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Training the Young and Fluency July 28, 2010

Posted by ActiveEngine Sensei in ActiveEngine, Business Processes, Coaching, Fluent, Mythology, Personal Development.
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Repeat with Sensei, if you will, the Wolf Creedo:

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.*


What have you done to nurture your team?  Are you the resident Elvis, and if the newbies make the cut they’ll graduate from a Mort to be the next King, hand plucked by you from millions and millions of people?  Can I get a little ka-ra-te with that?

What makes you an Elvis, and are you a bloated drunk Elvis at the end, or the bad-ass version 1970 version who can jump start anything?  Elvis in 1970 practiced the Wolf Creedo.  Watch the documentory Elvis the Way It Is 2001, just the first half hour.  This short half hour will show you Elvis, after years of being away from touring, ready to return to touring again in attempts to re-start his career.  The first half hour of the movie focuses on the few weeks of rehearsals before the debut concert.  Elvis had a fluent, incredible means of communicating with his band members and back up singers.  With a glance, a gesture, a wink, a new song would spring up.  Maybe Elvis would say a quick word, hum a note, and suddenly a bass line would kick in, and not more than three beats later, the entire band and Elvis are playing a tune complete with improves.  While playing Little Sister, Elvis nods, and issues “Get Back” and off the group goes playing Get back from the Beatles.  Congruent would be best word to describe the synchronization that each member had.

Elvis nurtured that vibe.  They all keyed off of him, for to the band he was Elvis, not the King.  He lead by being a focal point, but not necessarily an ostentatious leader.  When you watch the practice sessions where Elvis worked on the orchestrations of each song it is clear that he could communicate what he wanted, and worked with his band members to produce the product he envisioned.

But in order to function like this unit, each member has to practice.  You, as pack leader, have to pick the scales, the arpeggios, the rudiments that you want to be second nature so that your team, the young ones and old warriors can produce what you want, fluently.

*Credit:  Del Getz and Associates

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Chang-chang-a-ching-changa-langa-langa: Why Your User Community is Fluent in English and You Are Not the King February 6, 2010

Posted by ActiveEngine Sensei in .Net, ActiveEngine, Business Processes, Coaching, Fluent, Problem Solving, software economics.
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Get ready for the sound of one hand clapping, but first, fire off the song as it get’s your head straight.

Some of you want to be Elvis too much.  Sensei’s going to tell you a story so you know what he’s talking about.  You see, users of your apps  are waaaay smarter than you, and spend more time in their fields than you ever hope to do.   You need a little love.  It’s called fluent interaction.  Fluent. Interaction.  Lord have mercy.

Process mapping helps, but in the end that takes you to overly scientific abstractions, and while user stories help some they, too, stray with you as the sole author.  You in the chair, just the important details from the user, but mostly you.  Should you consider yourself not Mort but an Elvis, you may want to ask yourself what Elvis you want to be:

Kick-ass Karate Elvis
Drug Ridden Elvis Wanna Be

Back to the story.  Last episode, in a spate of productivity and a dose of SQL-NoSQL fever, Sensei created a slim document management solution that can be quickly applied to an existing framework with minimal impact to database schema and code base.  Sitting around the conference room table the comment arose from Annie, the project lead from the Sales group:

“Why do I have to save a commission record first before I can attach a document?  That interrupts my flow.  I want to put in everything that I want and save, period.  No dialog box thingy prompting to save first, come back and do something else.  Why can’t we just do it”

Long silence.  The sound of one hand clapping.

One of Sensei’s report-to’s jumped in:  “Because in order to associate the document to the commission you have to save that commission first in the database, then take the id from the record and associate it document.  This allows you to retrieve it later on.”

Annie:  So.  Can’t that just happen behind the scenes?  If it’s two steps the sales gal won’t do it.  She’s got calls to make.

Ssensei drifted out in research land, or as normal people call it, he spaced out for a bit.  NetFlix sprang to mind, iPhone too, where you delete, it does it, but you can bring it back.  Take the confirmation response out of the equation.  Give the user a chance to undo their mess, but don’t get in their way.  It’s fun to pretend to be the King, but what a wake up slap.  The technology was right, but the user was seeing the benefit because “putting the stuff in was too clunky”.  Sensei went and did want Annie wanted.  Annie thinks its great.  Good technology made better by the user, not the King.

