Long time no write, time for some insights…

May 22, 2015 Leave a comment

Been reading a lot of inspirational books lately and you can add to that Magazine articles that my best friend has been handing off.  Hey it’s a lot of good information.  Sometimes it’s a psychology today article.  Other times it’s a book about a startups and running one.   


I think the hardest job is to take a company from ground zero (or maybe ground negative) and turn the sucker around in a short time to catch the wave of opportunity that abounds in the industry you’re are targeting.

Have I lost you yet?  I often start in the middle of a subject then fill in the details. Winking smile


I think having watched “Pulp Fiction” to many times has impacted my ability to converse…

It’s all good.  Plus having a digression checker never hurt.  So please, just go with the flow, I’ll get it all covered by the end.

I love playing poker.  Sure, it’s gambling but it is also a game of skill and psychology.  You can play your cards or you can play the person.  If you play your cards, and do it well, you won’t be the Big winner but you should have a reasonable play.  If you want to win, and win big, you have to play the player.  You may have heard the saying that “any hand can win”.  It’s all about strategy.  Poker, Holdem included, is all about playing the table.  Controlling your responses is first.  Hey if you can’t minimize your ”tells” a better player will take your bank.  If you can utilize your “tells” to first establish a pattern then change it up, you stand a much better chance of cashing in.  The same thing applies to Business.  A great book on start up mentality is “All In Startup” by Diana Kander.  This book portrays a really good concept.  But it really does come down to being all in. 


Are you committed?  We all have outside commitments.  Are you someone who can jump into a startup situation and deal with the requirements?  There is a reason that most relationships don’t survive a startup.  One or the other has to give.  Can your significant other really deal with the fact that you’ll be working 18 hour days for a stretch?  What, 18 hour days? You must be mad!!!!  It’s a Mad Mad Mad world buddies… Winking smile

Ok, here’s the why…

You’ve got a hot idea

It’s a hot market

The window is open only for so long

How do you meet those requirements?

Well first, back to “All In Startup” and why you should read it.  It comes back to addressing that “hot idea”.  The bottom line is that you may feel you have the killer app but does it really address a potential customer’s Migraine.  “Migraine”?  Isn’t that just a headache?  No, it’s a headache of massive impact.  That is what you have to solve.  Sure you product may be the cat’s meow but if it doesn’t address anyone’s migraine it will not go very far.  Ok, you argue, hey, my app is hot and it will solve x.  Everyone hate’s dealing with x so my app is totally cool.  I’m not saying that there isn’t a market for x but that’s kinda like being the killer rock guitar player that is finally discovered in a back ally bar.  It happens but the odds are stacked against ya.  It’s much better to be a mediocre player with connections… but that is another story.  I’ve got them but this is not the place Smile.


Anyway, read the book.  It’s advice is beyond the scope here but it is well worth it.

Add in “Hold Me Tight” by Dr. Sue Johnson.  Now here you are going to ask me why is a relationship book important in a business context?  Everything is connected.  Any relationship has all sorts of aspect but the concept of establishing connections is key.  You have to connect.  This book will give you insight into the whole aspect of connections plus where you might be missing the boat both personally and professionally.

Have I wandered too far off topic?  I don’t think so.  These things I’ve talked about have played a key role in the whole startup experience.

You have to be prepared for both the stress, the ability to set your own tone and goals plus getting your team on board.


You are going to have players of every stripe and you need a mix.


What if you had a pro team of all the best stars?  Well, without the members that do the mundane and ordinary, your “stars” will find it challenging to achieve their high level of performance.  You need the routine, mundane, day to day operations covered before you let your “stars” loose on the world.


Holding your phone in speaker mode is not “Hands Free” and other fun stuff…

July 28, 2014 Leave a comment

You’ve seem them right?

Drivers jetting down the road…

Holding a phone but not to their ear…

Talking away…

In English, as I understand it, hands free means…

Without Hands


Is there any question?

Can there be any doubt?

I even overheard a conversation where…

Someone got a ticket…

Was all miffed for being cited…

A scary call if you got money at all…

We are all so wired in…

Even my bank…

Sometimes I might forget to send them a note…

I’m out of the country, yes, those charges are ok…

But sometimes…you get the call..

Maybe by shopping at some national retailer…

You know the one…

Next thing you know, you have a replacement card…

It’s in the mail…

Oh… Do they still accept cash?

They?  Why anyone… gas stations…

Grocery Stores…

The local establishment…

Fortunately… that’s still a yes…

Until Skynet strikes!

