Author Archive

Leadership and Management Quotes

November 12th, 2015 No comments

I started reading a book titled: Leadership: Elevate Yourself and Those Around You – Influence, Business Skills, Coaching & Communication (Leader, Effective Teams, How to be a Leader, Teamwork, Public Speaking, Team Management) by Ross Elkins and bass on the first couple of chapters have led to this blog post.

Here are some quotes regarding Leadership:

A leader makes decisions and sets up goals, then he or she will lead his or her team members toward those goals. A leader has a group of followers. With collaboration, communication and trust, they stand united and face every challenge together to achieve their desired goals

Leadership can be defined as the process of influencing the behavior of one’s subordinates, without making them feel like they are working under a dictatorship

And some quotes regarding Management:

manager is someone who wants their employees to work for them. Managers have subordinates or employee

Managers have a position of authority vested in them by the company, and their employees work for them and largely do as they are told


I am still reading the rest of the book but wanted to share the quotes above.






Categories: Behavior, Leadership, Management, People, Quotes Tags:

Crisis: Chaos to Resolution

October 14th, 2015 No comments

SparkPilot_Chaos_OrderCrisis situations tend to be great breeding grounds for confusion and chaos. The good news is that it is fairly easy to stop this natural state. A Leader and a sound and tested crisis management plan.

In this post, I share a simple high-level methodology to handle a number of crisis situations. The model is pretty simple and consists of breaking the situation up into phases with distinct goals for each phase. In the real world, it is pretty common to have to go back to phases that were already completed as more information is found or especially when there are multiple issues. For each phase, there are two themes. Issue(s) and communication.

1. Identify

This is the first phase and marks the start of the crisis management effort. The first step is to do a quick triage and to determine what additional skills are needed. This initial scoping will enable the Incident Commander to determine who needs to be engaged to help isolate the issue further.

Now because the issue has been identified, it is easy to notify customers that there is a known issue and that the team is engaged.

2. Isolate

Based on experience, this is the step that requires the highest level of discipline because of the common behavior for folks to try and solve the issue(s) instead of trying to isolate the issue. It is important to isolate the issue to lay the groundwork in order to stop this issue from occurring in the future.

In this phase, the team needs to isolate the issue(s) down to the granular component(s) that is/are causing the issue(s). As more information is gathered, it enables the Incident Commander to engage or release the appropriate Subject Matter Experts (SME) on the team.

When it comes to customer communication, I prefer to communicate the actual current state until the issue(s) are isolated, even if it is not possible to provide an estimate on when the situation will be resolved. Therefore, when entering into the Isolate phase, I like to notify the customers that the team is engaged and starting to isolate the issue(s). As progress is made, provide progress updates to customers. However when progress is slow, switch to timed update methodology and provide customers with updates on a predetermined interval. There are pros & cons to each of these approaches and therefore you will need to select the mechanism that suits your business needs the best.

3. Restore

Now comes the steps to mitigate or restore the situation to “normal”. The million $ questions is what is normal? The definition of “normal” is best defined before the crisis and I prefer a checklist that can be used to determine if the situation has returned back to a fully functioning state.

Back to the customer communication, with the checklist, you can communicate to the customers that you are on step 3 of 9 or whatever the counts are. To get the durations of each step, this information should be collected during the test runs or other similar crisis situations.

4. Repair

This step is where the issue is repaired should the root cause not be addressed in the Restore step. This step also covers the elimination of any mitigations performed and returning the state to the fully operational state.

Remember that some customers would like to know when this step has been completed.

5. Eliminate

The Best Customer Impacting Incident is the One that didn’t happen!! Therefore, in order to make this statement come true, it means that the team needs to learn as much as possible from all crisis situations and apply these lessons learned to any possible future states. So, it is important to analyze the situation and to define action items with clear owners for each action item. This step will eventually ensure that the situation is eliminated. I prefer to use a formal retrospective review of the crisis situation. This process is very similar to the typical ITIL post mortem but is more collaborative and integrates much better in an agile or continuous operational state.  I will be publishing a blog post on a very effective retrospective technique within the next month or so.

Ideally the information gleaned from the retrospective can be used to formulate a customer communication. Unfortunately, this is not always possible; provide customers with some type of report so that they do not have to speculate and operate in the dark. Then continue to perform the due diligence in the background. This enables a data-driven followup with customers, should it be needed.

Crisis Leadership

October 11th, 2015 No comments

SparkPilot_CrisisLeadership always matters and in a crisis situation, leadership matters even more! When running a service, one of the most critical times is when the service fails and someone will need to step up and take the lead. Without someone taking the reigns, I have seen a mariad of situations arise and as such I am sharing a very high-level definition of the key focus areas for crisis leadership role often called an Incident Commander or Crisis Manager.

Assemble the team

The very first responsibility of this role, is to assemble the team with the skills needed to restore the service ASAP. Then if the problem shifts or there are multiple issues, it might be necessary to adjust the composition of the team to ensure that the skills needed are available. Sometimes in a long running situation it might also be necessary to perform shift changes including the Incident Commander.

