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Rev: 01 Feb 2003.
A set of notes about books I've read that are applicable to managing and leveraging
technology innovations. I use AvantGo to store these on my Palm.
See also CSD Problem Solving.
Sutherland and others
- Examine the symmetry of the problem, and you may find the symmetry of the solution.
- Build a taxonomy of the problem and you may discover new combinations to explain
- divide problem into features
- make a each feature a dimension or axis
- organize dimensions into triplets (vary the triplets)
- each triplet forms a box: explore the box
- Identify categories of the problem -- explore the inverse.
- Attach the most generic and expansive version first .. A simpler version ... A
special case ...
- Describe the problem aloud to another person
- Read papers, attend lectures on unrelated subjects.
- Sleep, exercise.
(from a review in the Economist, 1999)
- irrational aversion to regret
- cognitive dissonance: belief clearly contradicted by evidence, usually longheld
- anchoring: external suggestions have inappropriate influence
- status quo bias: bigger gambles to maintain status quo than to acheive it in the first
- compartmentalise: tend to limit choices by premature assignment to a category often with
- overconfidence in one's answers
- representativeness heuristic: treat events as representative of some well known class in
the absence of sufficient data. Tendency to see patterns when none exist.
- availability heuristic: focus excessive attention on details that are close to hand,
rather than on the big picture
- magical thinking: attributing to one's own actions something that had nothing to do with
- quasi-magical thinking: behaving as if one believes ones thoughts can influence events,
even when one knows they can't
- hindsight bias: once something happens, overestimate ability to predict it
- memory bias: tendency to falsely think one has predicted things that happened
- emotional bias: cutting off the nose to spite the face
From cognition studies ..
- ignore facial expressions (unless speaker is unobserved)
- hand gestures, picking, fidgeting
- blink rate and pupil size (both increase)
- increased hesitancy, shorter answers, delays in speech and answer, increased pitch
- increased time to plan response
- increased use of negative statement formulations
Deceiving (how to fake sincerity)
- direct gaze
- stable frontal posture
- speak promptly and answer questions promptly
- avoid "mystifying" speech such as passive corrections and diffused
Clayton M. Christensen, The Innovator's
Dilemma, June 1997. Harvard Business School Press; ISBN: 0875845851
(Need to locate my notes)
Dietrich Dorner, Rita Kimber (Translator), Robert Kimber (Translator), The
Logic of Failure: Recognizing and Avoiding Error in Complex Situations. September
1997, Perseus Pr; ISBN: 0201479486
(Need to locate my notes)
Ellen J. Langer, Mindfulness
April 1990, Perseus Pr; ISBN: 0201523418
- avoid entrapment by category (a door vs. a 3'x7' stretcher)
- beware automatic cognitive behaviors
- avoid premature cognitive commitment -- choosing the wrong context for a problem (=
- identify categories, then try changing them (congenital, traumatic ...)
- look for automatic behaviors and attempt the inverse
- identify and vary operative perspective/context
- vary assumptions (trite)
Some from: How to Become CEO: The Rules for Rising to the Top of Any
Organization by Jeffrey J. Fox 1 Ed edition (October 1998) Hyperion Press; ISBN:
0786864370. Others are diverse sources, including Scott Adams.
- It is very hard to solve the unidentified problem.
- A good solution to the wrong problem may be worse than no solution for the right
- Scott Adams has a point. In a large corporation ideas can be threatening. If they are
good ideas they bring change, and change will help some and hurt others. If they are bad
ideas they waste resources. It is unwise for someone who lives by creating things and
ideas to linger long in a large corporation, unless they work in R&D.
- Stay visible. The worst thing someone can do is to be invisible. Do presentations, go to
meetings. Be known. Feed the network.
- If you find yourself left out of the "in-crowd" working with your boss, and
you don't know why, then you need to find a new boss as gracefully as possible. The
likelihood of this being corrected is low.
- In the modern corporation performance reviews are of limited use. A negative or neutral
review means that you have already been terminated. A positive or strongly positive review
may be good news, or it may mean nothing. In the absence of hard evidence of approval,
assume that your position is highly vulnerable. Hard evidence of approval includes:
- Significant wage increases (eg. not the 3-5% increases associated with a good
- Large stock option grants (beyond the good performance review).
