Productivity Wednesday – Air Travel Tips, Fly Efficiently

The next time you have a flight that is more than an hour and a half, consider using it to get productive. As soon as “larger” electronic devices are allowed to be brought out, fire up your computer/tablet and connect to the Internet.

Get all your email boxes to zero, if you haven’t already. Open up your todo list application (like Things) and start knocking things off the list. If you don’t have a todo list application, start collecting your todos.

Once all that is done start writing.

This is particularly useful because in air wifi is notoriously poor. Making it suck for those evil distractions like Facebook, Slack, etc. However, it silence and focus is good for writing or responding.

It only requires the following:

  • Charge your device fully before boarding
  • Purchase WiFi if you don’t already get it for free

If you don’t have a device or just don’t want to get things done. I suggest reading a good book or taking a nap. Either will refresh you for whatever is ahead at your next destination.

7 Tips for Getting Value Out of Networking Events

Copyright FabCafe

If you are an introvert like me the last thing you want to do is spend time “networking”. Even if you are an extrovert your time is valuable and just mingling isn’t going to cut the mustard if you want to get any kind of meaningful results. So what is the best strategy when attending an event with intention of networking?

1. Be yourself, don’t sell yourself.

Authenticity reigns supreme when it comes to building relationships. The last thing you want to do is come off as someone trying to sell something. No one wants to be sold. Especially if you have to not be yourself to do it. People are attracted to people they can relate to and interact with. They can spot fake a mile away. Don’t be fake!

2. Take the time to get to know people.

Time is valuable, but so are deep relationships. If you want to be connected you have to be able to connect beyond the surface. Don’t try to meet every single person at an event. Find one or two people that fascinate you and learn something real about them. Walk away with the start of relationship not a business card.

3. Don’t lead with what you do.

You are not what your job title on the business card says or the place where you earn your income. If you lead with that you set the tone of the relationship as being transactional. If you lead with who you are and what makes you tick you open the door to connect in ways you may have never thought possible.

4. Get beyond small talk.

How about that weather. Boy traffic was a bear getting here. Anyone paying attention knows these things already. Get past them as quick as humanly possible, dive right into the deep end. It will scare away the people that aren’t capable of going deep and will attract those that are willing to make a connection. If nothing else it is memorable.

5. Help understand what people need so you can help them get it.

When getting to know someone understand their passions, desires and what it is that is holding them from obtaining what they want. If you help someone get what they want the power of paying it forward on their part sets off a chain reaction that comes back ten fold, but that’s not why you should do it. You shoudl do it because it feels damn good to help someone get along in the world.

6. Leave with connections and action items.

Make sure you have a way to connect and follow up with those you made connections with. If you are going to help them achieve their goals you will need to be able to get in touch with them. Have a next action to engage with before leaving them. Agree to connect them to someone, set a time to continue the relationship or provide them resources to move them forward.

7. Avoid people who are selling themselves or their products.

Don’t waste your time. If someone is selling give them a way to contact you to give you information on what it is they are selling and move to the next person. You can always review a sales pitch on your own time and terms. Connecting with people requires your full presence, so you should optimize your face to face time with activities that can’t be done on your own time. Invest your time with people that will be vulnerable enough to share their needs.

Developers Guide to Sending Email (SendGrid vs Mailgun)

As a developer at some point you will likely need to send email from an application.  The days of handling that on your own are long gone.  There are a myriad of services out there that will save you time and make life easy.  Often times it comes down to SendGrid vs Mailgun.  I could wax poetic about the approaches and features of both, but honestly I think a picture would be easier.  So here it is the Developers Guid to Sending Email (or Evolution of Email).


Evolution of Email

Evolution of Email

Any questions?

Sunday Book Review : Getting Real by 37 Signals

Getting Real: The Smarter, Faster, Easier Way to Build a Web ApplicationGetting Real: The Smarter, Faster, Easier Way to Build a Web Application by 37 Signals

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

David and Jason were ahead of their time. Preaching a more simple way. There were others at the time talking about doing things different, but these guys were making it real. A lot has changed for them since they wrote the book, but a lot in the industry has stayed the same. Looking forward to another young, hungry company to show up on the scene and rewrite some more rules. Getting even more real. We could use it.

View all my reviews

Sunday Book Review : Smart Tribes by Christine Comaford

SmartTribes: How Teams Become Brilliant TogetherSmartTribes: How Teams Become Brilliant Together by Christine Comaford

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The content here seems to all line up. The “critter state” seems similar to Seth Godin’s “Lizard Brain”. The concept of a high performing team (tribe) resonates well. However, the book is pretty geared towards Christine’s system which can feel a bit of a pitch at times distracting from the content. She shares neuroscience mapped to her five key Accelerators of the Smart State: Focus, Clarity, Accountability, Influence and Sustainability.

