Learner Teacher

The Teacher Must Always Remain a Learner

Learner TeacherOne of the big things I took away from the coaching event I ran last weekend in Palm Cove (“Achieve – Coaching in Paradise”), is a reminder that there are countless insights and life-lessons to be gained from others. Even when we ourselves are in the position of coach, trainer or teacher, we need to keep the mindset of a learner.

From Kara and Deb – who attended the weekend – I gained:

  • New encouragement in the value of my message and my method. These are things that not everyone knows (you don’t learn this stuff in school). What I teach and the experience I bring can be of enormous benefit, even when conveyed in a period as brief as a weekend. I love helping people to achieve their goals and dreams in life – if I can spend the rest of my life doing more of this, I’ll be very happy.
  • Motivation to consider re-attempting to get my children’s book out there. I originally wrote this book in 2005, based loosely on the imagined adventures of my three daughters. I wasn’t originally as persistent as JK Rowling – I think I filed the manuscript away after at most half a dozen publisher knock-backs. (This came up when Deb was commenting generously and favourably on how helpful and readable she found my book “Chaos to Success”). If I’m encouraging others to pursue their dreams, maybe it’s time I reinvigorated a few of my own.
  • An appreciation that all individuals and families have their struggles, but also, through supporting one another, we can all get closer to our dreams and purpose and to the lives we really want.

I went to Palm Cove to coach and encourage, and in hindsight, unsurprisingly, I was greatly encouraged in so many ways. I went to teach and coach, but found myself as the learner all over again.

Coaching in Paradise – What a Great Weekend!

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I’ve just returned from a long weekend away in beautiful sunny Palm Cove (just outside of Cairns, in North Queensland, Australia), where I was running the pilot for my new “Achieve” coaching program with the winners of my most recent giveaway.

You might recall that this giveaway was originally meant to be for attendance at a Reese Witherspoon event in Sydney, which unfortunately did not go ahead as planned.

Like many things in life, it turns out there was a very bright silver lining, in that I was motivated to see this through, and deliver a high value weekend for my two lovely winners – Deb and Kara. I worked hard to pull together a great value two day coaching package, which Deb and Kara assure me they really enjoyed and benefitted from. I kid you not – they told me the weekend was life changing! I was blown away by that!

We worked through goal identification and setting, some personality type exercises to better understand ourselves and others. We worked through the various aspects of effecting personal and external change, and looked at my own Vision, View, Value, Voice, Vehicle model. We spent most of the second day reviewing time management principles, skills and tools, to develop the skills to convert goals into plans, and into measurable achievements.

All of this was done in a beautiful tropical setting, with plenty of time to rest, relax and ponder life, and enjoy good company and food together.

My plan is to build on this pilot weekend with a fully-fledged “Achieve – Coaching in Paradise” weekend in Q3 2017. Places will be strictly limited to keep the vibe relaxed and intimate – so keep an eye out for enrolment details in the next few months – I’ll be sure to make an announcement here once enrolment is available. And I’ll be sharing more of the feedback from Kara and Deb so you can hear more about the weekend and why you should definitely enrol, if you are a professional person who wants to identify and clearly define your own dreams and goals, and learn the skills to make them happen, despite the daily pressures that currently take all of your energy.

If you want to get in early, please feel free to send me an email (to david.nimmo@neoviz.com.au) so I can add you to a waiting list to let you know when enrolment is available… you won’t regret it!

CensusFail 2016 – Planning for Failure and Failure to Plan

To err is human, but to really foul things up requires a computer. —Bill Vaughan

Error

In my book “Chaos to Success” I devote a full chapter to the special kind of failure hell reserved for IT projects – the kind no doubt being endured at this very moment in the hallowed halls of the ABS, Canberra, IBM and Revolution IT among others. (Disclaimer – I was a consultant / analyst for IBM between 1997 and 2012, but never worked on the eCensus).

There are at least three common root causes behind this type of problem – and they’re most likely NOT what you think. Why? Because at their root they problems stem from people and processes, rather than technology. Each root cause is very fixable, but to be addressed they have to be acknowledged and treated with the priority they deserve.

