One problem with my new situation of working from home most of the time is that I no longer have two or three hours in the car to listen to audiobooks. I haven't even ventured out in my car in a few days. Suddenly my subscription to Audible.com went from vital to a burden. I now have several books in my queue to be “read” when I used to be hungry for new material.
Amazing what a little change makes.
Don't get me wrong. I enjoy the fact that I'm not spending a fortune on gas, raising my stress level fighting traffic, and so on. I get two hours of my day back, but I'm not spending it listening to books.
Part of that might be that at home I'm the only one interested in listening to books. We'll have to see how this pans out. In the meantime, every month I get two more books from the folks at Audible.
You can now get Firefox 1.5 from mozilla.com.
I have been a beta tester for this new release of Firefox and I have greatly enjoyed its new speed and new features. I strongly suggest checking it out. I certainly prefer it to Internet Explorer. I am addicted to tabbed browsing and IE didn't add that feature until very recently. Now the only reason to use IE is for web sites that were designed poorly.
Joel Spolsky over at Fog Creek Software has developed a Software Management Training Program which hopes to be practical and comprehensive:
Thus: how do we develop the next generation of managers? We don't really want to hire MBAs, because there's too much evidence that MBAs substitute book-learnin' for common sense or experience. We'd much rather hire someone who created and ran a profitable lemonade stand than someone who has taken two years of finance courses at Harvard, especially since the Harvard MBA is going to think he knows a lot more than he really does.
I've been watching for more developments. Recently Joel published the reading list. I have a lot of the ones listed in my library, and I even have some of them in MP3 format. There's a few more that I need to look into.
The real question is “What is missing?” There are a few in my opinion.
The Chasm Companion is a step beyond the recommended Fog Creek-recommended Crossing the Chasm. It's focused on implementation issues, and less about the chasm stage of the Technology Adoption Lifecycle.
There needs to be a little bit more emphasis on strategy in a management training program. I see Competing on Internet Time on the list, but I think there are better choices. Competing on the Edge delves into the trade-offs of high-tech business strategies and the timing of their implementation. Blue Ocean Strategy looks into the strategy of innovation and where best to compete.
It's important to understand getting projects done, especially software projects.
Patrick Lencioni's leadership fables, and the related field guide on teams, are important reading for understanding how teams work and the priorities of a team leader. Any of them are a great leap beyond the suggested One Minute Manager.
I found Reframing Organizations an important text on organizational theory as well.
Finally, I don't see any books on Writing, Business Law, Finance or Valuation, but I suspect that's far afield. If they are needed, I'm sure others will suggest appropriate texts.
Last night the December issue of Harvard Business Review landed in my inbox and it had an excellent article by Geoffrey Moore called “Strategy and Your Stronger Hand.” The main idea of the article is that businesses have to choose between being supporting “Complex Systems” or a “Volume Operations.” When companies try to straddle this dilemma, they cause problems for themselves.
The best strategic moves for a company are ones that supplement rather than complement the company's current dominant business model. This is a form of saying “stick to your knitting” but requires a new understanding of the knitting involved. A better metaphor would be to say that companies should favor their dominant hand.
This is an interesting insight, because I have perceived that an important decision for a business is where along the continuum from products to services companies wish to operate. Inherent in that choice was whether to handle volume operations oneself or to outsource it and focus on adding value in some other way.
Moore's article indicates that it's a more complex choice. Does your organization want to seek out customers and make complex custom solutions for them (the example used was IBM Global Services, the consulting arm of IBM) or does it wish to deliver products for thousands or millions of customers making a small amount of money on each sale? IBM shows up on the opposite hand of Dell. Obviously both companies make money, but they do it in quite different ways. Also, each company rises and falls as new innovations take hold in the marketplace.
Moore indicates that these two models are the only ones that scale to large organizations. There are other models when it comes to small businesses, but at some point you must choose between being a McDonald's or being Ruth's Chris. It's very hard to be both. In another vein, at some point your custom-built PC business needs to decide between making custom solutions (hand-built servers for specific purposes, tied with maintenance and support) for a small number of customers or mass-producing the most popular PC designs for a large marketplace.
