Tuesday
Oct202009

Updated Comments Policy

A post by Michael Hyatt on his new comments policy has prompted me to tighten my comments policy, and the associated elements of my copyright statement.

My comments policy is now:

We invite and welcome comments.

We would prefer you comment in your own name, but you can comment under a pseudonym or anonymously if you prefer.

We ask that you follow similar policies in your comment as we do in the articles themselves - eg links, attribution, disclosures, etc.

As the purpose of having comments is to facilitate a conversation we will often respond to comments publicly - either by way of a further comment on that post, or by way of a new post if we think that will be more useful to our wider audience.

We might also respond to comments privately if that is more appropriate.

We will delete comments that we judge to be inappropriate for any reason (in our sole discretion).

You retain ownership of your comments - we do not own them, and we expressly disclaim any and all liability that may result from them.

By commenting on our site, you agree that you retain all ownership rights in what you post here and that you will relieve us from any and all liability that may result from those postings.

You grant us a license to post your comments. This license is worldwide, irrevocable, non-exclusive, and royalty-free. You grant us the right to store, use, transmit, display, publish, reproduce, and distribute your comments in conjunction with this site.

Feel free to adapt this for your blog if that is helpful to you.

Sunday
Oct182009

For Everyone Who Has Ever Missed A Deadline...

hat tip nathaniel

Thursday
Oct152009

welcoming another nephew into the world

Monday
Sep142009

Our Hope Is You'll Get Mad Enough To Do Something

I've been following invisible.tv invisiblepeople.tv's series of short video interviews with american homeless people.

Their byline is particularly poignant: "Caution: Some content may be offensive. Our hope is you'll get mad enough to do something." - applies to all issues of social justice, really.

Each person interviewed has a story. Each has a name.

Whilst I hope New Zealand's social welfare and health systems are better at catching, and helping, people with stories like these - it is a timely reminder of the real challenges faced by vulnerable people; even in comparatively wealthy societies like ours.

Challenging ...

Sunday
Sep132009

Kids Expressions

This afternoon we went ten pin bowling with our nephew and his friends to celebrate his 6th birthday party. Apart from enjoying a family event, I also had fun experimenting taking photos in a different setting.

This photo is my favourite from the shoot. I love the contrasting expressions on the kids faces. It captures the seriousness and fun of this activity for them.

The photo has been added to my best photos gallery, under 'family events'.

Sunday
Sep132009

World Press Photo Exhibition

Yesterday I went with some friends to the World Press Photo exhibition that is currently showing in Wellington.

There are some very moving photos from current events of the last year. Some are sombre, as human tragedy is the pulse of current affairs. However, some are simply of the notable, like some brilliant sport photos.

The photo which struck us most is #115. We were struck by the incongruence of the girl laughing with a corpse at her feet. There is obviously a story there. Is it simply that life is so cheap in the slums? Or is there something going on that is more specific to that time & place?

The exhibition is well worth the $2 entry. I encourage you to go if you are in Wellington soon.

Also attached to this post is a link to Radio NZ's review of the show, from their podcast feed.

Enclosure

Thursday
Sep032009

SHAFTED Model of Leadership

My friend and pastor, Paul Gardner, who shares my interest in writing on leadership, has written about a model of leadership he describes as SHAFTED: "Stolen From Here, There And Everywhere Deliberately". The model comprises three elements:

  1. Know, develop and work to your leadership STRENGTHS;
  2. Understand and fix your leadership FATAL FLAW;
  3. Work with your TEAM to achieve the rest.

Whilst I see the humour in it, I'm not too sure about the acronym SHAFTED given its negative connotations.

However, this is a very useful contribution to our understanding of how to be an effective leader. It applies whether your interest in leadership is primarily within the church (like Paul), or in business (like mine), or in other domains.

I recommend reading Paul's series in full.

What do you think?

Wednesday
Sep022009

Next Actions and the GTD Add-In for Outlook

Eric has written a post describing how he uses the standard Outlook task 'status' field to supplement the Netcentrics GTD Outlook add-in. In his case he uses it for what I call "subsequent actions" (he sets the status to 'not started') which only become active (a "next action") once a prior "next action" (he sets the status to "In Progress") has been done.