Communicate, communicate, Communicate

A service without customers will not last for long and as such it is imperative that the situation be communicated in a clear and concise manner on a regular and predictable rhythm. My preferred communication rhythm is either 15 minutes or 30 minutes and needs to be defined as part of the Standard Operational Procedure (SOP).

Maintain Focus

Ensure that the team maintains the necessary focus needed to restore the service. It is my experience that engineers who don’t know what to do after 5 minutes of thought time will still not know what to do after 25 minutes of thought. Bring in another engineer who is able to operate more effectively under pressure. As such, I would suggest that the Incident Commander operate according to a predefined process to handle the situation where slow or no progress is being made. This enables the Incident Commander to engage other engineers to help expedite things as part of the SOP and not making it personal. This is one of the most difficult tasks an employee can be asked to perform because most folks do not want to wake up others in the middle of the night.


Do a job right or don’t bother! This is really easy to say yet extremely difficult to adhere to in a crisis situation. It boils down to Leadership and someone flying this flag. In most cases people will follow the lead.


The best idea tomorrow really doesn’t help us solve today’s crisis situation. I am big fan of using countdown timers to create the stimuli needed to engage additional team members or escalate to executives.





Online Brainstorming Technique

September 17th, 2015 No comments

A couple of years ago I did a blog post on a Simple brainstorming technique. This blog post is an updated version that leverages tooling while still maintaining all of the benefits of the old manual technique; now enables simple and easy access for remote folks and simple record keeping.

If you are anything like me, you will have attended many brainstorming sessions that have gone horribly wrong where:

  • the person with the most senior title rules
  • people position themselves before the brainstorming in an effort to establish some credibility ( in my experience the largest time consumer)
  • someone has dominated the session with their diatribe(s)
  • people who won’t stop talking about their ideas
  • it has deteriorated into a session of I am right and you are wrong and it turned out that they were saying the same thing, just a little differently
  • people were so intimidated that they did not contribute
  • people belittle the ideas thrown up
  • it becomes more about who’s idea it is rather than what the suggestion is
  • remote employees are not able to participate fully
  • the documentation is always after the fact and late….

The purpose of a Brainstorming session is to capture as many ideas as possible. The term, think outside the box is often used when it comes to brainstorming. It is very common to have a totally unrealistic statement stimulate an idea with someone else that was just brilliant. In an effort to get ideas out quickly and without most of the preamble, here is a mechanism that is quick, fair, enables remote participants, and is personality sensitive.


Pre requisites

  • Online agile planning tool, I will use Trello for this blog post. I am currently biased towards Trello because I have successfully used  for audiences in excess of 100 people.
  • Create a board on your tool of choice so that people can capture their ideas
  • Depending on the tool that you use, you might need to adjust the visibility of the board. If you are using Trello and not have Business Class, you will need to create the Team first and then create the board under the Team.
  • Depending on your tool, you might need to create a group and invite people to board that you created
  • Enable the ability to vote on the cards
  • If you are doing this session with remote folks, I do suggest some form of screen sharing mechanism so that everyone can be focused on the same screen.
  • Using the board, create some existing groups/lists such as the following to streamline the brainstorming session.
    • Issues
    • Suggestions
    • Do Not Do
    • Vent
    • Duplicates
    • Parking List
    • Collect Input
    • Action Items



Participant Guidelines

  1. one idea per card (ideally 8 or less words) You can use the card description for more data or explanation.
  2. do not discuss what you write down
  3. have fun
  4. respect all ideas
  5. do not judge (especially your own ideas), just put them on a card
  6. think outside the box
  7. ideas can be added at any time time during the session (especially during the discussion)

Instructions for the Brainstorming session

  1. Ensure that everyone understands the participant guidelines. How do you know this? Ask.
  2. Everyone needs to capture their issues as a card in the Issues list. One idea per card and if your idea needs data or explanation, you can include that in the card description.
  3. Prioritize the issues by moving the higher priority cards to the top of the list. Feel free to add more to the list as people understand other cards. Merge duplicate cards and move the old cards to the Duplicates list.
  4. Brainstorm – review the cards in the Issues list and add ideas on how put ideas on cards. One idea per card and if your idea needs data or explanation, you can include that in the card description.
  5. Read what others have put up remembering it is about the idea and not who created the card
  6. Put more ideas up, especially if they were stimulated by what you read.
  7. Now group the similar themed suggestions together. It sometimes helps to create additional list/groups in order to collate the similar themed ideas together. I have also color coded ideas with similar themes.
  8. Move the the duplicate cards to the Duplicates List, leaving one card on the list. It might be necessary to change the title.
  9. Have everyone vote on their top five items.
  10. Arrange the cards with the highest number of votes to be at the top of the lists.
  11. Variations
    1. Option 1: Now discuss all of the ideas; as an active participant, it is your responsibility not to belittle any idea or person. I put this step in as a transitionary step. As people get more comfortable with this approach, this step should be eliminated because it favors the talkers and over shadows the introverts. That being said, it also enables the talkers to think and do as a team, you will need to time box this step or it will never end. Create cards with Action Items for the next steps or actions to bring the ideas to fruition.
    2. Option 2: This is the more effective method. Have the team create create cards with Action Items for the next steps or actions to bring the ideas to fruition.
  12. Some suggestions will require additional input to be collected and they can be moved to the Collect Input list.
  13. To help with the flow from idea to Action Item, word tag the idea or color code it



