Today I’m (@RiczWest) starting a new twitter account. It’s called ChangeArc. For those who follow me, you’ll recognise this as my “Blog Name” – so what’s the purpose?
Simple – when I started using Twitter, it was primarily as a bookmarking tool. To some extent I still use it as such, but also for so much more…
There’s one problem though – as I look at a lot of content, that means a lot of tweets, and not everyone likes that, including me! There are a number of great people I’d like to follow, but I can’t because they tweet too much.
To that end, I’m going to start a much lower volume (only a few tweets per day) account which is ChangeArc. So what can you expect apart from less tweets? Extremely high quality tweets that will include any posts I do.
I don’t know how this will evolve, but it will be interesting to see…
“The obligation of any component is to contribute its best to the system, not to maximize its own production, profit, or sales nor any other competitive measure. Some components may operate at a loss to themselves in order to optimize the whole system, including the components that take a loss.”
~ The New Economics, page 100, Dr. Deming
Deming wasn’t alone in talking about “Local Optimisations”, you’ll hear similar things from Ackoff, Argyris and Senge as pointed out by Matt Barcomb in his brilliantly named post: Stop B*tching About Local Optimizations.
Recently, I’ve had a similar realisation as Matt because like any good “radical agilist” I kind-of believed in the “party line” about local optimisations – i.e. bad. There’s one problem though – I have spent almost my entire career doing local optimisations!
Has it all been for nothing???
I’d like to hope not
In fact I think history is littered with examples that show otherwise. Take for example, the legendary Rosa Parks: “the first lady of civil rights”, “the mother of the freedom movement”. If she was worried about “local optimisations”, then she wouldn’t of refused to give up her seat for a white person. If she was thinking like Deming and Taiichi Ohno, she would of said “Oh, this whole bus seat thing would only be a local optimisation, so it won’t really make a difference – I should try and change the system overall rather than wasting my time here”
– Thank goodness she didn’t!
In some ways, we in the “real (software) change movement” are engaged in a similar battle – it’s the one that has always been waged and is probably a fundamental principle of the universe:
Control vs Self Organisation
There will always be “forces”, some of which are immutable and others mutable, that will be implicitly working against us. Just because we’re doing something in the corner of a corner of a corner ^ 10, does that mean we should give up?
and that’s where my call for heroes goes out – “our world” needs more heroes! Not people that are going are going to give up or try their absolute best because some other people said something about local optimisation…
Rosa Parks was actually one of many – others had taken similar steps, including Irene Morgan in 1946, Sarah Louise Keys in 1955, and the members of the Browder v. Gayle lawsuit (Claudette Colvin, Aurelia Browder, Susie McDonald, and Mary Louise Smith) who were arrested in Montgomery months before Parks. Your effort at introducing or changing whatever it is may not “succeed”, you may be a Mary Smith, or you could be a Rosa Parks!
Either way, you will of been someone who participated in a revolution and you can be proud of that – I bet Irene Morgan’s family, friends and community are – if you google her you’ll see there are still people that know she helped to progress a cause also.
Skramjet is designed to be done by hereos, or hopefully to help people become one because hey, we all want to make the world a better place :-)
A scramjet (supersonic combusting ramjet) is a variant of a ramjet airbreathing jet engine in which combustion takes place in supersonic airflow.
A Skramjet (ScRuM, KAnban, lEan, Just in Time) is a process in which work takes place in a SuperPersonic flow state environment.
A personal exploration of the use of Kanban, Scrum and Lean Principles to create a Service Oriented Architecture within a large organisation.
About a month ago when I returned from a month in Aus, I had a few things to do in a day which combined to get me thinking about simplification as it seems that despite all our wonderful “web technology” (what are we on – 3.0?) we seem to reaching the stage where we are making things that worked about a year ago complex and harder to use for no reason! For illustration, here are the two web based tasks I had that day:
- Reserve an item in store at Curry’s
- Reset a password for a Google account
Sounds simple enough? As mentioned, a year ago each of these would have taken max 5 mins each. Instead, each took 1/2h! What’s going on???
1. Reserve an item in store at Curry’s
Sounds so simple, doesn’t it? Last time I did it, it was – you clicked reserve & collect, entered your postcode, selected a store, input your name, email and that was it! You’d get a confirmation email with reservation number and the item was held for 24 hours for you. Just go and pick it up :-)
What went wrong this time? You click Reserve & Collect and are given a message that it’s available for Reserve & Collect! Really? I’d hope so, but my money says there are some items where you click on this link and are told it’s not available for R&C…
Anyway, I persisted and was now asked also for my phone number (which I input a false one for – it’s wasn’t relevant) – why? After declining the privilege of being contact by Currys and various 3rd Party organisations I then tried to reserve the item – nothing, nada, nicht!
OK, I’ll try phoning the number on the web site. After being led down 2 IVR blind paths I gave up and drove to my local store. I noticed that there was a B&Q (hardware store) nearby and went there first, so I took some “consumer action” – they had the item and I was happy, but after a long and tortuous route I would have preferred not to take.