I use a slightly different technique, which I have described in a comment on his post, and here:

I achieve a similar result using Due dates. In my workflow subsequent actions will usually occur on a day in the future once the predecessor next action has occurred. I have a filtered copy of the standard Actions by Project view which has an additional filter on it for actions due on or before today. An implication is I have to due date all my tasks or those with a blank due date are also filtered out, as well as subsequent actions. If when the due date comes around and the ‘next action’ is not yet done, but the ’subsequent’ action appears on my list as now due, this prompts me to either do the ‘next action’ (remembering that I should have already!) or reassess when the subsequent action is due.

The same technique also works as a tickler. For future tasks/reminders I want to be ‘tickled’ about I simply create a task with the relevant due date. On that date it appears on my filtered view as it is now ‘due’.

How are you using the Netcentrics GTD Outlook add-in, and standard Outlook functionality, to manage GTD for you?

Sunday
Aug302009

Photography

Last week I moved into the world of Digital SLR photography. I was getting increasingly frustrated at the inability of my low end point and shoot camera to handle action, or detail. I'm having a great time trying out my Canon 400D camera.

I have added a photography section within GavinKnight.com to share my best photos. At the moment there is only one image there, although I have a few others already that I'll load later.

I have already enjoyed photographing a lunchtime walk around the Wellington waterfront, the view from my home, my son Joel's rugby game, a visit to the pool and the Wellington v Canterbury Ranfurly Shield game (even though we lost!).

Saturday
Aug292009

Well Done Canterbury

I have been a Wellington rugby supporter for all of my more than 40 years, and it's never been easy, but tonight was humiliating. Until late in the second half it looked like Wellington wouldn't even score a point.

It was a game which promised to be one of the great Shield games. Maybe even like the classic game between Canterbury and Auckland in the 1980s. I took my kids along in anticipation of seeing one of the biggest games of their lives. However, it was not to be. Wellington didn't fire a shot for most of the game, and when they did it was far far too late.

Well done Canterbury. I hope you respect the Ranfurly Shield better than my team did. You should, because you always do.

Sunday
Aug232009

Dear Cabinet Ministers, & Peter Dunne

"Dear Cabinet Ministers, and Peter Dunne (my MP, and also a Minister).

No matter which way you look at it the results of the recent "Smacking Referendum" are resounding and compelling. Yes, the question was poorly worded - but it seems clear to me (and many many others) that the more than 87% of NZers who voted "No" are clearly saying that this law is not a valid expression of what criminal behaviour is.

Press reports tell me that the Prime Minister is taking unspecified proposals to Cabinet to address these concerns. But it would seem the PM's proposals do not go as far as replacing this obnoxious law which it is now abundantly clear does not carry the support of more than 87% of NZers. If so, such proposals cannot be an adequate response to the clearly expressed will of the NZ voting public.

You can do better than this.

I commend to you the "Borrows amendment". It is a much clearer expression than the current (amended) s59. And, ironically - given the debate, actually provides children with more protection because it defines reasonable force for the forms of smacking (and other ‘reasonable force’) which the current (amended) s59 allows but does not define.

I ask that, whatever you decide in response to the PM’s proposals, you also introduce a bill to parliament along the lines of the "Borrows amendment", allow it to go to Select Committee, and then pass it if it carries public support.

Yours sincerely, Gavin Knight, Wellington.

PS, this letter has also been posted to my blog. I reserve the right to also post your response, particularly if it is not a substantive response."

Update: I suggest you also read Madeleine's similar letter.

Sunday
Aug232009

Chris Trotter on the Smacking Referendum

Christ Trotter, a left wing journalist with whom I rarely agree, has written an insightful article interpeting what last week's referendum result tells us, and placing it in it's historical and political and social context:

... The count [in the the so-called "Anti-Anti-Smacking" Citizens Initiated Referendum] showed that nearly nine-tenths of the voting population responded to the question: "Should a smack as part of good parental correction be a criminal offence in New Zealand?"; by voting "No".

What does that result tell us about those New Zealanders?

