Uncharted Waters


November 18, 2016  11:48 AM

Careerist Guide: The Firing Gambit

Matt Heusser Matt Heusser Profile: Matt Heusser
career, Office Politics

The Screwtape Letters are written to a firing gambit-like audience.The Screwtape letters by C.S. Lewis are told from the perspective of a demon writing to his nephew about how to corrupt man. Of course, the real intended audience was good people trying to avoid life mistakes and pursue virtue. In the spirit, I’ve decided to write a careerists guide, telling you the things a careerist might do. Our first careerist example is the firing gambit.

Before I get to that, a bit more about the guide.

Most of our readers have a sense of justice. They want the world to be right, for the right behaviors to be rewarded. Careerists recognize that is not so, and exploit the system, making the right friends, damaging the reputation of rivals, and using whatever tricks are necessary to advance.

Sadly, the world is not just. That does not mean you have to become a careerist, but you might want to understand what the tricks are, so you can notice and counter when they are used on you. As a bonus, you might also want to know when your own activities that “should” be neutral as shooting you in the foot.

Let’s get started.

Continued »

November 16, 2016  6:11 PM

Lean Healthcare Management

Justin Rohrman Justin Rohrman Profile: Justin Rohrman
Efficiency, hospital information systems, Lean management, Lean principles

My wife and I had our first son born this past Monday. People have been giving us advice for months — make sure you enjoy your last few sleeps, this and that are difficult, your life will be completely different. But of course, it takes experience for any of that to register. It’s been an interesting few days.

We went on a short walk this afternoon to enjoy our first sunshine since Saturday morning while Grandma watched baby boy. We were talking about some of the testing doctors do for newborns, normally just a few hours after birth. This talk was a good reminder of one of the downsides of lean principles and expediency.

Continued »


November 15, 2016  9:35 AM

Hidden Agendas in the Office

Matt Heusser Matt Heusser Profile: Matt Heusser
agenda, Office Politics, politics

A worker has a hidden agenda for her coworkerThis new job is amazing! Shouts your old friend into your ear. I’ve gotten more done in three months than I did at three years at LastJob! Best of all, there are no hidden agendas. Everything is out in the open.

Until, over time, he slowly realizes it isn’t.

The thing about hidden agendas is that they are, well … hidden.

Today I’d like to write about how to discover those agendas as early as possible, ideally before starting on the job. Continued »


November 7, 2016  11:39 AM

Agile Retrospective Ideas

Justin Rohrman Justin Rohrman Profile: Justin Rohrman
Agile, Retro, Scrum

A few things happen at the end of every agile release cycle if you’re dong agile ‘by the book’– a demo to show off what will be delivered to the customer, a meeting to start talking about what to develop for the next sprint, and a retrospective.

The retrospective is an airing of grievances with teeth. People talk about what went well over the past two weeks. But more importantly, they talk about what didn’t go well and what they what they might do about. In my experience, the retrospective is a sign of dysfunction.  Not the retrospective itself, driving toward improvement is good, but the fact that there is a dedicated meeting.

Let me tell a couple of stories.

Continued »


October 31, 2016  7:57 AM

The Service Economy Ghetto

Justin Rohrman Justin Rohrman Profile: Justin Rohrman
crowd-sourcing, gig economy marketing, gig economy websites

My co-blogger, Matt Heusser, wrote last week about his take on the service and gig economy. His post centered around how people using their own belongings, mostly houses, computers and cars, could make some extra money each month without the trappings of full-time employment. The gig economy creates virtual business ownership.

I think the gig economy is a trap, a ghetto. People working these gigs take erratic hours for low wages and don’t even have access to those wages without expensive barriers to entry.  Instead of creating more wealth, the service economy creates share-croppers.

Let me explain.

Continued »


October 27, 2016  3:52 PM

Explaining the Gig Economy

Matt Heusser Matt Heusser Profile: Matt Heusser

christmas_storyRemember in A Christmas Story, when Ralfie needed some privacy to decode the radio message? The bathroom was his only option; Ralfie shared the second bedroom with his brother, and the family had just one car.

Have you noticed that doesn’t happen any more?

The typical house size in the United States has increased by a thousand feet since 1973, which is presumably larger than it was in 1940 for the Christmas Story. Meanwhile the average family size shrunk from 3.67 to 2.67, and the number of vehicles per household is up from 1.16 in 1969 to 1.89 in 2001.

In other words, there are less people with more automobiles in bigger houses. Continued »


October 24, 2016  10:54 AM

The Value of Experience

Justin Rohrman Justin Rohrman Profile: Justin Rohrman
Computer programming, experience, IT experience

I have been working in technology for about 13 years, and software specifically for 10 and some change. According to this article, it’s all over, I’m done. According to the author, Jon Evans, people that have 10 years of experience are too set in their ways and probably can’t keep up with the pace of change in technology anymore.

Contrast that with this article by Dan Bricklin describing the team that created the IBM PC. Every person on the team had credentials in the form of sweat equity. They had spent time working and building important, or at lease useful projects, for years before the PC came to be.

So which is it? Does experience in technology help people create novel products, or is it something dragging teams down?

Does experience have value?

Continued »


October 10, 2016  2:02 PM

The Agile Scorecard

Justin Rohrman Justin Rohrman Profile: Justin Rohrman
Agile, scorecards, Scrum

I came across a post on scrumalliance.org today describing an agile scorecard. The scorecard is a set of categories and criteria that a manager or lead might use to assess each person on a technical team after a sprint. The author suggests that this is good because it moves assessment from one or twice a year, to every few weeks.

This sounds good at a superficial level, team members that don’t get feedback often may not know that they could change something small to be a more useful person. But, the details of this scorecard are full of anti-patterns. Things that, to me, suggest organizational dysfunction and a complete misunderstanding of agile principles.

Here is a closer look.

Continued »


October 10, 2016  11:39 AM

Building Personal Power And Influence

Matt Heusser Matt Heusser Profile: Matt Heusser
control, influence, Leadership, power

Superman has personal powerA friend of mine once told this story about personal power, which might be familiar to you:

So then the director walked by my desk, at 4:30PM on Friday, dropped off some data and said “I need a report on my desk Monday morning.” I can’t believe that guy!

Why did my friend do? He took the folder, wrote the report over the weekend, and turned it in on Monday.

Many of us behave that way. Do the work, get the executive to go away. We did the guy a favor. He’s cashed in his chips and we think that he owes us. At the very least, he’ll be off our back for awhile.

Except that things don’t work that way.

Next Friday, the same executive will be back with two reports. Do those, and he’ll be back with four. Here’s why. Continued »


October 3, 2016  7:49 AM

What’s Wrong With Kanban

Justin Rohrman Justin Rohrman Profile: Justin Rohrman
Agile, Kanban, Scrum

Last month, I wrote a post about what I think is wrong with Agile. Or at least one aspect of what I think is wrong with agile, there are plenty to choose from. That post was very popular, so I want to do a little unpacking of the Agile suitcase and look at the practices most commonly used starting with the work visualization tool, kanban.

Kanban is one of the most popular processes tied in with agile, maybe second only to Scrum. The basic idea is that every unit of work is displayed in some system as a card that moves through columns that indicate what stage the work is in right now. Add a dash of breaking work down into deliverable pieces, and a pinch of limiting work in progress, and that’s kanban. Simple, but it gets screwed up more than it is optimized for value.

Why is that?

Continued »


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