- Increasingly important assignments where failure will harm the company, together with a
willingness to offload less "critical" tasks to other persons. (Caveat:
employers may judge tasks you consider critical as non-critical; this is an ominous sign.)
- A well placed office.
- Know your Myers-Briggs
personality type, and its associated strengths and weaknesses. Know or estimate the
types of the persons you meet with or work with. As a first approximation, use these types
to guide interactions. Eg. If dealing with pragmatic, detailed thinkers, then limit ideas
and stay on track. Provide an outline and key milestones, then let detail/focused/sensory
persons fill in the steps. If you are a 'big picture'/innovator/inventor, then use
pragmatists to stay on track.
- Very few people are comfortable with debate, or are able to change their thinking. If
you disagree with someone it is generally safer to be noncommital. If that someone is a
manager, and you believe they are making an important error that cannot be ameliorated or
averted, then look for another job.
- Frequent and arduous business travel is a peculiar American passion. It is where
networks are created and future business relationships nurtured.
- MARTIN M LOMASNEY "Never write if you can speak; never speak if you can nod; never
nod if you can wink."
Michael Hammer and James Champy, Reengineering
The Corporation: A Manifesto for Business Revolution. Harper Collins 1993.
I wrote up these notes when I was reading Hammer and Champy's book. They're reprinted
here for public use. The notes are my own, and may bear no resemblance to the book. My
comments are in italics, they focus on primary care. Hammer and Champy's ideas are not all
original, and many people (myself included) disagree with their analysis of the costs and
benefits of their particular approach to reengineering. Indeed, since I put these notes
together (1996) reengineering has fallen from grace. I still think there's something to it
Key Characteristics of Reengineering
- processes: process oriented (most important component
- When I read this book, I felt that the "technocentric" reorganization of
work was common to all of their successful examples. That is, changing work to organize it
around inflexible but powerful technologies. It is an unfortunate truth that we humans are
far more flexible than our technologies. Change for us is painful, but it is possible if
the rewards are sufficient.
Themes for Reengineering
- process orientation
- creative use of information technology: IT enables change
Characteristics of Reengineered Business Processes
- several jobs combined into one
- workers make decisions
- the steps in the process are performed in a natural order
- processes have multiple versions
- work is performed where it makes the most sense
- checks and controls are reduced
- reconciliation is minimized: reduce "accounting" procedures.
- a case manager provides a single point of contact. example: the primary care physician
- hybrid/centralized operations are prevalent. (I'm not really convinced by their
arguments for this point.)
Characteristics of the Reengineered Workplace
- work units change from functional deparments (gastroenterology) to process teams (family
- jobs change, from simple tasks to multidimensional work (a professional)
- roles change: "empowerment". and, inevitably, power shifts, ergo
- job preparation changes: from training to education.
- focus of performance measures and compensation shift from activity to results (what if
the results are very hard to measure?)
- advancement criteria change -- from performance to ability. (How does one measure
"ability"in clinical practice? By board scores? I don't think so ... By
- values change -- from protective to productive.
- organizational structures change -- from hierarchical to flat (Here again I'm not
sure how well this applies to all settings, or how fundamental this is to the
reengineering process. Does "equal" mean equally replaceable?)
- executives change -- froms scorekeepers to leaders
Approaching a Reengineering Project
- Identify problem processes, other problems, challenges, puzzles (use standard systems
analysis techniques). Look for known broken processes or symptoms of broken processes
- data redundancy, rekeying, extensive information exchange
- inventory, buffers, system slack
- high ratio of checking-control to value added
- rework and iteration
- complexity, accretions, special cases
- identify/note technologies: computers, systems
- apply "inductive thinking"
- recognize a "solution" (computer/systems technology) and seek the problem it
- identify longstanding "rules" or limitations that a new technology can now
- want to keep up on latest technologies, and evaluate opportunities. This is what has
been long criticized as a solution in search of a problem!
- start with feasible projects
- Benchmark from the world's best, not the industry's best.
- Most companies have ten or so principal processes.
- Begin by understanding what the processes's customer does with the process output. What
are the customer's real requirements? How does this compare to their self-identified
- Learn the what and why rather than the how. The how will change.
How to Fail at Reengineering: Common Mistakes
- Try to fix a process rather than change it.