Does it tell us that 87.6 percent of us are inveterate child-beaters: cruel and unusual punishers, who see their children as some sort of personal possession; mere extensions of their own, all-too-fragile, egos – rather than as vulnerable little human-beings, with the same right to be protected from common assault as any adult?

Has it, if only for the brief moment it took to draw the heavy curtains of silence and denial more closely together, afforded us a glimpse of the ugly dysfunctionality at the heart of the New Zealand family?

Has it alerted the 11.8 percent of us who voted "Yes" that all around us children are living in a state of deep emotional confusion: never knowing from one moment to the next whether the adults they love and trust most in the world are going to suddenly lash out and whack them?

To hear the defenders of the "Anti-Smacking" legislation tell the story, that’s exactly what the result of the referendum has told us.

Are they right?

The answer, of course, is "No."

The truth of the matter is that most of the young New Zealanders currently raising children long ago stopped using the "smack" as part of "good parental correction". If they hit their kids at all, it’s only in the extenuating circumstances already contained in the current legislation – which basically sanctions the use of parental force to prevent a child from either inflicting or experiencing greater harm.

These parents are part of the great virtuous circle of childrearing which traces its origins back to the dramatic cultural shifts of the 1950s, 60s and 70s. With each passing generation, this circle will widen until, in a relatively short space of historical time, the use of corrective violence will almost entirely disappear from New Zealand society.

Sue Bradford’s "Anti-Smacking" law reinforces this trend – but it did not create it. And, regardless of whether the law survives this referendum result, the trend will continue. ...

I encourage you to read the full article.

Thursday
Aug202009

Review: SharePoint Roadmap for Collaboration

I have just finished reading Michael Sampson's second book "SharePoint Roadmap for Collaboration: Using SharePoint to Enhance Business Collaboration". Michael describes the book this way:

"SharePoint Roadmap for Collaboration is the indispensable guide for IT and business people wanting to use SharePoint to enhance business collaboration. The roadmap focuses on the business and human side of SharePoint, rather than the technology."

Michael has an engaging writing style. I almost heard him reading the text. I could easily envisage him delivering the content in a workshop or seminar context - both of which he offers!

The book is very readable despite being full of rich content covering some complex areas. For the last couple weeks I read a chapter every few days. Then today I completed the second half of the book in one sitting. It flows very well.

I have been a member of IT project teams for over 10 years, and in project management roles on such projects for over 5 of those years. The insights in Michael's book resonate closely with my experience.

The ideas Michael explores are equally applicable across a much broader range of IT projects. Not just collaboration projects generally, or SharePoint projects specifically. I encourage Michael to explore this further in his future writing.

This afternoon I am meeting with one of the business sponsors for the IT programme of work I am leading for his organisation, a client of mine. An imminent project within that programme - which he is quite wary of - is the implementation of SharePoint for an intranet, document management, search, reporting and collaboration. All of these processes are broken to some degree within this organisation, which is one of the key business challenges my programme of work is seeking to address.

I will be showing him Michael's book and encouraging him to buy a copy. It will enable him and his colleague executives on my steering committee to ensure they provide my programme with continuing oversight that is focussed on achieving what they need.

Now, on to reading Michael's first book "Seamless Teamwork: Using Microsoft SharePoint Technologies to Collaborate, Innovate, and Drive Business in New Ways".

Michael and I are friends. I remember us first meeting when we were teenagers. Then, in the mid-to-late 1990s, we worked closely together on the team that started a new church in our suburb. During this time our friendship developed, and continues to this day even though Michael and his family moved to another part of the country. We don't see each other very often, but communicate regularly on twitter, by email, by txt/sms, by commenting on each other's blogs and occasionally by phone. However, do not let my friendship with Michael detract from your reading of the above review. I do a lot of reading - both for my professional life, and generally. Michael's thinking and writing is world class. This book is clear evidence of that.

Wednesday
Aug192009

Jazz and Leadership

Earlier this month I wrote "Lessons on Leadership from Jazz" as the first expression of my thoughts on how "my preferred leadership and working style aligns closely with how jazz music is performed".

