Things I did not miss on my holiday

Today I returned to work after two weeks away on holiday.

I’m now a few hours in to my first day back and I thought I would reflect on the things that I didn’t miss whilst I was away.

Here are a few of the things I hadn’t missed:

  • Forgetting things – there’s something about a holiday return that means that I always forget something.
  • Corporate reorganisation emails – yes multiple ones.
  • Conference calls – way too many things to mention.
  • People putting a conference call on hold – listening to that wonderful beep tone is such a treat.
  • Sitting – when I’m on holiday I rarely sit, work is all about sitting.
  • The roller-coaster – coming back to work involves a roller-coaster of emotions as you read something, think about the required actions, read something else, think about other actions, read something else and realise that you don’t need to do anything.
  • Multiple streams – on holiday there’s normally only one stream of information that I need to concern myself with. If I’m walking, I’m walking. If I’m talking, I’m talking. At work there are always multiple streams that need attention. This all leads to a lack of focus that isn’t good for anyone.
  • A lack of control – on holiday I have much more control than I do at work, that’s the reality of work but it doesn’t mean that I like it.

If this sounds to you like a list of complaints, it isn’t, I’m just reflecting on things I’ve observed.

Because it's Friday: "Commencement Speaker Needed" by Improv Everywhere

The team at Improv Everywhere have been having fun again. This time their set-up was to create a graduation ceremony with a problem – no commencement speaker.

So they went around the vicinity asking anyone and everyone if they would be willing to do the speech. The results are both funny and inspiring.

It got me thinking; if someone asked me to do an impromptu commencement speech what would I exhort the graduates to do? There are some great examples in the video, I’m not sure I would be that inspirational and I certainly wouldn’t sing:

Human Behaviour, a Printer and a Ream of Paper

Today I went to the large multi-function-printer in the corner of the office expecting to pick up some printing that I’d just sent to it.

(You might be wondering what I was doing printing, but that’s a question for another day.)

I was expecting to be greeted by a set of pages on the side of the printer, but instead I was greeted by a red-light and a message on the screen.

The message told me in very clear terms that the printer was out of paper. This particular printer has four trays, three of which are dedicated to the type of A4 paper that I wanted to use, all three of these trays were empty.

Being a good office citizen I opened the cupboard next to the printer where the spare paper is stored. Having open the cupboard I was accosted by a sight I’ve seen in every office I’ve ever worked in. Instead of the cupboard containing full reams of paper it was littered with ripped open paper wrappings containing loose collections of paper. Some of these collections had barely 50 sheets in them, some a 100 sheets, but all of them less than half a ream of paper. There were so many bits of reams that I couldn’t see the full reams.

Most home printers only take a few sheets of paper, but for some years now, decades even, designers of office printers have understood something quite basic. These design geniuses have understood that the basic design requirement for a printer tray is that it takes a ream of paper. I don’t think I’ve seen a paper tray that takes part of a ream for a very, very long time. Yet, despite this being obvious to the designers of printer trays it’s clearly not obvious to the users of printer trays. What could be simpler:

  • Open paper tray
  • Remove ream of paper from cupboard
  • Remove wrapping from ream of paper
  • Put full ream of paper in paper tray
  • Close paper tray
  • Dispose of wrapping

Instead people prefer, for some reason, a different process:

  • Open paper tray
  • Remove ream of paper from cupboard
  • Open wrapping covering ream of paper
  • Remove a handful of paper from wrapping
  • Place this portion of paper into paper tray
  • Place partial ream of paper back into cupboard
  • Close paper tray

The only logical conclusions I can think of for this behaviour are as follows:

  • People haven’t understood, even after all this time, that the paper tray can take a full ream of paper.
  • Disposing of the paper wrapping around a ream of paper requires such special skills that this step is to be avoided. Possible, but I’ve not come across it.

I wonder what the designers of paper trays think about this situation. They’ve done the design work, they’ve created an optimised solution, and yet people prefer to work in a way that creates extra work.

This silly little example shows to me the difficulty of adjusting human behaviour. Even when there is an obviously simpler way of doing things we prefer to follow the tried and trusted path. We prefer to put too little paper in the printer because we are afraid that putting too much in it might break it. This is just a tiny example, but there is evidence of this type of behaviour everywhere you look. The challenge that many organisations face is that these tiny examples scale up into huge areas of inefficiency.

I'm a man in the middle

Robert Frost once said:

“The middle of the road is where the white line is-and that’s the worst place to drive.”

But that’s the reality of much of my life – I’m in the middle.