Moore concentrates on the various choices that result from the selection of the model, and the implications for all functions of the organization. He points out the negative consequences of acquiring an organization with the opposite handedness (recall Compaq merging with DEC, for example). To me, it seems like he's got another book in the works, because he is clearly laying out a plan of attack for either hand, and the mixed model of trying to do both sets of activities in one organization. We'll have to see if it's another Crossing the Chasm or Inside the Tornado.
It's a great article, and with HBR you can usually get reprints in a few months. For this one, look for Reprint R0512C or 2394 on Harvard Business School Press's website.
Sometimes cats like to cause trouble together (last week they were separate):
Well, that doesn't seem like trouble, but Mom wanted to sit there.
When I had my birthday this past Sunday, Church and Snowball were far more interested in the wrapping than the presents.
Based on a recommendation I recently purchased the DVDs for the first season of Veronica Mars. While Misty and I have only watched about half of them, I am pretty impressed with this television show, which is now in its second season. Misty and I enjoyed Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel and we were promised more snappy comebacks and teen hijinks and the series hasn't disappointed.
For those that haven't heard about it, Veronica is a high-school girl whose father is a private investigator. They live in Neptune, California, where the class divide is rather wide. There's a bunch of rich & pretty kids, and there's the kids of the servants of the rich & pretty. Veronica's father used to be the Sheriff of the county where Neptune is sited, and so she managed to rub elbows with everyone in the school. Her father fell from grace, however, due to his handling of the murder investigation of Veronica's best friend—daughter of a powerful software magnate.
The plot is very complex and detailed, and the arc moves forward with details and glimpses. It's a great murder mystery with plenty of the other PI stories wrapped into the package, and it has the background of a 90210. It's got a little bit of angst, but not as bad as an argument between Buffy and Angel.
Misty misses Spike and I miss Cordelia, but this show is considerably more real than the Buffyverse. There's no super powers. However, Veronica is plenty sharp, but at least she makes mistakes. Her mistakes are less technical and far more reflect the fact that she has the emotional experience of a late teenager.
We're still working our way through the series, and we have to pay attention to the details! I like it a lot, so I strongly recommend it to others (so far).
Today we have some self-satisfied cats…
Church knows he's not supposed to be on the kitchen counters, but does the kitchen window count?
Must have been a good meal, eh?
We sent a couple little Indians to school today for some sort of Thanksgiving festivities. No school next week and about 3 hours warning for poor mom and her sewing machine. (I hear that's typical.)
Compare my copyright (it's at the bottom of the sidebar) with the one from Open Source Media and tell me which one you think is “open.”
(Hat tip to The Modulator who pointed out the OSM copyright.)
From today's Wall Street Journal, Louis Freeh (former director of the FBI), comments on Able Danger:
The Able Danger intelligence, if confirmed, is undoubtedly the most relevant fact of the entire post-9/11 inquiry. Even the most junior investigator would immediately know that the name and photo ID of Atta in 2000 is precisely the kind of tactical intelligence the FBI has many times employed to prevent attacks and arrest terrorists. Yet the 9/11 Commission inexplicably concluded that it “was not historically significant.” This astounding conclusion—in combination with the failure to investigate Able Danger and incorporate it into its findings—raises serious challenges to the commission's credibility and, if the facts prove out, might just render the commission historically insignificant itself.
This is tragic, because I've been advising people to read or listen to the entire 9/11 Commission report for some time now. Whether or not they overlooked this obviously important information, they did put out some information that I hoped was reasonably correct. Instead, it appears to have been a “CYA Commission.”
Well, long ago I posted on the problems with my satellite Internet service and finally it is solved. I have partial T1 to my rural home. Sure, it costs more, but not that much more since I can now work from home. Changing my status to “working from home” saves me from having to pay Oregon Income Tax.
Thus, my T1 is already paying for itself, thanks to Electric Lightwave, Lennie Green, and especially Dan Sweet.
I'm going to call Direcway and cancel service now. 23 months of horrible latency and weather sensitivity are over.
Alana and Misty make a pillow. We're all recovering from colds (and a early evening power outage), but we're still getting things done.
Ryan in his natural habitat, playing a game. He is well-prepared to join the Pajamahadeen.
Peter F. Drucker, writer of a multitude of management books and articles, has passed on. The Wall Street Journal, which published many of his articles, deeply respected him:
Mr. Drucker invented management—not as a practice, but as a field of study. It was he who first asked managers to decentralize their operations and treat their employees like humans—in the 1940s. The concept of “knowledge work” is his coinage, from the 1950s.
