinning plates) any single person can be.
I admit to not being a multitasker. Not part of the 2% who can. But, I am good at setting and keeping priority to make decisions and I know my capacity.
What techniques do you use to manage your workload? Comments invited, as always.