Helpful Hints

  • To help the folks in the group that need time to think and process, it is advisable to include the brainstorming topic in the meeting invitations.
  • Provide a link to the topic and these instructions as part of the advanced notification.
  • Do not shoot the messenger!  Brainstorming is all about getting the most hair brained ideas out.  Remember that your crazy idea can stimulate someone else’s thinking that results in that killer idea.
  • Do not be afraid to screwup. Please refer to the point above.
  • The ideas can now be evaluated on the merits of the idea and not who’s idea it is.
  • If you have written it down, you do not need to talk about it too. It might make you feel better but it is also taking up time. This is especially difficult for first-timers.
  • For the discussion phase: Some folks need to talk in order to think. It helps to have these folks remote as they can mute themselves while they talk.  don’t worry, because you’re on a conference call it comes naturally. I would also suggest time boxing the discussion; you will see there is a rhythm and when folks start to repeat themselves, it is time to cut it off and move on.
  • It is pretty common to have similar ideas, so just merge them and move the duplicates to the Duplicates list.
  • Some folks will not be able to move off their points and will attempt to convince others that they are right. remind them that they are not respecting the ideas of others and are assuming that they are right. All ideas need to be able to stand. If explanation is needed, then add the collateral to the card.
  • For folks that are used to discussions, they might feel that this method is impersonal or that their voice is not being heard. For these folks, explain to them the purpose of this technique is to capture everyones input as efficiently as possible and they should not focus on the busy exercise of them being able to talk.


When time is a factor, I have had the participants complete steps 1 to 3 before the meeting. Alternatively, I have also split into two meetings by completing steps 1 to 4 at one meeting, sorted the ideas out off line and then conducted the discussion at a followup meeting.



What is important to you?

September 10th, 2015 No comments

“Gavin, these guys are late again!  I am really tired of them not delivering as they said they would!  I really want to give them a piece of my mind and explain to them the concept of accountability.” Joe said explosively.

I am sure that we have all found ourselves in a similar situation where we would like to blow off some steam, send a flame mail, and/or even give the person a piece of our mind.

For those of us that are aggressive results driven people, we tend to find this lack of accountability painful and frustrating.  Here is a suggestion that was shared with me years back and I am sharing on a technique to handle this type of situation:

What is more important?

We need to be conscious about what is more important to us.  The results that we are trying to achieve or being able to vent at them?  By asking this question, it forces me to think about the situation, what the business needs and what what the costs are of an emotional outburst are from me.  Sometimes I am more successful and other times not so much…..

September 9th, 2015 No comments


The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.

–Mahatma Gandi —


Categories: Quotes Tags:

Looking for a new job?

September 8th, 2015 No comments

I have spoken with a number of people that are either unhappy in the their current positions or are feeling an extremely strong desire to move onto the next chapter in their careers.  For the folks that are extremely unhappy or frustrated, I know that this is going to be difficult but in order to move forward, you need to have a clear head.  So take a couple of deep breaths and get those frustrations under control.  Frustration is just a form of anger, get it under control or the anger will be visible to those that you speak with and is that the message that you want to send to prospective employers?

Now that you have decided to find greener pastures, you have decided haven’t you?  Remember, no decision is a decision.  If are not deciding, then you are either choosing to stay or allowing others to control your career and dictate to you.

If you have decided to move to greener pastures, the first is to take a look at what’s out there right?  Actually not!  The first step is to identify what it is that you are looking for and then to do a targeted search in the organizations that meet your criteria.

It’s all about youSparkPilot.com_What_makes_you_happy

So let’s look take a quick look at what you want or what makes you happy.  What we are trying to achieve here is to get to know what it is that we want.  The concept is quite simple.  We play this game with ourselves all the time, where we are looking to be happy but we never really take a look at ourselves to determine what will make us happy.  So what areas do I suggest looking at to ensure that we understand what will make us happy at work?  Why do this?  Simple, if you know what will conditions, environment etc make you happy, you can go and look for that instead of arriving at a place or role and finding out that you are not happy.

Still reading?  Good, now let’s take a look at the criteria that I suggest you look at to determine where or what your next opportunity should be.  There are two key elements for this approach to work and it is important for you to know yourself before evaluating the new opportunity.