If this would have stuck to the material and dropped the sales pitch to hire her company as a proven management consulting firm it would have been a lot better.

View all my reviews

Sunday Book Review : Remote by David Heinemeier Hansson

Remote: Office Not RequiredRemote: Office Not Required by David Heinemeier Hansson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I tend to find myself repeatedly finding I agree a lot with Jason and David even though I struggle to identify with them. I thought for sure this book would piss me off to no end. Mainly because I think that physical interaction is so important for success. However, they hit the topic pretty eloquently. They highlighted the right things about what is amazing when remote work is done right, but acknowledge that some face time and presence (head gap) is so very important. I suspect this book is powerful as a cultural wake up to many of the industrial minded managers out there that struggle greatly with effort versus results.

View all my reviews

Face to Face for Remote Team Members

Seeking Presence

Trying to do Agile practices on teams with remote team members is always a challenge. Especially when there is only one person on the team that this not physically co-located with the rest of the team. It is easy to feel disconnected from the rest of the team and even simple interactions feel painful. When you are the person left on the end of the phone after everyone else has left the room, asking if anyone is there, it is hard to feel valued. Digital tools for process management and video conference rooms are a good step, but they still leave a lot to be desired.

Virtual Team Member

Virtual Cookie Sharing.

Finding Face to Face

If we look at the Agile Manifesto‘s principles we find:

 “The most efficient and effective method of conveying information to and within a development team is face-to-face conversation.”

So how can we do that on a team with a single member that works remotely?

One solution I have seen that works very nicely is an iPad Mini plus a Nootle iPad Mini Flex Stand. This allows the team to pipe in the remote person to the iPad mini and have as close to face to face communication as possibly with out being physically present, with them all the time. The brilliance is that it is completely mobile. If the team goes to stand up they simply pick up the iPad and walk with the person to the standup. They can pass the person around as the token or prop them on the wall or a shoulder. When going into a meeting room for something like planning or retrospectives they simply put the iPad on the chair and the virtual member sits like everyone else. If they decide to take a team lunch no worries they just take the team member with them.

Recently, I caught a team using this solution trying to feed their virtual team member some home baked cookies that someone brought in to share with the team (see above photo). As you can see it doesn’t solve all problems, but it sure helps some with presence.  You may miss freshly baked cookies, but at least you will still feel like part of the team.

How do you define your Bootedness?

Defining Bootedness

Julia Ivashina recently asked a very profound question of “How do you define your bootedness? **

She defines it as “the degree to which I master to exhibit rational behavior in situations where spontaneous reaction used to be my first response.”

One person framed it as, “for me it’s about living the Core Commitments: can I say I was true to them, all of them, at all times?”

Another pondered, “The aspirational goal is to behave according the the Core Commitments and fall back to Core Protocols when under stress… without being consciously aware of both.”

Another put it as, “At an individual level I agree with unconsciously following the Core Commitments and Core Protocols. At the team level have we internalized everyone’s Personal Alignment, signal, and response.”

Finally someone said, “Greatness! Bootedness = greatness.”

Copyright James Vaughan

Copyright James Vaughan

Individual Booting : The Current Metaphor

I like metaphors. One thing that appeals to me about the Core (Commitments and Protocols) is that adopting them is expressed in the metaphor of software programming. That your mind is like a computer. The core is a set of instructions that can run on your hardware to give you better and more consistent results. The reference to “booting” is loading the core operating system.

Network Booting: The Future Metaphor

So I prefer to express my “bootedness” by extending the metaphor. In today’s world of computing, the computer doesn’t matter much anymore, it really is the network that matters. Think of how most of your data and applications don’t live on the device itself. The power is allowing any device (node) on the network to access the power of the collective (the network). In 1985, a computer with an operating system and few applications was pretty incredible, but it had limited functional use to most people. Plus, they were not in abundance and very few people could wield them or use them.

Fast forward to 2013 and most of the world has access to a computer of some kind (think mobile devices), connected to a network that is extremely useful. The Internet is largely responsible for this because it set out a number of protocols to define how devices (nodes) can communicate. Additionally, massive cultural shifts about how we think about the power of computers  and freedom to interact happened (see Free Software Foundation, Cathedral and Bazaar). We moved from thinking the computers processing power was important to realizing that leveraging it as a tool to augment our qualities as humans could be much more effective. Think of what 2025 will look like…

Abundant Greatness is Coming

Currently the Core seems to be in 1990 in that is has provided a great personal operating system for people to connect on a Local Area Network (team) to interact. It is on the cusp of installing the network stack that will allow those nodes to flourish and expand. While challenging cultural assumptions that will allow humans to flourish.  Bringing the power of computing to the masses instead of the few.

