Jul 13, 2014

Book Review: The Fifth Discipline

This time I had in my reading list one of the business literature classics The Fifth Discipline: The Art & Practice of The Learning Organization by Peter Senge. It's a book that introduces systems thinking as we know it know.

Book is well written, but even more importantly the contents of it are really valuable. I had read about systems thinking before and I had been given so many recommendations about this book, that I had high hopes for the book. Luckily it matched my expectations.

The idea of the book is that organizations should become learning organizations to stay in business and have a good future. The book introduced a fresh way of seeing organizations as whole systems. It gives lot of value to personal development and human values ensuring that organizations learn to improve themselves in the long run.

Book introduces five disciplines of learning organization. Also it introduces eleven learning disabilities that prevents learning organizations to form. It has a lot good examples and it is easy to learn with this book.

I highly recommend this book to everyone working in organizations, small or big ones. So this would be a good book for almost anyone. It's a bit longish with over 400 pages. That's a pity, since it might scare few potential readers away from it.

It's great and important book. Many people have read it, but still only few organizations live to the values of the book. Learning needs understanding. Hopefully many more will read the book, understand the teachings and share the knowledge.

Written by +Henri Hämäläinen

Jul 6, 2014

Book Review: Agile Software Requirements

I did read this book a while ago, but I somehow had forgotten to review it. I recently took it from my bookshelf to check few things and decided to write a review about it.

First of all, I think the book title sucks. Dean Leffingwell's book is named Agile Software Requirements, but it is all about the Enterprise Agile model called Scaled Agile Framework (a.k.a. SAFe). I don't understand why that couldn't have been the title of the book also.

I have hands on experience about SAFe model, when it was invented (at least partly) at Nokia. I was heavily involved in taking it in to use in Multimedia area. I don't want to talk too much about SAFe model this time, I try to concentrate more on the book side. I have to say I'm not a huge fan of the SAFe model, but it does make many good points and definitely adds value to certain kind of organizations.

The book as such was a disappointment. It does have some good insights in many of the different chapters, but it is way too long. Everything about the book could have been said in around 200 pages. There is lot of repeating the same basic things in many different chapters.

Maybe it's just me getting bored, but I'm not sure if all Agile books need to repeat the how Scrum works and all the other basic things. I guess we could get over that part on the future books. I do realize those are easy to skip, but I don't easily skip chapters, because authors have wanted those to be there.

What I liked about the book was that it shows that software development affects to so many different parts of organization. There needs to be well planned mechanism to have proper amount of guidance to write the actual code.

For those who have no idea how to scale Agile software development to larger scale organizations, this might be a good book to read. It gives one view how scaling can be done, but it is too strict for my taste. I don't believe there to be one size fits all solution. I think I've heard Leffingwell to say the same thing, but the book forgets to tell about the other possibilities.

I'm not sure if I would actually recommend the book to anyone. Scaled Agile Framework is definitely worth of checking at, but you can get almost the same level understanding from the SAFe webpage. It didn't raise to be any of my favorite Agile books.

Written by +Henri Hämäläinen

Jun 14, 2014

Book Review: Be Iron Fit by Don Fink

For a long time I read triathlon training book to get some motivation to my training. The book I selected was Be Iron Fit, 2nd: Time-Efficient Training Secrets for Ultimate Fitness by Don Fink.

From the start of the book it became obvious, that this wasn't a deep dive to the training science, but more of a practical guide to the training while being busy. It did go through every aspect of triathlon from techniques to nutrition, but it kept all of those in a high level. At least compared to Joe Friel's approach.

At some point I was disappointed and thought that book doesn't have much to give to me. I'm quite good life organizer, so I've always found the time to train. This book heroes the people who have been able to make ironman even with very busy schedules. I do respect everyone who have done ironman, but I don't respect busy people. So book annoyed me quite often.

It still was enjoyable book. It reminded about the basics of triathlon training. It also did give some good time management tips. About actual training for triathlon, it didn't have that much to give. It was more like a long motivational speech, that you can make it if you just want it.