Your Passion

What is your passion?  This is core to your job being fulfilling for you.  Are you doing something that you really enjoy doing?  When you wake up in the morning, are bushy tailed and rearing to go?  If not, you job does not align with your passion.  I have seen people go through life listless about what they are doing and after doing this for years, they think it is normal.  Folks, find what you really care about and what makes you happy.  And it is possible that your passions may change as you mature.  It is OK for your passions to be outside work.  I have had the pleasure of working with two guys where their passions where their kids.  Their job was just a way to provide for their kids.  I know that some management/executives do not like this answer because they expect to be #1, but this is their shortcoming, not yours.

Your goals

What are your goals that you want to achieve and how will this new role help you achieve your goals?  If you do not have goals, then this is a great time to start defining some.  And please write them down because without them being documented, we tend to drift based on the situation.  When you document, it provides you with a great baseline and something that you can review over time.  I had an employee who thought he was great at executing.  To help him understand that this was an area of improvement, I had him document his goals for the month.  At the end of the month, we reviewed what he had completed and to his horror he had completed nothing that he had committed to complete.

Your Style

How do you prefer to operate?  While I do acknowledge that this is situational. we all have a preference for a particular style.  Do you know what yours is?  If not, ask a significant other and your colleagues and they will provide you with feedback very quickly on how they see your behaviors.  What we are trying to discover here is what is your natural style.  To help here, I had a situation where the organization culture had become very combative and confrontational, mainly because of a single person’s style and culture and the leadership did not want to run the risk of losing and therefore they chose not to put him on a behavior modification path.  I personally found this to be an unacceptable situation, not only the culture but the lack of leadership and therefore I chose to leave, as did 63% of the organization.  For me to be happy, I like people being happy and being able to share ideas in an open and collaborative manner.  What is your preferred style?

Your natural Pace

Do you naturally move at 110mph or 40 mph.  The pace of industry is getting faster and faster and I have seen this become more and more of an issue.  Ten years ago it was very seldom an issue but the pace of technology is frenetic and therefore if you do not like moving quickly, do not target a role where fast paced is a necessity.  But you need to know what your pace is before you start looking……..


 The new role / job

OK, so now this section of the post is all about the new position and some suggested areas to research before you sign on the dotted line.

Company / Team Culture

What is the culture at the new place?  Do they value cross group collaboration or is the culture very combative? Are they are a bunch of sports nuts that work out twice a day or a bunch of single people that socialize together a number of times together every week.  You will need to fit in with this culture, so make sure that it is who you are and that it is what you want.  A big red flag here is if the org is leaderless or recently underwent a leadership change because the culture is set from the top and influenced at the ground level.

I am putting this under culture but it can stand by itself – office hours.  What are the official office hours and then the unofficial work hours.  Do they start meetings at 7:30 AM and then expect people to be in the office until after 7PM in the evening?


What are their values?  I had a friend who took a position because they gave him a large salary bump only to find out that some of his office mates were members of a religious cult.  As a lifelong Catholic, he left within a month because he could not relate to people that had a vastly different value system to his own.

A note to the technical people that value a high level of technical prowess.  Think about others who do not share this value and do not have the skills that you do.


What is the management style.  I have come across a startup where the CEO does a daily war room meeting so that his 30+ employees can cover what they are going to do during the day.  He them checks in on them during the day to ensure that they are on track.  He was very confused when I asked him who was running the company while he was micro-managing the people.  Needless to say, he was experiencing a rather staff turnover and he kept on saying that it was because people did not have the work ethic for a startup……  Remember that your manager has control, or at least some influence in your career trajectory while your are employed with that company.

It is always a good idea to see how others in similar roles to you interact with the management and how management interacts with them.  And never overlook how they interact with each other.  That is so telling!

Senior Leadership

Do they believe that only senior leadership can drive initiatives or do they believe that anyone can lead an initiative?  If it takes the involvement of one of the anointed ones to have an initiative succeed, is that what you are looking for?    Alternatively, the lack of leadership will kill any idea / initiative extremely quickly and then the people will mill around and often bicker about often irrelevant things because there is no direction.

 Money / Benefits

Yeah, I have to bring up the piece that no one wants to talk about but the latest research is starting to highlight that higher reward does not equal more results.  In some situations, company’s are having to provide larger packages in order to compensate for other situations such as work environment or just because they are not able to find suitably skilled people that want to do the job. In addition, some companies are having to pay large packages in order to attract and retain talent.

 The role

If possible, I suggest speaking with the people that are currently performing similar roles to the one that you will be performing.  Is the role really what they documented in the job description?  Where there peers on the interview loop?

Their Expectations

This is a loaded one.  Are they expecting you to build a new product / technology / team without really understanding of what it will cost to deliver?  Yeah, this is a personal lesson that I learned where the company wanted the results but was not willing to invest what it took to deliver that caliber of results.  In their mind, they were paying me to deliver but did not understand that it takes a team to deliver a world-class product…..  Now I always ask what it is that they want to get from me and in what timeframe?  The shorter the time, the higher the investment needed.