I have to agree. While many companies are still adopting ideas he pioneered, his contributions led us away from the dehumanizing “scientific management” of Frederick Taylor and towards a more synergistic relationship between people and business.
President Bush awarded Drucker the Congressional Medal of Freedom in 2002.
The Financial Times also grieved his passing:
Drucker's reputation, among many practitioners and theorists alike, as the father of post-war management went back to two of his early works, Concept of the Corporation in 1946, and The Practice of Management in 1954.
The former, a study of the workings of General Motors, was the first detailed account of the way a large company operated. The latter contained pathfinding work on such varied topics as the key role of marketing; the importance of clear objectives, both for the corporation and for the manager; and the need to balance long-term strategy and innovation against short-term performance.
This early work laid the foundation for such basic principles of modern business as asking: “What business are we in, and who are our customers?” It dealt with the recruitment and development of executives, the proper role of boards of directors, the defence of profits as an essential foundation of future survival, and the development of the responsible and productive worker.
Of Drucker's books, I've only read a few, but I've liked them all. I could only wish to have 95 years of groundbreaking work under my belt. I'm having enough of a hard time just reading everyone who came before me.
Yesterday I posted some Snowball pictures, so here's a picture of Church sleeping on a fuzzy friend.
A little early for Feline Friday, but this was too cute…
Snowball is mesmerized by Civilization 4.
Snowball fills in for me on a conference call. She is also a fan of the Klingon War Phone.
Today is the anniversary of The Coup of 18-19 Brumare, which led to the rise of Napoleon. It is the anniversary of the Beer Hall Putsch led by Adolf Hitler, a stepping stone on his rise to power. 15 years later we have the Kristallnacht. Lately we have Muslim youths rioting all over France.
Is this just a traditionally restless day in Europe?
For those that love The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert Heinlein, you'll be interested in De Doc's analysis.
I find myself thinking of The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress. The novel’s heroes wish to overthrow the rule of the UN, and form a cabal to that end. They plan and work, carefully, diligently, towards being able to mount such a revolution. But the revolution happens spontaneously, as the result of a gang rape carried out by a squad of the UN’s troopers. The cabal finds itself swept up in the spontaneous riot…
and turns it INTO an uprising, and then a revolution.
It's a swell book, but I wouldn't use it as a blueprint for revolution. I do believe, however, that it has insight into organizations that sweep into power vacuums.
We just got some unusual weather. A crash of thunder and dose of hail!
For Halloween, we have the attacking kittens:
Snowball slays a dress.
Church suppresses a twine riot.
After Halloween, however, the two were much more mellow. Later we'll talk about how Mom laced their scratching post with catnip…
From Gun Owners of America:
GOA wants to thank all of you who contacted the President recently and suggested that he appoint a strong constitutionalist like Samuel Alito, Jr., to the Supreme Court.
As you know, Judge Alito (from the Third Circuit) has a strong record in support of the Constitution. Gun Owners Foundation was involved in the Rybar machine gun case which we ultimately lost in the courts. But Judge Alito offered a strong dissenting opinion to the majority report and argued that Congress has no right to regulate the private possession of machine guns.
Anyone that can actually read the second amendment is more likely to get my vote too!
The nomination of Alito is going to drive the other side crazy. Good. Judge Alito is a tremendous choice, and GOA will be asking you in the future to lobby your two U.S. Senators in favor of this pick.
In the meantime, thank the President for making such a good choice. And thank him for bypassing, once again, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales as a pick for the Supreme Court.
Gonzales was calling for a renewal of the time-, money-, and freedom-wasting Assault Weapons Ban.
GOA has asked you several times to contact the President and oppose a Gonzales nomination, because as one of the President's good friends, Gonzales has long been reputed to be on Bush's “short list.”
But that seems to have changed. The Associated Press recently reported that Gonzales is no longer on that “short list” because Bush is “trying to dampen [opposition] on the Republican right, which doesn't think Gonzales is a reliable conservative vote.”
Thank goodness. Bush didn't use to think that way. But you can pat yourself on the back for helping impress this new way of thinking into Bush's head.
Sounds like GOA likes Alito. That's quite different than with previous nominees.