Entries in effectiveness (59)


Twitter "a huge multiplier of effectiveness"


time to think

Merlin Mann, of 43 Folders, has relayed a discussion between Barack Obama and David Cameron about the importance of putting thinking time in your diary and concludes:

This encourages and inspires me. If people as busy as these two guys ... can make time to rise above the noise, it’s hard to imagine why each of us wouldn’t want to occasionally unchalk our diary enough to try something similar.
Note, to Merlin: David Cameron is not just a "British MP"; he is also leader of the British Conservative Party and Leader of the Opposition in Britain. He is odds on to be British Prime Minister after their next election (which I think is due by 2010). In other words, this conversation was between two men who quite likely will be world leaders within a very short time.

I can't think of two men for whom it is less important they have time to think.


Lifehacker, working together in the cloud

Lifehacker has a great article in Macworld describing how they run their virtual office using web based cloud applications.

I particularly like their passing phrase, the "placeless office" - it is so much more meaningful than "virtual office".


20 Ways to Eliminate Stress From Your Life

Get Frank has 20 Ways to Eliminate Stress From Your Life:
# Identify stressors
# Eliminate unnecessary commitments
# Procrastination
# Disorganization
# Late
# Controlling
# Multitasking
# Eliminate energy drains
# Avoid difficult people
# Simplify life
# Unschedule
# Slow down
# Help others
# Relax throughout the day
# Quit work
# Simplify your to-do list
# Exercise
# Eat healthy
# Be grateful
# Zen-like environment


living in the Google cloud

'Miramar Mike' has written an excellent article summarising his experience of living in the cloud using Google web services.

"Living in the cloud" means using online web-based services instead of traditional applications you install on your PC - eg Gmail instead of Outlook. The key advantages are you don't need to maintain or manage the application or data yourself, and you can access the application from any internet connected PC, and often from mobile devices too.

With some of these services you can also synchronise your online data with a locally installed equivalent application and have the best of both worlds - eg use both Google Calendar and Outlook Calendar with data auto-synchronised between them. This mitigates the key constraint of web-based services which by their nature require you to be online to use them.

However, a key risk with web-based services is that, like any technology platform, they go 'down' from time to time - which means you are out of action for that time. For example, this morning Amazon's S3 back-end storage service went down, and took with it at least three of my web-based applications: Jungle Disk, Drop Box and TwitPic.  For consumer applications (eg TwitPic) this is not such a big deal, we can just wait for them to come back online. However, for business applications, we need much higher service levels.

I will continue to explore "Living in the cloud" and write about it here under a 'cloud' tag. For example, I have already written about my experience setting up and using Jungle Disk as an online hosted backup service.


why email is in danger of being replaced by applications like Twitter

Michael Hyatt has twittered a reference to a ReadWriteWeb article on why email is in danger of being replaced by applications like Twitter.

It's a good article, and very in line with my friend Michael Sampson's writings. Although use of the word 'danger' implies its a bad thing - far from it as email is very broken. Other applications/tools like Twitter are much better at some of the things we are currently trying to do via email, and this is explored in the article.

I particularly like this paragraph:

In the years Microsoft was adding more buttons to the [Outlook] toolbar, they should have invested more on the core innovation around email and productivity. Wiring in NLP and semantics to extract things like People, Events and Places would be a good start. Designing emails around use cases like "this is a meeting, this is a project, this is a friend" would go a long way towards helping avoid the Inbox clutter.


Dear Mr Architect

Please design and build me a house. I am not quite sure of what I need, so you should use your discretion.

My house should have between two and forty-five bedrooms. Just make sure the plans are such that the bedrooms can be easily added or deleted. When you bring the blueprints to me, I will make the final decision of what I want. Also, bring me the cost breakdowns for each configuration so that I can arbitrarily pick one at a later time.

Keep in mind that the house I ultimately choose must cost less than the one I am currently living in. Make sure, however, that you correct all the deficiencies that exist in my current house (the floor of my kitchen vibrates when I walk across it, and the walls don't have nearly enough insulation in them).

