Monday, June 29, 2009

Drar Apple, I'd like to talk to you about the misspelling program On My iPhone

Drar Apple, and Mr. Jobs,

I like nu iPhone, I really do, but there is à problem. I spell fairly
well, but the spell checker jeeps changing what I write into
gibberish. IT is à chore giving all the mistakes I have to correctly.

There seems to be no way to turné the misspelling program off. Since
the iPhone is à network device, maybe the off switch is at your end.

Sorry for the outburst.

Kind Regards,

Henrik Mårtensson

Sent from my iPhone

Monday, June 22, 2009

Mac's Mad Notes

I like my MacBook and my iPhone a lot, but there is no such thing as a perfect system. I have been experimenting a bit with network mapping lately, and it occurred to me to map how my Mac and my iPhone manage notes. The following diagram is the result:

As you can see, I have ignored MobileMe. Despite this, the map is more than a little bit messy. For example, iPhone notes sync to the mail program on my MacBook. This seems more than a little bit bizarre.

There is more:

The Mac comes with a Note widget and a Notes application. Both of these are entirely separate from other notes. Notes in other programs, like Pages, Numbers, and Keynote, are also separate from everything else.

Notes and ToDo items are separate things, but it could be argued that a ToDo item is a note with a due date. If so, ToDo items should be better integrated with other notes.

Of course, a voice memo is also a kind of note, and could also be treated as a note.

Wouldn't it be nice if notes:
  • could be shared between applications
  • could be moved between many separate billboards
  • could include other notes (a voice memo or video file within a written note, or a list of notes within a note, for example)
  • could have cross-references to other notes
  • were easy to use
Suppose you had the task of designing the ultimate note system for your computer of choice, what would it look like?

I'll post my proposal in a couple of days.

"kind of like a jail, except there’s the possibility of drowning"

Bill Reichert guest blogged at Guy Kawasaki's blog about an interesting visit to the USS Nimitz aircraft carrier.

The title of the post was Top Ten Lessons from the US Navy: Management Lessons on an Aircraft Carrier at Sea, but I could not resist using a quote from the captain of the ship as the title of this post.

Well worth reading.

When I began studying military organizational and leadership models some years ago, I was astounded by what I found: focus on people, flexible organizational structures, and leadership models compatible with Agile software development.

I have written a couple of articles about the IOHAI leadership model, Deconstructing IOHAI and One More Loop Through the IOHAI Hoop. Those articles are a bit technical, but they enabled me to write a much simpler description of IOHAI in my book Tempo.

I wish these ideas could take hold in the business community, I mean really take hold. Once you get used to them, they are simple, natural, and very powerful. (They are also supported by neurological research, but I'll get into that another time.)

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Kallokain On Twitter

Yep, I opened Twitter account:

Took about an hour to get a follower.

I am going to ramp up my social networking presence over the next few

Sent from my iPhone

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Wi-Fi in Halmstad

It may be easier to find Wi-Fi in rural Transylvania than in Halmstad.
Annoying when you are working.

It worked out all right thanks to Scandic Hotel. They let me connect
without à charge, even though I wasn't a guest at the hotel.


Sent from my iPhone

The Dilemma of the Innovation System on the Swedish West Coast

I commented a bit on Johan Trouwe's post about the dilemma of the innovation system on the Swedish west coast.

Johan's post and my comment are here. Both Johan's post and my comment are in Swedish.

Johan is the CEO of the west coast chamber of commerce in Sweden. He wrote that he doesn't really get the relationships between the actors in the Swedish west coast innovation system. After having a look at it, I wrote that I don't get it either. I then suggested that maybe the focus should be on:
  • teaching innovation techniques to employees in companies
  • teaching managers how to listen to employees
  • going from idea to project fast, so that good ideas aren't just forgotten after awhile
I did take the opportunity to tout my own horn a bit, writing about my own innovations, both technological and management.

Ron Jeffries on Project Portfolio Management

Ron Jeffries has written an excellent article on software project
portfolio management:

It is well worth reading.

Sent from my iPhone

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Conway's Game of Life in APL

Sometimes I get a little nostalgic about my former life as a software developer. David Vrensk gave me a tip about the following video. It is a powerful reminder that there can be value in taking a different approach.

If you are a manger, ask one of your developers to write a Game of Life in Java or C#, and see how long it takes, and how much code must be written. Compare with this 7 minute video:

Here is a link to the original web page on YouTube.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Defining Kanban

There has been a long thread in the kanbandev group at Yahoo about how to define what a kanban system is, and is not. Defining kanban is important because without an unambiguous definition it is difficult to discuss kanban.

A kanban system is a system for process control. Kanban was invented by Taichi Ohno at Toyota more than fifty years ago. There are many types of kanban systems, for production processes, for administrative processes, for software development... All kanban systems have certain characteristics in common.

We in the software community are new to kanban, and it is easy to get a bit too enthusiastic, and unintentionally change the meaning of kanban when we discuss it. It is my opinion that this would be unfortunate. One reason is that we dump a lot of knowledge that has been amassed under more than half a century. When we do that, we have to rediscover what other people have discovered before us. That slows us down, because we loose the ability to build further on the existing knowledge base.

