Book Review: Hello World by Hannah Fry

Hannah Fry is a delightful speaker and mathematician, a native of England, and really good at breaking down complex concepts into digestible chunks. Which is exactly what she does in her book, Hello World.

As usual I chose to listen to the audibook version of this work. Hannah narrates the text herself adding a layer of personalability to a very potentially dry subject.

The subject at hand is how computers and their formulaic models for creating their output intersect and impact human interaction. Hannah’s perspective is wonderfully hopeful. She articulates downfalls of our reliance on algorithms balancing these hiccups with an overall positive view of a world with human/machine interaction.

I loved the book. Nerdy without being unapproachable. Thoughtful and positive. Certainly a read I’d recommend to others.

Book Review: Project to Product

There are different vocabularies employed in the discipline of Project Management. This is one reason why PMI exists, to try and help the breadth of the discipline use a common language. In my library of project vocabulary I’m familiar with the following:

  • Army Vocabulary
  • PMI’s Project Vocabulary
  • Agile
  • DevOps

One thing different than PMI’s project vocabulary and that used in agile is the term used for the deliverable at the end of the project. In project management that deliverable is the project. In Agile, that deliverable is the product. The words sound similar enough but the distinction is significant. PMI’s focus is on the process that created the deliverable, while Agile is focused on the value of the deliverable to the product owner (stakeholder/business).

In Project to Product Mik Kersten drives home the important distinction between the two and how important it is to organizational survival to adopt a product focused mentality.

As tech giants and startups disrupt every market, those who master large-scale software delivery will define the economic landscape of the 21st century, just as the masters of mass production defined the landscape in the 20th. Unfortunately, business and technology leaders are woefully ill-equipped to solve the problems posed by digital transformation. At the current rate of disruption, half of S&P 500 companies will be replaced in the next ten years. A new approach is needed.

In Project to Product, Value Stream Network pioneer and technology business leader Dr. Mik Kersten introduces the Flow Framework—a new way of seeing, measuring, and managing software delivery. The Flow Framework will enable your company’s evolution from project-oriented dinosaur to product-centric innovator that thrives in the Age of Software. If you’re driving your organization’s transformation at any level, this is the book for you.

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This was a way cool book to read!!!

In general it’s easy to see smaller deliverables as products, one of the messages this book is that it teaches you to see all your deliverables as products–even big ones. This book is about connecting it to business value at scale honoring lean, TOC, six sigma and showing how the understood foundation can be leveraged for the unknown future.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

On the fourth floor of our building sits a very large puzzle with the last piece outside of the boarder. It’s labeled with someone’s name on it waiting for them to return and finish the puzzle. This book is the missing piece in understanding the frustration with project management and why it’s processes can leave those who remain wanting even after the checklist is complete.

This book ranks high on professional application, but also has personal application as well in helping to see stuff as products capable of more than just satisfying their initial value point.

Measure What Matters

Measure What Matters by John Doerr is an excellent addition to my book list. The text articulates very clearly how to synchronize multiple levels of activity into a cohesive combination of effort.

We’ve talked before about the importance of measurements. This book answers much of what’s needed in the process of getting to good measurements to get good results.

This book is ideal for anyone who values context of what they are doing. It does this in two ways. It allows you to see the context in a system that may not publish it for you, and provides you to the tool set to create that context if you are in a leadership position.

Measure What Matters reviews the process of Objectives and Key Results (OKRs). The book doesn’t come across as a how-to. It recounts the power behind the method and then injects anecdotal evidence from multiple diverse sources. For the audio book, many of the sources appear as guest readers including Bono. While Bill Gates’ name appears on the cover, his contribution is read by an actor, though the content is still highly illuminating.

They say you’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover. This book has a reasonably plain cover, but so does Getting to Yes and forty years later it’s still a standard read. I imagine that Measure What Matters is in line to have a similar legacy.

Velocity Book Review

Actually, the full title is Velocity: Combining Lean, Six Sigma and the Theory of Constraints to Achieve Breakthrough Performance – A Business Novel.  It’s of course listed on Amazon in kindle, paperback, and audible.  I listened to the audible version.

As is typical in business novels the characters tend to be flattened slightly to encourage the reader to pay attention to the content instead of the people in the story.  It’s a tough balancing act to have the characters and their problems be interesting enough so you’re emotionally invested in their outcome, but the author in this genre has the hard task of encouraging you to remember more about the lessons than the characters.  To do this, the authorial team included Jeff Cox, the co-author of The Goal (one of the books on my book list).

The book is well written though formulaic and its subject primarily follows implementation of the Theory of Constraints (TOC) not the implementation of Lean Six Sigma (LSS).  It does touch on it enough to help the audience understand how the disciplines can be used in concert with one another and compliment one another, but not to the extend that you learn about how to do statistical process control or value stream mapping.  While these things are alluded to or mentioned in the book, they’re mentioned as the book introduces the problems caused by applying them in ways that negatively impact the constraint.  They’re not directly mentioned at all in being a part of the solution set as the intrepid heroes (isn’t intrepid a great word?) work towards solving their problems.

