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Brotherhood of the Wolf February 11, 2008

Posted by ActiveEngine Sensei in ActiveEngine, Business Processes, Coaching, Mythology, Problem Solving.
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The Wolf Credo:
Respect the elders
Teach the young
Cooperate with the pack
Play when you can
Hunt when you must
Rest in between
Share you affections
Voice your feelings
Leave your mark.

Del Getz and Associates

It’s not enough to identify objectives, FTE’s and timetables. You have to focus your team like a unit. The wolf pack is natures most effective hunting unit, but in order to become that cohesive machine there are many activities that take place. “Respect your elders”, “Corporate with the pack”, “Teach the young” doesn’t sound like cut throat competition within the team. It also doesn’t really sound like SCRUM. The pack leader is there to silence the dissent that will destroy the pack. But the pack leader is the not only role.

The new team members are the future as all new projects will arise from their efforts. The leader has to discipline the team to enable the new team members to progress along the right path. Guarding territory can never conflict with getting new members ready for the hunt. The new team members will ask questions, voice opinions, bring new ideas to the group. Run with some of these ideas, as this will stretch the mind and team’s muscle. Modeling ideas, quick throw away code, all these things that the group can play with while including the new team members will unlock some doors that have been shut tight for a while. Things will get solved in new ways.

Each team member will evolve their ActiveEngine as their skills and ambitions grow. When it comes time to hunt, the pack will be ready.

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Discipline is the Mind Liberator January 24, 2008

Posted by ActiveEngine Sensei in ActiveEngine, Coaching, Personal Development, Problem Solving.
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As a corollary to the post Ego is the Mind Killer, a practitioner of ActiveEngine principles will always seek the basics and routine to liberate the mind. Constraints are the best way to innovate, to turn the puzzle upside down, read the paragraph from end to beginning. Constraints force you to make a decision and take action, innovate further why attaining your goal.

Your skill built from years of hard work, trials of failure and above all the alacrity to achieve through struggle will shape your mind to solve problems more quickly. Having the discipline to face criticism when it comes head on tempers your talents like fine steal. Forgery of steel is violent, harsh, but what is born from pounding and fire endures.

Just because you solve something once, doesn’t mean you can not optimize later. Analysis paralysis delays validation of your skills. Fail early, regroup, then win. Maybe that doesn’t happen until the fifth time. Who cares – you’re on deadline so be assured you will be around to try again. When you deliver you actually get the freedom to experiment later on.

Ego Is The Mind Killer January 23, 2008

Posted by ActiveEngine Sensei in ActiveEngine, Coaching, Mythology, Problem Solving.
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Years ago when ActiveEngine Sensei attended Kenshu, he was struck by the fact that some of the most humble of the akidoka were the seniors. Every class the students were exposed to shi-doho style of teaching, when O-Sensei would select a technique, one from among thousands, and then select a student at random to demonstrate in front of the class. After demonstrating the technique, the other students would ask questions. Many times these questions forced you to realize how little you knew, while on other occasions the senior’s questions were merely a convention to tell you that you had made a mistake.

But this was not the most brutal part. After the question and answer session finished, O-Sensei would then deliver his critique, which could cover any foible, any weird movement, tone of voice that occurred in your delivery. This was difficult to hear. Some times a senior would be selected to demonstrate the most basic technique, then receive unending criticism.

But one senior explained to ActiveEngine Sensei, who was left discouraged and afraid after many stinging reviews, that this was the best gift you could get from the seniors and O-Sensei.

“What an opportunity. You have people who think enough of you to ask questions, point out errors and give things for you to work on. The harsh style is to train your ego, because your ego just gets in the way.”

Developers need to be shown things – they’re the “Show me guys”, but many fall into the “Show-me-no-don’t-show-me” syndrome where their egos cloud their thoughts.  For those of you who want to get to the next level of performance and build your own ActiveEngine, check your ego barometer every now and then. This way you will open yourself to learning a lot more.

The Art of Letting Bad Things Happen January 10, 2008

Posted by ActiveEngine Sensei in ActiveEngine, Business Processes, Coaching.
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Coders love to improve things and sometimes can’t understand why a company would want to enhance or replace a “bad” process. Here’s some advice on being impatient with lack of change: don’t be impatient with a lack of change. When you rail against process owners they’ll think you think their stupid; when you flail at convincing someone of their inept ways and how extensiblity will save them money, you’ll stutter, sound like a techie idiot, and will be ignored.

There are three levels to decision making that need to overcome. They are the intellectual level, the physical level, and the emotional level, and guess which one is the deciding factor? Emotional. And this level is the most difficult to overcome.