The following Intermediate Objective Map reflects my current understanding of kanban (feel free to laugh if you are from Toyota, Honda, or one of the many other companies that has spent decades building a thorough knowledge of kanban):

Note that some things necessary to have a kanban system are external to the kanban system itself. It is also worth noting that you cannot describe a kanban system by describing only the physical system. Kanban is a system with an attitude. This is something that often trips up Western (and many Eastern) companies that try to introduce Lean and kanban.

Here is a somewhat simplified map of a kanban system:

Note that there are two types of kanban tokens in the system:
  • Work-In-Process (WIP) kanban move with work items. A WIP kanban serves as identification and job instruction.
  • Withdrawal kanban move in the opposite direction of the work items in the process. They serve as identification and transfer tags.
If you have used a kanban board for software development, usually a whiteboard with sticky notes, you are familiar with WIP kanban. That's the sticky notes.

Where are the withdrawal kanban? Well, they are there. Withdrawal kanban are the release signals that tell that it is okay to move more work into a process step. On a kanban board, that is the empty space left when you move a WIP kanban. Look at the drawing of a board below. It is a simple kanban system with only one kanban slot at each process step:

It is actually pretty neeat. As you move sticky notes (WIP kanban) to the right, holes (withdrawal kanban) will move to the left, so you can move more sticky notes to the right.

A topic that is related to how to define kanban, is the scope of kanban. This is also a topic that has been debated for awhile. Armed with a definition of kanban, we can figure out what the scope is. The IO Map below is a generic description of a process. There are only two necessary conditions in the map that are fulfilled by kanban. I have drawn a rectangle around them.
If you look at Lean, or the Toyota Production System, the complete system fulfills all of the conditions in the map, but kanban, which is only a small part of the complete system, fulfills only the conditions in the red rectangle.

That is my opinion on how to define kanban.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Performance Evaluations, Business Strategy, and Agile Methodologies

It is performance evaluation time in many companies. This can be stressful, both to the people being evaluated, and the people doing the evaluation.

In companies adopting agile software development methods, the tension can be extraordinary. Individual performance evaluations run counter to agile philosophy, which emphasizes team performance over individual performance.

However, managers and corporate leaders need to take a few steps back, and consider the impact performance evaluations have on the organization as a whole. Especially now, in the midst of a recession, it is important to look at a companies current policies to see if they can be improved, or if they are actually holding the company back.

So, how can a manager evaluate policy? Performance evaluation policies can serve as an excellent example. I'll confine myself to discussing the so-called ‘rank and yank’ methods. These are performance reviews were employees are ranked using a forced ranking system. It usually looks something like this:

20% of employees will be considered top performers.
70% of employees will be considered adequate performers.
10% of employees will be considered inadequate performers.

Depending on the company doing the ranking, the inadequate performers will either get extra coaching and training, or get fired.

There is a quick and simple way to determine whether a policy or strategy like this is likely to do good or harm. It is called the Interaction/Isolation test. The test is based on the nature of business strategy:

Business strategy is a game of interaction and isolation. At its most fundamental level, the job of a manager is to strengthen interactions between the company and its customers, allies, and society (environment). To accomplish this, it is necessary to strengthen interactions between people in the company itself. Conversely, a company can isolate its enemies in order to reduce their power.

This sounds pretty abstract, but we will turn it to practical use in a moment. Here is an Interaction/Isolation matrix:

The matrix has four areas: We-Interaction, We-Isolation, They-Interaction, They-Isolation. You can evaluate a policy or strategy by figuring out in which quadrant it fits. You will find that successful policies and strategies almost always are in the We-Interaction or They-Isolation quadrants. If a policy or strategy fits in the We-Isolation or They-Interaction quadrants, you should at least investigate thoroughly. It is likely that the policy hurts your organization.

A performance evaluation is used to classify employees. It creates an incentive for people to compete against each other. People who compete with each other are less likely to share information. Performance evaluations can also create social cliques. These cliques also tend to isolate themselves from each other.

Performance evaluations also create uncertainty. What does management intend to do with the evaluation? Fire the low performers? Whether this is true or not, the suspicion, breeds distrust, which isolates managers and employees from each other.

Using the Interaction/Isolation test, performance evaluations end up squarely in the We-Isolation quadrant:

We should not rely exclusively on one simple test, but we do have a strong indication that further investigation is warranted. Let's do that.

What do well known management experts say about performance evaluations?

As is usually the case, there are people who are for performance evaluations, and those who are against it. Let's begin with a proponent, Jack Welch, General Electric CEO 1981-2001.

Welch is famous for initiating and consistently supporting a very successful Six Sigma program at GE. He is also famous for firing the lowest performing 10% of his employees each year.

On the other hand... GE also had the Six Sigma program. It is entirely possible that the Six Sigma program was the main cause of GE's success. The performance reviews might have had very little to do with it, or they might even have been detrimental.

Enron had a performance appraisal system, and it may have contributed to the company's downfall. You don't want your company to be the next Enron, do you?

