Friday, 23 July 2010

Personal Kaizen

I look at the diary and, oh my, seven months have passed since I last updated my personal Kaizen. This is not good. It means that I'm either busy, extremely tired, or losing interest. It had better not be the latter of the three.

So what have I tried to make my professional life better? The truth is that I haven't tried much in the way of specific practices, gadgets, software or technology, rather I've focussed on some much bigger ideas. But first, the geek stuff:
  • I downloaded and tried synergy and am extremely impressed! It's allowing me to seamlessly operate my XP and Windows 7 PCs side by side, keeping a total of 8 cores pretty maxed out when things are going well. The main difference to me however is a significant reduction in shoulder and neck pain as I'm no longer twizzling between two keyboard and mouse configurations! The next thing I need is a good free intranet shared clipboard...
  • ...however, I used a very basic Windows feature (XP, Vista and 7) to help me with sharing just today, by copying all of the stuff from My Documents on each of my computers to a network folder and then pointing the My Documents folders to it: simple stuff, but the end result is quite pleasing, as the network sharing is effectively hidden, making it feel quite seamless.
  • A solid state hard drive was going spare after someone left our office and I was recommended to use it as my build drive, as I usually have the biggest solutions to re-build (328 projects I counted today: usually taking an hour and a half from clean!) This has worked quite well and seems to improve the more stuff I cram on there that our code includes and links to. It'll only take one full build (source, libraries and binaries), which is annoying, as I build at least four different products from time to time. It quite surprised me that the SSD out guns a RAID0 for read/write access by such a margin, but the bottleneck is still link time: can only break that one down with more, faster processors...
So, that's the very thin list of widgets and practices; on to the Big Ideas.

  • The first has been Communication. Dumb or what?! I found an old book about interpersonal relationships and psychology in a charity shop recently and it made me realise how much relationships affect our professional lives. I hope my colleagues don't disagree with any of this, but I now make a concious effort to listen when people are talking to me, rather than thinking about my next answer. I'm also finding it easier to read situations, armed with a little bit of the psychology and non-verbal communication ideas I've read. A really big one, which didn't just come from the old book, but from The Art of Project Management (Theory in Practice (O'Reilly)) also, is the communication process. That is, remembering that communication isn't just sending an email, the information has to be transmitted, received, understood, and acted upon. The chapter in Scott Berkun's book about "how not to annoy people" was definitely my favourite and the one that influenced me the most.
  • The second thing I've tried to focus on has been Honesty. Make that honesty and courage. What I mean by this is being open about my thoughts on all matters at work (but in a professional way), be it whether I think we're doing enough to improve our development process, right up to expressing a fear that we might be making a very bad strategic descision. I always try to pose these issues as questions to allow a discussion to ensue, but sometimes, we have to grow a pair and stand up and say "no I completely disagree". Don't we?

What's next? Well, I've been reading Agile Testing: A Practical Guide for Testers and Agile Teams, and fancy putting that and some testing principles I learned at an IMechE training course on R&D project management into practice. Also, I've started to learn C#, so want to try it out on a side project in my own time.

So, a very poor first half of the year for personal Kaizen. Where has the time gone? I've no doubt the second half of the year will whistle by in just as much of a blur, but I feel more energised now than in the winter and spring - the number of posts I'm making here is usually a good indicator - so I expect I'll be managing more of my personal mini Kaizen events.

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