Take down that ego tower!

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An interesting email yesterday about the building of an ego tower. Part 1, does blogging about the existence of the “ego towers” count as a brick in my ego tower? If it does, then hopefully by blogging about it, it also counts as a stick of dynamite at the base of my tower. Everyone has an ego house, few of us build ego towers. If I have an ego tower, then I have to blow it up.

This brings up the second question in the email that I found intriguing. “Is the difference between an ego house and an ego tower simply the reality of insecurity.” I have to say I’ve been thinking about that since I got the email yesterday afternoon.

An ego house has windows and stops at a certain point. Whatever size house you’ve built it is finite. Like the tower of Babel, an ego tower is infinite. That would be the major differences. Look we all have ego houses. There is no question that every human being that has ever lived as built an ego house. The people building the ego towers, like the dancing bears on unicycles are the one’s we have to watch out for.

So what are the warning signs?

  • You take over calls regardless of who is on the call.
  • You use we a lot referring to yourself and what you are doing. Implying a greater value to what you are doing than is actually there.
  • You change your role to reflect overall great importance.

So I’ve been building an ego tower, how do I stop?

  • The first thing to do is stop talking and start asking other people questions and let them speak. It means you’ve at least blown an opening into your ego tower when you do that.
  • Record yourself while on a conference call or at a meeting. Do you say we a lot? Then work on that one by saying I, instead of we.
  • Enter the room with the heart of the servant. You will leave the room wiser.

.doc

Another we brick in the ego house…

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The conversation you want to have…

We, we the people. We, the collected group in this particular space. We those who support democrats. We those who support Republicans. When does we mean I?

We means I when someone is trying to show other people that what they are doing is important. It is a critical context clue the person is sharing with you that they are concerned others don’t perceive value in what they are doing.

So they use the word we, when they mean I. But they are trying to make what they say seem more collaborative. The reality is, it just makes them seem very focused on building their own ego tree.

I’ve been to hundreds of classes and seminars where they tell you to never use the word we to mean something other than a collected group of people and to never assume that you have the right to speak for that group unless put into that position directly by those with the authority to do so. It’s a horrible trap to fall into, but when you realize that they are concerned they aren’t providing value you can quickly see why they fall into that trap.

I like to call this building your ego house. We all have ego houses. In our mind’s eye we are something. We have value. We build out houses out of a variety of materials. The we bricks are the hardest to add, and the hardest to take down. Once you add a we brick and you really aren’t speaking as a group leader, you add a brick that is hard to take down. First it obscures your vision. You don’t see that in fact the group has not only moved away but moved on as well. Eventually you add so many of the we bricks that you cannot see over, around or through them.

Then you ego house becomes an ego jail. You can’t now, leave that reality. You have to use the we language. You have to be bound by that we brick. You probably built that ego house with no windows so someone else using the we bricks can’t throw one through your window. In the end you keep building your we ego house to the sky.

I know a few people that don’t build ego houses, they build ego towers. And with all the we bricks they use, the towers stretch beyond where I can see.

I hope the find a way out.

.doc

Word of the day “ego”

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Why are some people more important than other people? Well, at least in their own minds they are more important. Why is that? There was a project years ago called the thread ender. It looked at forums and emails and tried to determine in every case why threads ended. The thought was whoever ended the thread had the answer.

I’ve thought about that now for more than 10 years. It was a basis of a KM system we thought about implementing a number of years ago. In reality its not the right answer. Yesterday I was part of a thread, simply because the person in question didn’t get their way and stopped. They had an ego issue with the thread – not I got what I wanted and move on moment.

Why does ego drive some people more than others. We all have egos. Don’t get me wrong here, I am not saying some of us are ego free. Everyone has an ego. Everyone steps on someone else’s ego at times. But in reality some of us have more ego than just about anything else.

The size of the ego reflects how important that person thinks they are. I work with a lot of senior people and frankly one of the things I enjoy is the ego-free let’s do the right thing attitude I encounter almost all of the time. There are a couple of times when I encounter the me first attitude but I have come to ignore those. In my previous life (at another company) I came to the conclusion that the size of your ego was directly proportional to the value you perceived you had for the company. In the end? It drives people out.

The ego is a horrible thing to throw around. Why? It fails to recognize that sometimes you just have to put down the sword and pick up the plow. You can’t always be the mighty warrior riding in to save the day. Sometimes you have to grow the feed that keeps the warrior’s horse moving.

.doc

Beyond SoA–SoA 2.0

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Exploring beyond the simple solution. When we consider what a solution in today, say compared to 500 years ago that has changed. When we consider what a solution does today compared to 40 years ago that has changed as well.

Is another change upon us? When I look at the concepts of application development they are rooted in the SOA frameworks that are as limiting as they are defining.

