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A Lesson in Teams

Sometimes, the textbook makes sense, but you just have to experience it in action to drive the point hoome. The text says that the more people you have working on a problem, the more solution alternatives (and ultimately the better solution) are proposed. However, the fewer people you have working on a problem, the quicker they are to implement the proposal.
This was proven tonight with a group exam (although I’m not sure that the prof was trying to drive this particular teaching point home). It was similar in length and difficulty to the one we took several weeks ago that took 30 minutes to complete (and I earned excellent marks on). Tonight’s exam took 2 hours to complete. I feel like the quality of our answers was superior, but I don’t know that they were 4X better than they would have been taken individually.

Leadership

I went to a public speech today and didn’t feel it appropriate to express my critique of it in that forum. So I bottled it up to blog about and protect the guilty.
1) Leadership requires that you create a clear, unambiguous vision that can be shared by those you expect to follow you. Do not in one sentence tell me about being the product of Italian imigrants who scraped together the resources to come to America and see to it that you have a better life than they did, and then in the next sentence tell me that you think it is wrong for parents today to provide the same assistance to their children. It damages what little credibility you gained with me. According to your latter assertion, after you were born your parents should have sent you back to Italy so that you could struggle like they did.
Take money out of the picture, and you will still have centers of power. Money is only one form of reward, albeit one that everyone can identify with fairly easily. Without money, there will still be the “haves” and the “have-nots” – you will simply use a measure other than cash.
2) If you’re speaking publicly, do not type out a 20 page dissertation that you read out line by line. I have no problem with talking points, but I saw what looked like an in-depth research paper on yourself. You didn’t come across as passionate and I think all that paper is what did it.
3) Your political views are not germaine to the topic you said you were going to address. Spending 10 minutes (off and on) discussing them takes away some credibility from the clearly non-political message you are trying to convey.
Don’t get me wrong – I got your message. I have given it a lot of thought. But I’m smarter than the average bear and a little more thoughtful in nature.

The Puppies’ First Sporting Event

We went and did the 1 mile walk/run put on by the Hall County Humane society. It was a lot of fun. Somewhere around 200 dogs of all sizes walking one of the thousands of streets along Lake Lanier. I think Angus was a little overwhelmed by all the other dogs, while Murray took his rightful place marching among them.
Afterward there was a 5k that I would have loved to have run in. But I ran tonight for the first time in 2 weeks (and the first time in my neighborhood in a month or two). The hills are killers (I had been running relatively flat routes compared to the 500 feet in elevation changes in my neighborhood. 500 feet isn’t bad if it’s gradual. Needless to say, my neighborhood isn’t gradual.
Next month is Forsyth county’s annual Bark in the Park event. It’s another way for the dogs to get out an socialize with other dogs, see demonstrations by the Forsyth County Sheriff’s K-9 unit, and other neat stuff. The pups have already asked to go, so we’ll have to try to work it in.
How about them Braves? 4-1 record going for the sweep tomorrow against the Mets. John Smoltz vs Pedro Martinez will probably be the best matchup of the year. Let’s hope Smoltzie doesn’t get shelled like he did opening day in Miami.
And what’s the deal with the Angels? The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim? Give me a break. I’m sure there is a breach of contract in there somewhere. They are basically forsaking their city so that they can try to capitalize on additional dollars from sponsors. This would be like the Oakland A’s becoming the San Francisco A’s of Oakland. It just doesn’t work that way in my mind.

The Way of the Wiki

What’s a Wiki you may ask? Check out it’s definition at perhaps the greatest example of them all – Wikipedia.
My job as a technologist is to figure out innovative ways to allow non-technologists to perform their job functions better. In the old IT model, we focused on centralized processes – forcing people into certain models. There were many good reasons for this – supportability being one of the keys (that’s just another word for control).
Along came the concept of alignment. IT departments became concerned with whether their initiatives were meeting the current needs of the organization and whether they were structured to fit the overall strategy of the company. Knowledge management caught on to some extent, and companies used products like Lotus Notes to enable collaboration to take place on a grander scale. Conversations could be turned into documentation and shared with the masses. But this technology still relied on centralization.
We are now entering a phase where IT departments won’t be focused on alignment, but rather convergence. I think you will still have a core IT group focused on internetworking, storage, server farms and support – but the analysts, developers, technical writers, etc will be more integrated into business units rather than centralized in IT. Granted, this will probably take a long time, but it is a move toward decentralization and is clearly putting technologists at the edge of the network.
Moving collaboration and the supporting structures to the edge of the network is one of the first challenges we face. If you untether the developers and so on from their IT silo, they will need tools to allow them to quickly construct their support mechanisms. These tools need to be lightweight and fast.
I think the wiki will be one of these tools. And I’m not sure that a formalized IT process will actually bring it in the door. Compare the way of the wiki to the way Blackberrys entered the enterprise. Most IT shops I know did not embrace the Blackberry at first. It was the demands of their business users that brought them in the door. We were then left scrambling to do risk analyses, training, and infrastructure upgrades in order to support this “disruptive” technology.
I’m looking to avoid incidents like the one the Blackberry brought about. I am evaluating each of the problems we see in the environment against all of the tools that are sitting on the landscape and I think I have found one that a wiki system just might solve.
Recognizing change is the first step toward embracing it.

Gainesville Development Controversy

There is a big brouhaha going on in the Waters Edge subdivision in the city of Gainesville, Georgia. A local developer has built a 3,800 square foot home that looks very similar to the others in the neighborhood. The difference? This one was build in sections – in a factory.
What is the difference between a building built on site and a building built in sections in a factory? Apparently quality and durability are much better in the factory built home.
At the end of the day, it comes down to perceptions. Some people, who I will stereotype as busy-body housewives, were sitting at home as this house was being constructed and decided to freak out. It was different than what they have seen done on other sites where the (illegal) labor force of Gainesville constructed a home from scratch using concrete, 2x4s, and drywall.
If you actually inspect this house, you will find that it is also constructed using concrete, 2x4s, and drywall. The residents in an uproar allude to this home being no different than a mobile home – which incidentally is constructed from recylced beer cans. True, the home’s pieces were delivered on a tractor trailer. But all of the other homes had their components delivered in the same fashion. Heck – even the yards in this town are delivered in pallets on tractor trailers.
I am not sure why this builder is being subjected to the stop work order and his hearing is being delayed by more than a month. He filled out the required paperwork truthfully, he adhered to (and in many cases exceeded) the requirements of the local building code, and even with the home in its unfinished state it looks attractive and fits in with the designs of the rest of the neighborhood. With his construction loan probably sitting in the neighborhood of $225,000 at this milestone of development, the interest payment for the idle month alone could turn his profit margin from positive to negative.
The city of Gainesville is growing like a wildfire. There are many issues that they need to address to build and maintain a healthy community. The local government should stay out of this issue if the building meets the codified requirements the property is zoned for.

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