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Archive for the ‘IMO’ Category

Giving something back

 

 

Bug Run Board

Over the past year, several of us at IHIE have been reaching out to local universities to start building relationships. It makes sense. Our objectives are complementary. The universities want their students to be able to participate in practicums and internships, and their graduates to get hired into great positions. IHIE wants an opportunity to try out potential teammates that are really smart prior to asking them to join our team. You can’t get more complimentary than that.

image2Our efforts have translated into 4 out of our last 6 hires being directly from one of the programs we work with. We decided we needed to give something back. We weren’t sure what would work, but we decided to do something different.

We wanted to provide an experience that most of the students wouldn’t get from their college studies. The experience needed to be relevant to their career pursuits and would provide some benefit to their resume and job search. We needed to make sure that the environment was conducive to the experience and the necessities (food) were provided. Those attending were college students after all!

image2We decided to promote Agile concepts to students by providing Scrum training which we had delivered to our IHIE team earlier in the year. We chose December 6th and 7th as our training weekend and sent out email invitations to all the students we talked to at the various university-held career fairs throughout the year. Seven brave souls were in their seats at 9 AM on Saturday morning. What followed over the next 33 hours was a mixture of discussion, lecture, and activities with one goal: to begin on the journey of lifelong learning for the participants. To solidify learning objectives, we had each team apply the Scrum Framework as they built a board game of their team’s respective design.

Lost Duckling BoardThirty three hours later, we had seven folks ready to join a Scrum team, and we had a good time in the process. I reminded them throughout the day that this is the start of a journey.  I think I got more out of the two days than the students did.  It’s a rewarding and invigorating experience to introduce the concept of Agile thinking to the uninitiated.  We concluded the training with a Sprint Review of their board game (my favorite part of the training), and a self-organized Retrospective of the class. 

Hopefully, the students got value out of the two days.  I know I enjoyed teaching again.  We are talking about offering it again in the spring semester of 2015.

Thanks for coming in today.

Chris

 

 

 

Your Career: You Really Need To Own It

Published by Christopher Daily on August 12th, 2014 - in Blog, Branding Yourself, Business Musings, IMO

untitled (4)I saw this article (click here) in the Inside Indiana Business site.  Over the last few years, I have written about how we need to think about how our personal brand is important.  You can click here to check them out.  I recommend you get Kyle Lacy‘s book, Branding Yourself, if you want to find out more.

Thanks for coming in today.

Chris

The Boy Scout Rule: Leave your campsite cleaner than you found it.

This post has been taken down.  Please see the comments.

Part 2: Be Accountable.

Published by Christopher Daily on May 13th, 2014 - in Business Musings, IMO

Starting accountability can be tough.  Sustaining accountability is more difficult.  Over the years, I have found that organizations can start to achieve accountability by being transparent.  What does being transparent have to do with being accountable?  A lot.  An organization has to be transparent before it can be accountable.

Let me define what I mean by being transparent.  For the purposes of this post, I am defining “being transparent”  as making one’s actions and the corresponding results of those actions visible by others.  In the business world, others is often synonymous with peers, teammates, subordinates, clients, prospects, investors, bankers, or managers to name a few.  In our personal life, others might be our kids, relatives, friends, and acquaintances.

Simple enough.  To be transparent, we let others see our actions and the results.  Most people would shrug their shoulders and agree.  No big deal, right?  People want transparency so they can see what other people are doing and what results they are generating.  They want to be able to help them by telling them what they are doing wrong, and what they need to change.  People feel better because attention is redirected from what they are not doing to what everyone else is doing.  Transparency should apply to everyone else.

So how does being transparent get started in an organization?  It starts with the individual at the top.  Once the leader in the organization holds himself accountable, and starts holding others accountable, the rest of the organization follows.  Being transparent is something everyone in the organization has to do.  We have to be willing to allow others to see what we are doing and what the results are.  Transparency can take many forms.  Department and company meetings, Kanban boards, sales pipelines, and company financial statements are a start.  But they are just that:  a start.

Thanks for coming in today.

Chris

Be Accountable.

Published by Christopher Daily on May 1st, 2014 - in Blog, Business Musings, Getting Personal, IMO

Most business books talk about it.  Heck, America’s built on it.  Consultants talk about accountability, and how a company get’s there.  The conversation of being accountable is all the rage at a lot of businesses.  We all claim to want accountability in our workplace.  Yet, accountability seems elusive.  We buy books, go to seminars, and higher consultants, yet, most organizations can’t seem to sustain accountability.

Why can’t businesses sustain accountability? What does being accountable mean?  I think most people mention being accountable when they are talking about someone other than themselves.  Over water cooler conversations, you might hear comments such as:

  • Bob should be fired.  He screws up all the time.
  • Mary shouldn’t be a manager.  She doesn’t treat her team very well.
  • Steve’s coding is terrible.  He is in over his head.
  • Sara doesn’t pull her weight in the team.