As you design, also keep in mind that I want to keep yearly maintenance costs as low as possible. This should mean the incorporation of extra-cost features like aluminum, vinyl, or composite siding. (If you choose not to specify aluminum, be prepared to explain your decision in detail.)

Please take care that modern design practices and the latest materials are used in construction of the house, as I want it to be a showplace for the most up-to-date ideas and methods. Be alerted, however, that kitchen should be designed to accommodate (among other things) my 1952 Gibson refrigerator.

To assure that you are building the correct house for our entire family, you will need to contact each of my children, and also our in-laws. My mother-in-law will have very strong feelings about how the house should be designed, since she visits us at least once a year. Make sure that you weigh all of these options carefully and come to the right decision. I, however, retain the right to overrule any decisions that you make.

Please don't bother me with small details right now. Your job is to develop the overall plans for the house and get the big picture. At this time, for example, it is not appropriate to be choosing the color of the carpeting. However, keep in mind that my wife likes blue.

Also, do not worry at this time about acquiring the resources to build the house itself. Your first priority is to develop detailed plans and specifications. Once I approve these plans, however, I would expect the house to be under roof within 48 hours.

While you are designing this house specifically for me, keep in mind that sooner or later I will have to sell it to someone else. It therefore should have appeal to a wide variety of potential buyers. Please make sure before you finalize the plans that there is a consensus of the potential homebuyers in my area that they like the features this house has.

I advise you to run up and look at the house my neighbor build last year, as we like it a great deal. It has many things that we feel we also need in our new home, particularly the 75-foot swimming pool. With careful engineering, I believe that you can design this into our new house without impacting the construction cost.

Please prepare a complete set of blueprints. It is not necessary at this time to do the real design, since they will be used only for construction bids. Be advised, however, that you will be held accountable for any increase of construction costs as a result of later design changes.

You must be thrilled to be working on as an interesting project as this! To be able to use the latest techniques and materials and to be given such freedom in your designs is something that can't happen very often. Contact me as soon as possible with your ideas and completed plans.

PS: My wife has just told me that she disagrees with many of the instructions I've given you in this letter. As architect, it is your responsibility to resolve these differences. I have tried in the past and have been unable to accomplish this. If you can't handle this responsibility, I will have to find another architect.

PPS: Perhaps what I need is not a house at all, but a travel trailer. Please advise me as soon as possible if this is the case.

Kindest Regards.

received by email, author unknown


Rowing Across the Pacific

Roz Savage is rowing solo across the Pacific Ocean, having previously rowed solo across the Atlantic. I'm following her progress on her Twitter, her blog and her podcast. On her blog there's also a link to a 'marine tracker' showing her progress.

I find her courage in taking on this challenge, and her focus of rowing hour after hour, day after day, truly inspiring - especially on days when my own work becomes tedious.

Sometimes you just have to knuckle down and get on with it in order to 'effectuate' (get things done).


Working with People You Can't Be With

My friend Michael Sampson is now publishing a weekly email newsletter "Working with People You Can't Be With" to supplement his online writing. I encourage you to subscribe.


Working Apart

In an interesting coincidence last week I read three articles on a topic which is of interest to me --- working apart from your colleagues.

This could be working from home, telecommuting, being part of a team from one organisation but based in different offices, or being part of a team from multiple organisations working on a common project.

Michael Sampson continued his "A-Z of Virtual Teams" series by adding "V is Visiting Team Members" ... "If you are working with others for a long period of time, say over 6 months, and the work is intensive (you are putting in at least 50% of your time on the project), make it a business priority to go and be part of their work and life for a week or so. See what the world is like for them." ... Michael goes on to suggest alternate techniques when visiting isn't possible.

Then, Michael's daily update for 29-May summarised an article on News Channel 5 as "If you are going to work from home or be part of a virtual team, have a strategy to deal with loneliness. Some ideas: get the in-person contact from others (eg, not your work colleagues), go into the office now-and-then, and look to your family to provide the balance."

