Evening Walk by the Canal – Some Thoughts

Millennium Ribble Link

Last night while Jonathan was playing football, Sue, Emily and Myself decided that would enjoy the beautiful sunny evening and take a walk from Preston Sports Arena (where Jonathan was at football), down the Canal towards the Ribble Link, do a little circuit and come back.

There is something very special about these times. Walking and talking in a beautiful setting does me so much good. It was great. Emily was skipping along and just enjoying the sites, the sounds and the smells.

Sue and I saw the rubbish and the graffiti, Emily didn’t. She saw the little wild flowers and the grasses blowing in the breeze. It reminded me of a great book I once read Mister God, This is Anna. In the book the little girl sees the good in everything and radically changed the lives of those around her. She didn’t change any of the circumstances, she changed them. Emily was just the same last night, she revelled in the good. She delighted in the mallard ducks and their chicks. And she changed Sue and I.

Millennium Ribble LinkJust at the entrance to Ribble Link is this statue. it’’s come in for quite a lot of comment locally because the man actually looks a bit like he is urinating into the canal lock that is there.

But I love his face, it’s so characterful. He really looks like he is contemplating all sorts of things. Faces are amazing things and an artist can speak so much through a face.

I am personally quite shy of looking into others’ faces. Something in it means that I have to connect with them. It’s like I am able to see into them, and worse, they are able to see into me. But really that is what the human spirit is about, connecting, relating. Without connections we are nothing.

As a Christian I believe that God wants to come and connect with us. He wants us to look into His face and in so doing see inside Him, and he inside us. Lots of people approach the Christian faith from a rational point of view. Some of them wrestle with God to the point that God reaches them, others don’t. Personally I didn’t wrestle with God, He came and He met me. God didn’t change my circumstances, but He did change me.

Millennium Ribble LinkI include the picture of the feet, just because I like it. Big feet look strange and show us the size of the individual above.

Work Productivity Assessment

Blue Bell Wood

As part of my ongoing assessment of how I spend my time I am undergoing an assessment of where I am most productive, in the work context.

My goals in Connecting with the Purposes of God do not include a goal for work because I believe that work is an expression of my mission statement across all of my three purposes:

  • Devoting my time to discovering the mystery of God’s purpose through study, prayer and mediation and in so doing discover God’s purposes for me as an individual
  • Devoting my time to my wife and children and in so doing discover the purposes of God for the family
  • Devoting my time to the service of others and in so doing discover God’s purposes for the Cross of Jesus Christ

I have to work in the context of these, not in the context of work. Work needs to be an expression of something else, not an end in itself.

So by assessing my productive I am also assessing how the work place impacts on my ability to interact with my family and others.

Am I More Productive When I Work from Home – or Less Productive

PatioHow does working from home impact my productivity?

I don’t actually know.

I am a knowledge worker, I am employed for my knowledge and for the way that I help things to change and move forward. I am employed for the way that I resolve problems and find paths through tricky situations.

It’s important to me that I am productive, it’s also important to my employer.

I have the opportunity to work in a number of different locations, one of my favourites is to work from home. But there are parts of working from home that worry me.

In order to understand how working from home impacts my productivity I need to understand how I measure my productivity. So what do I produce – well knowledge of course. But clearly that knowledge in my head is useless. I need to be sharing that knowledge in ways that make a difference to others.

So can I just measure my output in number of email, pages of documents, etc.?

Well actually – no I can’t. Because measure the quantity of what I produce is the wrong measure. What people actually want from me is quality, not quantity. They don’t employ me to be a chef at MacDonald they employ me to be a chef at that nice little Italian restaurant around the corner where they always have something new and interesting. I still have to produce something, but it’s not the quantity that is important.

So can I define a measure that measures the number of quality outcomes?

I think I can tell when my input has resulted in a change. I think I can also tell the occasions when I am not adding any value at all. The times when I am not adding value tend to be characterised by a complete lack of interest on my behalf, that’s quite an easy measure. But I struggle to tell the size of the impact when I am adding value.

So can I just tell by how many times people come back to me?