- Don't focus on business process.
- Ignore everything except process redesign.
- Neglect people's values and beliefs.
- Be willing to settle for minor results
- Quit too early.
- Place prior constraints on the definition of the problem and the scope of the
- Allow existing corporate cultures and management attitudes to prevent reengineering from
- Try to make reengineering happen from the bottom up -- without strong top-level support.
- Assign someone who doesn't understand reengineering to lead the effort.
- Skimp on the resources devoted to reengineering.
- Bury reeningeering in the middle of the corporate agenda.
- Dissipate energy across many reengineering projects.
- Atttempt to reengineer when the CEO is two years from retirement.
- Fail to distinguish reengineering from other business improvement programs.
- Concentrate exclusively on design.
- Try to make reengineering happen without making anyone unhappy. (I think they could
have said more here about identifying winners/losers and considering compensation for
- Pull back when people resist making reengineering's changes.
- Drag the effort out.
to make meetings work, Doyle and Straus, the new interaction method.
This book was written in 1976, which is why it has some anachronistic comments:
typewriter instead of laptop, polaroid instead of digital photograph, secretaries
including individual! secretaries , Japan as a shining example, etc. All the same,
people who do well at meetings work something like this book advises.
- General rules
- Separate Content (what - problem, topic, agenda) from Process (how -
approach, method procedure)
- group must agree on common problem and common process
- Every meeting (>4-5) needs a traffic cop
- ensure open and balanced conversation
- protect individuals from personal attach
- Every participant should have one role (observer, contributor, traffic cop)
- it is very hard for most people to both manage a meeting AND be a major
- if people change roles, they often must do so formallly
And it usually STILL doesn't work.
- Essential roles
- first agenda item is a good way to setup the facilitator role and the meeting
- encourage agreement on content (agenda item) and process (how to deal with
- let group build the agenda, don't overspecify
- keep reins loose at first
- support the recorder
- special techniques
- allow silence
- refer to group memory (record)
- talk little
- be positive and encouraging
- if there's any mirror surface, watch how you look
- clearly legible record of key ideas on large sheets of paper
about the room
- support the facilitator
- if want to contribute ideas
The authors imply the recorder can't really say very much and that it's effectively the
most "junior" role. So it's not a great role for someone who's supposed to be
coming up with a lot of content!
- formally take off "recorder hat"
- if need to distribute a record of discussions
jf: Assemble digital photos of paper sheets into PDF document, distribute PDF or print
(use 4-up if available on a high resolution printer)
- set ground rules and constraints
- define objectives and goals
these may be redefined however
- manager decides if consensus cannot be reached
since manager is part of consensus, they can always get their way, but obviously this is a
- delegate meeting setup and followup to staff
- develop process and content agenda
circulate agenda at least one day in advance
- attendees and role assignments▀
- decide meeting type
- group member
- record ideas without credit
give group ownership
- define constraints
- global techniques
See also cognitive science notes.
- avoid arguing for one's own views
but do try to argue for other's views, especially if you don't agree with them
- when stalemate occurs, look for next most acceptable alternative
- be suspicious of quick agreement
- avoid conflict-reducing techniques (vote, coin toss, etc)
strive for group agreement
- Task Forces
- someone must accurately represent every point of view
- if consensus cannot be reached then produce summary document
- problem definition
- alternatives (with advantages and disadvantages)
- majority and minority position statement (option)
- Meeting Types
- reporting and presenting
- Meeting types by size
- pass around facilitator hat
- pass around recorder role and use a facilitator/recorder
- as approach 6-7 participants formalize roles
allegedly the ideal size for problem-solving, decision making
- allocate facilitator and recorder
- too large for most useful meetings
- usually must break-up into subgroups
beyond scope of this book
- Generating Alternatives (problem solving techniques)
some of these are my own notes
- state the problem as a question, avoid yes/no formulation
- lasso for definitions
- write out problem
- circle key terms and ask for definition
- is/is not
- list facts that are true about the problem
- list facts that are not true
- break down into sub problems
- shift from top-down to bottom-up analysis
when get stuck in one direction, change to another
- identify the general class of problem or a similar problem in a different
humans seem to have special "affordances" or cognitive techniques for solving
problems that are expressable as social interactions
- ask what others have done
lots of ideas, no criticism
- get set: extra recorders, audio recordings
- set time limit (next 7 minutes ...)
