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Frank Patrick's Focused Performance Business Blog
This Focused Performance Weblog started life as a "business management blog" containing links and commentary related primarily to organizational effectiveness with a "Theory of Constraints" perspective, but is in the process of evolving towards primary content on interactive and mobile marketing. Think of it as about Focusing marketing messages for enhanced Performance. If you are on an archive page, current postings are found here.

Sunday, January 30, 2005

SharePoint? -- At my 9-to-5 (or 7:30-to-whatever), we're dabbling with the use of Microsoft's SharePoint Services to replace our shared server directories as a central access point for project information. I'm personally having a tough time warming up to it, compared to the simplicity of other web-based services like the new Basecamp. I'd be interested in pointers to info, tips, hints on efficient and effective use of SharePoint. (Most Google responses on the subject are about tips and hints for the technical underpinnings; what I'm looking for is info on using the portal.) Comment below, please. Thanks.

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Support Our Sponsors -- Now that this site and weblog are not supporting an active consulting practice (although you may feel free to ask me to recommend TOC and Critical Chain consulting sources), the idea of carrying some advertising in the form of Google Adsense ads lost its downside for me. Additionally, it's been almost a year that I've been intimately involved with search engine marketing and have been exposed to the surprisingly good effects of effective advertising/marketing through that channel. Hence, the new stuff over in the right hand column. The idea is that Google looks at my page and presents ads related to its content. It will be interesting to see if the organizations represented change over time or if the same set of TOC consultants dominate the listings. If you see something over there that's of interest, click away. I'll get a few pennies per click, helping to pay for the site, and you might find some useful new information.

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Thursday, January 27, 2005

On Inquiry
"Explore, and explore. Be neither chided nor flattered out of your position of perpetual inquiry. Neither dogmatize, or accept another’s dogmatism."
    -- Ralph Waldo Emerson
This one may replace the epigram for this page found in the yellow block in the upper right.

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An Oldie But a Goodie -- Clarke was kind enough to point out that an old article of mine is now available free (in pdf) from Better Software magazine. If you check it out and it seems like deja vu all over again, that's because long time readers of FP might realize it's actually been out for almost a year now -- in 8 easy-to-digest installments starting here.

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Tuesday, January 25, 2005

21 Years Ago Today

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Idea Creation and Execution -- Suggestions for coming up with ideas: journaling, coffee talk, and mind-mapping; and for making them happen: action (not to-do) lists, being smarter together, and blocking time, from Jason Womack of the David Allen Company. David Allen is the author of Getting Things Done, which, as I'm getting into it, I suspect you'll be reading a lot more about here shortly.

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The Big Picture - Cutting Conduits for Free Flow -- In his Internet Time Blog posting, The Business Singularity, Jay Cross lays out a view of business environment as network.
Business organizations are evolving into networks. What happens inside the corporate walls is nowhere near as important as the overall flow of value from raw material to customer. Internal boundaries are obstacles to be overcome. Networks shared among suppliers, partners, and customers integrate the business into a commercial ecosystem that is, no surprise, a larger network. The real-time enterprise is being born.
Yup...the big picture.

"Internal boundaries are obstacles to be overcome." Now that I'm starting to get my project overload in control...well, maybe a bit more in control...I'm starting to work through some of those boundaries in my environment. (It's about time, Frank!) Some of the folks I've been working with have seen our project and account managers as the conduit for their outputs...the conduit to the users of their output. But I refuse to continue being a gatekeeper for project task handoffs...I refuse to continue being a boundary that slows down the movement to customer delivery. With a dozen or so projects on my plate, the "baton" of the handoff could sit in my inbox for hours or more before its noticed and forwarded to the next task owner. So I tell them who they should be handing off to (as if they need to be told), and tell them simply to copy me rather than rely on me to pass it along.

There's other boundaries to be dealt of work that rarely require revision and that are destined for customer feedback and edits anyhow, and a few approval processes that get stuck on desks of managers as heavily loaded as I.

But hey, let it begin with me. I'm getting out of the conduit business.

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Friday, January 21, 2005

Friday Foray: An Internet of Things -- In a video (Win media or Quicktime) lecture, Shaping Things to Come, science fiction author and journalist Bruce Sterling peeks into the future via six technological trends..
"...six sides of a black box, and inside that box is the Christmas surprise -- the thing that is to come."
These six include interactive chips that can label things with unique identities (RFID), local and global positioning systems, powerful search engines, 3-D virtual objects, rapid-prototype computer fabrication, and cradle-to-cradle recycling as a "new kind of death for objects."

An intriguing "greater than the sum of the parts" exploration.

