The only Tom Peters book I own is Re-imagine! from 2003. The biggest lesson I took from this was that business was expanding exponentially from decade to decade. At the beginning of the Industrial Age we were a massive manufacturing labor force. Today, due to innovation in both technology and business models, the inverse is actually true. One of the benchmarks of performance is employees/revenue, and the hands-down winner of this, I believe, is Craigslist.
In the early 2000’s we were accustomed to long software development times, huge up-front cost outlays, and if we were lucky, something that was close to what we wanted. Sometime after I’d read Re-imagine! I told the head of SDLC initiatives that we would need to decrease our development time from 9 months, to 9 weeks, to eventually 9 days. I got laughedat. He was a “ain’t broke, don’t fix” kinda guy.
In 2015 I attended a meetup heavily attended by PMPs but the topic was around Agile Adoption and how it accelerated delivery and improved the interaction between the “business” and “IT” (hint: both groups are “the business”). I sat next to a CFO-type who I don’t believe listened to one goddamn word the panel said because he asked “What’s the ROI of adopting Agile?” I don’t believe that’s the right question. Look around you, are your competitors learning to execute for their customers faster and more effectively? With shorter turn-around times and with higher customer satisfaction? If the answer is yes, then you go figure out what the ROI of Agile Adoption is. Stop using the “What’s the ROI of…” argument to duck change. Do your damn job.
Through the use of tools like Sketch and Invision we can get MVPs in the hands of prospective clients in a matter of hours to get their feedback. Can we conceptualize and iterate on a day-to-day basis? I don’t see why not, it may already be here. But if many people continue to adhere to the ain’t-broke-don’t-fix mentality, they’ll get left far behind.
By the way, I got the last laugh, he’s no longer in charge of SDLC and the organization is beginning to deliver in 9 day increments. Although I had nothing to do with that transformation, that’s mainly due to @iamagile.
Innovative – The possibilities for progression are not, by any means, exhausted. Technological development is always offering new opportunities for original designs. But imaginative design always develops in tandem with improving technology, and can never be an end in itself.
Makes a product useful – A product is bought to be used. It has to satisfy not only functional, but also psychological and aesthetic criteria. Good design emphasizes the usefulness of a product whilst disregarding anything that could detract from it.
Is aesthetic – The aesthetic quality of a product is integral to its usefulness because products are used every day and have an effect on people and their well-being. Only well-executed objects can be beautiful.
Makes a product understandable – It clarifies the product’s structure. Better still, it can make the product clearly express its function by making use of the user’s intuition. At best, it is self-explanatory.
Unobtrusive – Products fulfilling a purpose are like tools. They are neither decorative objects nor works of art. Their design should therefore be both neutral and restrained, to leave room for the user’s self-expression.
Honest – It does not make a product appear more innovative, powerful or valuable than it really is. It does not attempt to manipulate the consumer with promises that cannot be kept.
Long-lasting – It avoids being fashionable and therefore never appears antiquated. Unlike fashionable design, it lasts many years – even in today’s throwaway society.
Thorough down to the last detail – Nothing must be arbitrary or left to chance. Care and accuracy in the design process show respect towards the consumer.
Environmentally friendly – Design makes an important contribution to the preservation of the environment. It conserves resources and minimizes physical and visual pollution throughout the lifecycle of the product.
As little design as possible – Less, but better – because it concentrates on the essential aspects, and the products are not burdened with non-essentials. Back to purity, back to simplicity.
And then there is
11… Difficult and time consuming – It takes effort to make anything seem effortless. It takes great effort to simplify, to edit, to truly focus on one key feature you want someone to use. Taking the easy way out is just that, easy. You don’t have to have the difficult discussions telling people that their pet idea isn’t going to make the cut.
I’ve recently started St Pete Open Coffee which meets weekly at Kahwa on 204 2nd S in downtown. Why? Because I’m sick of hearing people say “I didn’t know that was going on or I would have come.” Who knew that BitPay was in downtown St Pete? How about Squaremouth, one of the fastest growing travel insurance comparison websites and recently voted as one of the top 20 places to work in Florida? That’s here. Iron Yard is here too.
