Changing resistance into understanding

In comments about her book They Just Don’t Get It! Changing resistance into understanding, author Leslie Yerkes of Catalyst Consulting Group wrote the following:

I discovered five behaviors for turning resistance into understanding. The behaviors are like the ‘aikido’ of communication. It is so simple but these insights run counter to what has been taught and modeled as leadership behavior for decades.

It was the reference to Aikido that caught my eye. For many years now, I’ve applied the underlying philosophy and practical aspects of Aikido to business activities and relationships. (Luckily, I’ve never had the need to use it in a self-defense situation.) My curiosity was piqued.

I have to admit that I very rarely make it all the way through business books. Even the really good ones to me seem to get a bit repetitious, if not monotonous, in what they are trying to tell me. (I like to think that it is because I’m a quick study and can connect-the-dots without having to get to the end, but who knows.) That was not a problem with this book.

A short book to begin with (137 pages in a smaller than usual size), the book also has a lot of white space and illustrations. Yerkes, along with her co-author Randy Martin and illlustrator Ben Dewey, get their message across by telling a story. The story chronicles a marketing team’s struggles on a particular project from the point of view of the team leader.

It is a sparse, straightforward telling of a story that most of us have lived through at least once. As I read through the different stages of the story, images flashed in my mind of numerous experiences from my past that could easily have been inserted into the story.

Following the story is a more convential description of the lessons from the story. More than once while reading through this conclusion I thought, “Well, of course, that’s obvious.” But of course, it is only obvious in hindsight. Like most stories with a moral, it takes a good story teller to take the things we should know (and think we know) and make them make sense.

Disclosure: The author offered the book as a complementary copy in hopes that I might mention it here.

They just don’t get it: Authors sue Google over Google Print

If you’ve not heard of it, Google Print is scanning in the contents of books to make them searchable. That is a key phrase, “make them searchable.” Google Print does not make the whole book available, just a “snippet” of the text based on the search term.

My first thought was, “Finally, now I can find things in books I’m looking for without having to flip through all the pages. Even better, I can find books I’ve not yet read that have something of interest.” (For example, a search on “the unreasonable man” pointed me to, among other things, 777 Mathematical Conversation Starters.)

My second thought was, “Authors are going to love this. What a great way for them to get their books found, especially those ‘obscure’ books that most people may never know about. “

Boy, was I wrong. As described in Macworld: News: Authors sue Google over Google Print:

The Authors Guild and three other writers filed a class action suit on Tuesday against Google Inc. over the Google Print program. The lawsuit charges Google with massive copyright infringement.

The Authors Guild, a society of published writers representing over 8,000 U.S. authors, charges that Google has not sought the approval of authors to include their works in the program.

Google said in a statement responding to the lawsuit that its activities are consistent with the fair use doctrine under U.S. copyright law and the principles underlying copyright law. Fair use is a concept within U.S. copyright law that allows copyright material to be used in limited circumstances, such as quoting parts of a novel for a book review, without the permission of the author.

After so many years, and so much work and thought on how technology changes things and how that technology can be used to benefit everyone (except maybe the middleman), it is sad to see this total lack of understanding.

iPod Nano – cool, but….

I got my hands on an iPod Nano this weekend. It’s my brother’s, and I’ve been helping him try to get it up and running on an older Windows 2000 machine. To say that it has been a pain in the ass would be an understatement; it’s been a nightmare. I don’t if it is because it is an older machine, slow processor, what. It meets the system requirements listed on the Apple site, but still it is trouble.

As I said the machine is an older Compaq running Win2k SP4. Because it didn’t have USB 2.0, we installed a new card. I installed the software straight from the CD. Hooked up the iPod. It kind of works, kind of doesn’t. That’s the frustrating part.

Just to make sure the iPod itself was OK, I hooked it up to my G5 iMac running Tiger. Worked like a charm. Hooked it back up to the Win2k machine. Return to the nightmare.

This is my first attempt trying to use an iPod on a Windows machine, I’m a Mac guy myself. But I can’t imagine that this is the typical experience for Windows users. (Though it does remind me why I abandoned the Windows ship when OS X came out.)

If anyone who happens to read this has any thoughts or suggestions, I’d love to here them.

Getting Things Done Outlook Add-in Version 2.1

If you are a user of the Getting Things Done Outlook Add-in, I recommend updating to Version 2.1, released on 25 August. Some of the features/bug fixes mentioned on the web site include:

  • Attach multiple Emails to a single task
  • Processing] Process a Post Item
  • Add Next Action Button on Appointment/Task that will complete and create new task
  • Send and Delegate available on New, Forward or Reply messages
  • Dependant Action Creation
  • File Enhancements including view more/less options
  • Sub Project Functionality
  • Send and File Option available on New, Forward or Reply messages

My personal favorite is the “Next Action” button, which allows you to mark the current action complete and immediately create the next action automatically. Nice time saver.