- set objective (75 ideas)
- energize the group, watch body language
- leader remains neutral
- help recorder
- encourage, compliment, have ways ready to change parameters, stimulate more
- make a clean ending
- force-field analysis
- visualize boundary between sustaining forces (stop problem from worsening)
and restraining forces (stop it from getting better)
- balance premature evaluation of ideas and premature fixation (commitment)
- if a solution seems to be widely accepted suggest everyone join in attacking
it to see how well it stands up
- checkerboard approach or morphological analysis
- identify two axis (functionality vs. components, products vs. sales, services
- cells (intersections of row and column) are design possibilities
- cutting and moving around
especially useful for sorting and sequencing problems
- write down names of entities on cardboard
- Explicit criteria and alternatives are expressed and rearranged iteratively
- Generating criteria is similar to generating problem solutions
- Criteria matrix
- alternatives vs. criteria
- assign y/n or scale to each cell
- rank for preference
voting is ok here
- sort by category
group first then evaluate
- list advantages and disadvantages
- what i like ...
helps avoid fixed positions, esp if done by someone without ownership of idea
- Decision Making
- Is there anyone who "can't live with ..."
- identify major objections
- look for sub-areas of consensus and variations
- Straw voting
- executive decision
- list activities, establish precendence network, critical path, dependencies
- work backwards
- goals and objectives/milestones
- 18 steps to a better meeting
- who, what, where, when, why, how many
- send out agenda
- arrive early
- Beginning of meeting
this is a very social time, and very important. often need to relax, get warmed up, humor,
socialize, thank participants
- start on time
- introductions, set expectations
- define roles (facilitator, etc)
- revise, review, order agenda
- set time limits
- review action items from prior meeting
- During the meeting
- focus on the same problem in the same way at the same time
I'm not sure this is so critical, but that's what the book says!
- End of the meeting
- establish action items: who, what, when
- review group memory (documentation)
- next meeting time, date, prelim agenda
- evaluate meeting
- compliment and thank participants
- After meeting
- prepare group memo
- follow-up on action items
- plan next meeting
Harry Beckwith, Selling
the Invisible - A Field Guide to Modern Marketing 1997.
Notes on selling non-material items (services, information, software)
- first impressions stick
- build a brand and stay focused
- keep the message simple
- set price "high"; stop when 25% of customers object
- identify weaknesses, turn weaknesses into strengths
- customers cannot judge quality: they focus on surrogates: dress, stationery, business
cards, phone messages, voice mail, web page
- print and use custom thank you notes
- pay for a 3rd party survey of one's customers
- advertise extensively
- have a private mission statement
- positioning (turning weakness into strength): create both desired and true position
- exploit any Halo effect
- Don't do anything today that can be put off until 5 minutes before the deadline.
- Keep a clean desk. (Taught by counter-example)
- When skating in a bad part of town, have a slower friend in orange shorts behind you.
- If you want to make people talk (sweat), say nothing.
- You can wear anything with a good jacket and shoes.
- Meetings are for schmoozing, not sitting.
- Be careful who you clobber on the basketball court -- they might be faculty.
- When someone says "no, no, no, never, absolutely not" they mean
- You can get a lot of forgiveness with a warm apology.
- Don't forget your friends.
Published @ 1916 by Funk and Wagnalls, I have several of these books. They are
'self-help' books with a peculiar 19th century Victorian flavor; today they read like
friendly advice from a US Marine's drill seargent. If you weary of sensitive, inclusive,
and gentle approaches to self-improvement, these books are refreshingly different. I
include them here just because of their historical novelty.
The most interesting are written by Yoritomo-Tashi, a 19th century 'philosopher' with a
military background and an interest in self-improvement. The preface claims that in 1914
or so his writings were preserved in an obscure museum in then provincial Japan. The best
known of the series is Timidity and How to Overcome It, Funk and Wagnalls, 1916.
Translated by Mary W. Artois.
- April 2001: updated with additional resource notes
- Mar 5, 2000: found my cognition notes and added them.
- Jan 29, 2000: moved to new format, included other texts.
- 1996: initial version - notes on reengineering
Author: John G. Faughnan.
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