By way of contrast Jim Donovan wrote on The Myth of the Telecommuter ... "a myth popular [in the late 1990s] that cities were inefficient because of traffic, pollution, commuting time, etc. Telecommuting and teleconferencing from smaller centres was seen as the great future for clerical and knowledge-based workers. It was a naive idea even then. Yes, there are and will be some who can work truly location-independently, but the vast majority will still be most effective in coming together in one place ... my conclusion was that work in the future will not be much different from work in the past. Tools would change; speed, reach, mobility and connectedness would all increase, giving companies and workers greater freedom of where/when/how to work; but fundamentally, most people would still come together in cities, organisations and workplaces." ... he then analyses current trends in office space and communications and still concludes that "we may become more mobile and connected, but workplaces and cities will still be our primary places to do work."

I have experienced multiple modes of working apart.

In the late 1990s I worked remotely from the rest of my company who were all based in another city. Initially I worked from home but gave that up as it was too hard to separate work and home - at least it was, for me, at that time, with the layout of our home at that time. So, I rented an office near my home, and continued working remotely from my colleagues. However, I made a point of spending at least a week each month working out of our Auckland office.

For the past eight years I have worked as part of a national team (which I now also lead) with colleagues in Auckland and (more recently) Christchurch.

Nearly every project on which I now work involves people from multiple organisations coming together for a common purpose. There are always people from my company and the client, but often there are third party contributors too.

My experience affirms the need for the disciplines pointed out by Michael, while also affirming the insights offered by Jim.


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Mon-24-Nov-08: tidied up.
Mon-10-Nov-08: deleted the side bar and Policies page references to Labour's repugnant Electoral Finance Act now that the election is over, so it no longer applies to blogs like this one because I understand the regulated period has completed, and is soon to be repealed anyway (hopefully!).



I've been thinking a lot about Risk lately.

Increasingly I'm finding the word Risk is more emotive than helpful. This is the case particularly in my professional life, but I'm also finding it holds true in other spheres too.

I'm seeing more and more people, when they hear the word Risk, hear something akin to potential disaster. Events like the recent loss of seven lives in the outdoors simply contribute to this, and it spills into other areas of life too.

Whereas, Risk is simply uncertainty. And Risk Mitigation is simply planning the actions you will take to reduce that uncertainty to an acceptable level.

I'm finding that people understand it quicker if, in Risk discussions, we talk more about moving from uncertainty to certainty.

Professionally I'm currently involved in preparing for four projects - but we simply don't know enough yet to be certain as to the most appropriate approach, how long that might take, and the resources required. In other words there is uncertainty - or risk. None of these projects is potentially going to experience a disaster, but there is uncertainty.

In some cases organisations try to reduce uncertainty by issuing a Request for Proposal (RFP) detailing their requirements. However, my experience is that while RFPs can (sometimes!) be good at articulating functional requirements they are rarely, if ever, good at exposing the true current state, particularly in terms of stakeholder readiness. Accordingly, there is always significant uncertainty as to the appropriate project approach and resourcing required to increase stakeholder readiness to the level required to enable the functional change anticipated.

In the case of the projects I am currently preparing for we are not being subjected to an RFP process. But there is still uncertainty - so we are having to formulate approaches to reduce that uncertainty to a level acceptable to us and our clients.

A typical approach, which we are using in the current cases, is to use an initial scoping and planning phase to increase knowledge of the factors which are currently uncertain - thus reducing uncertainty (risk) to an acceptable level.

The key output of the scoping and planning phase will be the project management plan (project charter) outlining:

  • Scope and Solution
  • Activities, Estimates, Milestones and Deliverables
  • Resources, Project Organisation Structure and Responsibilities
  • Stakeholders and Communication Activity
  • Organisational Alignment Activity
  • Process Alignment Activity
  • Risk Management Plan
  • Assumptions, Constraints and Dependencies
  • Project Processes for Status Reporting, Change Control, Issues and Acceptance

What is your understanding of Risk?


about GavinKnight.com

I have been blogging here at GavinKnight.com since January 2007. I changed my blogging strategy at the beginning of 2008 and now target at least one substantive article per month per main topic. Previously my goal was to average at least one post per day, with at least one post per week per main topic.

I write here on four main topics: Politics, Christianity, Technology and Effectiveness; with a particular focus on New Zealand. Occasionally I also write on other topics, and from to time on family activities.

