Adaptive Process

Software Development and Off-the-Rack Suits

My dad’s family had a chain of men’s clothing stores. It wasn’t the highest margin business, but it provided a very comfortable living for several families – and ensured my brother and I were probably the best dressed boys in our high school class.

(Having worked in the stores during Christmas, I learned I I never wanted to work directly with consumers. But I digress). 

My family sold a lot of men’s suits. Because off-the-rack men’s suits need to be adjusted, at the company’s height, my dad employed over a dozen tailors, tucking in, letting out, shortening, and lengthening.

What does this possibly have to do with software development?

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Adaptive Culture

Can We Talk Here?

Do people in your organization tell the truth?

No, I’m not accusing your coworkers of being sociopaths or psychopaths. Whether the accrual that helped make your quarter was justified is your business.

But, do your co-workers know what you think of them? Do they tell you what they think of you? Of management’s decisions? Of how priorities are set? Of whether the project is going well?

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Adaptive Process

Why Best Practices get a Bad Rap

Last week, I was working on a project for a client and thinking about how we needed to get the technical team to endorse “best practices.” 

Meaning, that any technology you use, there are folks out there who’ve been there, done that, thought about it, written about, and spoken about it at conferences. It makes a lot of sense to learn from what they’ve done. Or, as I learned long ago, creativity is great, but plagiarism is faster.

But, this weekend, it occurred to me that, for most of my career, I’ve avoided using the term “best practices” – because I’d witnessed how many clients were ready to kill other consultants who were more interested in talking about “best practices” than actually listening to what their particular company needed. 

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Adaptive Culture

Changing Your Expectations – IT Should Work

Sales people that don’t meet their quotas don’t hang around long.

Finance people that can’t meet an audit are often looking for other sources of employment.

Factories that produce poor quality products find their orders drying up.

Pretty straight forward.

But in many, many companies and organizations, folks accept that “technology is hard” and that “things break.” When upgrades take systems down for days, or reports only work most of the time, people shrug their shoulders and accept “that’s just the way it is,” because “technology is hard.”

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Adaptive Process

Collecting Data About How You Work with Data

A friend of mine is an executive at a smaller non-profit healthcare provider. We’ve been speaking informally about the various data and reporting challenges his agency is facing.

Here are the key facts:

  1. The organization relies on multiple software systems, some in the cloud and others server-based.
  2. The organization has several folks who develop reports in the different systems. Each person develops reports as they see fit, generally upon request from others in the organization.
  3. There is no CIO or CDO. Various other executives (including my friend, who has no technical background) have responsibility for managing technical folks.
  4. An executive with extensive experience in larger, more sophisticated organizations wants the organization to become more sophisticated. He would like them to develop a data warehouse to centralize all their data so they can better develop metrics that would drive the business forward.
  5. The organization has not been successful in the past when they have attempted to execute large projects.

What do I recommend? Should they be strategic, develop a data warehouse, create metrics and distribute? Or should they go tactical and identify all current data demands and knock them out one by one?

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Adaptive Culture

Moving IT Folks to Management – A Recurring Challenge

As I relaunch this blog, I’m caught between trying to work out some big ideas while making points that fit within a blog post.

This post will have a very quick introduction to some important basics that I want to cover; then, I’ll move into a detailed discussion of one particular challenge I’ve helped with – that of improving the performance of IT managers.

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Adaptive Process

Technical versus Adaptive Challenges

In my introduction to this new blog, “Back to Where I Started,” I wrote about moving beyond “technical consulting.”

One idea that’s helped me formulate my new direction is learning the difference between “technical” and “adaptive” challenges. 

I came across the idea first in Immunity to Change by Robert Kegan and Lisa Laskow Lahey. The authors cite Ronald Heifetz’s classic work, Leadership without Easy Answers.

No blog post can do justice to these two complex books1. But the key distinction between technical and adaptive change is key to how I see my work going forward.

I’d put the distinction this way. If you have a technical challenge, you can hire someone to fix the problem and you don’t have to change who you are or how you work. Examples abound. A surgeon can remove your appendix. A CPA can file your taxes. Or a data consultant can make your reports run faster.

Clear problems. Known solutions. Fixed pricing. No personal growth required. 

Adaptive challenges are much more complicated – because you can’t just throw money at the problem. 

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Back to Where I Started: Interesting Projects with Smart People

About 20 years ago, I was the junior partner in a systems implementation firm. In the category of “I’d rather be lucky than smart,” we were purchased for a decent sum four weeks before the market crashed in 2000. Four weeks. It didn’t make me a Silicon Valley millionaire, but those funds put my financial life on a very stable footing.

The firm that bought us bought another eight small firms. The merger of lots of different cultures and egos didn’t go as smoothly as folks might have liked. Shocking, I know.

To my good fortune, I became the “director of special projects.” Any situation – from the data center, to the consulting practice, to marketing communications – that wasn’t working, I was given to fix. And I did pretty well. So much so that after about a year, I realized that I had fixed most of what I could and that I didn’t want to keep traveling around the country almost every week. So, I moved on.

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A Blog . . . and a Business . . . Relaunch

I’ve written hundreds of blog posts over the years, but haven’t been writing regularly for some time.

However, I’m ready to start again. I have a series of posts ready to go to ensure that this isn’t just a new year’s resolution in October that will fade in time.

I have a few reasons why I stopped writing and why I’m starting again.

Over the last few years, I produced mostly technical pieces. These helped me with multiple presentations, while also allowing me to get a certain amount of work from new clients.

Over time, however, I came to realize that being brought in to solve a technical problem left me frustrated – because the technical problems often included people issues.

As I say with conviction, software doesn’t kill projects, people kill projects.

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Dynamics NAV

Building A NAV Date Table for Power BI

A date table is essential to data work, whether you’re working in SQL, Tabular Modeling for Power Pivot, Power BI or SSAS. 

Because if you work with any kind of data, and particularly accounting data, you’ll always have to ask for the appropriate time period.

You can find lots of good examples of how to build a data table, both in SQL and in Power BI, if you operate on a calendar year or your fiscal months are calendar months. 

Google is your friend here, so if the links above don’t help, you can find others.

But, if you’re a retailer or another business that operates on some variety of a 4-5-4 calendar (with a 53rd week showing up every couple of years), that’s not as easy to find.  

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