1. High-Speed Idiots

I was told many years ago that computers are “high-speed idiots.” They are inanimate objects. They are very good at following pre-programmed instructions very fast (or occasionally not so fast, much to our annoyance!). Computerised systems and processes have only as much flexibility, resilience, performance and stability as was designed into them in the first place. If these aspects were not a big consideration for those who put the system together in the first place, then, without further change to the system, it will remain inflexible.

You’d have to believe that stability, resilience, performance, and ability to fend off the type of attacks being blamed were a consideration from the outset. There is talk now of attacks originating from the USA – this seems hard to believe given that geo-blocking (blocking Internet traffic from outside of Australia) should have been a baseline security consideration. No-one outside of Australia had any cause to be completing the Census. This should not have been an optional “switch” – it should have been a fundamental design element of the solution. If this came down to one piece of failed hardware – which hearsay would suggest is the case – then this was certainly NOT treated as the high priority concern it should have been.

2. Some Solution Development Approaches Make Flexibility Difficult and Expensive

Software and systems solutions are all about design—figuring out how to solve a problem. Once the problem is solved in the designer’s head, it’s usually a fairly straightforward – not to say simple – matter to convert that solution into the reality itself. This used to apply largely only to software. However with virtualised “cloud” solutions to hardware, this reality also increasingly applies to the platforms on which the software runs. Using a scaleable cloud-provided platform, processing capacity can be expanded dramatically with little or not impact on or visibility to users.

What I’m saying—and this is supported by industry experts—is that changing the way a system works is not, in and of itself, a complex and necessarily disproportionately expensive exercise. So the root source of the problem, the complexity, and the expense in making a change to an industry-grade IT system is not fundamentally a technical one. It is a process-related issue. The source of the problem is that the approaches that many groups use are convoluted, rigid, onerous, and frankly, outdated.

In the case of the Census solution, some investigations to date suggest that, at least on the Web-facing end of the solution, scalability may have been capped to no more than 10 servers. Early statements also suggested that the ABS was happy that they could process up to 500,000 transactions per hour, with a stretch up to 1,000,000. That might have been adequate had the public been encouraged to get online any time over a one week or one month period. The message that came through loud and clear to the general population was, however, that August 9 is the night we pause and fill in the Census, or risk a fine of $180 per day. Yes, I know there was fine print further clarifying these messages, but that was the message that came through the loudest – as I expect was intended.

So, could there have been 2,000,000 to 6,000,000 households attempting to submit their Census around 7.00-7.30 on Tuesday night August 9, 2016? It seems perfectly likely to me.

3. Business People Don’t “Get” IT, and IT People Don’t “Get” Business

Communication—real communication—involves at least two parties having an effective exchange of ideas, such that each really grasps the meaning, intent, and reality of what the other is saying. When is the last time you saw this occur with business and IT?

There are stories emerging in the press of third party network providers offering DDoS protection services to IBM and ABS but this offer being declined. Who made these decisions and were their implications fully understood?

How to Avoid a Repeat of this Problem

These issues can be overcome through addressing each of the three sources of the problem.

1. Implement Flexible-First Systems and Processes

In business, government and technology, as in life in general, one of the few certainties is change. So why wouldn’t you build flexibility into your systems and processes? That is the amazingly simple (yet notoriously difficult to achieve) solution to the problem of inflexible systems. Flexibility must become a core, underlying requirement from the ground up. To support your people and your organisation to provide the best service to clients, you should always provide for exceptions—there should be a process for handling the situation when standard scenarios don’t apply. That way, excellence in client service will be supported, and no one will have to work outside of the systems and processes to get the job done.

500,000 transactions per hour was expected, and 1,000,000 a maximum peak. Did anyone consider the outside possibility that with around 10,000,000 households being channeled towards August 9, what would happen, after months of publicity, if they, outrageously, all decided to do what was asked and attempt to submit their Census that evening? If it was considered and raised, as I would expect those on the technology side would have done, then who made the decision that this did not need to be addressed?