Programmers don’t understand this as their emotions play out in different ways where passion is derived from creating elegant code. But this prevents them from moving the decision makers appropiately. If you state your case and point to real samples of timing, defects, and impact to other dependencies you may have a chance of convincing someone to make the changes you want. Use English to explain yourself and your arguments, and forget all the buzzwords you read on the blogs. Nobody important who signs your check cares about that jargon.
They do care about money. If you lose the intellectual battle, submit you case, and be ready to step in when they’ve been hit with a huge bill. Nothing crystallizes thoughts more than “I just lost out on an opportunity and we could have saved money.” Be ready to move then. The situation is making the argument for you and you’ll have to do less work as your arguments, if expressed appropriately, be even clearer.

Add the Art of Letting Bad Things Happen to your ActiveEngine toolkit. This new found patience will win you more in the long run.

Web 3.0 at ActiveEngine Will Be About Devotion in 2008 December 30, 2007

Posted by ActiveEngine Sensei in ActiveEngine, Business Processes, Coaching, Mythology, Personal Development.
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Web 2.0 was all about relationships – the social network. Passion is also another term that is bantered about a lot in regards to the efforts of start ups and the new revolution that 2.0 was supposed to bring about. Has passion for social networks produced anything other than the ephemeral? After all, Facebook, too, will present you with ads.

All of that is shallow. No where was the term devotion used, or if it is, it’s not too prevalent. “Do things with passion” or “Love what you do” are the slogans that are not associated with an ActiveEngine. Mobs are crowds with passion running high. Devotion is passion’s filter, the drive for you to get up and go work when you have the flu, to review budgets when you rather be writing code. To constantly evaluate your tool kit and skills, add new techniques and discard bad habits when you are faced with your failures takes devotion. Passion may get you started, but devotion will help you cross the finish line, as it is the long burning fuel that steadily fires your engine.

In Budo, study of marshal arts centers on revelation through practice of basics. The higher or difficult routines are only achieved once the basics have become so ingrained they no longer have the same meaning, feel, or execution style when first introduced. This only arises from devotion. Study your craft, refine your ActiveEngine. Devotion with no .0, or .5.

Update:

Check out this article by Jaron Lanier“Long Live Closed-Source Software! There’s a reason the iPhone doesn’t come with Linux.” In it he refutes the idea that adopting Web 2.0 and Open Source methods would be good for scientific research. Good food for thought before you begin the New Year.

What Others Are Thinking December 21, 2007

Posted by ActiveEngine Sensei in ActiveEngine, Business Processes, Coaching, Mythology.
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Great post over at ProjectManagement411.com. For those of us who bemoan the fact that management doesn’t get IT, here is a glimmer of reprieve:

IT Systems Aren’t Evaluated by Takeover Artists? .

Management needs to understand that they are not drivers of a car; rather, they are airline pilots, where certain intricacies are vital for keeping the plane aloft. Ignore what the mechanics say, and you will crash and take many others with you – this includes shareholders as well.

Part of your preparation as a solution provider is to avoid conversations like the one’s that Al and Wu have. Communication tools have been discussed here in earlier posts here . Developers fall down in this area, and many retreat to the corner of the Agilistas and pretend Design Patterns are like physics, but in the end if the client doesn’t get you, you don’t get your check. Richard Feynman, a truly brilliant man, always came back to the practical. When he presented problems, it was in terms all could understand. Practitioners of the ActiveEngine embrace the communication challenge as he did, and help everyone involved grow.

The Clock is Ticking December 15, 2007

Posted by ActiveEngine Sensei in ActiveEngine, Coaching, Design Patterns, Mythology, Personal Development, Problem Solving.
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The forth coming documentary movie Two Million Minutes discusses the changing demographics of our global economy:

Meanwhile, both India and China have made dramatic leaps in educating their middle classes – each comparable in size to the entire U.S. population. Compared to the U.S., China now produces eight times more scientists and engineers, while India puts out up to three times as many as the U.S. Additionally, given the affordability of their wages, China and India are now preferred destinations for increasing numbers of multinational high-tech corporations.

The premise of the documentary is that from 8th grade to high school graduation, student has 2 million minutes to prepare to enter the work force, be productive, fight the good fight to win the prize, bring home the bacon and contribute to society.

How do we as developers, architects, project managers spend our time? Some may contend that expansion of knowledge is the best route, that continual acquisition of skill is the key to remaining on top. The way of Bushido is to constantly refine through the repetition of basics. The life of Josh Waitzkin supports the latter theory, as neural pathways of the grand masters are created through analysis and repetition. Can this be done in 1 million minutes? What ways are we learning? What are the essential components to good design, and are they emphasized enough?