You also need to remember is that the more that they pay you, the higher their expectations will be.



Categories: People Tags:

So you want to be a People Manager

August 26th, 2015 No comments

Over the years, I have had many conversations with folks that considered the option of moving into people management.  For the purposes of this blog post, I am going to assume that as a new manager, you will be a team lead with people reporting directly to you.

Put others first

This is a big one and one that does not come easily.  Are you prepared to put the welfare of others ahead of your own?  e.g. When someone on the team messes something up and causes an issue, will you point them out and throw them under the bus?  Or will you take the heat and work with them to improve?  Are you prepared to wait for the team to succeed even if your boss wants you to deliver the project today?  Are you willing to work someone on improving their skills even if you can perform the task quickly and accurately in a fraction of the time it will take them?


Are you able to communicate what you need done in a manner that they understand and want to deliver?  This is critical because if you are not able to communicate what needs to be delivered in a clear and understandable manner, the team will not know what needs to be delivered.


Do you have the patience to let them make mistakes and learn?  Or even more difficult, do you have the patience for them to take twice as long to complete a task than you could do it yourself?

Tough Love

I used the term “Tough Love” here on purpose because I do not mean firing someone.  If you want to fire or tell people what to do, then you just failed on #1 because you are putting your wishes above those of others.  What I am referring to here,  is the ability, and willingness, to have difficult conversations that are beneficial to the person. A great example of this is appropriate dress code when meeting with customers.








Monitoring – the pitfalls that no one wants to talk about

October 27th, 2013 No comments

Over the years of having to deal with various monitoring systems, I have learned a lesson or two….  I am sharing some of them, in the hope that you can avoid some of the pitfalls and ultimately have fewer scars than I do.

  1. Every alert needs to be actionable.
  2. False Positives will quickly overload the team and drive up OPEX like no other operational line item will.
  3. Hard coded thresholds are a maintenance nightmare and require a staff to maintain them.
  4. Event and alert naming is crucial and needs to include the data center, device name, unique identifier, and brief human readable short description.  Ideally a link to a runbook and a reference to the automation that did / didn’t catch the issue.
  5. To ease troubleshooting, all monitoring systems need to use the same time zone (UTC is recommended).
  6. As of October 2013, I have not seen any commercial solution that works properly.  In fact, there are quite a few commercial monitoring technologies that just do not work the moment you move beyond the basics.  To validate them, ask the vendor to show you their text case matrix, especially on storage devices.
  7. Most engineers will avoid working on the monitoring definitions because they don’t see the value and based on their experience it will result in more work and not help them.  As such, you will need to have a strong automation capability / mindset / understanding in the team in advance in order to keep things under control.
  8. People do not like to wake other people up in the middle of the night and therefore will avoid it.
  9. Most people do not answer their phones when called the first time.  Based on my experience, only 30% will answer on the first call.  So use an automated system to notify people and don’t rely on the on-call engineers to call other people.
  10. Most people require approximately 7 minutes to wake up when called.
  11. When the on-call people are called for trivial things, it really irritates them.  As such everything needs to be done to minimize trivial notifications.
  12. The on-call rotation needs a clean handover from the previous on-call rotation.  In my experience, handing over a physical item helps with the hand over.
  13. Contact lists and on-call people means that the appropriate roles are contacted when needed.  These lists need to be easily accessible with multiple locations.  My recommendation is in at least 5 locations.  The list needs to contain at least the name, subject matter, contact details and primary and secondary on-call roster.
  14. Predefining escalation criteria is overlooked and this often delays getting the correct people onto the issue.
  15. Averaging metrics will skew your metrics because the high and low outliers will mask issues.
  16. What will be monitoring the monitoring system?  This is almost always overlooked and it is critical to know when elements of the monitoring system have failed.  This is one of the reasons why I do not believe in a single monolithic monitoring system with vendor claims to solve all monitoring problems.







Categories: Technology Tags:

So I switched to Mac from Windows

October 19th, 2013 No comments

I have been using a Mac user for a while but it was just because the photography apps are soooo much better on Mac.  Now for the last year or so, I have been using a Mac exclusively for work too.  Based on conversations, I know that a lot of people are considering the same and therefore I am sharing my experiences.

The Equipment

Hardware:  Mac Book Air with 8GB RAM and a Thunderbolt 27 inch monitor.

Accessaries:  External Apple Bluetooth keyboard and trackpad, Logitech headphones

Phone: iPhone 5 – upgrade from iPhone 4 and a 3 before that.

Tablet: iPad Mini – my iPad 3 arrived 3 days after they announced the Mini and so I used the Apple 14 day satisfaction policy to return it.  Thanks Apple.