2. Use Modern, Iterative, High-Transparency Implementaion Approaches

I find that often businesspeople treat IT as a black box. That is, they put money and requirements in one end and hope to get the results they want out of the other end, with close to zero visibility of the process in between. I have seen IT organisations that prefer to keep things that way.

Modern, efficient, and effective IT organisations, however, embrace transparency in their processes with the business and, in doing so, build trust and client satisfaction with their businesspeople. This is not about the business micromanaging IT; rather, it is about trust, transparency, and flexibility. Key to these modern approaches is that both the business and IT embrace change as a catalyst for improvement as opposed to an inconvenience to be resisted. Modern IT processes minimise archaic “change-resistant” processes to better support the business.

The lack of transparency in information flowing to the public after the massive #censusfail, would suggest there is little real business or political understanding of the solution, the events that unfolded, and their root causes. Will this change following the promised investigation? Time will tell.

Will this be the last time such an event occurs – not likely. Is it acceptable – definitely not.

3. Prioritise Deep Business-to-IT Communications and Understanding to Minimise Risk

Associated with effective and efficient change processes is the imperative to ensure that the business and IT understand each another. Using modern, transparent IT processes certainly aids that communication process. There is, however, a need to ensure that the business-IT divide is bridged by an effective translator. I’ve spent much of my last twenty years performing precisely that role, and I can tell you that both business-focused people and IT-focused people need someone who can do (and enjoy) the work of translating between those two worlds.

Blind trust is no substitute for deep mutual understanding. IT solutions need to be understood in business terms, and defined in that way, from the ground up.

Finally – Plan for worst case scenarios.

What is the worst case scenario in terms of number of transactions on Census night? 10,000,000 submissions in one hour? What would it cost to cope with that? How should the system respond. If that is unfeasible to achieve for the fixed budget provided, how else can the problem be solved? Assign different households a time-slot and date for their Census submission to attempt to spread load evenly? A little communication and social engineering like this can sometimes be part of an overall solution which is more than technology-only.

At the end of the day, success of solutions like the Census are about managing risk to ensure success. If you want to commit yourself all-or-nothing to a single evening on a single day, for a first-of-a-kind (in terms of “digital-first”) eCensus, you are channeling all of your risk down to that one moment.

History says that is a very dangerous approach

Competition Update – We have a winner!

Thank yDavid Nimmo Final-058-2ou to everyone for all of your creative and sometimes passionate entries which we really appreciated receiving.

As I mentioned in a previous post, we were very disappointed to discover that The Simpatico event had been cancelled. That meant that the prize we were sponsoring no longer existed.

Rather than just cancel the competition, we decided to create a replacement prize so we could continue to give back to the clients, community and others who support us. We emailed everyone who entered the competition about the new prize, and were overwhelmed with the feedback and kind words we received in response.

The new prize includes:

–       A trip for two to the ReefHouse Resort in Palm Cove, Queensland

–       One-on-one daily coaching and mentoring sessions with Managing Director of NeoViz, David Nimmo over two days

–       All flights, transfers (airport to hotel and back), accommodation and meals

And now, I am very pleased to announce that the winner of NeoViz’s coaching and mentoring prize is: Kara Coughlan from Victoria, Australia.

Kara has just been informed that she has won the prize, and will be enjoying the North Queensland sunshine and mentoring sessions very soon.

Once again, I would like to thank everyone who entered the competition. And I look forward to announcing some other exciting initiatives from NeoViz in the coming months.

Regards

David Nimmo

Competition Update – Conference Cancellation – We’re doing some planning & will post an announcement here soon.

We are sorry to have to announce that the conference which was our major prize has been cancelled by the organisers.

As a result of this unexpected cancellation, we have held off announcing a winner while we consider a suitable replacement prize.

Thanks again for all of your creative and sometimes passionate entries which we really appreciated receiving.

Please check back here in a week or two, when we hope to be able to announce a replacement prize and winner.

Thanks for your understanding.

