Monthly Archives: December 2009

My magical upgrade experience

So I bought a 27″ iMac, as an upgrade from my 3-year-old MacBook. It was becoming too slow for all the instruments and effects I was using in Ableton Live 8. The laptop will still be used for work around the house, and the iMac will now be the artistic workhorse. Needless to say, the iMac screen is breathtaking, and the nifty new wireless keyboard and touchpad mouse – that recognises the right-click at last – are beautifully elegant.

I’d set aside a couple of hours of installing software, copying over configurations and so on, so I plugged it in, powered it up, and settled in. On power up it asked if I was migrating from a previous Mac. Yes. Had I been using Time Machine on the other computer? Yes, I had. Ok, it said, plug in your Time Machine drive. Ok, I thought, and what are you going to do with that? It asked me which accounts I wanted to copy over. I selected them, it did some thinking and then told me to wait 30 minutes. I amused myself elsewhere and then came back. A reboot later, and there were all my applications, with their previous configurations, all ready to go. In effect, the computer setup was exactly the same as the MacBook, right down to background image and mouse preferences, but with the newer versions of the native applications such as iPhoto. The only additional steps was a painless online re-registration of Live 8.

I am mightily impressed. A migration from one computer to another is usually a slightly painful process, with strong déjà vu as you find yourself reconfiguring software you’ve set up before. Say what you like about Apple, but this is very nice work.

It’s not the rats you need to worry about

Seth Godin says…

If you want to know if a ship is going to sink, watch what the richest passengers do.

iTunes and file sharing killed Tower Records. The key symptom: the best customers switched. Of course people who were buying 200 records a year would switch. They had the most incentive. The alternatives were cheaper and faster mostly for the heavy users.

Amazon and the Kindle have killed the bookstore. Why? Because people who buy 100 or 300 books a year are gone forever. The typical American buys just one book a year for pleasure. Those people are meaningless to a bookstore. It’s the heavy users that matter, and now officially, as 2009 ends, they have abandoned the bookstore. It’s over.

When law firms started switching to fax machines, Fedex realized that the cash cow part of their business (100 or 1000 or more envelopes per firm per day) was over and switched fast to packages. Good for them.

If your ship is sinking, get out now. By the time the rats start packing, it’s way too late.

Permalink

I don’t easily remember the last time I bought a CD. And I don’t expect to be buying books five years from now.

Soon you’ll be able to insure your digital vault, or just outsource it to someone under an SLA. Then again, if everything is available online all the time, why buy anything? Why hoard when there is no scarcity? Just pay for it when you consume it, and hope that the search engines, aggregators, brokers, and preference engines can give you what you’re looking for.

Personal management tools

<p>When faced with a typical management task, having a kitbag of tools, techniques, and frameworks gets you started quicker, and, importantly, makes it look like you know what you're doing. Or maybe you're the one being managed, and you want to show that you're organised. Either way, they are sufficiently simple not to intimidate others. Here are three tools in my box. None of them are rocket science, and I can't take credit for them, but they all get used at various times and on various topics.</p>

PPP

I was introduced to this one by a manager ten years ago, and it works really well when you need to write or get a regular status report, whether it be for a project or a person. The three Ps are ProgressPlan, and Problems.
Whatever the timeframe for the status updates, list (1) the items you achieved in the last time period, (2) what you have planned for the next time period, and (3) any issues that slowed your progress, or may prevent you executing your plan. The problems can also be challenges, things where you’re looking for extending beyond the plan
This works well for regular performance reviews. Get your reports to bring this list to the meeting, and then discuss the areas with reference to the objectives laid down at the start of the review period. It could be every six months with a large team, or every day if you’re micromanaging someone against a performance improvement plan. It scales up and down nicely.

ABCD

I saw this one a lifetime ago and have always found it useful as a planning framework. It’s a technique for developing a plan to go from A to B, assuming you know what A and B are. You address each letter in turn:

  • A: Your current state. Where are we now? What issues do we have?
  • B: The future state. Where do we want to be? How do we see ourselves at a particular point in the future? Pick the timeframe.
  • C: What are the basic steps to get there? What is the sequence of actions we need to take? What milestones do we need along the way?
  • D: What are the risks along the way? What challenges do we face in undertaking the actions? What constraints are we working to?

From the high-level actions in C, and the risks in D, you have the start of a project plan that can go into more detail. And of course you can track progress with regular PPPs.
How you capture this can help the process. Listing A, B, C and D down the page is not particularly inspiring. Try your page in landscape mode, putting A on the left, B on the right with an arrow connecting the two, with C and D underneath the arrow. It’s more visual and reinforces the idea of movement.

Agile Review

This one comes from the agile software development world, and is the core of a review, when your project is done, or an iteration is complete. Leave the egos at the door, and look back critically at not what happened, but why. Learn the lessons for future iterations or projects. Change the processes.
The basic approach is to ask three main questions:

  1. What went well?
  2. What could we do better?
  3. What different things do we want to try?

The first two questions are the basic good vs bad, without being overly negative. The third one is about new ideas or innovation. It’s not asking how we’d do what we did differently, it’s asking what different things could we do? It’s about examining the process rather the activities. In an XP or a Scrum world, it’s often about looking at introducing or abandoning a particular technique, based on how the culture and patterns of the team are emerging or developing.