The Con’s

  1. Outlook for the Mac – well it crashes at least twice a day, wildcarding in rules does not work, you cannot attach a file to meeting request, the rules don’t work properly, and when someone sends you an email with voting buttons – this feature does not exist in the Mac version.  This is what came to mind as I was typing this blog post.  Basically it sucks!  Are there any competitors out there?
  2. Microsoft Excel crashes 70% of the time when opening a spreadsheet stored on SharePoint. I have to download it and then open it. Pivot tables, are different to Windows and I’ve come to prefer how it’s done on the Mac version.
  3. No Visio for Mac.   I am using ConceptDraw and I like some the features that it has that are not in Visio.  Here is a link to the product website.
  4. I have not found a decent and affordable scp GUI client that supports drag and drop and integration with password caching or KeyChain integration.  Basically there is nothing comparable to winscp .
  5. iTunes – I am still getting used to the new UI but I still don’t like it.  If there was an alternative, I would more than likely use it.
  6. Lync. It crashes 3 or 4 times a day. Logs itself out another 3 or 4 times a day. I switched to Skype as my primary chat client and phone application.


The Pro’s

  1. It’s consistently fast.  There are no slowdowns in the middle of the day like I experienced with Windows 7.
  2. Ah yes, the reboots because of the all the Windows patches.  I’ve had to reboot my Mac twice in the last 3 months.
  3. The startup time, flip open the screen and within 10 seconds I’m typing in my password.
  4. The Thunderbolt monitor is superb.  Almost no eye strain with massive amounts of real estate in addition to point #6.
  5. The retina screen on the Mac book Air has the same quality as the external monitor, just smaller.  Therefore it is just as usable as my main monitor.
  6. Virtual desktops – means that I don’t miss the real estate when using the laptop screen and  means that I don’t have a single cluttered screen or NEED multiple screens like Microsoft employees do.
  7. Initially, I used Windows Mesh because it has a Mac client that works really nicely and therefore I can sync my files between machines without uploading them to the cloud but now that I only use one machine, I don’t need it anymore.
  8. All my devices sync with no issues using iCloud.
  9. No IE!!  I no longer have to fight with my browser.
  10. Built-in firewall that does not blackhole traffic without telling you.  The Apple firewall has great logging which makes debugging an issue a breeze.
  11. AppleScript – pretty easy to learn and allows you to automate simple tasks on your desktop.
  12. Mail.  The built-in mail client works well and supports multiple email account from a single UI.
  13. The Macbook Air form factor.  Simply awesome, light, portable with 6+ hours of battery life even with my screen brightness turned up and power savings off.
  14. Oh, yeah, it’s cool!


Oh, yeah before I the flame mails telling me to use Windows 8.  I have and find the Metro interface horrible without a touchscreen.  When I use it on a touchscreen, I hate the fingerprints all over the screen.  I’m constantly cleaning my screen.


Categories: Technology Tags:

How to create your own Infographic

January 20th, 2013 No comments

I am always astounded by the creativity and simplicity  of some of the visual representations that folks come up with.  For these visual representations to work for me, they need to convey the information simply and allow me to absorb it in seconds.  And then I came across this infographic on what makes a visual representation work and how to create your own.

Here is a link to site that has an Infographic that takes you through how to create an infographic.  Enjoy.




Categories: Free Stuff, Skills Tags: ,

An uplifting manifesto

January 10th, 2013 1 comment

I saw this manifesto as a custom subway poster looking for gifts late last year and am sharing.  The Holstee Manifesto was written by two brothers, Mike and Dave Radparvar and their business partner, Fabian Pfortmuller on the steps of Union Square.  They basically just wrote down what was on their minds.



You can download a 8.5×11 pdf version here or buy a larger more stylish version here


Passive Agressive Behavior

January 7th, 2013 No comments

Living in the Pacific Northwest means that I get to experience  a significant amount of passive aggressive behavior.   This post by Michael Schechter titled The Passive Aggressive Manifesto was a great reminder for me, a message can be delivered with humor and style.


The Passive Aggressive Manifesto

The Passive Aggressive Manifesto







Measuring success of our Leaders

December 26th, 2012 No comments

I receive daily emails from the Frances Hesselbein Leadership Institute and they sent this quote out late December.  I have been thinking about it quite a lot.

The criterion for measuring the success of our leaders should be how well they serve everyone that has a vested interest in the success of the enterprise.

Bill George



My Thoughts

  • We are being measured, whether we want to be measured or not.  Are we helping set how we believe we should be measured?
  • How well are we serving those with a vested interest?  Who has a vested interest?  I can think of a number of people in large corporations that have forgotten that we are here to serve….
  • We are here to ensure success.  Not to stroke your ego Mr. Colleague / Boss /  ……………………………..  <- place for you to add title / name


If you don’t know Bill George, here is a link to his bio.