St Pete Open Coffee is a consistent place and time where developers and entrepreneurs can bump into each other and learn about what’s going on in St Pete. Think of it as Steve Jobs’ concept of “unplanned collaborations,” how people unexpectedly ran into each other that they hadn’t seen for months, and the often dramatic creative output that resulted. Now apply that specifically to developers and entrepreneurs and you’ll understand the concept behind St Pete Open Coffee. The realOpen Coffee Club went a bit further but this is early stage and maybe we get there, maybe we don’t. But it wants to get started.
Update. And.. then I killed it. Because apparently it didn’t want to get started. And mainly real estate brokers showed up. Srsly.
Somehow I get involved in these discussions from time to time, usually a local politician is doing research on what they can do to help the startups or grow the entrepreneurial community. Usually what they’re looking to do is provide some sort of access to “funding” or get office space for the entrepreneurs. But recently I found some comments by @fredwilson to be dead-on the best answer I’ve ever heard for what local governments can be doing to help grow the community. There are five main areas that Fred identifies in his talk with Andrew Ross Sorkin:
Good places for people to live
Politicians, focus on those five things and that will attract talent and growing companies. There’s a lot more to it but those are the basics and those are the things that elected officials should be focusing on. I’d also add here a quote from Brad Feld, “paint a big spotlight on what’s going on in the entrepreneurial community.” Just stay away from trying to figure out who to get funding to, who the next great companies are, just get out of the way, this isn’t where you can add value.
Still committed to helping startups raise money? Angel investment is the catalyst for any entrepreneurial community – it gets things flowing. But as you’ll hear Fred say in the video, there has to be a more “cowboy” mentality when doing this. The mindset has to become one of “not missing the next big thing” rather than “I don’t want to look like an idiot for investing in (x).” We’re probably a long way from doing that here and it will probably be very small steps at a time as we get this going. As Fred points out in the video, get the wealthy people out of investing in bonds and into investing in startups. Angel capital is THE MOST critical thing necessary to get this moving.
I recently had the great opportunity to speak at TEDx Tampa Bay and I loved it. I got to cut loose, have fun and discuss something that really matters to me. I spoke about Tom Wujec’s “Got a Wicked Problem, First, Tell Me How You Make Toast” TED talk. If you haven’t seen it then invest the next ten minutes and let Tom drop some knowledge on you. It’s one of those talks that’s not obvious at the time you watch it, it’s a talk that’s only obvious when things fall apart and you need a Gordion Knot-cutting knife in your pocket kind of talk.
As luck hard work would have it, @IamAgile sits on the Board of Directors for Agile Alliance for 2015-2018. This years board meeting was in Wellington, New Zealand – definitely one of the most beautiful and diverse countries I’ve visited. The food is all organic, there’s a thriving craft beer community (that knows all about Cigar City Brewing!) and scenes like this one are everywhere. Our tour started when we landed in Auckland and immediately took a downturn. The “Mini” we were supposed to get from the rental car company was actually a “mini” car. A Hyundai Getz with a rockin’ 93 bhp engine, water in the door, right hand drive, and two cubic feet of storage for our 20 cubic feet of luggage. I’ll be blunt, this thing was a piece of shit. And it made the trip all the more memorable and interesting, mainly because NZ (N-zed) is rather hilly.
Auckland itself was beautiful, reminded us a lot of our visit with @MissDestructo and @nbrown10 at the end of last year. The port city had several good bars and… well, a lot of wind. We barely got one day in the city before we headed for Hamilton and Hobbitown.
For @iamagile‘s and my honeymoon we finally got to hit Italy. We’ve both travelled extensively for our careers in Asia, Europe and Australia but never got to see Italy. For almost three weeks we visited Florence, Venice and Rome. First impressions? The art history here is unbelievably deep and wide. Venice is not a place to go drinking heavily after dinner. Sidewalks end abruptly in the canals with no warning. The people? Extremely friendly and helpful. Food? The further off the main streets you get the better, and less expensive, the food gets and the chianti is plentiful everywhere. The only part that got under my skin is a little bit is when I ordered a large beer (about 2 pints.) The response I invariably got was “You want an American size beer. Ok.” After a couple of these experiences I eventually started responding with “No, I want an Irish sized beer. Thank you.” Go back again? Sure, I’d just avoid Rome. A little dirty, people were ambivalent, food was pretty marginal. But the Vatican and surrounding architecture were absolutely incredible and you could spend at least three days in line waiting to get into the Vatican Museum. If you’re up for that sort of experience, be my guest – I’ll stick with Florence, Venice, and if I can trick @iamagile into it, Modena. I’ll just say it’s on the way to Milan.