How appalled would you be if you over heard your name mentioned in the next sentence?  When we are held “accountable”, the excuses just pour out.  Sometimes we take the Teflon approach, deflecting the blame to past previous corrupt management, co-workers, current management, and sometimes our dog (who ate our spreadsheet).   Other times, bad luck, the economy, or even the President of the U.S. are the culprit.

Accountability starts at the top. Most folks look at the leadership of an organization to set the tone. Those leaders need to hold themselves and each other accountable. Seems obvious, right? Accountability is hard to do. Yet, somebody has to be the rebel.  Someone has to decide to start.  If it’s not the guy at the top, don’t waste your time.  It won’t stick.

My next post will talk about how to start being accountable.

Thanks for coming in today.

Chris

Thanks for coming in today.

Chris

What is your #1 priority?

#1 PriorityTry this today.  Ask someone you work with “What is your #1 priority?”. If that someone is in the software business, the correct answer should be “production”.  What is “production”?  It is the software, hardware, and people that, combined, deliver IT solutions in support of the business needs.  If Thrive’s customers can’t use one of our systems means “production”  is down.

In our case at Thrive HDS, “production” down means lives could be at risk.  Our sole purpose, at this point, is to exchange information between various groups (hospitals, physicians, pharmacists, and labs) in the healthcare industry.  Often that information is used by a doctor in an Emergency Room trying to find out what they can about a recently admitted patient.  Or it might be a physician who is waiting for lab results before deciding what steps to take next for a patient.  Having access to our solutions can give caregivers new insight to be used in the care they are providing.

Up until recently, my career has been spent in the financial services industry.  “Production” in those environments meant somebody had to wait an hour to get their title insurance or their bank loan.  Important to the customers and the company I worked for, yet a far cry from the work we do at Thrive.

My perspective has changed.

Thanks for coming in today.

Chris

Rising above the noise.

Published by Christopher Daily on April 10th, 2014 - in Blog, Branding Yourself, Business Musings, Getting Personal, IMO

A few days ago, I got into a conversation with one of my co-workers when they encouraged me to get our company, Thrive HDS, out there by posting articles and links on LinkedIn.  The discussion prompted me to consider whether I should focus on simply follow the pack and puke up all interesting stuff I read in a day to all my friends and business colleagues, or should I try to offer original content and commentary?

Three years ago, I made the decision to go the original content route.  I made the decision that I am going to be my own brand.  In addition to being my virtual therapist, I have used this blog to further clarify who I am professionally with a smattering of personal views as well.  As some of you know, it has been an interesting journey.

There are a number of reasons why a lot of people avoid the original content route.  Most of the reasons have to do with our insecurity letting the world have a glimpse into your ideas, your beliefs, and your abilities.

  • Those ideas and beliefs may alienate friends and loved ones.  You may be confirming what your critics have suspected.  One could argue that your family and your “real” friends already know you.
  • You may eliminate yourself from being promoted or influence your bid for that new job you believe you really want.  Do you really want to take a position that is not a good fit?  We have all taken jobs with that great company, only to find out later we didn’t really fit in.
  • It is hard to consistently produce original content.  Sometimes, the ideas and words don’t just come.  I currently have about 25 draft blog posts.  Most of them are cases where I had an idea that I couldn’t turn into words.  In addition, we all get distracted with our professional and work lives.
  • You might confirm to the world that you don’t have original ideas.  Our insecurity gets the best of some of us.

The benefits of providing original content can be great.  You might be found by employers and individuals who have similar interests.

  • You have an opportunity to demonstrate your knowledge (or lack of) expertise in a particular area.  You don’t do that by simply regurgitating someone else’s article.  You do that by offering commentary on articles and sharing original content.  Hiring managers are always looking to find somebody with this skill or that skill.  How do you demonstrate you are a subject matter expert in a way that differentiates you from the hundreds that are applying for an opportunity?
  • When I interview for a job, I always suggest that the hiring manager take a look at this site.  I want them to know what they are getting.  I am an Agile/Scrum bigot.  I am not a good fit in a company with a rigid project-by-PMBOK company.  Saint Tina says I don’t have a filter, so if you are looking for a “Yes” man who is going to blend into the background, I am not your guy.
  • You are contributing your ideas and thoughts to the world.  My ideas and opinions are based on my experiences and the thousands of books and articles that I have read throughout my life.  Those of you who love to re-tweet and share, feel free to share my posts with anybody and everybody on your friends list.
  • Writing can be therapeutic.  As I work through the challenges in my life, I have found that putting my thoughts down on virtual paper helps me to review what I am doing right, and what I am doing wrong.

The best thing to do is to just start.  Start in a small way.  There are a number of free blog sites out there.  Sign up and start writing.  You don’t have to tell anybody, and you don’t have to put your name on it.  Be original and just start.