People will not normally return to a shop if they have received bad service, the same is true for all of us knowledge workers. If we don’t come up with the goods they won’t bother coming back. It’s, therefore, true to say that if I get a high level of return business then I am probably doing a good job. The problem with this measure is that if the return business drops off it’s too late.

I, therefore, decided that a single measure approach was the wrong way to go and have decided to go for a range of measures approach, qualitative and quantitative in order to measure my impact.

Productivity – Range of Measures

The table below shows the areas that I am measuring and the results from yesterday:

Measure Weight Home Working Office Working
Day 1 Day 2 Day 3 Total Day 1 Day 2 Day 3 Total
Emails – replied to/initiated 1 7     7       0
Emails – return business 3 3     9       0
Knowledge expansion activities 2 2     4       0
Meetings – adding value 2 2     4       0
Meetings – participation 1 2     2       0
Meetings – return business 3 0     0       0
Out of work activities 2 5     10       0
Phone calls – adding value 2 3     6       0
Phone calls – received 1 6     6       0
Phone calls – return business 3 1     3       0
                   
Grand Total         51       0

I’m still not sure I’ve captured everything but it seems like a sensible list of things to include, and I’m not beyond adjusting the weighting as I go along.

The one thing I haven’t included is the creation of any documentation, and there is a reason for this. Generally documentation that I produce is the result of knowledge sharing and development that has already occurred; I’m just documenting it so that there is a permanent record.

I’ve also added in a measure for ‘out of work activities’ because the impact that my working environment has on this will be very interesting. Writing a blog entry is included in this list.

I’ll also be measuring similar days in order to avoid spikes from Mondays and Fridays.

Meetings aren’t always face-to-face either, if it’s a teleconference it’s included in the meetings list rather than in the phone call list.

More on the Form Factor Pschology v Car Psychology

Above Scorton

Steve has commented (and again) on my form factor piece.

He has compared his IT to the vehicles he has in his household. It occurs to me that I should do the same, so here goes.

We have three PC’s in the house, but only 2 cars.

  • Sue uses the middle of the road HP desktop – and she drives a Toyota Yaris. Functional and easily parked.
  • I use the HP Media Center PC upstairs – and drive a Ford Mondeo Ghia X. Basically a middle of the road car with a few bells and whistles.
  • I also use my works ThinkPad T41 which I think is also synonymous with a Ford Mondeo.
  • We all have mobile phones – and we all have bikes.

Form factor pyschology v car psychology

My Keyboard One of the things that must be among the most debated on the web, and blogs in particular, is the whole debate about the right form factor.

Speaking as someone who has been around the IT industry for a while it’s interesting to see how this debate has matured and changed.

In the last few days Steve has commented on jkOnTheRun choice of the TC1100. jk’s evaluation criteria is all about screen and weight.

A little while ago the furrygoat experience defined an evaluation criteria of the basis of the WAF (Wife Acceptance Factor). It was comical, but primarily about capability.

Bill Gates created an amount of comment by introducing a smaller tablet form factor at the PDC, which I blogged about, as did Mary Jo Foley.

The interesting thing about each of these discussions is what they assume.

  • They assume that the new thing will be performant.
  • They assume that the new thing will support a rich set of capabilities including connectivity to other systems, sound, colour, etc.
  • They assume that the new thing will enable them to access their data
  • They assume that the new thing will work on the power supply available

The debate has nothing to do with the basics anymore.

This is also true of the car industry and our choice of a vehicle. But the car industry knows this at a far deeper level than the IT industry.

I’m just in the process of evaluating what my next car will be and the difference is striking.

The way that we choose a car (whether we know it or not) is to assess what we want in many different dimensions and then to choose the one which we believe gives us the greatest level of pleasure. It’s quite a conundrum, but I’m not unique in finding it difficult. There is this really interesting article from the CIA of all people where they define a mechanism for making the decision.

No-one sells a car on the basis that it will do 70 mph on a UK motorway, that’s ridiculous, I assume that. Actually, in the UK you aren’t actually allowed to sell a car on the basis of how fast it will go.

Likewise, no-one would regard air-conditioning as essential in the UK.  It’s very nice to have, but not essential. But I would be willing to pay some money for it, because I know the value.

