They say you learn something new every day.

Posts tagged ‘work’

Take Note (12/02/2012)

I’ve realised that I’m really bad at taking notes. It was sort of one of my New Year’s Resolutions to take better notes. But that hasn’t worked out so far. As you can see below from a typical meeting:

Some average notes

There’s two things that strike me about this actually.

Firstly, the “quick win” rocket, and how messy and ridiculous a lot of this is.

Secondly, how unimportant a lot of this is. It’s not that I don’t understand these notes – a lot of them were just unimportant or not chased up.

I’ve been thinking about this note taking problem. And I think it fits into a few other things. Quite a few of my projects (and projects in general at work) are dragging on. There’s a lot of scope creep and project failures.

I think all of this can possibly be solved by setting slightly clearer boundaries and “logging” things correctly.

Take notes, for example. There are a finite areas or workstreams that I am involved with. Every note I take should fit into one of them. If it doesn’t, I either have to create a new one, or not take the note. In many ways this fits back into my idea of a software solution that encourages you to work, communicate and log in the appropriate area. Taking notes on a per meeting basis is wrong, because it means all your notes are sorted by meeting, or event. But in reality, you want your notes sorted by category, or type.

Computers are very good at this sort of thing, since you can log a many-to-many relationship. But humans not so much so.

I wonder if one option here is to make a small note logging application of some type and use a computer to take notes.

Whether I do this or not, I think I’m going to have to start logging notes in a more project based way, because it’s beginning to get ridiculous.

Negative Feedback Loop (27/01/2012)

I had to tell someone off today.

It’s the first time I’ve ever done it. All my life I’ve been the pupil, the child, the employee – and generally I’ve struck a fine line between compliance and rebellion. (My English teacher once called me “subversive” which I took as a massive compliment. And knowing him, he probably meant it as one).

In the words of Jack O’Neil from Stargate:

I have spent my life sticking it to the man. Now I am the man.

But I think this is probably good. You want your people in authority to have a healthy distrust of authority. You want them to be challenging themselves and aware of what authority does to people.

I think I handled the telling off quite well. It struck the right balance, something L has always been good at at work, between chastising without getting personal.

The one thing I did forget to say was something along the lines of “this isn’t an exercise in fault finding, we just want to make sure it won’t happen again”. But I think that was the general impression.

I didn’t bulldozer quite as much as I have before, and in hindsight perhaps I should have a little bit more. But what I did right was leave it a few days. The “incident” (I’ve made it sound a much bigger deal than it was here) happened on Tuesday, but I left it until Friday, once everyone had calmed down, to have a chat about what had happened and to give the firm message that this wouldn’t happen again.

If you can keep your cool, I think you keep your respect as well. Fear isn’t any way to manage, and if you get too authoritarian, people will start coming up with ways to bypass you.

Never underestimate (25/01/2012)

There’s a couple of projects I’ve been working on that I thought were going to be really easy and were actually incredibly difficult. I’ve realised, there are so often so many unforseen circumstances.

I’ve realised that even though I’d read Jeff’s article on estimating before, I’m still rubbish at estimating how long things will take:

When you compare the original single-point estimates to the Best Case and Worst Case estimates, you see that the 11.25 total of the single-point estimates is much closer to the Best Case estimate of 10.5 days than to the Worst Case total of 18.25 days.

You’ll also notice that both the Best Case and Worst Case estimates are higher than the original single-point estimate. Thinking through the worst case result can sometimes expose additional work that must be done even in the best case, which can raise the nominal estimate. In thinking through the worst case, I like to ask developers how long the task would take if everything went wrong. People’s worst case estimates are often optimistic worst cases rather than true worst cases.

I need to start doing this in my projects, and, also, asking other people to do this as well.

I had to get angry with our outsourced IT partner this week as they came to a meeting having not done the one thing I asked them to do. I think I got the balance right – calm but very displeased. So we’ll see if they do it again.

Afterwards, they were so eager to please me that they said they’d get the next bit of work done within a week. I probably should have pushed more for best case/worst case estimates.

Walk in the park (23/01/2012)

I walked to work today. In London! That’s really living the dream.

Generally, you only get to walk to work if you live in a tiny town somewhere with one shop and one house and you live in one and work in the other.

It took 45 minutes, which was my best case guess. And I felt really good.

I’m going to start doing this more. Not only does it save me money (£1.35 each way on the bus – which adds up over a year), but also it’s healthy!

At Christmas when I went home I took a picture of myself to draw. Due to an optical illusion I looked really fat, and I had a hideous premonition. I’d really hate to be massively fat. I should add, despite the fact I work in IT, and my hobby is sitting in front of a computer not moving very much, I’m actually pretty slim. I guess when you’re hobby is not moving very much it can go either way.

It’s beginning to occur to me that I’m reaching the stage in my life where I may have to do something to keep looking like this. Oh, ageing!

My attitude towards exercise is largely the same as my attitude to backing up my stuff:

  • It must be free.
  • It must not affect my life.

I’ve realised this is probably a little harder to achieve with fitness.

But I’m reminded of when L and I lived in Dulwich. She had to walk up a hill to get to the train station. She said she kept in shape doing that more than any gym membership or exercise regime.

I guess the thing here is, if it’s “automatic” (in the sense you have to do it), you will do it. If it’s optional, then you won’t. “Oh I don’t feel like the gym today, I’ll go another day”, you’ll moan to yourself.

One thing that surprised me about my walk to work was how much it took out of me. I’m not sure I’m quite ready to walk 3 miles, work a full day, then walk 3 miles back just yet. But if I walk there each morning and get the bus back, not only is there a financial reward for me (as long as I don’t spend it on chocolate when I get there), but it will boost my fitness too.

Tag Cloud