Design patterns come to mind as a kata, or set of instructions that when practiced to a high degree lead to increased performance. Design patterns describe quickly how a problem has been solved, and set expectations as to what is in store for you when you open up the code and read what has been done. When done correctly, design patterns will gain back some of those precious minutes.

But back to China and India. Are we, the software and architect community, too cloistered in our blogs and Alt.Net enclaves to contribute to the reduction of the 2 million minutes? Are we even a part of that 2 million minutes? Think about it.

King-Size November Round-Up November 29, 2007

Posted by ActiveEngine Sensei in Coaching.
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72 pages Training continued at a brisk pace at the ActiveEngine Dojo, with these topics of discussion:
* Kick-off of the Test Driven Development series “Drive-by Specifications” which discuss the implications for the business partners, as well as how to approach building solutions that will allow for changes without imposing costly re-writes.
* Plenty of philosophical discussions surrounding the importance of communication in projects, and why the development community needs to adapt new tactics.

* The adventures of ActiveEngine Sensei and his team attacking the Windows Registry, bad software and other awful processes.

* Brief book review of chess master Josh Waitzkin and his own personal ActiveEngine.

More to come next month. Excelsior!

Clarity of Thought Only Comes From Practice November 21, 2007

Posted by ActiveEngine Sensei in .Net Development, ActiveEngine, Business Processes, Coaching, Personal Development, Problem Solving.
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All of you code jockeys need to start a new series of mental calisthenics. Your thoughts are blocked, as your set of speech patterns is your worst enemy. If you have used the phrase “I want it to be extensible” in front of you customers this week, shame on you!

The business community is looking to solving problems, but they are not looking to you for help; rather, they want you to just make things work based on what they tell you the software should do. Because of that fact alone you may not be offering the value that will sustain your gigs, period. “Open to extension, but closed to modification” – who cares, because your customer base can’t understand you what you mean.

ActiveEngine Sensei says head over to ProjectManagement411.com, and learn what the business community wants to hear and how to best communicate with them. You should read the series on value selling your projects, because you’ll notice that NONE OF IT MENTIONS THAT MODIFICATIONS TO YOUR BUSINESS LAYER .DLL’s WILL BE CHEAPER BECAUSE YOU USED THE DECORATOR PATTERN!!!! That’s not on their minds, and hearing that from you maybe why they want to ship your job offshore. You need to learn how to measure value through their eyes.

ProjectManagement411 is focused on how the enterprise can become lean, how agility is going to become their ActiveEngine. Don’t let this synergy pass you by. Concepts like Data Stewardship may make you snicker, but that is the way your stay will extended.

It’s Not What You Kenshu November 20, 2007

Posted by ActiveEngine Sensei in ActiveEngine, Coaching, Mythology, Personal Development, Problem Solving.
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Steel is forged, not uncovered, and forging steel is a violet process, but the end yields a magnificent tool. An ActiveEngine is not born, it’s made from disciplined process of training, learning, relearning and unlearning.

For those familiar with Bushido, there is a concept of an advanced study called Kenshu. This is a specially designated class where top students are taught to unlearn all bad habits, study the basic fundamentals in such detail that there learning abilities are transformed, enhanced to quickly acquire and adapt new skills at rapid speeds. A Kenshu student is distinguished by their ability to adapt new methods born from new understanding of old habits or from newly discovered techniques. The price to pay for such skills is the ability to endure intensive periods of repetition of movements, recital of rules, and study of martial arts technique.

A sensei is a teacher or mentor who selects and prepare students of Bushido or martial arts and the progenitor of the habits that will one day, hopefully, give rise an ActiveEngine. There is an old saying you do not find a sensei until that sensei has found you. If you want those skills you must be willing to submit to that process of repetition.

Technical teams need to be placed through the rigors of “forging steel”, as the leader is the Sensei who will set their goals, who finds the avenues for growth, and who guides the team members to greater heights of productivity and capability. This is not philosophical farce such as “the sound of one hand clapping”. No, it’s the repetition of basics in attention to quality, or the reflection of things gone right and wrong on a project, and the drive become better. Then repeat, repeat, unlearn bad habits, repeat again.

The older teams members deserve to be honored, as their productivity can be jump-started by including their opinions, relying on their recalcitrance, asking them play the gadfly, or by allowing them to try something new. In the middle of a crisis, and there will be crisis, the older team members will provide balance. When Sensei is not present, hopefully they reflect an image of his teachings, and move others along.

You’ll want all of their minds and efforts focused, and maybe you can build an even bigger, more productive ActiveEngine that is ready for the next challenge.

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