David Nimmo

Analysis in the Extreme

Extreme Analysis Manifesto

“Extreme Analysis” is how we describe our “no bullshit” approach to analysis of your business problems, and definition and implementation of a REAL solution. We won’t string you along or expose you to unnecessary risk. We’re in it for you every step of the way.

That’s extreme. That’s Extreme Analysis.

1. No Bullshit - Enduring success is about character and facts not po

The winner of the Ultimate Project Breakthrough Package (worth $10,000)

We are very pleased to announce that the winner of NeoViz’s “Ultimate Project Breakthrough Package” is:

Mr S.U. of Brisbane, Queensland, Australia, who has won the following:

  • iPad Mini 4 64GB WiFi + Smart Cover
  • Breakthrough book bundle:
    • Business Model Generation: A Handbook for Visionaries, Game Changers, and Challengers – by Alexander Osterwalder
    • Business Model You: by Tim Clark and Alexander Osterwalder
    • Value Proposition Design: How to Create Products and Services Customers Want: by Alexander Osterwalder and Yves Pigneur
    • The Lean Startup – by Eric Ries
    • Seven Habits of Highly Effective People – Stephen R. Covey
    • The Consulting Bible – by Alan Weiss
    • Book Yourself Solid (Illustrated) – by Michael Port and Jocelyn Wallace
    • Chaos to Success: Innovative Strategies for Creating Clarity and Progress for Complex Projects – by David Nimmo
  • Project Breakthrough Consulting Sessions with David Nimmo (4 x 1.5 hour consulting sessions) 
  • Business and Project Breakthrough Report (a comprehensive set of insights and recommendations)

Total Prize Value = $10,000

 

Chaos

Taming Chaos: Complexity, Chaos and Agile vs Waterfall

Making Sense of Chaos – The Cynefin Framework

Chaos

A good friend of mine who is an Agile Coach and trainer, introduced me last year to the Cynefin framework (developed by Dave Snowden), which is an excellent framework to help sort project and problem domains according to levels of complexity.

Simple (Obvious)

The framework starts of with “Simple” problems or projects – more recently retitled as “Obvious”. In this domain, the nature of the problem,  solution, and how to get there (the project) is Simple or Obvious to everyone.

The basic approach is described as “Sense – Categorise – Respond”. For me, the key term here is “Categorise”, which implies that this is something that has been done before, and is well understood. Cause and effect are relatively straightforward, and the approach to implementing at solution is Obvious, if not trivial. The path to the solution is well-trodden and no surprises are expected. “Best Practice” probably exists, and can be applied.

This problem domain is well suited to “Traditional” or “Waterfall” project approaches. A plan and design can be formed up front, with a reasonable expectation that the solution can be delivered using a defined method within predictable timeframes. And that’s pretty much Waterfall’s sweet spot – anything beyond that level of complexity, and the cracks in Waterfall approaches begin to display themselves pretty quickly.

Complicated

This problem / project domain actually has a lot in common with the “Simple” domain, but requires more analysis and investigation to narrow down the best approach. The approach and solution are not quite so obvious, and the path to the solution not so well-trodden. Once the solution and approach have been identified, however, a fair deterministic model may be applied to implementing a solution, with the expectation that surprises are unlikely. Best practice probably does not exist, but there are enough examples of “Good practice” to allow a deterministic approach to proceed with a manageable level of risk.

Complex

This is where things start to get fun and interesting, and where “Adaptive” approaches start to come into their own. The recommended approach is to Probe-Sense-Respond. This means we cannot expect to determine the solution fully up front. We must actually invest ourselves in commencing work on the solution, and see how things progress, and adjust along the way. Adaptive or Agile approaches are well suited to this complexity domain, with their time-boxed, iterative approaches to problem resolution. There is no best-practice here, and not even much good practice. What there is. Is “Emergent Practice”, which relies heavily on smart, capable people, using adaptive practices to respond in a timely and intelligent way to the circumstances they find themselves in.

