Monthly Archives: September 2012

The Value of an Education – Assertion or Evidence?

value certification

My kids just started back to school this week. Both are in university now and were faced with tough decisions about which courses to take, which degrees to pursue and eventually which career paths to follow.

From time to time I ask senior people that I meet what opportunities exist in their fields. So frequently I hear that you won’t get considered without a master in (insert your choice here), yet frequently when I probe a bit further, they themselves have achieved great heights without said masters credentials.

It used to be that employees became managers and managers became executives, but so often now the trend is to hire new graduates into the management stream, particularly in government.

I think this is what is leading to a partial disconnect that I see almost everyday in my consulting work. Tony Gatto, one of my colleagues put it well.

Management doesn’t know how the work gets done,
and workers don’t know how decisions are made.

To me, an education provides a starting point. Certifications and other credentials are just someone’s –the educational institution or certifying body’s– ASSERTION that the candidate should be able to provide value, but without on the job results, there is no EVIDENCE.

It seems to me that when selecting a candidate, years of experience is just another assertion. A trail of evidence (in terms of results) should be what matters most.


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You Can’t Think With Your Tool Belt On® – 09/10/12

artwork toolbelt

Higher Value From Higher Productivity
You have probably heard it said that tasks grow to fill the time available.
You may have also heard that if you want something done, give the task to a busy person.
The balance between too much time and not enough time is an important one.
Too much time = no urgency. No deadlines.
Not enough time  = starting over. (Interruptions are akin to not enough time…before being interrupted again).
How the pros do it:
Over twenty years ago I met a brilliant programmer who had worked for a defence contractor on cruise missile guidance systems, and had recently moved into video game programming. When I commented that this was quite a shift, he explained how the same techniques applied.
From my own work in microprocessors in the early 1980s, I understood that a clock chip provides a signal to the processor to indicate when the current cycle is complete and to trigger the next process cycle.
Just like people, computers with a single processor cannot multi-task, but they can juggle tasks, giving each task a slice of time.
My programmer friend explained to me that cruise missiles have to check altitude, direction, and speed etcetera and make adjustments to reach their target and not hit other objects along the way. They cannot check everything and make adjustments all at once. If they tried, the processor would time out and nothing would get done. Instead, the programmer figures out how long a task takes and fit that into one cycle (Start – measure one thing, adjust one thing – end). If there is time left over, so be it. The next task begins in the next cycle. If two tasks can be completed back to back in the same cycle, then there is efficiency, but if only one and one half tasks can be competed in a cycle, that is a waste of time. When I met him, the same techniques were being used when programming activities in video games, object by object.
People who do not behave like cruse missiles rarely reach their target. 
People believe that they are being efficient by cramming as much work as possible in to the time available when in reality they are starting many tasks that cannot be complete within the cycle time (before meetings, interruptions, lunch time and such). 
What results is one or more tasks that have timed out and must be restarted, often from the beginning.
Break your work down into chunks small enough to fit within your cycle time or increase the time of each cycle to fit the task but no more.

 © Wayne McKinnon 2012. All rights reserved.

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Worth a Laugh

It is Friday again and here is this week’s representations of value that made me smile


With a name like this you had better be good if you are going to attract clients who will trust you with their money…


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A Successful Perspective

 I was flipping channels and fought a few minutes of a mountain bike race. The camera angle was looking straight up the course. The course was coverer in small boulders, it looked impassible.

Suddenly a rider came shooting out of the woods around a sharp bend and into sight. As he approached the boulder strewn rock cut I was sure that a wreck was imminent, but rather than attack it head-on, he traversed it at an angle and made it down without slowing.

The view from the side was much different than that of the television viewer. Where we saw obstacles, the rider saw a clear path.

How many times do you or your team see the obstacles instead of the destination?


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Corporate Communications and Awareness Programs

In response to my last blog posting regarding acceptance criteria and the role of people in the testing function, I will answer the questions I received from quite a few readers. I am combining those questions and paraphrasing it as “How does the last example apply to my industry or field of expertise?” (Some claim that it does not since they do not develop software).

Let me begin with a direct answer that yes, the same applies to each of you in each of your industries.

What I had hoped was clear in my example is that products have consumers, and even if those products are reports or processed invoices, the output is value to someone.

Lets take a second example. This time I will use a person in corporate communications launching a campaign as an example.

Does it provide business results?
You might be measuring this in terms of modified behavior such as improved compliance with new regulations. It may be measured in terms of the right people showing up to an event. In the case of a school board, increased enrolment.

Can I use it?
If it is a billboard, do I receive the message as I am speeding by? If it is a directive, do I comprehend the message?

Can I support it?
If you are a service desk can you answer questions related to the campaign?

Can I install it?
Can the mailroom handle the size of the packages? Can the magazine fit the ad within the confines of the page?

Does it work?
This is the developer or writers self-assessment (as well as a second set of eyes) to determine if they are finished the development of the message. Does it make sense or has something been left out.

When I am working with teams in corporate communications or other services divisions such as health, safety and security, I begin with their communication strategy, but when it comes to supporting that strategy with tactics, this discussion is just as important for them as it is for the other development teams that I work with in technology or manufacturing. 

You can view the graphic that I created at the bottom of this post:

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