SoA is the architecture of the recent past (yesterday) building services out of stand alone application sets. Application development needs to move beyond the structure of services however. They can be very expensive and in the end perpetuate the problems we have today. The next generation of software has to be smart.

Device aware, situation aware and security aware solutions that are built with a goal of delivering and solving problems quickly. Monolithic applications that become monolithic services aren’t the answer. The future holds applications sets that are small built around specific problems that can be grouped together to produce a larger solution, but not a larger service.

SoA advocates are going to say this is just SoA but it really isn’t. SoA is and has been very expensive to implement for most organizations. It has been presented as a paradigm shift when actually I think it is closer to a instantiation of what has to become. Perhaps, in the end I am simply advocating SoA 2.0. Services that are loosely coupled rather than tightly coupled. Services that can be combined with other services regardless of the initial or originating data set, service or output. Imagine a cloud solution where you could grab Accounts Receivable solutions from one cloud, Accounts payable from another cloud and merge them together with a third cloud reporting solution.

SoA 2.0 would encompass the following:

  • Light and Agile Solutions (services)
  • Operations management and metering built in (FedRAMP is a good start for this)
  • Easily replaces (portability)

All those legacy applications would slowly move to this new model. It will take longer than it has taken SoA but the future is always waiting.

.doc

Information Hoarder…

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Within these walls.

There are a number of times in your life when you sit in a room and realize that within the walls you are sitting in is information. That information will never make it out of that room. Not mind you because it is in fact special or confidential or even secret information rather only because it is never shared.

I spent many years chasing after IP. So many people use IP as a differentiator. I am special because I have this documented. In the end is that person special? Let’s talk about the three great information hoarding activities and the end result from those.

  1. I send you a locked PDF file containing the information you requested. When asked I say you can’t reuse the information, simply use it as a reference point. What am I telling you? One you won’t give me credit for my information. Two that you simply do not respect my information enough. What happens? No matter how good that information actually is in time people stop using it.
  2. Second version, everything I have has proprietary at the top or bottom. Well, we all know where that leads.
  3. Finally the last one, when asked to modify anything I’ve created I make it really hard for you to modify it. I have an incredible pride of ownership and require credit for the information in all cases.

The problem is never finding information, the problem is finding out if it is in the possession of an information hoarder. In my book the Syncverse I talk about a number of ways you can address this problem. There are a number of solutions. The first is of course creating a knowledge culture. I’ve yet to see an organization create one, most fail miserably because frankly they don’t understand the knowledge they need. Again in the book Syncverse we talk a lot about creating an IP management system that makes it easy to submit IP, and easy to have that valuable IP elevated.

To all the information hoarders out there here is reality. The longer you hoard the less relevant your information becomes. Good luck with that.

.doc

Interesting new Anti-Pattern in communication…

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Over the past couple of weeks I’ve added a few new communication anti-patterns to my growing list.  There are a number of anti-patterns that are quite easy to identify. You can’t miss the dancing bear – trust me, once you see that person grab the market and head to the whiteboard (and the meeting heads there for the rest of the time) you won’t miss it.

There is a pattern however that I can’t quite put my finger on. Part of it is the concept of you are wasting my time. The other part is an unwillingness to not be part of something. That schism becomes an anti-pattern if the meeting organizer doesn’t watch it. It’s a normal course of many meetings that the meeting drags on longer than it should.

It is an interesting problem. Meetings require a certain amount of goals and activities. But if the activities are longer than the meeting time, then this anti-pattern begins to emerge. Now it’s a hard one to spot in reality,

Warning Signs:

  • Your meeting is too long (well past the original end time)
  • Too many people end conversations.
  • The ending of conversations isn’t consistent (ending the same way each time)
  • People shift in their chairs
  • Bathroom break requests become more frequent
  • People fade in and out of the conversation

The problem is of course that the warning signs are also applicable to any meeting. The big concerns are the last three. Too many people ending conversations is a risk you have to accept in any meeting.

I am continuing to noodle on this anti-pattern and will see if a name comes to mind.

.doc

The Unintended Message Communication Anti-Pattern

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The unintended message. I have been thinking about this communications anti-pattern for awhile now. It has to do with the tone of the communication you leverage when speaking to or about a person. That tone conveys a message even if you do not intend to do so.

You see that message itself is the anti-pattern and it often leaves a bad taste in people’s mouths. Or worse, they stop trusting you. One of the affects of this is when you give advice that no one takes. Why? Because of the tone and messaging you use.

This is a tough anti-pattern because they are often very smart people who don’t understand how to interact in many situations. They are used to always being right. It makes it very difficult when they work with other people because they are always right. So whatever they tell you carries that tone with it. They also love to talk about other people when they are not in the room. They don’t preface that conversation with they are very smart, they simply dump the negative thoughts about the person and walk away.