But how much would I be willing to pay for wind-screen wipers that come on automatically. Well that’s a more subjective value judgement.

The requirements that we choose to make our judgement on are a conundrum because the number of hard requirements by which we can assess the impact by is constantly being reduced (comodotised) but the soft requirements are getting longer.

I have in front of me a Renault Scenic catalogue and the hard requirements are summarised on one page in very small print, this page is also nearly the last page in the brochure. Prior to that there are 12 pages of pictures and diagrams and descriptions regarding the soft requirements (umm, do I want satin chrome door handles or not).

Now compare that to the Dell web site about their latest Latitude X1 laptops and what’s the first thing it tells me – it can run Windows XP. Well I’m sorry but that isn’t a sell-able point – I expect that. It would be news if it didn’t. It’s a bit like saying “this car runs on Petrol” as the first thing in the car brochure. It then gets slightly better. This new Latitude is an ultra-light so they start to tell me how heavy it is and how big it is. But it’s still in technical speak that I would need to go and do some work to understand. I’m sorry but I can’t visualise 2.5 lb. What is also striking is the difference in the pictures between the two brochures. In the Renault one the car is always within context. The picture of the storage space has something in it so you can see how large it is. On the Dell web site the pictures of the new ultra-light are all in white space. It’s supposed to be small and light, so I want to be able to see how small and light it is. I’m sorry but I can’t visualise that in a white space.

The Dell web site has come a long way from the early days though, at least it is focusing on the factors which are important to the specific user. It doesn’t, for instance, even mention the available processor speeds or memory configurations on the first page. It’s an ultra-light, that’s what is important to me, I expect it to be performant.

So the industry is maturing, but it’s a long way from the car industry and that’s because the hard factors still play a part, but their role is diminishing.

It is my view that the corporate IT market has even further to go. The way that most corporate keep their IT costs down is by standardising on a small subset of devices, normally from a single supplier. And that is what corporate used to do with company supplied cars, but they normally don’t these days. They may standardise on a manufacturer, but they wouldn’t dare standardise on one or two models. This change in corporate car purchasing isn’t due to the hard factors, it’s due to the soft factors. I’m likely to opt out of my current company car scheme because I don’t like the cars from the manufacturer they have chosen. They are good cars, I just don’t like them. The same is highly likely to happen in the corporate IT market. The soft factors which people are looking for in their devices (because they will have more than one) will greatly outweigh the hard factors. As such it will become increasingly more problematic for corporate to set standards at that level. As a Solution Architect for a large IT Services organisation we already see it at the senior level. If Executive XYZ wants device ABC they will normally get it.

As the soft issues take over the number of form factors and the differences between them will continue to grow, and so will customisation.

  • Some people will use a big desktop with a big screen, because some people drive a Range Rover.
  • Some people will use a titanium plated ultra-light, because some people drive a BMW Z3.
  • Some people will utilise a standard laptop, because some people drive a Ford Mondeo.
  • Some people will use a large form factor laptop, because some people drive a Renault Grand Scenic
  • Some people will still use the device they have had for the last 10 years, because some people drive a vintage Mercedes sports car.

As well as I am able

Great CloudsMy new strap line for this blog is “as well as I am able”. This line actually has a bit of history to it.

It’s actually the Chastney family official motto and included in our coat of arms; but that is something that was only discovered by my father’s generation. Before that it was always a motto for the way that the Chastney family lived their life and was even a common saying in the family. It obviously stuck and was passed down through the generations.

We have never been people to angst about perfection, but have been comfortable in doing the best that we can. It doesn’t mean we are sloppy or anything, it just means that we try to do the best we can. If our best is good enough then that’s great, if it isn’t then fine, that’s not our problem.

The Chastney problem is often that our best is often much better than other peoples good enough.

Today is WATER day.

WaterI have decided that I should at least try to go without coffee, and definitely get away from the habit of having a coffee first thing.

So today is WATER day.

Actually feel quite invigorated today anyway. I went out for my morning walk. There is a wood near where I live and the blue-bells were out, the dew was just lifting and it was fabulous.