Your cash has been terminated…

Active Listening

July 8, 2014 Leave a comment


It’s something we all should do but it seems to rarely happen.  What is it?  While I’m not endorsing this site, MindTools does have a pretty good description. Wikipedia also has a page on it (see Active Listening).  I did like the warning at the top of the page in Wikipedia that talks about weasel words.  Perhaps that falls in like with double speak.  Whatever the definition the point is, that active listening is rarely practiced.


When Speakingshutterstock_141613546


Ok, so now you know a little bit about active listening, heck maybe you already practice it in principal.  When I’m talking with someone, I go into the conversation expecting that they will not be an active listener.  Since I can’t make someone listen, I need to adjust my message so that the important parts come across.  This is especially challenging when the message is not going to be accepted easily by the listener.  For example, when giving constructive criticism to an employee, I expect them to be practicing Active Thinking.  Funny right?  The act of hearing only a few words of your topic then immediately form a rebuttal.  It’s during the rebuttal phase that practicing Active Listening becomes a challenge.  It’s during this process that I put things in black and white.  I know they are not going to listen fully.  So backing it up in writing reduces the chance of ambiguity.  Is this fool proof?  No, but I’ve found that it is significantly more successful than just “saying it”.

shutterstock_121786222Perfection vs Perception


Ok, perfection is a fictional concept that can never be obtained.  So why am I even bringing it up?  Key to my practice of Active Listening is to accept that I don’t have all the answers.  Also, my point of view is a matter of my perception.  I accept that the person already has a different perception and by listening to their contribution to the conversation helps me form a better idea of where they are coming from.  This is a process that will never be perfect.  My goal with every conversation is to gain a little more insight into their perception.  This helps improve future messages to achieve a higher chance of getting through.


Sound bites just a political thing?


Or maybe just the news?  Sound bites are used because they are effective.  Short simple statements with intentional pauses have been shown to increase comprehension.  I’ve used this technique when dealing with particularly difficult people.  Me?  I’m difficult?  To some people I’m sure I am.  My goal is to get my message across at the office.  It’s not a social hour.  When in a social situation, I‘m not worried about clear and complete understanding.  As long as a good time was had by all, I call that a winner.  By the way, I found that using sound bites for humor can be pretty fun too.

So while this short blog may not be overwhelmingly educational.  I enjoyed writing it and sharing some of my thoughts on Active Listening.  Writing this is my way to help me to remember to use Active Listening especially during stressful situations. 

Keeping balls in the air…

December 20, 2013 Leave a comment

It has been a while since I’ve blogged.  Mainly that is due to having a significant role change.  In the past year I’ve gone from a cog in the machinery to being the big cog.  Dream job?  In many ways yes.  But the old adage of being careful what you wish for is always something to keep in mind.  It might just happen and then you are on a heck of a rollercoaster ride.  Now, that’s all I’m going to delve into that piece of history.  The main idea behind this blog is about managing multiple projects, people and processes in a diverse and changing system.  What is this, you ask?  It’s like looking at technology from a distance and up close at the same time.  Having a team of diverse and talented individuals who may or may not be in the right role.  Keeping stake holders happy and projects on track.  A typical day you say.  Well if you’ve been there and done that, I would concur.


The future is out there.  How you see it and perceive it can play tricks on your plans.  Plan?  Really, you mean you have to have a plan?  How can you plan when you have conflicting projects?  One plan is to not have a plan.  Yes, I said it.  No plan whatsoever.  You just react to stuff as it comes up. 

How, you might ask, is not having a plan having a plan?  Plans are choices and by not choosing to pre-plan your projects you’ve made a choice.  So if plans are choices and one was made…voila!  A plan.   Typically, this type of plan results in chaos.  Now that may be fine for advanced mathematics but not really for a business.  Not only that you leave yourself open to be blindsided, missed opportunities and generally letting things go to waste.  Like not cleaning out the refrigerator, ever.  Some of those mystery items in the fridge are truly scary.  In business, scary things should be avoided.  At least in my opinion. 


The clock is ticking.  Time is of the essence.  Ugh!  When does it stop?  With luck, never.  Perhaps never is too long but you get the meaning. 

Now you might be wondering why I’m talking about no plan?  Yes?  Well, that is the environment I inherited.  So, how do you turn it around from an unplanned reactive environment to one where plans are established and executed? 