You can subscribe to receive GavinKnight.com articles by RSS or Email by following the links in the top right hand corner. Or you can simply visit me here on the web. I am also a frequent commenter on Twitter, and you can find all of my online activities at FriendFeed.

Most GavinKnight.com articles are tagged by topic. You can read just the posts for a particular topic via the tag cloud in the right hand column - which shows tags I have used at least 5 times. I have also provided an RSS feed and a daily Email subscription option for each main topic in the top right hand corner which you can use if you are interested in just one topic.

I have a growing interest in Effectiveness, particularly as represented by the David Allen's "Getting Things Done". These align with 'Effectuate'; a word I came across a couple years ago which neatly expresses my favoured approach to life - "to bring about, to effect". I am interested in this from a number of perspectives: personal effectiveness, team effectiveness and organisational effectiveness.

Professionally I part-own and lead the JD Edwards application services provided by Jireh Consulting Services. JDE is an Oracle Applications product. I am also a project manager through Jireh Consulting Services, and use this as an opportunity to express and develop my interest in effectiveness. I am also a business and personal leadership skills trainer and coach through Top Performers, and use this as an opportunity to express and develop my interest in developing people. You can connect with me professionally through LinkedIn.

Prior to moving into business consulting in 2000 I spent the 1990s as a chartered accountant for entrepreneurs, with an increasing focus on systems accounting.

My interest in writing about technology is more in terms of personal technology. I'm a bit of a geek when it comes to gadgets, and making them work. I'm also quite intrigued by Web 2.0, social media and new media.

I have been very happily married to Jill since 1990. We have a teenage daughter (Andrea) and a 'tweenage' son (Joel). We have a lot of fun enjoying each other, our extended family (most of whom live in Wellington), our church, our friends, our home, our city Wellington (where I have always lived) and travel - particularly around our country New Zealand.

We have been active members of our local church The Salvation Army Johnsonville since being part of the group which started it in the mid 1990s. I have served on our church leadership team since inception (apart from a medically induced sabbatical year in the late 1990s), and Jill is a Kid's Church leader. Previously we had been active at the SA Wellington South in Newtown where the Knight family has a long association, and my parents still go. Although I had been attending since birth, my faith didn't become personal until my late teens.

My interest in politics grows out of my interest in current affairs and the wider world, and is heavily influenced by my christian faith. I score centre (-0.12) and mildly libertarian (-2.05) on the Political Compass (take the test on Facebook). I generally feel more 'right' than 'left', so was a little surprised by that - but I probably came out more towards the centre due to my christianity induced feeling of responsibility for others, particularly the vulnerable. I am not currently a member of a political party.

I particularly enjoy the challenge of writing. Knowing that someone could be reading what I write helps crystallise my thoughts into something more coherent. I hope my writing is also useful to you, and perhaps entices you to think more deeply about the topics on which I write.

Update History:
Tue-17-Feb-09: edited to reflect the change in my blogging strategy
Sat-22-Nov-08: general tidy up
Sat-1-Nov-08: updated to reflect move to self-employment through Jireh Consulting Services and Top Performers
Sun-13-Jul-08: udited commentary on Effectuate to clarify it aligns with the Getting Things Done ideas of David Allen


A-Z of Virtual Teams

Michael Sampson is posting a series building up an insightful "A-Z of Virtual Teams"

"K is Keep the Sponsors Informed" resonates with me as it describes one of my key areas of focus as a project manager

for example: I never walk into a project steering committee and surprise them, particularly the project sponsor ... always lay the ground work before the meeting - if necessary by meeting one-on-one (by phone if not in person) ... it might take extra time but you are much more likely to actually get a decision - particularly one in your favour - out of that steering committee meeting if they have had time to think about the issue at hand before they come to the meeting ... that doesn't mean the meeting has to be a rubber stamp, it can still be a place of discussion and debate, but it is much more likely to be reasoned debate, and therefore the quality of decisions is likely to be higher

however, Michael, I suggest that your third group - and, depending on context, your second group - are usually better described as 'Stakeholders', not 'Sponsors'