So please stop with the analogy. Writing software is like writing music. Even the most gifted of composers can struggle for days, weeks, or months to get movements to work together. Equating writing software to putting PVC pipes together or framing a room is idiotic. I’ve lost track of how many exec’s have said “How hard can it be to get software to do this…?” Well, for starters, go write Hendel’s Messiah from memory. No? Try Beethoven’s Minueto Allegro Molto e Vivace. Because that’s what you’re asking for every time you want a custom piece of software written. Ok, maybe not that hard, but just try writing Chopsticks from memory and you’ll see what I mean. This is not that simple. This is hard, detailed work that requires focus and mastery of the most obscure details. And most of all it requires time. Time to think, to solve, to test (to listen to) again and again until it’s right. If you want it fast then you want it wrong. If you want it right then it takes time.
This post is a little different. It’s about earning self-respect. Respect from others comes from winning or being honest even when it runs against your best interests. Self-respect is earned from winning over yourself. It comes from honest introspection, recognizing your own dragons. And then slaying their asses.
This week my wife called me a ‘chronic procrastinator’ and in a sense, she’s right. I put off the shitty tasks and do the fun stuff. The brain challenging, can I figure this stuff out kind of work. The mundane, every day, boring, administrivia crap? Nope, not for me. But if you let the administrivia go long enough, you’ll die under the weight of the un-done. How did I beat it? I discovered a little book called One Small Step Can Change Your Life. The premise of the book is that your brain puts up defense mechanisms to protect you from pain. Ok, I can definitely relate to that. Unfortunately, there comes a time when the pain of not having it done overwhelms the pain of not doing it. Then you have to put in the Herculean effort of putting all the fun stuff aside and knocking it out. Taxes are the obvious one. Going to the damn dentist is another. But there’s a trick to all of this that the book points out. Take the big-hairy-I-don’t-want-to-do-it-thing and break it down into the most minuscule of tasks. I’ll take an example we’re all familiar with: writing a term paper. For me, I wrote these the night before it was due. What I turned in sucked and was just enough to get me at the top of the class. But it was excruciatingly painful. Today I do a lot of systems analysis, a lot of research and detail work. Fun? Nope. So what I do is break it down into tiny, insignificant tasks. My brain doesn’t throw up the warning signs saying it’s going to be painful to pull this together and instead, does each tiny task. The result? Great work, delivered early. Essentially what I do it look at what needs to be delivered, decide f it requires A, B, or C level work and then break the deliverable into sub-tasks accordingly. The higher the grade of work, the more sub-tasks I create. If it’s C level work, I create a handful of quick, easily completed tasks and get that shit off my plate. If it’s A level work, I create a lot (a shit-ton actually) of low-level tasks and prioritize them. Understand a client’s systems? Identify the players and their roles, talk to them, get their perspective, take notes. From there you may come up with 150-200 follow up items. But the secret here is that each of those are miniscule. Make a call, talk about X, write down Y. All stuff that doesn’t trigger your brain into thinking that the thing you’re working on is a damn mountain. Before you know it, you’re at item 200 and you’re done. It’s ridiculously easy. Every time you catch yourself starting to procrastinate on a particular task, it’s because you’re working on to many itms all at once and you’re not thinking small enough. Break it down more. Spend an hour each morning making the smallest, most innocuous tasks imaginable. If you’re a “chronic procrastinator” you’ll have this dragon beaten before you know it. And well before your brain can throw up a barrier for you.
One of the things I picked up when I worked in North Carolina was a love of barbecue. Over the past couple of months
I’ve been picking up a Boston butt when I see one with a good fat cap and putting going low and slow with it. It’s turning out so well that we no longer go out for barbecue. It’s provided a good distraction from everything else that’s been going on over the past year. Breaks are needed. New (or in this case, old) experiences are needed. And sometimes it’s just for fun. Maybe a little healthy competition now and then too. But for right now, it’s breakfast.