One thing I’ve seen in other environments is the tendency for the change agent to come in with the Great Plan and the attitude of “we’re going to set sail on a new direction, TODAY!” 

Having an established plan is wonderful and you do need to have that vision.  But it’s a “Vision” not a “Plan”.  Why?  All the existing employees are used to the old way.  People don’t like big changes.  Someone coming in with the Big Plan is going to meet a lot of resistance and eventually, the old habits win out.  You also end up with grumpy staff!

So there you are with your great plan sitting on the drawing board.  No amount of Rah Rah meetings are going to change that.  shutterstock_65549248

Eventually you end up looking like…

with all your plans a mess and no traction. 


So how does that change? 


It depends a lot on your leadership, and the leadership of others.  So, keep your vision but you’ve got to do some homework first. 

Does that mean you can’t start out right away?  Absolutely not. 

The first task is to start getting rid of blockers.  Perhaps a blocker is an individual.  Maybe it’s a process. 

Am I saying to “Fire ‘em All”? 

No, but you may have to do that unpleasant task more than once.  Again, homework! 

Staffing changes is an option but before you even go down that route, you have to make sure you’ve identified and acquired the all tribal knowledge that is available.   

You may find yourself in a situation where most of the tribal knowledge has already walked out the door.  I know this situation first hand.  You could have staff on hand that are making the motions but really have no idea how the whole system should even work.  If that’s the case, after you’ve ascertained that “Elvis” has indeed left the building then it is time to fire that shot across the bow to let the team know you mean business. 

Letting someone go is never easy and should never be done lightly.  Homework and documentation.  Let me say that again.  Homework and documentation.

You have key decisions to make about the role that person occupies.  Are you eliminating the role and reducing head count?  Are you replacing the person and not the role?  A couple of key questions (there are more…) but also you have to make sure that HR is involved with the process and it is done in a legal and professional manner.  No kidding!  Remember, HR always.

Ok, so maybe it’s a process you’ve got to fire.  Huh?  Trust me, some of your employees look at their processes as another individual.  I mean, it’s like… “We can’t stop doing that!  The company will fail if we stop doing that!  “That” is the way its always been done.  We can’t survive if we don’t do it!”  You get it.  Homework, again.  If you run into this, and you will, you have to have a clear idea of what process or purpose the task fills.  Things like repetitive functions that can be reduced to a single or automated step are my favorite. 

Reports that go no where.  Yes, these animals exist far more than you’d ever realize.  I was at a company once where there were dozens of reports generated and sent to a file directory that nobody had read access to.  Outside of IT,  nobody knew the reports even existed.  The staff who generated the reports spent two days every month creating these critical company reports.  Critical?  Yes, that’s what the department understood.  Who knows, maybe it was a former executive who wanted them.  Some of the reports were useful and they were kept.  The irony was that the ones that took the longest had no current business use.  Two days turned into fifteen minutes.  Imagine that!


Now it’s time to build all the disparate parts into a functioning whole.  The plan?  I did start out this mess by talking about a plan…  You have to make small turns of each gear that drives the company.  Looking where you can remove a cog or, preferably, make the cog smaller so it turns faster.  When you take a piece out in the middle of the line, make sure that the other process can move in to fill that gap.  This is critical.  If you don’t, you simply silo the processes and the dysfunction continues. 

The hardest part in all this is having the patience to wait out the small changes.  The importance of patience becomes more pronounced when your vision begins to take focus. 

Making small changes to address the future vision is an Agile way of looking at business.  See, the concept doesn’t just apply to programming.  It’s all a series of processes that have to work together to make a whole system. 

You can’t be afraid of making the difficult choices, sometimes they are all you have.  Typically, if it is difficult the impact is much greater.  More when it’s a person choice than a process.  Keep in mind though that a process choice may directly affect a person in an unforeseen manner.  Isn’t that just a kicker?  You get rid of a process making some employees life easier and they quit because you took their process away.  Hogwash you say?  Unfortunately, I’ve seen it first hand.


Set the vision – you need to know where you are going

Make a general plan – to many details ensure the plan will break.  The more detailed, the sooner it breaks!

Increment the change – small changes are easier for the whole to digest.  Break up big changes into small parts.

Wait the change – you have to give the change you made time to be adapted to.  To many small changes too fast can even be worse than a big change.

Revisit the plan and adjust – Once change has started, new things will come to light that were either not known (a real surprise), the change introduced a new situation (surprising but not a shocker) or you’ve some more time to do some more homework and can better tune the plan (I like this one).