This synergy between jazz and leadership is something I had been pondering alone for over a year. Unusually, I had not looked around to see what others were thinking about it. Of course, nothing is new under the sun, and it turns out I am far from the first person to have made the connection!

Within a day of my post appearing Brian Fraser of Jazz Think emailed me (from Canada), and we have since been in conversation by email. I am very encouraged by how rich his thinking is on this topic. I particularly like his 'thought provoker' articles "Innovation, Organisations, and Jazz" and "The Workplace as Jazz Club".

I see Brian has also written a book on the topic, so must purchase it! - even though he also makes it available for free download.

Wednesday
Aug192009

Why I Voted No

I have been pondering my vote in the smacking referendum for some time, and finally filled in my voting paper tonight. I will post it tomorrow, just in time!

Should a smack as part of good parental correction be a criminal offence in New Zealand?

My intent has wavered because I am not happy with the behaviour of too many on either side of the debate, and quite frankly, don't want to be associated with many of them.

Here's why I considered voting Yes:

  • although Sue Bradford's original bill would have removed the 'reasonable force' defense from parents in all circumstances, the law as actually passed only did so for 'correction' - the new s59 clearly allows 'smacking' in other circumstances (safety, offensive behaviour, normal course of parenting, etc)
  • the wording of the referendum question is appallingly poor, and I have to wonder whether this was done cynically by those proposing it - even Sue Bradford (hardly a supporter of this referendum) identified a much simpler and clearer wording of what we all think the referendum question is, and should be "Should the defence of reasonable force for the purpose of correction be available to New Zealand parents?" (interestingly this would invert the Yes/No way to vote)
  • I am very unhappy that the christian aligned organisations supporting the referendum have lost the debate over the language of the debate, and that smacking is now synonomous with violence - while the referendum will probably be 80-90% "No" the language of the debate has been about violence - he who loses control of the language of a debate has lost the debate
  • a close friend is a retired policeman who spent considerable time working in the family violence area in the third world in 1990s - he tells me he only made progress with teaching people that hitting your spouse was never OK when the threshold was zero - there was no level of 'smacking' your spouse that was appropriate - maybe, just maybe, by making the same point about parental smacking of children we might be able to start making progress with those segments of our society for whom the tolerance for acceptable 'smacking' of children is much more brutal than we want to be the case - unfortunately, we're never going to stop child abuse, but maybe, just maybe, we might be able to reduce it

Here's why I considered voting No:

  • I have no doubt that in most cases 'smacking' is done as part of 'good' parenting
  • I am also certain that in most cases where 'smacking' is not 'good' parenting, it is still far short of what most New Zealanders consider criminal behaviour - and even the old s59 would have dealt appropriately with the more extreme cases which are/were clearly criminal (even if there were a few exceptions of juries allowing the defense when most think they shouldn't have)
  • I am not sure what 'correction' means in the context of the new s59 - I think it is synonomous with 'punishment' - ie it specifically disallows 'smacking' as a punishment

In the end I decided to vote No, because I consider that in most cases 'smacking' falls somewhere in the good/bad parenting range, not in the bad/criminal parenting range.

Tuesday
Aug042009

Lessons on Leadership from Jazz

I have been pondering for some time that my preferred leadership and working style aligns closely with how Jazz music is performed. This is in clear contrast with other musical styles.

First some background. From 2000 to 2008 I worked for four large consulting firms - Ernst & Young Consulting, then Capgemini (initially directly, then through their privately owned NZ affiliate), then Hewlett-Packard. I note that the transition between each was an acquisition, rather than my changing employer!

Each of these firms placed a heavy emphasis on methodology. We had a clearly defined way of approaching each type of project we undertook. It was part of the Project Manager's role to ensure compliance with the methodology. So, when I became a Project Manager, that became part of my job.

I accept that the idea behind methodological approaches is sound. There is often value in repeating what has worked in the past on new projects that are the same or similar. The aim is to increase the certainty of achieving the desired result (effectiveness), whilst also reducing the cost of getting there (efficiency).

However, I became increasingly frustrated, particularly during my years at HP. It seemed to me that the emphasis on methodology stifled creativity. It also restricted the ability of star performers to perform at their best. This was one of the key reasons why I left HP last year and embarked on a portfolio career utilising my skills in a variety of capacities.