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Thursday, January 20, 2005

The First Law of Management --
You are human. You make mistakes. Since you can’t be perfect, learn how to recover. Here’s how to recover...
From Esther...and her advice is not just for "management."

File under .

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Time is (Not Necessarily) Money -- Otherwise, somewhat less than the 61% of people offered their choice of the two would choose the former. Like the respondents in's survey, I too, have often found myself saying that my time is worth more than my money. After all, time is probably the only thing in the practical universe that is a pure constraint -- there's only so much of it and once you've decided to use it for one thing, it can't be used for another. [via WorthWhile]

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PowerPoint's "Presenter View" -- I thought I was a [relative] PowerPoint power user, but I didn't know about this. I knew Keynote had such a feature from its launch, but when did MS slip this into PP?

Answer: Apparently for Office PowerPoint 2003 and PowerPoint 2002, Microsoft’s help site also describes the feature.

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Tuesday, January 18, 2005

What do you believe is true even though you cannot prove it? -- Every year I look forward to Edge's big question. This year, it's: "What do you believe is true even though you cannot prove it?"

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Under-promise, Over-deliver -- From Worthwhile...
"Sometimes the best way to go, with a new initiative, is simply to limit yourself to very consistent, well-planned effort on ONE PROJECT ONLY until it's complete. Some projects don't lend themselves to this, it's true. And financially, sometimes you simply MUST do several projects at once to make ends meet. But if there is any way at all to focus on one thing at a time, it always pays off."
But when you can't limit yourself to one project, at least focus on one task at a time (think of a task as a mini-project in this context), so its outcome can be handed off to whoever needs to carry it on next.

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Sunday, January 16, 2005

Moving the Market Edges -- Moving them together, that is.

In the TOC approach to marketing and strategy (first introduced to wide audiences in Goldratt's It's Not Luck, and which is really probably only a restatement of Marketing 101 -- but a required, reminding restatement for many), the two key premises are based on segmenting the market and tweaking the product "at the edges" to appeal to the segments as they relate to a variety of price points. The idea is to offer special capabilities, but at a price, making those willing to pay for those capabilities do so willingly, maximizing the financial throughput for the high-end presentations but also maximizing the financial utilization of capacity by not being forced to turn away those of more modest means and needs.

This piece looks at a venerable and innovative company in the high tech arena, and lays out an excellent example of such a market strategy. The company in question (disclaimer -- I'm a fan, a customer, and a shareholder) has, at it's core (heh, heh), two products -- two software operating systems -- one useful for general purpose applications ranging from high end animation to simple text manipulation, and the other dedicated primarily to a quite limited, but popular, consumer application.

The "tweaks" in this case exist in the form of a range of various collections of electronic componentry that serve as the delivery systems for the real products, on one hand primarily adding speed to the presentation of one product, and on the other hand, primarily adding size (plus one feature at the extreme high end). The linked analysis of this firm's six markets -- high end, middle market, and mass market for both of the two products -- converge, according to the author with the latest offerings from the company in question --
These things do not happen by accident. The graphic...illustrates extreme patience and foresight from [the firm] to bring users to the platform by innovating increasingly towards the mass market over time without sacrificing the middle or high-end markets.
-- a beautiful example of segmentation of offerings that I'm sure they hope to be "fruitful."

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Friday, January 14, 2005

More Friday Farrago -- Here's the rest of what I started last week...

Productivity from IT plus good management --
The value of good management appears again in an article by Stephen J. Dorgan and John J. Dowdy in McKinsey Quarterly When IT lifts productivity (2004, Number 4). Dorgan and Dowdy have written before about the value of good management. This time they looked at manufacturing companies investing in information technology and found significantly better performance in those companies who ranked high on a management practices scale.

From the abstract: Many economists have long argued that good management, rather than more computing power, is the key to higher productivity. A new study of 100 manufacturing companies in the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, and France shows that IT expenditures have little impact on productivity unless they are accompanied by improved management practices.
Duh... Necessary but Not Sufficient (Unfortunately, the McKinsey articles that Jack points to have disappeared behind the paid subscription wall.)

Don't Stop Thinking About the Value -- "CIOs know that project implementation success rates are woefully low. So once a project comes in on time and under budget, CIOs think they've won the battle and can move on. Wrong."

'pod scum -- Inspired by Doc Searls

Models and Truth -- Referring to a William James quote on truth being something that happens to and idea...
"This definition of truth, using correctness over time, is similar to a definition that uses the predictiveness of a model to define it's usefulness. A model, like truth, is tested and refined over time. It is always open to change as it is compared to more data from events."
From James Vornov's Decision Tools.