  • I’m middle-aged
  • I sit, as a member of Generation X, between the baby boomer generation and Generation Y or as they seem to have become the Millenials.
  • I work in middle management. There are people above and people below.
  • I’m in the middle of the grade structure at my employer.
  • I’m of average height.
  • Although I used to wear Regular (middle) length trousers at some time in history my trousers have become marked as Short though my legs are no shorter.
  • I used to wear tops with an M in them, they normally now have an L instead, probably because I am above average weight.
  • I have an average sized waist. Not sure I understand how I can be average height, have an average sized waist, but be above average weight?
  • I drive a medium-sized car.
  • I have a family that is as close to medium-sized as it’s possible to get without having part of a child.
  • I live very close to the geographic middle of the UK, and the geographic middle of Britain (yes they are different things).
  • Income is a tricky one, that’s above the median, but there are people earning a lot more than I am and a lot of people earning less. I need to remind myself sometimes that I’m not in the middle here.
  • I live in a city that is about as close to having a median (medium) population for the UK as it’s possible to get.
  • I think I’m middle class, but that’s difficult to be clear about that these days because, thankfully, the class system isn’t as definitive as it used to be.
  • The average tenure at most employers is between 9 and 10 years, my tenure has been significantly longer than that.
  • I have an average commute to work for my region.
  • I have the average number of connected device.
  • Looking on my utility providers web site we use an average amount of energy for our region.

The reality is that we all live our lives in the middle of something, but is that really the worst place to drive?

On the train in 2015

I’m on the train travelling home from London after a two day workshop. It’s time to read fiction and to let the mind wander. Normally I would have my headphones in but today I think I’ll listen to the world around me.

The suited man across the aisle from me is snoring. His white shirt is still adorned by a tie, but it’s warm in here and the collar is unbuttoned and the tie is loose. He’s the only person I can see who’s wearing a tie on this business dominated train as we hurtle through the countryside. He’s clinging on to his beaten-up blackberry and I wonder whether he’s set himself an alarm so that he wakes before his station. He looks strangely out of place in 2015.

The man behind him is tapping away on his iPhone and has been since we left Euston. What can be doing that’s taking so long to type, or perhaps he’s playing a game? I can’t see from here. His attire is more current with his casual shirt carrying its corporate logo.

I’m sat at a table with a much needed power supply that’s reinvigorating the various, barely adequate, batteries that my mobile technology utilizes. I’m wearing a shirt today, but haven’t worn a tie for business meetings for a long time.

Opposite me another businessman works his way through an over generous food bag as he watches rugby on his oversized bright blue laptop with his headphones in. I thought he was going to be a problem when I arrived; his bag, laptop, Kindle and Samsung Galaxy covered the whole table. Thankfully he soon constrained himself to his side of the table.

Behind me there’s a discussion between three businessmen and one businesswoman around another table. They’re in various logoed polo shirts and are trying to work out whether it would be possible to disappear in a modern world where the network knows your every move:

“You just can’t do anything without leaving a footprint somewhere.”

“Just imagine what Facebook already knows about you”

“How many different cameras have captured images of us today?”

The businesswoman isn’t too bothered about the thought of disappearing as she taps away on her pink-clad smartphone completely ignoring the men, who she clearly knows but has probably heard enough from already.

We are accompanied on our journey by a young Asian couple who are swapping stories and laughing as they pass each other their iPhones. They’re also plugged in trying to water the lithium. It’s hard to tell whether they are business people or on a tourist journey. Where would we be without flex?

There’s a cloud free sky outside and bails have been randomly scattered across the golden-brown fields. The sun is setting and the colours are a beautiful spectrum of oranges, yellows and blues. The sun will soon be set and I will soon be home.


Jump to conclusions

Millican Dalton

Inscription from the entrance to The Cave Hotel which Millican occupied in Borrowdale. The camping holidays that he offered to people were described like this:

“The Programme will be seasoned to taste with further real adventures and experiences such as the following:

A Dinner of the Savage Club on a Desert Island.
Exploration of a Cave.
Lost in the Mountain Midst.
A Thunderstorm in the Mountains (weather permitting).
Dangling over the Precipice.
Astride the Razor Ridge.
Ascent of the Needle.
Varied Hairbreadth Escapes”.

People and Relationships are the only Differentiation

One of the things that I get involved in are discussions on differentiation.

How can we make ourselves stand out from the crowd?

As someone in a technology organisation people constantly want to talk about functionality and widgets.

(I tend to use widgets as a generic term for all sorts of technical stuff)

There’s lots of angst in these discussion about price and getting the balance right between high quality high cost widgets and lower cost widgets.

Many of these conversations are driven by bids where we are being scored on functions and pricing that we offer.  I’ve been convinced for some time that these things are now baseline issues. The price has to be about right, the functions have to be about right, but the reality is that these things rarely set anyone apart from the crowd.

What does differentiate are the people that the customer gets to see and the level of relationship that they manage to build.

This following video sums it up really well:

Top for 2013: The Rest

I’ve already posted a couple of other Top for 2013 posts – Quotations & Because it’s Friday – these are the best of the rest.

For the first time since it was written in 2009 the post on Rich Pictures isn’t the top. The A Field Guide to Procrastinators appears to have captured people’s imagination.

It’s interesting to see posts from my recent series on BYOD coming through.