Recently Michael Hyatt wrote an article '8 Things Leaders Can Learn from Symphony Conductors'. I was struck by the similarity between large firm consulting using a highly methodological approach, and what Michael observes in comparing leadership with orchestral conducting.

Michael's article has prompted me to contrast his thoughts with my preferred leadership style. I prefer to use my preferred leadership style in my professional life as a project manager, and in other contexts too. For example, it describes how I think local churches should usually be led. I have used my influence as a leader in my local church to try and see us build a leadership culture along these lines.

So what is my preferred leadership style? To develop a highly passionate and competent team, point them in the general direction of where we should go, let the team work out the detail of how we are going to get there and how we will interact with each other, carefully manage the transitions along the way, and make sure we check progress from time to time.

Do you see the parallels with Jazz? If not, maybe this table contrasting leadership and orchestral conducting (by Michael Hyatt) with Jazz will help:

Michael Hyatt's comparison of Orchestra Conductors and Leadership generally

My contrasting this with Jazz

The conductor starts with a great score. Conductors have a plan. They start with a musical score and a clear idea of how it should sound. Only then do they attempt to recreate in real time their musical 'vision'.

In Jazz the plan is much less defined. Unlike an orchestral 'score' a jazz 'chart' does not specify each and every note, it's pitch, it's length, it's volume, it's tone, it's speed, etc. Rather, a jazz chart outlines the general theme of the piece, and specifically the transitions from one stage to another. The musicians know where they are going, and the transitions along the way, but not necessarily the specifics of each and every moment (until they get there). They innovate along the way.

The conductor recruits the very best players. Great conductors attract great players. Mediocre conductors attract mediocre players. The very best players want to work for the very best conductors. Like attracts like.

In Jazz selection of the team is critical. Each musician's skills must be up to the challenge of following the selected jazz chart. Just as importantly they must also be able to knit together as a team. Because Jazz ensembles tend to be smaller than orchestras, these factors are much more important for jazz.

In an orchestra however, the individual skill of each player is much less important than the ability of the conductor to bring them together. This is less obvious in a world class orchestra where, almost by definition, each player is probably world class in their own right. But think of a school orchestra under a skilled and passionate conductor - they will be able to produce a musical performance far beyond their individual capabilities.

The conductor is visible, so that everyone can see him. The conductor stands on a platform, so that every single member of the orchestra can see him. This is the only way the orchestra can stay in alignment, with each player starting and stopping at the appropriate time.

This is much less the case with jazz than with orchestral forms of music because the jazz leader is typically also one of the musicians. It is usually only in big band jazz that you will see a visibly identifiable 'conductor' from the very start of the piece. Even in big band jazz the leader is usually one of the musicians and often slips quietly back into the group to perform a musician role during a piece.

The conductor leads with his heart. Great conductors are swept up in the music. They are passionate. They don't just play with their head; they also play with their heart. You can read it on their face. You can sense it in their movement. They are fully present and 'playing full out'.

Passion is important in both orchestral and jazz music.  But in jazz it also has a part to play in determining how the musicians improvise during the piece.

It is no accident that jazz is closely related to soul music, and that soul music is called 'soul'. Likewise with 'blues' style jazz - it is very emotive and passionate music.

The conductor delegates and focuses on what only he can do. The conductor doesn't do everything. He doesn't sell the tickets. He doesn't participate (usually) in the preliminaries. He doesn't even make sure that the orchestra is in tune. He stays off stage until it is time for him to do what only he can do - lead.

In jazz it is much more about what each of the musicians can do, whilst staying together as a group. It is quite common during a jazz piece for each musician to take the lead and perform a solo.

The conductor is aware of his gestures and their impact. A conductor can't afford to make an unintentional gesture. Everything means something. The flick of the wrist, the raising of an eyebrow, and the closing of the eyes all have meaning. A good conductor can't afford to be careless with his public demeanor.