Categories: Article, Team Building

Cracking Windows 8

May 25, 2013 Leave a comment

Well, not exactly…

you see, I had a problem…

Ok already, yes it was a self created problem.

not really something I could do anything about.  Here is the problem scenario.

You have a windows 8 computer

No password, no password recovery disk

You are hosed…or rather I was.  The computer?  Brand new hi-power dell running windows 8.  Ok, I did all the old school tricks to try to get to the command prompt.  I wanted to run:


But every time I tried to get past the logon screen, I was stymied.  Finally I booted into the bios.  Why?  Because it was set to boot from the Hard Drive first.  Why was this important?  Because I had a brand new Windows 8 install disk that would allow me to get to the command window without the challenge.  Being in install mode and all.

So after going into the bios and moving ol’ dvd rom to the top, I was able to boot off the install dvd.

Got to the “install windows” screen.  In the lower left corner in really small writing is a repair windows link.  Click on it and a few new options show up.  You can “Refresh” among other things.  But I went to Advanced.  Clicked on the Command Prompt option.  Once there it was a pretty simple couple of steps to :

a) re-enable the local admin account

b) reset the local admin password

Log back in as admin and finish fixing the system.

Seems like it would have been easy from the beginning.  To bad I fussed around with old school options before I figured this one out.


Hope this saved you some time…

Categories: Microsoft, Windows 8 Tags:

Using Skydrive to host a Real Estate Listing Video

February 19, 2013 Leave a comment

I had an opportunity to create a virtual tour video for my parents Real Estate Company.  All of the tools used were from Microsoft.  So here’s the quick 101 on creating, uploading and posting a Virtual Tour video using SkyDrive.

The part is creating the Video.  I know a lot of you have your super Macs and high fidelity stuff but if you don’t and need to do something like this…   Well here goes…

Start with Windows Live Photo Gallery.  Why?  Editing the photos prior to putting them into the video…


So you’ve got a photo you want to use but, it’s crooked, or needs to be cropped…


Kind of looks like the ceiling is slanted…


A little corrective action, and the photo looks a lot better.  Once all the photos are “touched up”.  It’s time to build the movie.  Enter windows movie maker…


Simply import your photos…


and you start to build your video…


add your title…


Possibly some effects…


Now that you got the basics… you end up with your video…

Fisher Mansion Video

Ok, so you got your video and it’s ready to push up to SkyDrive…


So by simply using the SkyDrive Icon…


Choose the resolution…


Log in to Live…


Choose an existing folder or create a new one and click publish


Once uploaded…


You can watch online, etc…


Open up Microsoft SkyDrive…


There’s your video, all ready to go.  Now you need to share it on a web page…

By clicking on Sharing, you are presented with options of how you can share the video…


The default is for email but in this case I need to imbed it on a web page.  Clicking on “Get a Link” presents a couple of choices…


View Only was the option I chose.  By doing this, it creates an embeddable link that I can use on a web page.

You can use the initial link


or create a shortened link…


And that’s it.  Place this link on a web page or Facebook… and you’re done.

You can see the finished video here on it’s listing web page.

I’ve also used SkyDrive to embed the Mansions Photo here….

Categories: Microsoft, SkyDrive

The things you learn…the hard way

December 9, 2012 Leave a comment

New Code, New Job or New Opportunity…

Over my career, I have had to adapt to and adopt new technologies and technologies, while I was conversant in them, were deployed in very unique ways.  Technological change is inevitable and if you want to remain viable, you have to roll with the punches.  Time can morph the FINEST architected system to the point of instability.    These are my thoughts on spinning up at a new opportunity or being presented with a new system and reaching a knowledgeable state within 90 days (120 if there are outstanding “other” tasks to be done).

Reverse engineering a system can take one of two paths depending on the availability of information. 

Why start right off with reverse engineering?  Few of us have the opportunity to work in a Greenfield environment.

You can go down the path that the documentation is “golden” and the foundation is sound and focus all your energy on the methods, properties and attributes of all the classes.  I know this sounds like OOP but a sound understanding of objects and the states they occupy is critical.  The second way is to talk to stake holders, use the application and get to know the operational intent of the application.  With that approach, the documentation becomes a reference but not a guide.

Note, not all "documentation" has an informational value.

If you have access to the code, that enhances the power of the "documentation".

So, the first set of skills needed is to be able to develop a plan to reverse engineer the code. How does one come on board and "spin up" to be a master?  This is a second set of skills and helps to master the code base.  This being said, the last skillset needed is a "QA" mindset. 