I would have preferred that once the heroes had learned to apply TOC they would have spent more time value stream mapping those things that didn’t go through the constraint to find improvement there.  Or that they would have discussed more about finding the true optimum with regards to various treatments using six sigma techniques.

While that’s what I would have preferred, that would have slowed down the story significantly.  It wasn’t the intent of the authors and I’m kind of glad they didn’t do what I wanted.  The delivered a good book that introduced complimentary systems in a way that was engaging and now, because of that book and the example of their characters, I have context to do further research on my own and answer the questions I have from reading this work.

Bottom line.  Great book, glad to have read it!  Adding it to the Book List of books I’d recommend.

Baptists at Our Barbecue Book Review

To be honest, it took me three years to finish this book.  It’s not because it wasn’t wonderful.  It’s because I was dealing with a lot of other things and it just didn’t get high enough up on the priority list for me to reengage.  I generally don’t read novels, or at least novels that aren’t business related.  I’ve been this way since junior high, which is to say, quite a few years ago.  At Henry James Junior High other students would grab fiction books from the library.  I grabbed biographies.

This nerdiness paid off immensely when I needed to pass a general science CLEP test.  Thankfully I had been reading astronomy text books for fun.  Passed with flying colors.

But, I digress.

This book was turned into a movie, and the movie has many pleasant memories for me.  One of them is when I had returned from home to Iraq and had to spend a few days waiting before moving north.  One of the things I did with those guys was watch the movie version of this book.  I figured they’d be offended because of the heavy Mormon cultural references.  They weren’t.  They laughed pretty hard throughout the whole movie.  Why?  Because the characters are simply wonderful.  While I could praise the director and cast for a well done execution, the credit goes better to the book’s author, Robert Farrell Smith.

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His own proud section in the About the Author portion of the book illustrates his humor and ability to apply self-deprecation.  The book is full of lovely witty moments and brilliantly sparkling characters.

I’m no

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t actually sure what else to say since I don’t read fiction very often I can’t tell if the characters are too flat, say things the wrong way or any of those things.  I can tell you that I enjoyed the book even to the point where I might read it again, but I don’t quite want to commit to that because it might take me another three years.  Then I’m afraid that someone would just end up writing a sequel and basing one of the characters off of me.

Making Work Visible

It’s that time again. I’ve been reading a new book, and it’s time for the book list to get updated. This time it’s the book Making Work Visible by Dominica Degrandis. The book started with a story I could relate to. A husband working on the honey-do-list being asked by his wife to start an entirely different project. She was asking while he was atop a rotting roof to tear it and the out building it belonged to apart. That’s a bit more dramatic than any of the situations where similar things have happened to me, but it was certainly a moment I could relate to.

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Dominica does an excellent job in the piece discussing the need and techniques to make work visible in areas where work is less visible than a husband standing atop a roof. The IT sector contains many examples of areas where work is invisible to those who consume and appreciate the effort. Dominica’s techniques help to bring forth this work in ways that are digestible by the passer-by and those who deeply study the output.

This book is ideal for anyone who has done work or plans on doing work in the future.

While I’ll tell the full story another day, I can say that this book emerged in my life at the right time to help a very large project focus on the work that would add the most value and now it’s gotten the interest of the leaders who saw how effective its techniques were.  It sort of feels like having to get called into the principle’s office to explain myself, but in a good way.

 

Together is Better

A few weeks back I was updating the Book List and snuck in there a little book with a lot of wonderful pictures.  Today I’d like to mention a bit about Simone Sinek’s Together is Better.

There are a few things that a reader will need to accept in order to enjoy this book.  Chief among them are the ideas that a book can be powerful, short, and include pictures.  Once the reader has adopted that premise, the book becomes easy to digest and enjoy.

Inside Sinek’s work are several colored pages of drawings each with brilliant insights that tell a story of a group of friends on a quest to make things better.  In his text he takes the time to articulate and define objects and concepts we often deal with in our complex world while the artwork helps to solidify the message in our heads (people are visual learners after all).

The book is short enough to read on a lunch break and perfect for leaders to leave in the break room to spark conversations.  If it still feels overwhelming after I described it as having pictures, I’d like to also add that my eight year old read it to me one afternoon in about 35 minutes.  It’s a quick read.

Oliver DeMille often talks about having unifying cultural artifacts among groups and how impactful those artifacts on that society that adopts them.  If your group is going to adopt an artifact for reference this one is likely a perfect fit.

The best way for me to endorse this book is to say that if you’re in an environment that has people then, this is probably a book you’ll want hanging around.

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