2. Reset your Google Password
In the afternoon, I was doing some “IT Support” for my 80 year old neighbour and he forgot his password for Google. “No problemo” said I (naively). I then went to the appropriate link where you’re asked for the email address and put it in. Last time I did this, you got a “check your email” message and off you go. Now, I got a security question (his cars numberplate) – ok, they’re beefing up security a bit – that’s good…
NO IT WASN’T! They’d beefed up security so much that we were asked another 5 or so questions about which Google products he used, when he started using them and even how much he used them! Although we were told that the system would allow for some mistakes, we were both sweating as we attempted to prove that Ken was indeed Ken!
Unlike the store, we couldn’t just go somewhere else, so after (what seemed like) 10-15 minutes looking up various bits and nervously waiting for Google’s assessment of his “Ken-ness” we finally PASSED – WOOHOO! I now have a backup record of his password, as neither of us want to go through that again…
What just happened? My two consumer type actions on the web in one day were a disaster! They wouldn’t have been a year ago…
Both systems seemed fine, but have now been bureaucratically engineered beyond their intent and optimal usability. If this keeps going on, we really will have computers like in Brazil
After too many years working for such organisations, I can take a pretty good guess at why both “enhancements” were done:
- The original R&C was probably a side project which worked great. But either the great Hammer of IT or EA came down and demanded compliance with their CRM strategy. This would have demanded more information be collected so they could “engage” aka annoy their customers. The system was obviously not fully working and the IVR, well that was probably a disaster (as are most) from the get-go.
- Due to increased identity fraud etc, there is clearly a need for increased security, especially around password resets. Unfortunately, some CRM / Security people got involved and thought of a whole bunch of questions which only they could answer. Us mere mortals never stood a chance :-(
With quite a bit of Solution Architecture experience, I’m going to put my SA hat on and suggest some potential low impact solutions to both these ?
- If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it! This system should have been left as is as it was the minimum usable implementation. “But we need to populate our CRM system” you may say. Well, in that case do it, but progressively. Give people the option and motivation to give you information and respect their choice if they choose not to (which is a subject of a whole other post).
- Stop being so damn “smart”, because it’s not really! Google have a history of only hiring the “best and brightest” and this is one of their products, so no real surprise here. There are so many dimensions of information that Google have on people. Create questions that people (and not machines or people who are like machines ;) can relate to. Use information such as IP’s, location to reduce the need for the “20 genius questions”.
There’s a common theme here
– both solutions were supposedly “improving” a system. Both had a common problem of an over and mechanistic engineering of the solution. Maybe part of the problem is the implicit “continual growth” in capitalism. Why can’t we sometimes just leave parts of a system as they are because everyone is happy with them?
Furthermore, if we do have to change something, how about we do it in a humane way? As the Antimatter Principle from @flowchainsensei would say, being sensitive to the needs of the real user rather than some abstract entity cooked up for the convenience of analysts, technologists or even worse, the business or their CRM system!
If you are ever in the position of dealing with a system which interfaces with people, then assuming you want it to be “nice” ask some questions like this: “Would I personally want to use a system like this?”, “Would my partner and children want to use this system?”, “If the CEO of the company used this system” (which they rarely do, but that’s another problem ;) “what would they think?”
If you’re in the position of allocating funds / priorities for systems, you may want to ask questions like “What is this doing for our customers?”, “Is it making their lives better / easier?”, “Politics aside, is this really the best way to spend the companies money?”, “What would happen if we didn’t do this change?”, “Is there something else in the organisation which could make better use of the money if we didn’t do this project?”
It’s the end of the day here, and what a day it’s been with 3 causes, 2 manifestos and so many hashtags I lost count! ;-) Organised chaos springs to mind… But it’s been worth it. I’ve done my best to spread the word and went to my first CryptoParty (and Unconference :) at English PEN, which I just thought I’d briefly recap. The function was at their offices in London which were probably a bit small for the event even though there was a small lecture theatre space included.
Luckily as the numbers were limited it wasn’t too crowded, just very comfy. The mix was interesting – a few business people, some good hackers, information & freedom people, quite a few IT people (like me :) and just many who were interested and wanted to find out more. There was certainly a wide range of topics covered (in no particular order):
- Secure SMS
- Smart Phone Security
- Secure Storage
- Encrypting Mail
- Safe Web Browsing
- Why Bother? I have nothing to hide…
- A Secure OS – Qubes OS
- How Google and Facebook make money from you
- TruCrypt (the software Snowden et al use)
In all, I’d say a Total Success! I was able to chat with many people and my wife was educated on many issues, some of which I’d talked about. The great thing was that it wasn’t just me blabbering on and there were some interesting freedom and rights perspectives that were also given.
One of the key messages was that privacy should be the default (ah – remember the good ‘ol days ;) and that we should politically move towards this.
In the mean time however, we need to implement “stop gap measures” that increase peoples privacy by encrypted communication, storage and working. This has given me some focus for my contribution.