Categories: Leadership, Quotes Tags: ,

Mother Hen at Work

June 14th, 2012 No comments

I recently received a call from an ex-colleague, whom with I hadn’t spoken with in almost a year.  She wanted to talk about an open position on my team, which surprised me because she did not have the skills that we were looking for.  However, she wanted to talk about someone else who she knew had applied for the position and was hoping to get an offer, let’s call him Joe.  I was floored when she then started to tell me that Joe was part of her brood and she just wanted to make sure that this was the right thing for him.  This went on for quite a while with me scheming about I could get off the call ASAP.   Then she started to tell me that I needed to treat him right or the Mama Bear in her would come out.  Wow!  At first, I was ready to hangup but then I realized that she did not mean this as threat and it was just her expressing her concern.  Nice but………….. Mother Hen Image

This made me think back about a similar situation a couple of years back where a where Jane, was irritating her workmates.  They felt that she was constantly trying to tell them what to do.  In their opinion, it was always about what she wanted to do and she would not respect their opinions.  Jane was not happy either and spoke to me about it.  Here is where we landed.  She was a single mother of three and therefore at home she had to be “the strong one”.  This meant that she was so used to issuing instructions to her kids and not listening their responses. It was the only way that she was able to keep control of them. When questioned by the kids, her response was:  “because I say so”.  In the work environment, she often saw questions from her colleagues as personal attacks and that they did not listen to her.  During our discussions, she realized that listening was very different from them doing what she said.  She also realized that she just wanted to be heard but her home role had skewed what she wanted and she was expecting her colleagues to do what she said.  She changed her expectations and things flourished from then on.

So, based on these two situations, I might be coming across as anti-Mother Hen.  This is not true, all I ask is that the Mother Hen identify first whether the person/people that they are communicating with recognize them in the role of Mother Hen.

Let’s contrast these two environments


  • It is the parent that generally provides the leadership and guidance.
  • The parent role equals total authority and the de facto leader so it acceptable to make unilateral decisions that affect them.
  • Because I say so, can be an age appropriate response, especially in a crisis or where confusion prevails.
  • We are parents by birth.
  • Parents define the acceptable behavior boundaries in the home.


  • The leadership and guidance could be anyone, peer, manager….
  • Our colleagues choose to follow our leadership or not.  It is their choice not ours.
  • We are appointed to our roles, either because that is our role or because someone else says that we have the qualifications.  Generally the role is formal.  i.e. engineer, nurse, manager?  I don’t think the mother hen role exists.
  • A formal span of control exists.  Do you have the authority to make decisions on their behalf?
  • Laws, corporates guidance, people’s culture and their expectations of us define the acceptable behavior boundaries in the office.


So before you assume the Mother Hen role outside the home, please think of the following:

  • That person that you mothering / herding, did they ask you to mother or herd them?
  • The person that you are interacting with, do they recognize the Mother Hen role in the office?  Do they see you as the Mother Hen?  And more importantly, how do they judge you as the Mother Hen?
  • Is it appropriate for you to play this role now with me?
  • Know your limits and the person’s boundaries and do not overstep them and just to make sure, ask.



Higher ethics = less $

May 17th, 2012 No comments

Hmmmmm.  Considering all of the bale outs and the increased diligence on keeping companies honest, it seems that higher ethics are not valued.  At least that is according to this Harvard Business Review email.


Categories: Expectations, Management Tags:

Awesome Article about great management behaviors

April 25th, 2012 No comments

I spent 5 minutes today reading an article by Geoffery James today.  It is a clear & concise article titled 8 Core Beliefs that make extraordinary bosses




Categories: Behavior, Management Tags: ,


January 21st, 2012 No comments

Budgeting………… over the years, I have seen budgeting become this massive effort instead of it being the simple step of applying financial quantification to an annual execution plan.  So let’s go and look at the various opportunities for simplifying the process.

Opportunity I

Please do not merge the annual planning with budgeting process.  People, they are separate efforts.  Annual planning should be done after the strategic multi-year planning process.  Then the annual plan should be used as input to the budgeting exercise where the financial constraints are applied to the annual goals.  The trade-offs are then made based on the strategic goals.

When the financial planning is merged with the annual planning, people tend to become overwhelmed and/or decisions tend to be boil down to cost management instead of annual execution of the strategic plan.

And, let’s face it, the accountants already control too much of our life already.  Please don’t allow them to dictate how we do our jobs.

Opportunity II

This is one that I have seen happen more times than I can count and is a pet peeve of the budgeting effort.  When creating the budget, it is good practice to use the expenditure numbers from the previous years.  You do have that data don’t you?  So let’s look at this scenario.

We outsourced some work to a company and when we started, they only need to provide us with 10 folks.  If we assume that they charged us $20 per head per month, it would be a total cost $200 per month.  Then after five months we doubled the headcount to 20 folks, we would now be paying them a total of $400 per month.

So for the visual folks, here is what our expenditure looks like.


OK, so this is exactly like we thought it would be, a step up as we spent the money.  The numbers are in the table below, totally up to $1,000.


Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Total
0 0 0 0 100 100 100 100 100 100 200 200 1,000


Now assuming that we would want to continue the service, how much should we budget for?

Well the simple answer is, that spent $1000 this year and therefore the budget should be the same because we have a flat budget.  Then there are other that are asking about the duration of the project etc.  So here are some more assumptions that for the purpose of this scenario, I will define but as management, you really should be making these bets.