This is a risky and highly dangerous pattern when you are trying to run a team, a program or a meeting. Watch out for the unintended message anti-pattern. The worst part about this anti-pattern? If you confront the person they will deny everything.

.doc

Transformative Platforms…

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Transformation.

What is the one technology that has not only transformed the way you work but the output generated by that work? I thought about that a little yesterday measuring the technology against the yardstick of my children and their view.

My kids have only a couple of years where there weren’t gaming consoles (and for that only 2 years for my daughter) that were effective and easily used. I didn’t have an atari in the house at the time Jackie was little. We did get a Sega Dreamcast when she was about two years old.

The boys have lived their lives as gamers. If you think about that one device (Xbox) it has transformed their lives significantly. They now use it to watch Netflix – they are currently watching every Dr. Who episode. Before that they were watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

It is now a device that has transformed our living room. Beyond that however it remains less effective as a change device. The cellular phone and by de-facto reality mobile gaming platforms begin to be more transformative devices. The cellular screen has gotten good enough that it can now present the mobile device as an entertainment platform. The boys use their cell phones as much for specific games as they do for anything else right now.

Transformative platform 1: the cellular phone.

Beyond the cell phone comes the next generation device which I split into three categories – the tablet pc, the tablet and finally the ereader/tablet. This is a transformational category with the changes often coming faster than expected. For example, IOS 6 includes a mobile hot spot option for all devices. This means any iPhone or iPad can become an instant hotspot. It removes the need in many cases for having the air card for your laptop. The tablet milieu now also offers incredible portable gaming and entertainment options that are without a doubt transformational.

Transformative platform 2: the Tablet/eReader

What platform has transformed not only your work but the quality of that work?

.doc

Climbing the FUD glacier

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Fear, uncertainty and doubt. We called them FUD for years. FUD is an interesting problem in IT projects, Why? Because it tends as much to be the failing point as anything else. Uncertainty can be the driver of both failure and change. It causes the pause right before the “yeah, that works great” moment.

FUD is spread often by those who understand, but are willing to bend the truth to provide that little bit of fear. FUD is also spread by those who accidentally repeat the wrong thing.

Measuring how and what you repeat during project meetings is an interesting problem. Knowledge can often be more dangerous than ignorance, if you don’t know what you don’t know.

Confidence means you don’t tell people things you don’t know. Its an easy to understand reality, in order to be confident you don’t reveal weakness. Or at least that is what we have been told for most of our working careers. By we in this case I mean myself and those around me who were told the same things. The reality is confidence is a weak link in the FUD chain. You can through confidently passing on information make mistakes.

Mistakes are the feeding ground of FUD. That is where it gains momentum and takes on a life of its own.

FUD also has a life of its own. One piece of misinformation shared with the wrong people grows until it is effectively a huge massive glacier bearing down on you. Yeah Glaciers don’t move very fast, but if the glacier is between you and your goal – it doesn’t matter how fast it moves only that it is in the way and frankly you are not going to get over it.

So how do you handle the balance of confidence and acceptance? The willingness to say I am wrong? This is the tricky part for everyone. you can’t appear weak ever. But you have to catch your errors quickly. When they come up, own them and then make sure you bring up the error again a couple of times. This reduces the growth of the FUD spore and forces it to stay underground, un-sprouted.

We are all caretakers of the FUD Glacier. It grows as much from neglect as it does misinformation but in the end we all own the multicolored dirt encrusted ICE wall of FUD we create.

Happy Saturday.

.doc

Thank you Gary Devendorf!!!!!!!

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Yesterday while working with a customer I remembered a bunch of video’s a friend had put together. One of the project team reached out to my friend and we found out the best video’s on earth -  (well in my profession they are) are now on Youtube. A personal thank you to Gary Devendorf, not only for putting his fantastic video’s out there but well frankly for being ahead of his time and making them in the first place. It made for a really good day yesterday.

Gary and I spent some time in Seattle, Sydney and a couple of other places over the years. He is a great person to hang out with and frankly I am extremely excited that his video’s are now available on YouTube.

Sometimes a plan comes together. Sometimes we are simply the lucky ones.

You never realize how majestic the Washington Monument is until you look out of a window and like Paris and the Eiffel Tower, it is just there. I spent a week in a conference that had windows that opened out upon a view of the Eiffel Tower by the end of that week I was simply in love with it. Yesterday I looked out of the window of the conference room we were in to realize in fact we had the Washington Monument right there.

The reality of history is that we sometimes forget to let it soak in. Today is the canvas upon which we paint. Yesterday hangs on the wall to remind us that it is there but not much more sometimes. at least it does for me.

.doc