I’d planned on leaving Google this year anyway and blog about it. I can now see that I actually have a greater need to reclaim my privacy, and I’ll be blogging about that also. I can’t wait to see what happens on next years The Day We Fight Back, Necessary and Proportionate, to Stop The NSA, and Stop Spying on US! Or as I’d like to call it – Information Freedom Day :-)
Updates: Just in today:
- DOJ accuses firm that vetted Snowden of faking 665,000 background checks – that’s right – over 600k people working at the NSA have not been checked!!! They could be way worse than Snowden – criminals, foreign agents, terrorists, general ner’ do wells’, cads, bounders – who knows???
- Want to Store Secret NSA Metadata? – Yes, that’s right – Obama has decided to store secret NSA Metadata at a private company – here’s the RFI – nepotism, of course not! What could possibly go wrong..?
Welcome to my meager effort in the push back against unconditional mass surveillance. At the moment I’m waiting on some treatment for a pinched nerve that means I can’t use my right arm much for typing, which is literally a pain. Still, nothing will stop me blogging on this auspicious occasion which I passionately believe in!
Anyone who knows me virtually or physically knows that I am a passionate believer in people, humanity and freedom – some of the core principles of The Magna Carta and The American Constitution. For this reason I’m fully signing up to The Day We Fight back. To me, this means a sort of non-violent revolution along the lines of
How to Start a Revolution by Gene Sharp
which has been behind many recent revolutions such as the Arab Spring and Eastern European ones. Ironically, we now need tools such as this to ensure our own freedom in Western Civilisation…
Why? Because the USA (NSA) and other countries such as the UK (GCHQ) and Australia (ASIO) seem to be heading down a very dark path based around the darker side of human nature. This has been trodden before and never ended well for anyone…
The current situation with mass surveillance will soon be beyond what George Orwell warned against in his book and the movie 1984. Even allowing for the fact that people have “nothing to fear” if they “obey the law”, there have already been numerous instances of NSA Employees abusing the current system and the NSA helping US corporations conduct corporate espionage. Here in the UK, we’re now looking at our confidential health information being sold to whoever wants it which is a total violation of patient-doctor confidentiality.
Underlying all of this is the dangerous assumption that large institutions (be they government or corporations) can tramp over the rights of individuals (aka people :) and exploit them as they would any other resource for their own ends. I think it’s time people really understood the value of the privacy and took it back so we don’t all end up going somewhere where most people don’t want to be and won’t enjoy. The choice is yours…
PS If you’re in the UK, although it’s not on the official page, there’s a (CyberParty) event at English PEN tonight – seems like there are still tickets available…
I’m not the most prolific of bloggers, but after that first post on the 30th June 2012 “Hello world! Of Architecture and Change” this is now the 100th post – WOOHOO! As you can see above, I had a fairly modest celebration with a few Grenadier mates – thanks guys ;-)
As with any Base-10 based moment, I think it’s time for a bit of reflection and cogitation… What better place to start than the “mission statement” from that first post:
If you’re interested in IT, Privacy, Science, Maths, Process, Systems (of people and technical), Programming, Organisations and any other topics that grab my attention, then you may want to follow this.
So how did I score?
- I think I had pretty good coverage of IT, Process, People Systems and Organisations
- But, I only touched on maths and didn’t really cover any Science, Technical Systems (ironic or not, as that’s what I work with much of the time) or Privacy (although I did tweet a lot on this as I have some pretty strong and liberal views on this).
- “any other topics” covered a number of things such as some funny movies, inspiring kids, The DailyRiczWest which was an attempt at semi-automatic curation, some physical and virtual holidays, and some reviews of things and conferences. I also chatted with some bots, lamented Generation Debt Recession, Curated some Tweets by Jennifer Sertl, was on a train with a Happy American Conductor in the UK, used The Most Expensive form of travel in The World, did a Juice Reboot and went to a Campus PARTY all in the past 1.5 years!
The inevitable question is where now? Firstly, I think it’s time for a renewed mission statement:
To boldly go, where I've not gone before To seek out new ways of being, living, thinking and working To explore seemingly strange new worlds and ideas of other people These are the voyages of me... In physical, virtual, emotional & mental space: The final frontiers
- I like blogging about “anything”. I know this may be frustrating for some who very much stay on a particular “message topic”, as one day I’m talking about a product, another some programming, people or an organisation type. Well, that’s just me so I won’t change that…
- I do want to increase the “technical content”, by which I mean around Architecture, Design and Programming. I got drawn down a people and process rabbit hole, which in some ways culminated with previous post on Toxic Waterfall. I’ll still blog in this area, but have a lot of technical ideas I want to explore and talk about along the way
- I think topics like Maths, Science, Privacy and the like are probably better covered on Twitter, which I’ll be getting back on to next year after I’ve returned from a well earned break in Australia
- People (& Organisations)
- Process (with People and Organisations)
- Technology (to implement Processes for People in Organisations)
but most importantly in a humane context