Jul 28, 2015

Book Review: Practicing the Power of Now

Practicing the Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle is a self help book about being present and not letting the past or future create any pain to you. Eckhart Tolle introduces himself as a spiritual teacher without any specific religion or ideology behind him. His message is quite simple: be present at the moment and feel yourself and you will free yourself of pain that your mind is causing.

I both hated and loved the book. I believe, in the being in the moment and accepting what life offers, kind of thinking. Then on the other hand Mr. Tolle takes his toughs sometimes to the levels that are out of my thinking and my ideology. If I understood him right, he says we should forget the past and the future and only live in the moment. In my thinking, your past defines you, relationships with people always have a past, learning is relies to the past and part of our happiness comes from the past.

What I think is really valuable in the book is the idea of feeling yourself and not letting your own history define you too much. You should always be open to people and really feel what you are feeling and not what you think you should feel.

The book as such isn't long, it's quite short to be exact, but still I believe it could have been even shorter. The idea is such a simple that it could have been told even in bit less pages.

I'm glad I read the book, but I think there are better books about being present and mindfulness. If you've already read couple of similar books, this could be good addition to the group, but if you haven't read one of these before, select something else to start with.

Written by +Henri Hämäläinen

Jul 26, 2015

Book Review: #Workout by Jurgen Appelo

I'm a bit ashamed of myself. I've owned #Workout: Games, Tools & Practices to Engage People, Improve Work, and Delight Clients by Jurgen Appelo for already half a year and now I finally was able to finish the book. Book is a real gem and I will definitely be using it regularly for my work.

I actually had met Jurgen Appelo years ago in Finnish agile event before he had written any books. From those days onward I've been reading his interesting thoughts from his blog and his books. This book I bought directly from him in Dare Festival last fall. So I could say I'm a fan.

I believe he is one the leading management thinkers in the world right now. What I especially like is the realism in his thoughts. There are so many people who are much too idealistic about different practices that they seem to forget the laws of business, that relies behind it all. Jurgen seems to always remember the reality in his thoughts.

The book itself is really valuable from cover to cover. For myself there were quire many things I've either run into in other sources or read from Jurgen himself earlier, but it is always valuable to get good recap on things.

Book is quite long and thick, it is over 500 pages. That made it bit scary to start with. Fortunately it is filled with colorful illustrations and good examples. So it isn't that long to read as it seems to be. And like said earlier, the whole book is full of important topics, so I recommend to give it a try.

There are too many important topics in the book to start raising any special ones tot the actual review. All the subjects concentrate on improving workplaces and organizations. It talks lot about management, but management doesn't mean actually supervisor management, but more managing ourselves, our peers and the full organization.

It is important and enjoyable book and highly recommend everyone to read it. Hearing and understanding these ideas will eventually lead in to better organizations and better work places.

Written by +Henri Hämäläinen

Jun 30, 2015

Book Review: Ghost in the Wires by Kevin Mitnick

For once I read something else than work, sports or self development books. I wanted to read something entertaining, fact based and hopefully interesting. I got my hands to Ghost in the Wires by Kevin Mitnick.

Kevin Mitnick is a hacker who for a reason or another became one of the most wanted hackers in the world. He claims that he hasn't done many of the things he was accused on, but I guess that's what he has to say to avoid further jail time.

Book definitely was interesting. It starts from the days that calling was actually done by wired telephones. Kevin learned to control the technical environment quite early, but I guess his social hacking skills helped him to raise to the whole new level. It was amazing to read how easy social hacking had been and I believe it might still be in some occasions. People are helpful by nature and that security vulnerability Kevin shamelessly used to exploit to many companies networks. Of course social hacking needs superb technical skills to complete the hackings.

For a trusty person as myself, I still feel bit disturbed by the book. Kevin of course brings himself up as good guy with noble purposes, but I'm not sure how noble he really is (or at least was). As a trusty person again, I would like to believe him, but I haven't heard the story from the other side.

At least how he was handled in the US court system was unbelievable. He was handled similarly as a serial killers, or even worse, almost without decent ways to communicate to outside world. He would have earned a better trial, but hacking was so new on that time, that caused some of the mix-ups.

All in all, I definitely got what I wanted. Book was really interesting and even though it was bit longish, it went really rapidly. I recommend the book to any one interested about hacking, security or history of IT and SW.