Thanks for coming today.

Chris

 

Why do we need priorities?

To get stuff done, of course.  We have all been there.  Your Boss storms into your office wanting to know what the status of that one project which you had forgotten about because you didn’t think it was important.  You hem and haw as you search for the words that you hope will let you escape this encounter without getting chastised.  How could he do this to you?  After all, this project didn’t come up in your one-on-one yesterday.  He hasn’t asked about it in months.  What has changed?

In my experience, nothing has probably changed.  This was probably a high priority project in the boss’s mind and he was expecting you to understand the priority by reading his mind using your ESP powers.  Right?  Obviously, I am being a little flip here, but doesn’t it work that way?  As leaders, we expect our teammates to understand what we were thinking.  As customers, we expect our vendors to know that we have three #1 priority items we need done immediately.  (Don’t even get me going about Sales!)  Rarely, do we tell others our priorities.  One of the hardest conversations to have is communicating that someone’s favorite project is not as important as they think it should be.  Or that task that we need done is the one task most people loathe.

We can’t avoid this type of conversation.  We can do something new and innovative.  Brace yourself here.  I have a new concept.  It is called “Setting Priorities”.

What is a priority?  The Merriam Webster website defines priority as something that is more important than other things and that needs to be done or dealt with first.  So how many priorities can you have?  Most people would concede that you can have multiple priorities, but going back to the definition, isn’t there only one top priority?

As I have gained more experience, I have realized that leaders have to talk in specific terms about their priorities with the their teammates.  If I can only do the most important thing, what is it?  Most of the IT folks in the room should be thinking “Keeping production systems up”.  So, in my world, that is always #1.  But what is #2 or #3?  A lot of people I have talked to argue that there can be lots of #1s.  There very well might be given different perspectives, but in my relationship with my teammates, they have to know what my only #1 is.

What’s more, as a leader, I have the difficult conversations with my teammates about what their respective priorities frequently.  If they get to a point where they have to make a choice to work on Project A or Project B, they work on Project A because it is the highest priority.  As they focus on the top priority, a miracle happens:  They get it done!

We often discuss priorities in our one-on-one meetings.  We will chat about what they got done last week, what they are currently working on, and then what there impediments are.  All, in the context of what their respective priorities are.  How can your collaboration be any more direct?  How can anyone say I don’t understand what you think is important?

Priorities

So, how do you get started?  In my current position, I have done the following:

  • Started by talking about what I think the Solution Engineering group priorities (essentially mine)  were.  First in my leadership team meeting, and then in our monthly departmental meetings.  The first time you do this at a department meeting, some people will be put off the work they are doing is not #1.  Be prepared to explain your rationale that their work is important as well, but forced to make a decision priority work should get the focus.
  • After putting our Solution Engineering priorities out there, I asked each of my teammates to write their top four activities in priority order on my white board.  After they had them up on the board, we would discuss each activity and it’s relative importance to the other items on the board.  As we progressed through the conversation, they would add, delete, modify, or reorder as necessary.
  • Each week at our one-on-one, my teammates and I would use the priorities for the basis of our conversation.  At first, it was uncomfortable as my teammates where used to working a little on a lot of projects, as opposed to focusing on the highest priority tasks.  After about three weeks, the nature of the conversation changes.  As they start getting stuff done, they start feeling good about the fact they got something done.  What’s more it gives me a chance to give immediate feedback of “Nice job”.  It also opens up an opportunity to talk about what went well, the impact it has, and what could have been done differently.  Conclude by showing them the respect they deserve by saying “Thanks”.
  • Continue to talk about priorities.

A lot of business people these days give lip service to being transparent.  What most of those people mean is they really want everyone else to be transparent.  This is one approach to put transparency front and center in view of your teammates.

Thanks for coming in today.

Chris

Brennan Manning: “In every encounter we either give life or we drain it; there is no neutral exchange.”

“In every encounter we either give life or we drain it; there is no neutral exchange.” -Brennan Manning

I love this quote.  I wish I had constant reminders of this quote that would pop up occasionally as I travel through the adventure of a day.  Am I a “Giver” or a “Drainer”?  I guess a little of both.  Hopefully, I am more of a “Giver” than a “Drainer”.  What are you?

Thanks for coming in today.

Chris

Struggling with “Done”?

doneDone:  In a state of having completed or finished an activity.

A straight forward and clean definition.  Seems simple enough, doesn’t it?

In software development, we struggle with this concept.  How many times have you asked someone you work with if something was done, only to find out that only one portion of activity was done?  Software developers are notorious for this.  “I’m done” usually translates into “I’m done with the stuff I like doing, but I still have to do all this other stuff I don’t like!”

How do you define “done”?

Thanks for coming in today.

Chris

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