Fluent.  Interaction.  Lord have mercy.  You see, Annie’s right and user stories, UML and other brain death would never capture the essense of her perspective, particularly after she used the software.  Yeah, soft deletes are great theory, but you are not thinking like a user.  In order to be a better King, you gotta give the concert they want to hear.  You have to know that the fans have created you, have shaped your persona.  You have to know your fans, almost be them.

Elvis had a come back concert in 1968 but it almost didn’t happen as there was a huge fight with NBC.  The network insisted that the show would be like a Bing Crosby special given that the air date was during the Christmas holiday season.  Elvis wanted an intimate environment where he could perform up close, live with his fans.  He thrived off of close contact with his fans.  Know your audience.  Elvis was right, and it helped re-launch his singing career and revive his legend.  It was one of his best performances.  For the fans.

You need to listen to your users.  Spend the time to hone your craft, but work even harder to make them fans.  What do they need?  Is the concert for them or for you?  Are you learning just to be smart or for their benefit?  Fluent solutions require interaction with the fans.  Thank you.  Thank you very much.

The Economics of Protecting the Red Shirts July 29, 2009

Posted by ActiveEngine Sensei in .Net Development, ActiveEngine, Business Processes, Coaching, Design Patterns, Mythology, Personal Development, Problem Solving, software economics.
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Recently I came across this post from a fellow lamenting the lack of interest on the part of .Net developers in architecture solutions such as IoC, Dependency Injection, ORMs, and the like.  800px-KirkSlapsSelfThis stood out in stark contrast to Java developers who this person interviewed, who either were conversant with the technology or were interested enough to pursue informing themselves further.  Some call this the result of Drag -n -Drop design as laid out in a post  by Greg Young, a Microsoft MVP and .Net developer who has specialized in high performance applications.  Greg maintains in his post Java vs. .Net Developers that drag and drop is mis applied and there needs to be an greater effort the isolate the cases where it is mis used.  This practice has arisen, he maintains, from poor training and lack of awareness of other development platforms. (more…)

Revenge of the Fallen July 21, 2009

Posted by ActiveEngine Sensei in ActiveEngine, Agile, Agile vs Waterfall, Business Processes, Problem Solving.
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Did you think you were constructing this:  300px-MovieOptimusPrime_promorender2but you were actually delivering this instead: (more…)

Sensei’s Playlist – Pay the Rent with Rock! July 10, 2009

Posted by ActiveEngine Sensei in ActiveEngine, Coaching, Mythology, Personal Development.
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nigel-tufnel-spinal-tap-253x300

You’ve asked for it – well you didn’t actually, BUT HERE IT IS ANYWAY!! Yeahhh!  Music to pump you up.  Rev your ActiveEngine to these tunes, babes, and get stuff done.  Decisively.  As in total victory.

There’s a new page to the site, Pay the Rent with Rock.  Here is the music that get’s me through.  It’s powered by Grooveshark.  Post a comment with a suggestion if you like.  If it cranks and you’re lucky, I’ll include it.  Describe what scenario your song helps you pull things off, helps you get things done, cranks, whatever.

Here’s a sample:

 

This bloke to the left loves it!!

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.

Hang-Dai Wu, Hang-Dai November 15, 2007

Posted by ActiveEngine Sensei in ActiveEngine, Business Processes, Mythology, Problem Solving.
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Two groups of people talking past each other, goals missed, frustration abounds. You are lying if you don’t admit that this is common when the business units interface with the technical folks. Are they speaking English? We are but they aren’t. They’re lazy. They don’t get it. How do they get along in society?

This inhibits your strategy. The goal is to win, go home, come back tomorrow and do it even faster the next time, yet with people talking over each other’s heads there is no way you can start to run the race. Pitiful when you think about it.

One of the most memorable scenes from Deadwood involved conversations between slum lord Wu and evil anti-hero Al Swearengen. Neither could understand each other, and gesticulations added to additional confusion so they resorted to cartoon stick figures and and shouting matches until they communicated their meaning to each other. Al and Wu threw out all convention and stuck to what worked because they had no other choice. This clip shows the such a scene. Watch here.

You need to force your teams to do this. You’re all speaking the same language, why can’t you get it together. Start with nothing, don’t accept “You use words I don’t understand”, and win the day with cartoon-ish stick figures telling the story.

An active mind needs this unfettered communication to truly create and execute. Consultants, drop your charts and grab a crayon. When you capture what is necessary and sufficient, then you can unleash all your talents to jump start your ActiveEngine of creativity.

(For those who are interested, the whole can be viewed here. Be warned, the language is foul.)

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