Brainpower Networking Using the Crawford Slip Method

Above all --
" we back away from our organizations and as business evolves, our vision of the territory broadens. Our frame expands from the individual worker (e.g., the clerk) to the team (e.g., accounts receivable) to the department (e.g., finance) to the business unit (e.g., light-bulb manufacturing) to the corporation (e.g., General Electric). As we back away, we see that the functional silos of finance, marketing, sales, personnel, etc., are all part of one big operation. We see raw materials going in one door and finished goods coming out the other, with everyone touching it along the way, a process of adding value we call workflow.

"Business Process Reengineering sought to tighten things up at this level. BPR claims to make end-to-end improvements. BPR often failed. On the one hand, BPR oversimplified how organizations really work; you can’t do without the grapevine, workarounds, the shadow organization, social networks, and other intangibles. On the other, BPR mistook the old wall surrounding the corporation for the limits of the value creation process. The wall is an artificial barrier. That’s why Jack Welch told GE to be a “boundaryless organization.” Why mess with only the inside stuff when you can leverage the assets of the entire world?

"As we backed away, a bigger picture came into focus, a “Value Chain.” We recognized that our organization is but a link in a chain that stretches from digging raw materials out of the ground to putting a smile on a customer’s face. The chain is only as strong as its weakest link. If the company that supplies our raw materials is an inefficient, high-cost producer, our customer is eventually going to pay for it. Hence, it’s in our interest to select, train, inform, and motivate every link in our chain. A majority of the people who work for Cisco don’t draw a Cisco paycheck. They are suppliers, assemblers, shippers, channel partners, consultants, and integrators."

Mind Hacks -- "This exploration into the moment-by-moment works of the brain uses cognitive neuroscience to present experiments, tricks, and tips related to vision, motor skills, attention, cognition, subliminal perception. Each 'hack' examines specific operations of the brain. By seeing how the brain responds, you'll learn more about how the brain is put together."

Earned Value and Burn-Down Charts

Einstein and Freud Go to a Bar, and Freud Says... --
"Einstein and Freud did not revolutionize intellectual history by interpreting evidence as good scientists are supposed to. To start, they barely glanced at the evidence. They discovered their astonishing new truths by running thought experiments and introspecting."
A NY Times review of Richard Panek's The Invisible Century, via McGee

DigitalGrit -- The new website of my day-to-day...visually striking, IMHO. Refresh the home page a few times to get the full effect. We got a blog, as well.

Rules for Being Creative

Knowledge Creation Activity --
"Can you imagine a group of people composing music in an hierarchical chain of command: a chief composer, with middle-manager-composers, and squads of junior composers? 'Sorry boss, we tried to make the eighth-note triplets work like your plan, but the rhythm's off.' The boss replies: 'You gotta make them work. We have a schedule, and the base line needs to be integrated with your part by the end of this week -- and we don't have time to do it over.'"
...and Laurent's Incipient Thoughts that led me to it.

Later...While I was putting this together over the new year's weekend, David Weinberger passed along a music joke that talks to not just quantity of output but quality...
Joe: Can you imagine? Bach had to write a cantata every week!

Tim: Not only that. He had to write a Bach cantata.
Who says you can't have both quantity and quality? Of course, one of the more well known is called the "Coffee Cantata." Maybe a paen to that potent potion than might have helped?

Is Culture More Important that Strategy?

The Power of Independent Thinking --
"You are running a 6-person project team, and you'd like to get an estimate of something or other of monumental importance to your work. Use your network (ever so relatively easy to do in WebWorld), and dig up 5 disparate experts or interesting folks in general, reward them with a dinner for their trouble, and ask them to work solo and send you their Best Guess in 24 hours; you, in turn, process their answers-estimates...Just don't gather them in a conference room, real or virtual, and ask for a "consensus view"!"
Consensus = GroupThink.

We Will Have Fun, Damn It!
OK. The decks are cleared.

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Thursday, January 13, 2005

On Local vs Global Problem Solving --
"Don’t get involved in partial problems, but always take flight to where there is a free view over the whole single great problem, even if this view is still not a clear one."
    -- Ludwig Wittgenstein

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Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Quality Pledge -- From Johanna...
Pledge: Our company is completely and absolutely committed to quality. *

'nuff said. (Almost)

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Tuesday, January 11, 2005

You Can’t Drop a Ball That Isn’t in Your Court --
"It can be used for good or it can be used for evil... Its the occasional habit of experienced project managers to quickly return requests to their clients for 'clarification'."
Read the whole thing from Nerdherding for Beginners, which includes what to do when someone applies this "artificial good faith" to you.

