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

Apr 4, 2014

Book Review: All The Devils are Here by McLean and Nocera

For some time I've wanted to understand more about the reasons of 2008 financial crisis. I did know the basics of the housing bubble, but not much more. That's the reason I got All the Devils are Here: The Hidden History of the Financial Crisis by Bethany McLean and Joe Nocera.

I was enthused to read the book. I had positive thoughts about the book and I really tried to like it. But I didn't. Book did explain why the crisis happened and introduced all the players who had played major role creating the housing bubble. The problem for me was, that the authors focused to people and companies so much that the actual problem was hidden behind all the blaming.

Authors Bethany McLean and Joe Nocera are both journalists and full time writers. This unfortunately shows in a bad way. The book would have worked in 40 separate articles, but it didn't work as long book. The full story wasn't well taken in to account with the separate twists to it.

I didn't like the blaming culture there was in the book. Most of the bankers and people mentioned in the book must have been money graving idiots, who made millions and millions with screwing others, but I don't still think blaming them gets us anywhere. This book wasn't only about blaming, it did discuss about the system a bit, but it focused too much on the individuals who had been creating the system.

I believe blaming culture actually creates the basis for the macho culture to exist. Then the macho culture creates these idiots who play the systems and create their own rules. So in a way I believe these kind of books doesn't solve the problem, but actually are part of the system that cause them.

Maybe it was my fault, that I didn't understand the book from the title. It really talks about the devils, not about global systems that created the devils. Still the book I would like to read, would search to understand the system. This wasn't the book I was hoping for.

I do believe there are people who like these kind of books. They are the people who like blaming others, I don't. I don't recommend this book to anyone. I didn't like it and I found it quite boring to read.

Written by +Henri Hämäläinen

Mar 9, 2014

Book Review: The New Jim Crow

Once in a while I try to find books from subjects I don't know about. This time I got my hands to very important book The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander. It's a book which reveals that racial discrimination still exists in US and it is almost comparable to the ages of slavery.

Book goes through the history of racism from early days of US to the latest moments with Barack Obama being the president. Book tells the story of Drug War and how it is actually a war against black people and not that much about drugs.

Michelle Alexander is associate professor of law in Ohio and has been involved in many civil rights campaigns. She definitely has a good view on current justice system and knows what she is talking about.

I don't live in US, so I have an outside view to the country. It was shocking to read many fact about US. The amount of prisoners in US prisons is huge and the vast majority of those are black males. Also I was surprised to find out that prisoners can't vote and how huge sentences you can get from minor drug possessions. As an example in Finland (where I live) we have 10-times less people in prisons when equalized to the amount of people overall. Also in Finland everyone has the right to vote, even prisoners.

As this is a review of the book, I don't want to dig too much into my own views about the subject. What is certain is that this book will definitely raise questions and thoughts. The subject isn't that close to me, I'm a white person living outside US, but still I found it important and interesting. It feels that I'm telling about subject, that I shouldn't be criticizing or supporting, since I'm not involved. I do want to support human rights everywhere, so I encourage people to read the book.

Book was well written and had lot of quotations and supporting material included. Even so, that it became bit cumbersome to read. That's my critic for the book. With better editing, I believe book could have been made easier to read and understand. The current editing will turn down some of the readers who should read this book.

Hopefully the issue behind the book will be raised to the attention it needs soon. Also I hope people will read this book and talk about these issues. Racial discrimination is far from over. It needs attention. This book will help to understand how it is happening.

Written by +Henri Hämäläinen

Feb 24, 2014

Book Review: The Essential Deming: Leadership Principles from the Father of Quality

This time I got my hands on the book The Essential Deming: Leadership Principles from the Father of Quality. I have to admit that I wasn't really excited to read the book. Demings thoughts have been coming up from so many different directions, that I wanted to give him a shot. I'm glad I did, his thoughts were marvelous.

This book isn't really a book and neither it is written by Deming. This book is a collection of Demings writings, personal notes and speeches from throughout his career. It goes through all the main thought Deming was talking about in his books and his teachings. It tells those in a bit shorter format, but I think it was enough for me.

The book goes quite far back to 1950's and 1960's in telling what has been the problems with companies back then. Strangely the problems haven't really changed that much from those years. Of course many aspects have changed, but the underlying problems are the same. Also many of the solution proposals hopefully suit to current organizations as well.

I mark to books pages I will come back later for reference or future investigation. From the books I've read this might have had most markings done by me. There were quite a few good thoughts and sentences that will come handy in the future.

I have to admit that Demings thought were not totally strange to me. I've read those from multiple sources beforehand, but this was the first time I read his own words. That might have helped me a bit on understanding this book. It's not difficult book to read, but it needs some thinking to understand.

It was an excellent book and I enjoyed it. Even though it's old, thoughts are valid and valuable. This is a book which many if not all the the people who care about their organizations improvement should read.

Written by +Henri Hämäläinen

Feb 18, 2014

Separate Testing is Waste

Thinking very Lean, testing is waste. Testing takes time and doesn't bring any value to the customer. Most of the it only provides information, that product works as expected. Only time testing brings value to the customer is when errors are found.

Testing is seen as an important activity. There is lot of focus on improving testing and the coverage of testing. More and more people are working testing products and creating test cases. These activities, do improve the product quality a bit, but it isn't really a way forward.

Testing is a wide subject, and I'm talking especially on the cases were testing and product creation are seen as separate activities. There might even be separate test teams and separate product teams. Product teams do test to some extend, but the main responsibilities are given to test team. This is the big problem of testing. Separate testing should only be about knowing the risk level of releasing, not about increasing the product quality.

The aim should be to decrease the amount of testing and increasing the the product quality during the product creation. In the long run, the thing that matters is the product creation quality, not testing quality. Of course some of the product creation quality comes from testing, but this is not separate testing, but assuring the quality while creating something.

I don't believe any organization can get rid of testing. Some amount of testing is always necessary to know the risk level of releasing. Amount of testing needed should be analyzed thinking the costs and effects of fault in product release. In some businesses fault could mean bankrupt, in others, few annoyed customers. This analysis should tell the amount and scope of needed separate testing.

Testing and product creation should work together to ensure quality of the product. Organizations need to learn to build good quality products from the start. Every error should be analyzed and corrective actions should be made. Unfortunately this is utopia in most of the companies. Errors found in testing are seen as normal way to ensure quality. In the long run this will start hurting organizations and cause more and more errors.

The only way forward, is for management to start taking errors seriously. Especially having an eye on why the errors have been introduced in the first place, not why the errors were not caught in testing. Blame is often put to testing, even though it's an activity that shouldn't be done separately at all.

Written by +Henri Hämäläinen