Written by +Henri Hämäläinen

Apr 6, 2015

Book Review: Peopleware: Productive Projects and Teams

I almost feel ashamed that I had missed this book for so long. Peopleware (3rd ed.) from Tom DeMarco and Timothy Lister is a book about soft side of product development and creative work overall. It goes through using many studies and examples why it is so important to take good care on people.

Book explains Human Resources, office environment, recruitment, growing productive teams, taking care of people and most importantly having fun at work. It's impossible to highlight all the important things they raise in the book, because there are so many. The main message is that people are the most important asset of many companies and too often people are not given good enough support and office spaces to get all the benefits from them.

I especially liked the office environment part. I've worked and seen so many bad offices where there are too much noise, too little light, too many interruptions and inadequate space and time for getting to the flow state. Most often there are stupid policies that prevent on creating workplaces that would actually suit to the needs of the workers. And then in worst cases there are some guys proud of saving money on small office. That's just sad.

But the book is not only about working environment. It discusses lot about teams and how to form great teams and what are the common ways to ruin good teams. Team development is something I've been interested for a long time, but still they were able to provide good new information and ideas to myself.

I honestly am bit ashamed that I didn't read the book earlier. When reading books, I always mark down parts that I will come back later and this book got most markings ever. It's a great great book and even really easy and fun to read.

This book is a gem and every manager and knowledge worker should read this. It gives lot of ideas and background information for building better teams and workplaces. I highly recommend this book.

Written by +Henri Hämäläinen

Mar 17, 2015

Role of the line management in the future - is there one?

Line management has a long history and quite often a special place in organizations. Line manager position have been something people are going after. Things have been changing, role of line management has been fading and even in some case going away. Still all organizations have some kind of line management. There's someone in every organization who is the boss.

Role of the line management in the future organizations is a difficult question. In one hand line management has it's role of bringing comfort and safety for the people, but then on the other hand it can slow down work, create competing priorities and even demotivate people. Especially difficult it is when line management has ties with operational responsibilities and company size grows over one team doing it all mentality.

In the past line management have had lot of operational responsibilities. Line manager used to be responsible that his or her people did their jobs properly. Also line managers did have content and operational responsibilities. They had to make sure right things were done and also in the right ways. That still seems quite natural, it's quite hard to guide if they can't also affect on the work their people are doing.

Then line managers started to get more and more responsibilities of the soft side of people. How people are doing? How they are developing themselves? And what worries they have? At that time there started to come more operational and content related guidance from other sources and line management didn't have that much to say about the content their people were working with.

Nowadays line management in many occasions have become almost totally HR function. Line managers arrange the one to one discussions with people, focusing on personal development and in some companies also to set targets.

Future of line management

Do we really need line management in the future organizations? What if we wouldn't have line management at all. No one couldn't tell people what to do and people would need to figure out themselves. I bet this would work in many cases. There are even examples of self guiding organizations, where people just make things happen. No guidance needed.

This sounds like an optimal approach. No one would have boss whom they would need to report to and no one would ever come to say what to do. Even though it feels like an utopia I believe organizations could work without any line management. From content point of view I don't believe people need to be told what to do, they can figure things out themselves.

So is there anything line management is still needed then? I can see two important points. First people need safety. People need to have someone they can count on in case there is something they can't figure out themselves. Things like this can be about company functions as pay or healthcare or then about how people behave. Once in a while there are misconducts and then it is important that there is line manager to help.

Second important point is personal development. It's rare that people would be that good on analyzing their own competences and the improvement needs that they wouldn't benefit from having a good teacher or coach to help them. This is what line management has a proper place in organizations. Line managers can help with competencies and guide and push people to develop their competence to right direction. They can also work as enablers to get training, coaching and peer learning from other people.

Both of these activities, safety and competence development doesn't actually need people to be bosses. The people responsible for these in organizations do need to have certain authority to do these jobs well, but they don't need to be supervisors in the old sense. I believe role of line management can actually be a service in the future. Many aspect of line management already are handled as a service, but maybe all of it could be.

So do people really need just one supervisor to help them. Why they couldn't have a small group of them working as a service guiding and helping people on in all the necessary ways. Somehow I feel this change wouldn't actually be that big to the ways many companies are already working. The change would be mainly mental. Line manager wouldn't mean your boss anymore, it would almost mean that you would be the boss and line manager would be the servant.

Written by +Henri Hämäläinen