  1. A Field Guide to Procrastinators
  2. Rich Pictures
  3. A Lack Of Planning On Your Part Does Not Constitute An Emergency On Mine
  4. Ignore Everybody – and other quotations
  5. I love what I do – because – I’m good at what I do – because…
  6. The Bergen Facebook Addiction Scale (BFAS)
  7. Axiom: People join companies, but leave managers
  8. Concept of the Day: Cultural Plasticity
  9. Axiom: The 10X Employee
  10. Team Development: Forming – Storming – Norming – Performing
  11. “There’s no such thing as information overload only failure to filter”
  12. The 7 Habits of Serious Procrastinators
  13. Bonkers World: Pre-meal Ritual
  14. BYOD Concept Map (Version 1)
  15. Windows Live LifeCam
  16. PowerPoint: Video White Screen of complete nothingness
  17. BYOD and Productivity Statistics
  18. The power of sharing
  19. Dilbert on Facebook Friends
  20. ISO Global Standard Numeric Date Format
  21. Facebook Productivity Impact
  22. Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) v Choose Your Own Device (CYOD)
  23. Evernote Image Search Brilliance
  24. Dilbert on Abstraction
  25. How to Measuring Knowledge Worker Output? Metrics?

Because it's Friday: the WikiDrummer

This is one for all of the sound fanatics out there (including my son) who love the different ways that sound work in different places.

Software has revolutionised what can be done with sound, but there’s nothing quite like the real thing.

For this video the recipe is quite simple, place a drum in different places to show of how the location contributes to the reverb, play the same riff in each location, film it and then mix it.

via Colossal

BYOD is an Application Strategy

I borrowed the title for today’s post from a Gartner Report that was published in November 2013. The report is worth a read as it covers in more detail some of the things I’m just going to skate over.

Wintry Walk on Fare Snape FellReferring back to my Concept Map on BYOD, again, it was quite clear to me that the value of BYOD comes from the choice of device and, more importantly, the choice of applications.

It’s my opinion that the choice of application aspect should be the one keeping organisations awake at night. It’s applications that control data and it’s data where the value is. If you are going to hack into a device it’s because of the valuable data that it contains.

In today’s working environment an organisation can no longer expect to have control of the people undertaking an activity nor the equipment that they use to undertake the activity. Outsourcing, off-shoring and globalisation have put an end to that. The best that an organisation can hope for is that the activity is undertaken with an appropriate set of tools and that the data is stored in a location with an appropriate form of availability, performance, access control and security.

If the activity is going to be undertaken using an appropriate application and the data stored in an appropriate data store then both the application and data store need to be compelling to the person undertaking the activity. If it’s not compelling they’ll just do their own thing. Business applications didn’t used to have to worry too much about being compelling, but now they do and the measure of a compelling for an application is defined by the consumer environment.

The consumer applications are compelling because of a number of factors:

  • Mobile first: No one would dream of building a consumer application without it being mobile. That’s where all of the volume is and all of the attention to.
  • Social: Consumer applications of all shapes and sizes are integrated into the on-line social experience. Add a file to Dropbox and have it appear in your Facebook timeline.
  • Multi-platform access: If you are building a consumer application you want as many eyeballs as possible able to use it on as many different devices as possible. You might start with mobile, but you’ll soon move onto browser too and not just one browser.
  • Anywhere access: The combination of mobile first and multi-platform access is that consumer applications are expected to be available anywhere. I expect the same big screen experience at my house as I do in the office, the same for the small screen experience. Likewise, I expect the data to be available wherever I am.
  • Current platforms: Applications in the consumer space need to work on all of the current platforms and specifically on all of the current browsers. It’s just not acceptable any-more to put “runs best on Browser XYZ V6.x” (not that it ever was).
  • Seamless updating: Because of the need to stay with current platforms consumer applications are constantly updating and most of the time seamlessly. There’s no room for a 6 month testing cycle in a small group of people in the organisation.
  • Frequent feature updates: Corporate applications are regularly deployed and left alone for years. Consumer applications are updating features all of the time, even if it’s just look-and-fell elements. The consumer application needs to stay constantly fresh.
  • Integrated identity: There’s a growing expectation that the identity source for consumer applications will be one of the primary internet identity sources – Facebook, Twitter, Google, OpenID.
  • Cloud storage: In order to support the multi-platform and anywhere access requirements most consumer applications make use of cloud stores and storage owned and controlled by the application.
  • Generous storage allocations: The use of cloud storage allows consumer application providers to provision generous storage allocations. Take file storage as an example and you’ll see a constant battle between Google Drive, Microsoft SkyDrive, Box and DropBox for the amount of free storage and the cost of incremental storage above the free limit.

There aren’t many corporate applications that come close to these capabilities and that’s why people are choosing not to use them. In short, corporate applications just aren’t compelling enough. As an example, the drive of WhatsApp to be the most used mobile messaging application hasn’t just been from the consumer, there are plenty of corporate users there too, because the business provided messaging platforms aren’t engaging enough.

Organisations need to think very seriously about the application strategy that enables the required activity and provides a compelling application environment to make it productive. Sometimes this will mean co-opting the consumer applications; Evernote Business is an example of this  as is DropBox Business. Sometimes it will be the corporate applications going external and competing in the consumer environment; Microsoft’s attempts with Office 365 is one of few examples. Sometimes though organisations are going to need to develop and to deliver their own applications, but they will need to provide experiences that are compelling.

BYOD really is an application strategy, but, and it’s quite a big but, the application strategy is only half of the story without an associated data strategy. I think that’s a post for another day.