Blogging, 2007

I started blogging here at GavinKnight.com in Jan-07 (now hosted by Google's Blogger service after starting blogging at Vox in Nov-06)

during 2007 I made 143 posts which is just short of an average of 12 per month ... even with a lull during Aug-Oct due to work commitments

I have over 20 RSS and Email subscribers

in the last month I have averaged 18 daily visitors

76% of my readers are in NZ, 17% in the USA and 6% in the UK

63% of my readers use Internet Explorer as their browser, 32% Firefox and 5% Safari

89% of my readers use Windows PCs, 9% Apple Mac and 2% Linux

39% of my readers come directly (by typing GavinKnight.com into their web browser - presumably this includes email links like the one in my personal email footer) ... 28% come from searches (98.7% use Google) ... the remainder come via links from other sites (most commonly from my regular comments on David Farrar's Kiwi Blog, from my friends Chad & Cindy Carlson's blog Friends list, from my friend Mike Zook's blog Friends list, via my Facebook profile, and via my Twitter profile)

Technorati: Authority = 8 and Rank = 962,510

Alexa: Traffic Rank = 5,461,033 and Links = 1

my Facebook friends also see my GavinKnight.com posts listed in Facebook

since Mar-07 I have also micro-blogged my less structured thoughts at Twitter with 109 'tweets' to 31-Dec

most of the statistical analysis above was provided by Google's Feedburner service

update (6-Jan-07): added browser statistics and Technorati & Alexa ratings


taking ownership of your results

Michael S Hyatt has written a powerful post on taking ownership of your results ... read the whole article, but here are some good quotes:

"what is it about your leadership that led to this outcome?"

"As long as the problem is ‘out there,’ you can’t fix it. You’re just a victim. I’m not trying to shame you. I am trying to empower you. You can’t change your results until you accept full responsibility for them."

"your behavior as a leader is 100 percent under your control"

"Imagine how different your family, church, company, or even country could be if everyone took personal responsibility for their outcomes. Perhaps Ghandi was thinking the same thing when he said, “We must be the change we wish to see in the world.”?

"So let me ask you, are you happy with the outcomes you are experiencing in your life and work? Where would you like to see change? What have you been blaming on other people or your circumstances. What is it about your leadership that is producing these outcomes?"

I would add that as well as applying to leadership of others, this also applies to self-leadership: you are accountable for you!


divert daily, withdraw weekly, abandon annually

was talking lately with a young couple who are wrestling with finding a new balance in a year of changes in their work, ministry and personal lives, so pointed them at Rick Warren's oft-quoted formula:

"If you want to last over the long haul of ministry, you have to learn how to recharge yourself spiritually, emotionally, physically, and mentally. Here’s an easy formula to remember: Divert daily, withdraw weekly, abandon annually. Know what relaxes you and what recharges you -- and do it."



I have been a consultant, of various forms, for most of my working life so I was quite challenged by this post from Chris Brogan quoting Geo

“a consultant gets paid and tells you what you want to hear, an insultant doesn’t get paid and tells you the truth”
hmmm, not sure about the "doesn't get paid bit!

but I can see where he's coming from when you read the full article

sometimes it takes courage and integrity to be at the tell them what they need to hear end of the spectrum rather than at the tell them what they want to hear end

it is particularly challenging when your client sponsor is paying you to say something to others in their business that the sponsor wants you to say, rather than what needs to be said ... or to facilitate a discussion/workshop/process to a particular pre-determined end rather than letting the discussion/workshop/process determine its own findings

hat tip Michael Sampson


remember names at meetings by making a map

I already do this sometimes in meetings where I need to know who said what, but haven't met all the participants prior to the meeting, so don't know their names too well, if at all

so, interesting to see it as an idea on 43folders.com

here's how I would express it:
[1] draw a simple layout of the meeting (usually around a table) in your personal meeting notes
[2] mark in the positions of the participants
[3] highlight your own position, and orient the layout so you can use it as a prompt during the meeting
[4] start taking names down as people are introduced (first name usually enough first up)
[5] add further detail later if it will be useful to you --- eg last name, role (in the context of the meeting), role (organisationally), distinguishing features (to prompt memory later), clothing, etc etc).

source: Merlin on 43folders.com, who sourced it from Adam

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