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Shooting from the Hip (Only to Hit Your Foot) -- Forecasts, prognostications, guesses, SWAGs, and promises; which of these words doesn't belong with the others?

How often have you made a quick-and-dirty assessment of a situation "...unencumbered by the thought process" as Click and Clack, the Tappet Brothers might say, only to have your response come back to bite you in the hind parts?

We all like to look smart, be perceived as team players, and provide a can-do response to requests from our bosses and customers. Too often, this leads to being put in a situation where a half-baked assessment is taken as a commitment. In the experience-building phase (essentially spanning the the 32 years) of my 32-year career, it took a bit of learning before I realized that in these cases, they always remember the "could happen" assessment, but never remember the ifs, the prerequisites, and the concerns expressed along with that hip shot response.

We usually feel pressured to provide such potentially dangerous information because we assume that the information is needed right then and there. Unless we're talking about an immediate life-and-death situation, there is no situation that will not benefit from a bit of forethought about obstacles and reservations. And the more critical the decision, the more forethought the situation deserves.

You've probably got good intuition on the subject -- they probably wouldn't have asked you if you didn't -- but give that intuition some backup from the other side of the brain.

Sooner or later, someone will once again ask you if or when something can be done, or how much of something could be expected. Allow me to suggest a universal answer for such a situation.

"Let me get back to you on that."

But be sure you have an easy to use process and a plan for getting back quickly with a response that you can live with.

In On Project Estimates... Briefly is found a similar perspective on the flip side of the topic from Rands in Repose...the topic of the fear of coming out with that shot from the hip answer...
SHE IS SAYING: "Roughly tell me how long it'll take to do this as quickly as possible."

YOU ARE HEARING: "Commit to a schedule regarding implementing this specific feature."
Rands goes on to suggest a reasonable strategy for taking a little time to develop a useful estimate. I agree it's better than a hip-shot response, but I'll also two more cents and suggest that if request calls for a quantitative response (like a time estimate), it should be documented in terms of a range of time, rather than a single number. This is far more honest that a sand-bagged big number or a land-mine-filled small one.

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Sunday, January 09, 2005

It's What's Left that Matters -- In Are You Measuring What's Done or What's Left?, Johanna gets it...
I gave my metrics talk yesterday, and something occurred to me: in traditional projects, we're used to measuring what's been done. In agile projects, we measure what's left to do. I just realized yesterday that the difference in how we measure makes a difference in how people feel about the project. The more you measure what's left, the more you can see the end of the iteration or the end of the project. It's also a lot clearer to see how many more iterations it will take if management decides to add more features.

I'll be modifying my measurements -- even for not-specifically-agile projects -- to reflect what's left to do, not what's done.
Just because "we're used to measuring what's been done" doesn't mean it was the right thing to do, "agile project" or not. It might have been appropriate to track what's been done for the purposes of progress payments in large, long-term projects, but for that purpose only. Share it with the accountants and the accountants only. For those actually doing the work, I've often said that "percent complete" is a useless concept/metric for managing the flow and speed of project delivery, and if the value of the project is in its completion, it's "what's left" that stands in the way of getting to it. So focus on it, with metrics and status processes.

(Hmmm... One of the best threads in memory on the subject of earned value is going on at the AgileProjectManagement Yahoo!Group recently. The concurrent combination of that conversation with this posting reminds me that one of the reasons I'm not enthralled with EV is that the basis of its system of metrics is what has been completed -- what has been "earned" -- while PM, for me, is about what remains to be done. How much work, how much uncertainty, and how much time remains is more important to keeping promises than the completion of pieces of work that add up only to an incomplete project.)

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Friday, January 07, 2005

First Friday Farrago for '05 -- Cleaning out a bunch of "to-blog" items left over from 2004; things that caught my attention sufficiently to grab, but for which I didn't find time or muster energy to do justice to with meaningful commentary. With a bit of something for everyone, this little collection should keep you busy over the weekend...

Project Management Humor -- A small collection of cartoons -- interesting that they emphasize juggling.

The Long Tail --
"Forget squeezing millions from a few megahits at the top of the charts. The future of entertainment is in the millions of niche markets at the shallow end of the bitstream."
Another thought along these lines is that there's a lot more of us on this planet in the long tail than in the narrow peak. The economy of the future decades are going to be more about the long twin tails of India and China than the big dog peaks of the US and Europe.

The New Accountability -- Individual vs Individual as part of a vibrant collaborative network.