Defining My Bootedness

I would define my “bootedness”, by my ability to be using the core effectively enough to interface with other nodes and advance network discoverability techniques to rapidly add additional nodes and leverage the network effect that it affords.  Exhibiting the highest integrity in reconstituting culture in ways to allow new ideas for humanity to be explored.

Yeah I know I am crazy. So what. The alternative is being normal.

What is the Core?

** What the hell is this booted crap?

In an effort to create teams that are effective at delivering every time Jim and Michele McCarthy with the help of other’s have defined Core Commitments. Agreeing to these commitments constitutes as being booted. As you can see, while simple they are extremely difficult to adhere to. When one finds themselves struggling they can lean on the Core Protocols to help them through.

Calculating Lead Times While Waiting at the Motor Vehicle Department

I am fascinated with how systems work and how things are designed.  I put myself in observation mode as much as possible.  Today I had to head the Motor Vehicle Department (MVD) to get a few automobile titles transferred into my name.

I opened the door to a facility packed full of people.  The procedure here is that you stand in line to get a ticket.  That ticket is issued to you with a prefix.  The prefix is the group that you are assigned to.  I was assigned group J, which happens to be for issues involving title changes.  As I was standing in line I started to pay attention to how groups were called and in my head I noticed that it felt like each window was taking about 5 minutes to process.

When I received my ticket J616.  I realized that there were 18 tickets ahead of me.  It was 11:15 am.  I quickly did the math 18 tickets * 5 mins = 90 minutes or 1 hour and 30 minutes.  I should be done around 12:45 pm.  I had a lunch date at noon.  I didn’t call to cancel it immediately.  I figured I would calculate the cycle time for a few tickets and then figure out the lead time before rearranging my lunch plans.

I pulled out my phone and immediately started a timer.  The minute the first J ticket was called I hit “lap”.  First cycle time 5 minutes 11 seconds.  If I multiplied that by the remaining work 17 items and saw a lead time of 1 hour 28 minutes.  I texted my friends and asked if they could give me another 10 minutes to determine if our lunch plans were in jeopardy.   Two tickets later and the average cycle time had dropped to 2 minutes 43 seconds and the lead time was 40 minutes.  At that point I knew it would be cutting it razor close and so I opted to let them know it wasn’t prudent for me to hold them up and that I would be checking out of lunch.

MVD Cycle Time

Included above is the full source of data for my time at the MVD.   Cycle Time is the amount of time between completed tickets.  Running Time is the time of day at the cycle count interval.  Running Average is the average cycle time for all tickets completed through that cycle.  Lead time is the Average Cycle Time * Work In Progress (Tickets Remaining).  Est Finish Time is Running Time (Current Clock Time) + Lead Time.  Var From Reality is how much variance there was between that estimated time and the actual time completed.  You can see how calculating lead time using a cycle count can be used to predict completion time.

Some things I found fascinating.  The average variance against actual was 59 seconds.  The variance was never greater than 23 minutes.  My original estimates of 5 minute cycles wasn’t too far off from the 4 minute 12 second actual and the estimate of 1 hour 30 minutes was over stated as the actual was only 1 hour 11 minutes.

I know people tend to hate estimating, but I think it is because they are poor observers and can’t see the system as a whole in play.  Additionally, it only took me about 5 minutes to come up with the estimate and about 5 minutes to capture data and reconfigure my estimate based on reality.  What are some of your experiences playing with data to make predictions?

Productivity Wednesday #7 : Use Email to Connect with Potential Followers

Looking to build your connectivity on Linked In?  Increase your followers on Twitter or Friends on Facebook? Chances are you already communicate with a lot of people via e-mail, but you haven’t taken the time to connect with them elsewhere.

Rapportive to the rescue.  Rapportive plugins into GMail and replaces those pesky advertisements on the right side panel with useful information.  It takes the primary contact in the email and will show you their twitter stream.  It let’s you know if you are connected to them on Facebook or Twitter.  If you aren’t it makes it one click to start following them.  It shows you whether they are on Linked In and if you are connected.  Again it is a single click to invite them to connect with you.

It shows a ton of other social profile information and allows you to keep notes.  The best part is that if you hover over any recipient or sender in the email it will pull up their Rapportive data.

Pretty slick stuff.  If you are using Mailplane it is easy as pie to install.