Looking at the reasoning of performance appraisal advocates like Dick Grote, one thing is clear: The reasoning simplistic. Rank everyone, then yank the worst performers. There is little or no consideration of effects other than the desired ones.

For example, if you have good performers to start with, and yank the bottom 10%, the replacements you get will, on average, be worse than the people you fired.

Another problem is keeping the system honest. Welch has emphasized that the system must be honest to work, but how do you do that? For example, a manager can easily downgrade a strong performer in order to eliminate a future competitor. Employees have a strong incentive to sabotage each other.

A third problem, one I have mentioned already, is that information becomes something to withhold, rather than share. You don't want anyone else to get ahead if your continued employment depends on you outperforming them.

Let's see what some other well known experts say about performance appraisals.

Let's begin with one of the world's most successful entrepreneurs, Sir Richard Branson. Here is an excerpt from Business Stripped Bare:
Looking back over the personal notebooks I have kept for more than thirty-five years, I don't think there has ever been a letter from my office which criticises the staff or an individual. Now and again I've disagreed with something and suggested changes in behavior. But the Virgin group has always tried to look for the best in people. That way, you get the best back.
Branson writes a bit about Jack Welch, Alan Sugar, and Donald Trump, then continues:
There's a machismo about the way some managers talk about hiring and firing that I find downright repugnant. A senior person at Apple rather proudly says in his speeches about firing people that ‘I´d rather have a hole than an asshole.’ My philosophy is very different. I think that you should only fire someone as an act of last resort.
Branson's philosophy seems to work. The Virgin Group has about 60,000 employees. It's network structure makes it one of the most (crisis) resilient business organizations in the world.

Examples and counter-examples do not really prove anything, except that

A company that uses rank and yank can be successful. (GE)
A company that does not use rank and yank can be successful. (Virgin Group)
A company that uses rank and yank can fail. (Enron)
A company that does not use rank and yank can fail. (I'll leave it to you to find an example.)

Jeffrey Pfeffer and Robert Sutton are famous. They have written several highly regarded management books. Both are academics, but they also work with large corporations, and have a lot of experience. Here is an excerpt from their book Hard Facts, Dangerous Half-Truths & Total Nonsense:
A couple years ago, one of us gave a speech at a renowned (but declining) high-technology firm that used a forced-ranking system. They called it a stacking system. Managers were required to rank 20 percent of employees as A players, 70 percent as B's, and 10 percent as C's. Just as The War For Talent advises, they gave the lion's share of rewards to A's, modest rewards to B's, and fired the C's. But in an anonymous poll, the firm's top 100 or so executives were asked which company practices made it difficult to turn knowledge into action. The stacking system was voted the worst culprit. This is not just one company's experience. A survey of more than 200 human resource professionals from companies employing more than 2,500 people by the Novations Group found that even though more than half of the companies used forced ranking, the respondents reported that forced ranking resulted in lower productivity, inequity, and skepticism, negative effects on employee engagement, reduced collaboration, and damage to morale and mistrust in leadership.
According to Pfeffer and Sutton there is no evidence at all that rank and yank systems bring any benefits to the companies that use them.

Leslie Bracksick, executive coach and doctor of behavioral science concludes the same thing in her book Unlock Behavior, Unleash Profits:
Sadly, performance evaluations have relatively little influence over the day-to-day activities of employees. They are simply too far removed from where and when things happen.
Finally, let's turn to W. Edwards Deming, perhaps the most influential management expert of the twentieth century. Deming is often credited with being a major influence on the post WWII Japanese economic miracle.

In his book Out Of the Crisis, Deming does not mince words. He lists ‘evaluation of performance, merit rating, or annual review’ as one of the seven Deadly Diseases of Western management:
The idea of merit rating is alluring. The sound of the words captivates the imagination: pay for what you get; get what you pay for; motivate people to do their best, for their own good.

The effect is exactly the opposite of what the words promise. Everyone propels himself forward, or ties to, for his own good, on his own life preserver. The organization is the loser.

Merit rating rewards people who do well in the system. It does not reward attempts to improve the system. Don't rock the boat.
This is exactly why agile coaches and other agile change agents are so much against personnel reviews. Improving the system is exactly what the organization tells them to do, then the organization turns around and stabs the agile change initiative in the back with an outdated, ineffective, counterproductive, personnel appraisal system.

Well, if rank and yank is so bad, why do so many organizations do it?

According to Pfeffer and Sutton there is a very simple reason for why dysfunctional management practices continue to be used for very long periods of time:
When people have strongly held but unexamined beliefs, they act on those beliefs without ever surfacing the underlying assumptions and asking if, indeed their beliefs are logical and empirically sound.
From The Knowing-Doing Gap
Like Pfeffer and Sutton, I believe this is part of the answer. Another part is that many managers do realize that the personnel evaluation systems they use hurt both employees and the company itself.

They also realize that if they rock the boat and do speak out against a detrimental policy, they may very well get a poor performance review themselves.

Deming was right, merit ratings do not award people who try to improve the system.