Corporate Anorexia --
"Think of a corporation like a human body. To be healthy, the body needs to take in sufficient and appropriate nourishment, exercise, and avoid behaviours known to cause disease and injury. Likewise, a corporation needs to 'invest' in people, technology, infrastructure and innovation -- the nutrients of business growth -- 'exercise' that investment to generate revenue, and avoid the behaviours (bad decisions, bad acquisitions, letting the competition inflict a beating on you) that lead to corporate 'illness' and 'injury'.

"By this analogy, the corporate model of the 1990s was the body-builder -- investing heavily in food, and exercising to build muscle and strength and speed and resilience. The catchwords of the day were innovation, knowledge, human and intellectual capital. There was even talk of a 'war for talent', an acknowledgement that bright, creative people were so valuable that companies would fight over them. Investments with long-term value are called assets, and the corporation of the 1990s generated wealth and growth by investing in assets.

"By contrast, the corporate model of this decade is the dieter -- staying healthy by eating as little as possible, spot-exercising and using diuretics to reduce every visible ounce of fat, forgoing muscle and strength and speed and resilience for the appearance of health. The catchwords today are cost-management, outsourcing, offshoring, and risk management. Focus is on short-term, quarter-over-quarter bottom-line change, and the corporation of today generates wealth by eliminating costs."
...and a lot more. Read the whole thing.

A collection on blame, the habit of blame...
"Giving up the blame habit isn't easy, especially in a society where it seems as if everyone else is doing it, and where we likely will have to 'go first.'"
...defensiveness, and curiosity. (A connection previously noted by Joe Ely.)

The Corporate Weblog Manifesto --
"Before you post to the company blog again, read this manifesto. To blog guru Robert Scoble, business bloggers should have a few things in common. Among them, they should steer clear of PR-cleansed jargon, they should have a thick skin, and they should avoid writing during times of emotional turmoil."

Responding to Change over Following a Plan

Epson Portland brings jobs back home --
"A popular novel also figured in the turnaround. Graham bought his two dozen deputies copies of Eliyahu M. Goldratt's 'The Goal,' a book about managers who save a factory from oblivion. In the dramatic account narrated by the fictional factory director, managers figure out how to address bottlenecks, cut costly inventories and deliver on time."

Fuzzy Numbers -- From this BusinessWeek cover article on the failures of accounting practices...
"Halliburton says it followed generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP)."
'nuff said...but read the whole thing anyhow. [Via Business Pundit.]

Multi-Project Management -- An interesting table of techniques.

Project network as a social network --
"We so often think about these branching and interconnected networks as a fancy list of tasks. Built well, they represent interdependencies among people and the tasks. But the insight above really gets at the people nature of projects. There aren't hard cutoffs between the end of one task and the beginning of another. The line on the gantt chart implies a conversation, and depending on the complexity of the tasks, the amount of time people are working on the "line" between the two tasks could be significant."
Amen, brother Jack, amen!

Hot Rod Art -- ooh, I think I pulled something patting myself on my back.

Are Useful Requirements Just A Fairy Tale? (and why an IA should care) --
"I’ve heard of a fantastic land far, far away where magical people called “project managers” collect something called “requirements.” These requirements so clearly, concisely, and completely describe work to be done that all the villagers involved share a common understanding of a project’s goals. Before a single pixel is plotted in this amazing world, villagers are able to agree to what a project will (and will not) accomplish..."

Moving in a Fog -- Until it clears.

Valuing Activity -- "Here are some of the ways I may gain value from any given activity..."

Overcoming Writer's Block -- "The Web runs on good content, yet good content has to be written and can be hard to come by."
Strange to think I was suffering from writer's block in November with all this stuff in my in-box -- and this is only about half -- more to come next week. Maybe it was just lack of energy. Maybe the list was too daunting and I didn't know where to start. Now I'm putting it behind me. Clear slate. Clear mind.

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Thursday, January 06, 2005

Excellence through Simplicity -- From Evolving Excellence...
"A common resounding theme that we continue to come across while researching innovative manufacturing methods is the concept that simplicity drives excellence. In many ways this is also at the core of a value stream mapping exercise... what processes and methods are in place that simply create additional activities without creating true value from the customer perspective?"...more...
Clarke Ching has also recently expressed an appreciation of simplicity.

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Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Pollard's Creative Problem-Solving -- It's been a while since I've visited a number of my formerly regularly read blogs, so I've recently been making a conscious effort to revisit some of my old haunts. Two have come together when I noticed that Terry Frazier lauded the graphics that support the prolific Dave Pollard's usually insightful postings. This one...

...pointed out by Terry, has reminded me that I've had a few of Dave's pieces in my "to-blog" list for a while. I'll have dig them out, dust them off, and do something with them.

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Sunday, January 02, 2005

Gotta Get My Stuff Done -- (Quicktime) or not (Win Media).

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