  • We will continue with the contract because they are delivering.
  • There will be growth; you need to decide how you want to forecast it…….
  • Assume no attrition

Of all of these questions, the biggest challenge will be how aggressive do we want to be be on the growth and how do we want to allocate it.  For the purpose of this example, I am going with 100% growth allocated across the four quarters.  This means that we will grow 25% of this years allocation every quarter.  Now the graph looks like this.


Again, no big surprises because it simply shows the continued expenditure and also the 25% growth every quarter.  Please note that they add up to $3,900 and therefore this will need to be the budget for the following year.  If you are being held to a flat budget, then you will need to prioritize and decide where to cut, this contract or elsewhere.


Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Total
250 250 250 300 300 300 350 350 350 400 400 400 3,900


Opportunity III

Doing the budgeting exercise without supplier or partner involvement.  In this scenario, the person doing the budget takes a guess, or maybe looks at a couple of websites to get an idea of the possible costs.  In many cases this is done because the person doing the budget does not know what the actual annual plan is and the idea is to get enough $ before embarking on the project.

Some other reasons why the budget can increase:

  • Off shore exchange rate
  • Up-leveling of the skills of the out sourced staff
  • Increased scope
  • increased coverage
  • Increased rates

In my experience, I have yet to have a supplier or partner account manager push back when I tell them I am working on budgets and need to understand what to budget for the following year.  Naturally I give them a month or two notice so that they can get things sorted out on their side.  This is especially key when dealing with off shore facilities because of the exchange rate fluctuations.












Freedom of Speech

January 18th, 2012 No comments

I was raised in South Africa and as such I got to experience the apartheid era.  I saw firsthand what affect discrimination and censorship had on the population and as a result I support the concept that everyone has the right to make their own decisions, even if those decisions will have a negative impact on themselves.  Censorship is one of the first freedoms removed when a dictator comes into power, is that where the USA is going??  Let’s not just hope, but also take a stance and influence.  Here are some words of wisdom from Edmund Burke


All that is required for evil to prevail is for good men to do nothing.

This blog contains original content and therefore theoretically be supporting the fight against piracy and copyright infringement; which I do!  However imbedded in this law is the requirement for ISP’s to inspect traffic and block what they deem to be content that is infringing.  I’m sorry but I do not believe that they are qualified to make that decision and therefore I am speaking up.

Google is fighting this and you can sign their petition here


Here are some news and articles with more information so that you can make your own decision on this topic:



CNN Money –




Categories: Communication Tags:

Mind Reader – Not! …….. speak & listen to communicate

January 7th, 2012 No comments

A while back, I was asking a friend for guidance and she said something a not being a mind reader and therefore I needed to speak my mind.  We laughed, stayed on topic and I communicated clearer so that she was able to understand me.  I started thinking about this and noticed that when I don’t know what to do or have a difficult problem to solve, I get quiet and think.  This generally takes time……….and while I am processing away, what message are others around me receiving?  Or in the instance of when we are tying to communicate something, we assume that people are getting the message that we intended.

I brought this up at our cohort meetings and we have discussed this in detail.  We all agreed that for clear communication to happen, you need the following address the following areas:

Someone must talk

Despite the many technology aids that we have, face-to-face verbal communication still remains the most effective method of communication and therefore someone needs to talk.

The reason behind the face-to-face communication and not TXT’ing, email, telephone is that these communication mechanism are all single mechanisms.  Face-to-face is the only mechanism that provides us with the ability to get at least three communication mechanisms.  The key ones are verbal, non verbal such as eye contact, expressions and gestures, and environmental situation (noisy room).

However, if it is not possible for face-to-face dialogue, then it is far better to use a single faceted communication mechanism such as TXT’ing, phone, and / or email.

Someone must listen

Not listening is biggest challenge with communication because we are so focused on getting our message across that we miss what the other person is trying to communicate to us.  If you catch yourself formulating your response to what the person is saying, then you are not listening to them.  Make sure that you understand what they are attempting to communicate, so ask clarifying questions.  Depending on culture, paraphrasing what you understood them to say back to them.

The most important element of listening is to shut up!


Is the person ready to receive the message that you are attempting to communicate?  This is a big one that is often overlooked.  If you are not sure, just ask them.  If you upset someone and even if you are ready and willing to apologize, are they ready for the message?

Is doing nothing the default option?

For those that are disagreeing with me right now and think that doing nothing is the acceptable default option.  (Pacific Northwest and the Passive Aggressive Communication style)  I would ask you to think about the following:

  • What message is being received when you do not communicate one?  Are there others that are communicating on your behalf?  If so, are they communicating your message or theirs?  In my experience, they will communicate a message that is beneficial to them and not to you.  Only you can communicate the nuances of your message.
  • If you do not know what you want to communicate, it is OK to acknowledge that and communicate that.  Acknowledging and communicating your perspective will form the basis on which you communicate on.




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