The send options are presented a little bit differently as well, now in a drop down box with three options (Send, Send and Delegate, Send and File) instead of as two separate buttons (Send, Send and Delegate). The Send and File button is a nice feature, again a time saver. I used to go into the sent folder and then file the items individually after the fact.

Something to watch out for: If you choose Send and Delegate or Send and File, the message will go into the Draft folder for a little while before actually being sent. At first, I thought this was a bug, but found that if I waited just a bit (anywhere from 10 to 30 seconds) the message would actually be sent.

Never underestimate the importance of leadership

Usually when I make one of my (all too frequent) stops at a fast food place and actually go in, I don’t really pay too much attention to what goes on behind the counter. Like many things I experience day to day, I usually just assume that things will work. On one recent visit, though, I couldn’t help observing the action.

The place was in chaos. There were only three people in line being served, there were three cashiers working. But it took forever for any of us to get our food. The cashiers, drive thru, and grill people were all talking about something, mostly complaining. There were no fries up. “Not my job.” “Where are the burgers?” “That one was supposed to be plain.” “Where is …?” The employees were mostly 20 or 30 somethings. Obviously not happy about being there at all.

Off to the corner was the “manager” (I use the term loosely) on duty. He was trying to figure something out on the milk shake machine. Oblivious to what was going on around him, even when the conversation turned to complaining about him. He looked like he was 17 or 18. I think he was trying to hide in plain sight.

About a minute later, the assistant manager came in. He seemed to be about the same age, but what a difference. He quickly saw what was happening (or not), assessed it, and got things moving.

Never underestimate the importance of leadership, even in the most mundane of situations.

Top-down vs. Bottom-up KM: Insights from the Katrina response

Watching, listening to, and reading about the response to Hurricane Katrina I have noticed that, in general, the “official” response of government has been almost universally denounced as slow and insufficient while the “un-official” responses of individuals and various organizations have been praised as rapid and, at times, heroic.

Though there is still a lot of analysis to be done in terms of what worked and actually made a difference, at first glance these two ends of the response spectrum provide some real world, real time insight into the question of what type of organizational culture and knowledge management is better – that which is designed top-down or that which is “grown” from the bottom up.

Instead of the term “better”, I think the term “more appropriate” is, well, more appropriate. The two different styles of KM are best used in the circumstances they are best suited for. In a crisis situation such as this, there is no question (at least in my mind) that the ad-hoc, bottoms up method of doing things works best. But I don’t believe it is scaleable to the level needed for the medium- to long-term KM needs.

I think that what will come out of the inevitable investigations into “what went wrong” is not that top-down KM doesn’t work, but rather that there was no effective KM system or process in place to support the required top-down operations. This was, as far as I know, the first major catastrophe that FEMA has had to deal with since being incorporated into the Department of Homeland Security bureaucracy. (See Destroying FEMA for more on FEMA and DHS.)

There is obviously a bit of work that still needs to be done to make sure that all threats, natural and man-made, are adequately managed from a knowledge perspective. I’m sure that we’ll hear more on that once Congress starts its investigations.

Tools – Google Desktop

I finally got around to installing Google Desktop on my Windows laptop (now that I’m no longer constrained by a ruthless SysAdmin).  My initial impression:  I love it.

I tried out each of the modes available (Sidebar, Deskbar, and Floating Deskbar), and found that the plain old Deskbar works best for how I use it.  It just sits on the task bar in the bottom right waiting for me to use it.  I also set up the Outlook search bar, which almost makes Outlook as good as Gmail for findability of old e-mails.  (In fact, I pull my Gmail down into Outlook via PoP3, mainly so I have all my accounts available in one place, on- or off-line.)

While it is handy to be able to find files, documents, and e-mails very quickly, I’d have to say my favorite aspect of Google Desktop is that it finds and makes available offline cached web sites I’ve visited.  Right now, for instance, I’m sitting in the Minneapolis/St. Paul airport and unable to connect to the HotSpot they have.  I wanted to read in detail a site I glanced at last night.  Instead of having to save the page last night, I just go into Google Desktop today.  

I’ve also been using Spotlight on my iMac, but haven’t quite given it the workout that Google Desktop has received.  First impressions there are very favorable as well.

What about Getting Things Done ®?

When Google Desktop first came out, I remember reading a posting by David Allen of GTD fame in which he lamented the “disorganization” that a desktop search would bring.  Having used Google Desktop for a while now, I have to say that I disagree with that assessment.

I use GTD (at least, a “customized” version of it) to help me through the various projects I am involved in.  The GTD Outlook Add-in is invaluable.  But I do so much reading, research, and writing online outside of my formal processes that it is impossible (or, at the least, impractical) to impose any kind of structure on them.  Google Desktop allows me to indulge the free-association part of my brain.  When I need information to support a project, it is just a few keystrokes away.