In contrast, in jazz the leader's movements are typically much more subtle, and not always easily discernable except to those closely attuned to them. Also, not every gesture by a jazz leader is about leadership. Some movements will be about them enjoying the music itself, or simply displaying their passion for the music. Often, only their fellow musicians will be able to discern which gestures relate to leadership of the performance, and which do not.

The conductor keeps his back to the audience. Conductors are aware of the audience but their focus is on the the players and their performance. The only time the conductor stops to acknowledge the audience is before the playing begins and after it is finished. Other than that, he is focused on delivering an outstanding performance.

This is not typical in jazz, because the conductor role is not usually a standalone role. Even in big band jazz - which does have a conductor - the leader would only have their back to the audience while conducting, and even then not always - it is quite common to conduct a big band from side on.

The conductor shares the spotlight. When the concert is over, and the audience is clapping, the conductor turns to the audience and takes a bow. A good conductor immediately turns to the orchestra and invites them to stand and bow as well. He shares the glory with his colleagues, realizing that without them, the music would not be possible.

This is even more pronounced in jazz - and occurs throughout the music, not just at the end of the piece. I have even seen lighting used to emphasise which musician is currently carrying the lead.

This article is the initial articulation of my thinking, but is by no means my final word on it. I intend to develop these thoughts further. They have already developed during discussions with Michael Sampson (who read an early draft), my friend and pastor Paul Gardner (who has cross-posted it on his blog) and my leadership coaching colleague Colin Sander.

The image is of Shamarr Allen - one of my favourite modern jazz artists - performing at JazzFest in New Orleans earlier this year.

What are your thoughts on this? Please share them with me. Either by commenting on this post, or by contacting me directly.

Tuesday
Aug042009

Leadership

Later today I will be posting my first substantive blog article for some time.

The article will be the initial expression of my thinking on leadership - which has developed significantly since leaving the employment of HP a year ago and embarking on life as a consultant engaged in a portfolio of projects.

In part the article will also be a response to Michael Hyatt's recent article '8 Things Leaders Can Learn from Symphony Conductors'.

The article will also be cross-posted as a 'guest post' on my friend and pastor Paul Gardner's blog - to add to the collection of content on leadership he is building there.

The image (a teaser to my thinking) is of Shamarr Allen - one of my favourite modern jazz artists - performing at JazzFest in New Orleans earlier this year.

Saturday
Jul252009

Giving Back, NOLA Style

While in New Orleans recently my family took the opportunity to give something back to the local community by helping out with a community playground rebuild project in my sister's neighbourhood.

The old playground was becoming a little delapidated, and was still suffering damage from Hurricane Katrina nearly 4 years ago.

The rebuild was facilitated by Kaboom, an organisation who partner with local volunteers to make such projects happen because they "passionately believe that play has purpose, and that unstructured play in particular helps make children happier, fitter, smarter, more socially adept and creative".

What the photos don't show is that all this happened in heat approaching 40 degrees with high humidity!

We had a great time, and look forward to hearing of the local community getting to use the playground in a couple weeks time when the concrete has set.

Monday
Jul202009

Home, Rested, Ready

We got back yesterday from a family visit to the USA. We spent 11 wonderful days in New Orleans with family and friends. Then 4 days based in Los Angeles to do Disneyland and a day trip to San Diego to do Seaworld.

The focus of the trip was family, so I deliberately stayed offline as a part of my 'abandon annually' strategy. I am now home, rested and ready to get back into day to day life - including blogging!

The image is of coffee and beignets at Cafe du Monde - one of the many delights offered by New Orleans!

I will blog more about our travels over coming weeks.

Friday
Jun122009

Do You Maintain Balance in Your Life?

My close friend and Pastor Paul Gardner has posted a timely reminder on The 3 Basics of Balance:

  • Divert Daily
  • Withdraw Weekly
  • Abandon Annually

A good annual family holiday has always been a planned feature of our family life.

The recent improved implementation of GTD in my life has enabled me to improve my habit of withdrawing weekly.

But I need to re-prioritise putting aside time each day to 'divert'.

Like Paul, I've heard this many times before, so I'm not sure who to credit.  I first heard it from our former Pastor Andy Westrupp.

Do You Maintain Balance in Your Life? How?

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