If you want easy book to read as a first triathlon training guide, this a proper book. If you've already familiar with basic training, then I recommend you select a different book to read.

Written by +Henri Hämäläinen

May 29, 2014

Why "how are you" is so difficult to Finns

I've worked almost ten years with UK and US people. I had heard about and experienced the "how are you" -culture few times, but properly I experienced it the first time when I started working with them and traveled there more. In the first years, I actually answered to the "How are you" question properly even to the cashiers and waitresses. I did tell about long travels, difficulties with time difference or what was actually ongoing on my mind. Then at some point I realized that they don't actually give a shit about how I am, but that's just their way of being polite.

In Finland, when someone asks "How are you", they actually mean it. Most of the times people genuinely want to know is everything OK and is there something new ongoing. World is slowly changing even in Finland,, but we've had the mentality to only talk when there's something to say. So the always coming "how are you" questions are quite strange.

I've learned a lot in my trips about the "how are you" culture, but even nowadays I'm confused in when the question comes from someone you know or even consider a friend. I'm not really sure if they actually want to know how I am or is just their way of saying hi.

In my recent London trip I again noticed myself actually answering to the "how are you" question with a proper answer at least twice. They were people who I hadn't seen for a while, but I considered as a work friends, people who might have actually cared about how I was doing. When I was answering to the question, I did notice from their body language that they were not actually expecting me to answer.

The whole "how are you" thing is just too difficult for Finns. I would encourage anyone working with Finns to skip the "How are you" part, if you don't actually mean it. We will not get offended, because we don't realize that's something one should do. Next time you meet a Finn, just say Hi.

Written by +Henri Hämäläinen

Apr 14, 2014

Disease of Being Busy

Increasing interest to movements like Downshifting, Slow Movement and Zen are clear indications, that people are starting to be fed up with their work and living in a busy world. There's too much work, studying, partying or whatever that makes people busy.

I've been lately visiting London and being busy and trying to be highly effective is visible there even in jogging. People run there really fast! I go for a jog there quite often and I'm always the slowest runner on the street. It shouldn't be because of my shape, since I should be in an OK shape with few triathlons done in the past years.

My personal learning from few years ago is that I'm most ineffective when I'm busy. When my calendar is full or I'm trying to tackle it all, that's the point I'm not getting much value done. I do run around doing things, but being busy and being effective are two totally different things. It's easy to be busy, and it's hard to be effective.

Once in a while I notice that I'm lacking time to do all the things I'm planning to. That's the point I get ineffective. I've got better to notice this in myself and I've learned to prioritize. I do have a mission statement written to myself and I like to read that one then, to remind myself about priorities in life and work. After reading those I do go through all my to be done things and always find something to set aside. There are always things you can leave undone and some things you can do later.

It takes courage to say no to someone. To say that I don't believe the thing you are asking from me is more important than the thing I'm working on. Specially when you have a supervisor who is asking. But this one skill, is one of the most important skill you will or will not learn during your career. The most effective people are the ones who can say no and have empty slots in their calendar.

There's also the other side of wanting to be busy. As young kids learn bad habits from older "cool kids", the same way newcomers in organizations learn to admire busyness from their more experienced peers. Being busy is disease in many of the organizations. Being busy is too often thought to be an indication of being important.

Being busy is always a selection. There might be days everyone needs to work in the busy mode, but that should be an exceptional state, not a standard way of working. Being busy is always a selection, always.

The reason why I'm worried about people being busy is that being busy affects to all of us. Busy people are unhappier and unhealthier. Organizations are less effective with busy people. It might sound an overstatement but we all lose money and affect each others happiness by being busy. We ruin our organizations and life environment with being busy. Being busy is a real disease.

I start to sound quite hippy saying all of these, but I can assure that I personal interest behind all of this: I really do hate busy unhappy people.

Written by +Henri Hämäläinen