Code to test, test to code.  According to Yoda:”Write Code? Test, you will…” 


Reverse engineering code:

Access to the source code!  More than once, I’ve gone into a project and have access to the source code and think I have it made.   Ten minutes later I’m looking for the bus that just hit me.  Why?  Having access to the source code is great but that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll understand the code in any time in the near future (six mos.) but it is useful.   Beyond the obvious (this is the code you have to maintain) it gives insight to the hands that have touched the code.  While in this process, it’s also a good time to think about refactoring.  Windows of opportunity are quickly closed by the pressing needs of business.  While that window will open up again and again, it is open widest at the start.  For example, the code is well structured and for the most part, maintainable.  You run across a section that is hanging off another module.  At first, it looks like a valid piece of code reuse but after delving in a bit more, you find that it’s not related to its location.  You may learn that it was put there because that’s where the “screen” appears in the application.  Now the code is being maintained in two places.  Complexity has crept in along with an increase in the potential for breakage.

In addition to the source, hopefully the code was documented in-line while being developed.  Now tools can help.  They still can even if the code is not internally documented.  Grab a documentor that can parse through the source code (like the .Net documentor on CodePlex or Resharper). Hers a pretty good list of available documentation tools.   Depending on the previous developer, you can inspect the compiled code to see what methods, properties and attributes are exposed by the classes. From there, it’s time to move on to the next step and become a master.

Mastering the code base:

This is where the diplomat comes in and works with the stakeholders to determine two areas. First, what works well and does not need enhancement. The second is everything else.  What?  Just two?  Really, there can be only one.  Once a line or two is written, all bets are off and modifications will follow.  That’s a good thing right?  What does diplomacy have to do with this?  I’m SUPER DEV/DATA GUY/ETC. <<announcer voice>> and nothings stands in my way <<queue reverb, a little echo and fade off>>  Wicked skills right?  Guess what, you were hired for those so you don’t need to go down that road.  What you have to do is…


I know this architect who really has a handle on code.  Granted, maintainability lacked because the code was complex but over all it was a complete application. 

The problem:

The stakeholders never were consulted and the solution eventually died on the vine. 

In another situation, I wrote an application for a set of users.  It was simple and straight forward from the use point.  Almost an “easy button”.  I spent a lot of time on the data parsing dll.  The applications sole purpose was to read a text file, allow the user to “map” the data to field designations and then generate a load file. 

The problem:

After I left the company, a decision was made to “upgrade” the vb 6 application to .Net.  What should have been an easy refactor was complicated by the decisions to completely re-engineer the tool and give it a whole bunch of new features.  Well, the application was built and the team asked to use it.  Herein lies the problem.   The new application did do what the original one did and it did a whole bunch of other things.  However, nobody talked to the stakeholders and while it was installed on their systems, they never used it.  A few years later, I was talking with a friend who still works there and my old VB6 application is back doing it’s job.  I’m sure it’s retired by now.

The moral here:

Just because you can add a whole lot more, doesn’t mean you should.  If you do, make sure the stakeholders are on board.

Back to spinning up.  Now armed with documentation from talking to the stakeholders and working through the application it’s to get a handle on the current state.  Determine the backlog of fixes, enhancements and new features. Once you’ve got your initial list, it’s time to go back to the stakeholders and get a clear understanding of priorities. You go into this knowing full well that there will be conflicting priorities and this is where being a diplomat plays a critical role. How does this enable you to become a master of the environment and code base? This gives you a blueprint to follow to start building/getting knowledge of the resources required and the burn rate needed to clear the backlog. This all plays into the next and last part of the initial push to get on board and get up to speed.


QA the product and code:

You have to run through the application to build test cases and determine expected results.  Applications exist in their own space.  What may have seemed logical to one makes no sense to another.  So, how do you get a handle on the code?  Work with the backlog.  Simple yes?  You just put on your agile hat and go for it. 

Well, if you can do that, my hats off to you.  Me, I have to take a much more gradual approach.  I could call the approach I take the “Onion” but at times, it feels more like a great Red Wood

Getting a handle on how the code actually works versus how you expect it to work is critical. This also starts to build your library of test cases you will need to make changes. Without know how a piece of code runs, you will not know if your change has had unintended consequences.



While there are details and additional steps to take, this is the viewpoint from 60,000 feet. This process gets constantly refined depending on the need at the time and how much critical focus is needed.


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