Chaotic

Chaotic is, if you like, the extreme version of Complex. While in Complex we Probe-Sense-Respond, in Chaotic environments we must Act-Sense-Respond. Act implies that we full commit. We can’t just conduct hypothetical experiments or proofs-of-concept. We must actually commit to implementing something, measuring it’s strengths and weaknesses in the real world, and then commit to implementing something else. We cannot accurately estimate how problems can be solved in the real world in Chaotic systems, without actually implementing a solution. This again, even more than Complex environments, demands the use of adaptive approaches that depend on continuous measurement and adjustment, and NOT on massive up front planning.

The Real Business World

As the rate and degree of change accelerates in business, problems and projects are tending increasingly towards the Complex and Chaotic end of the spectrum. In such domains, the application of deterministic, rigid methodologies only increases the level of risk faced by the business. Adaptive models, including those in the Agile stable of approaches, are much more suited to these complex and chaotic environments and, when applied well, can greatly increase the odds of project success, as measured by timely delivery of real business value.

 

Extreme Analysis – Satisfaction Guaranteed

My Extreme offer!

It’s almost 2016 – 11.00am on New Year’s Eve in sunny Brisbane – Queensland – Australia.Extreme Analysis with NeoViz

What are you going to make of 2016?

I’m making a commitment to 2 clients to deliver on a promise of complete satisfaction with my services and results in 2016, via my premium “Extreme Analysis” program.

I’ve taken everything I’ve learned over 20 years of consulting to big business and government, and packaged it into a 12 month program, guaranteed to get you amazing results, or your money back.

You will find savings or benefits that outweigh your investment – or I’ll refund my fees in part or full – in line with the value you believe I have delivered.

I also want us to work out your definition of success together – it might be financial, it might be an increase in discretionary time, or a combination of these and other things. In fact, after 12 months working together, you might even find your definition of success shifts – perhaps away from a single line financial measure, to a more holistic “triple bottom line” measure – incorporating financial, human and environment.

For 12 months, I will work with you to understand, clarify and document your goals, dreams and objectives (business and personal). I will apply my industry leading analysis and problem solving skills to identify plans, opportunities and roadblocks – and ways to overcome those roadblocks. Together we will set targets, create action plans, and measure progress towards our goals. I fully expect to find opportunities to more than cover your investment in working with me. I also expect to go beyond that to make 2016 your best year yet.

Interested in Extreme Analysis? – Let me know now – Only 2 Places on Offer!

Check out more about my Extreme Analysis program here.

When you’re ready, contact me at david.nimmo@neoviz.com.au and I’ll set up a time to meet / call so we can both decide if this program is right for you.

Remember – there are only 2 places on offer initially. Once they’re gone, I can’t say at present when new places will next be opened up. So if you’re thinking about this, act sooner rather than later to secure your place.

Voice, Value, View, Vehicle  – My V4BusinessModel Framework

V4BusinessModel – Business Model Value Framework

My new model for thinking about and business services and consulting: Voice, Value, View, Vehicle.

Picture1

They say that anything of value is created twice – once in your imagination, and once in the physical world. One is the blueprint, the other is the thing itself. A well architected blueprint can lead to a beautiful construction. A poorly considered or documented design can lead to something ugly and non-functional.

It’s really helpful then, to have a good way to ‘frame up’ these designs in your imagination.

Following is a framework that I have developed which works for me in thinking about my own business, and in particular aligns my Views (my “unique perspective”), with the Value I offer my clients, and the Voice I use to convey these things to my clients (and potential clients) through various Vehicles.

I’ve included here a picture of my current whiteboard in thinking through these categories for myself and NeoViz (my consulting company).

Voice: What will people hear? How will you stand out from the crowd?

Value: When people have heard you, what value will they receive from you? You have their attention, but what is it in what you offer that is different and leads to the creation of value.

View: What are the key content elements of your view? What is your unique take on things?

Vehicle: Finally, how will you get your message, and your value, out into the marketplace? Books, speaking, training, consulting, coaching and so on.

Picture3

Let me know what you think – does this simple model help you to think more clearly about your own business and what you are offering your clients?