Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Tim Minchin's speech at UWA.

Some very insightful and interesting points to ponder from Tim Minchin at the UWA, where he was conferred with the Honorary Degree of Letters:

9 life lessons from Tim Minchin:

1. You don't have to have a dream: instead have passionate short-term goals. Be micro-ambitious
2. Don't seek happiness. Keep busy and aim to make someone else happy
3. It is all luck
4. Exercise
5. Be hard on your opinions: Opinions should be constantly and thoroughly examined. We must think critically and not just about the ideas of others
6. Be a teacher
7. Define yourself in what you love: be demonstrative and appreciative in your praise
8. Respect people with less power than you
9. Don't rush

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Get off your A$$

HBR ran an very interesting blog entry on humanity's ubiquitous posture for the past couple of decades. The article's title says it all.

With work hours getting prolonged and our permanent fixation with cars and TVs, we find ourselves sitting for longer hours, throughout the day. Marc Hamilton (Pennington Biomedical Research Center) has been researching the effect of sitting, on the human body and found some very interesting results.To quote the research work that appeared in the New York Times: "To show that the ill effects of sitting could have a rapid onset in humans too, Hamilton recruited 14 young, fit and thin volunteers and recorded a 40 percent reduction in insulin’s ability to uptake glucose in the subjects — after 24 hours of being sedentary." (emphasis added).

The Swedish Automaker that I work for presently has some very interesting ergonomic furniture in their offices in Sweden. One of its features being that it allows one to extend the height of the desk to facilitate standing. While in our Gothenburg office, I would spend most of the day standing. No sore legs, nothing. That coupled with a reliance on public transport, cycling etc., could make Sweden a model to replicate in other countries.

A couple of years back I often wondered how despite 2hrs of rigourous workout in the gym and a carefully monitored diet, I was still looking lethargic and not in shape. The answer lay in the 9+hrs at the desk in office and another 2+ hrs in front of the TV while back home.
Reading this article now answers a lot of questions with regard to health and lifestyle choices.

I for one, am writing this article standing up.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Improving people productivity, the Sony Pictures way

I have been a fan of Tony Schwartz' talks @ Ted and found it to be very insightful. The June'11 edition of HBR carried this very interesting article by Tony on how Sony Pictures manages people productivity using the Energy Project's guiding principles.

The Idea:
"Human beings don’t work like computers; they can’t operate at high speeds continuously, running multiple programs at once.People perform at their peak when they alternate between periods of intense focus and intermittent renewal.Employees can increase their effectiveness by practicing simple rituals that refuel their energy, such as taking a daily walk to get an emotional breather or turning off e-mail at prescribed times so they can concentrate.If companies allow and encourage employees to create and stick to such rituals, they will be rewarded with a more engaged, productive, and focused workforce."

Visit Harvard Business Review for the latest articles. All copyrights where applicable.

Found a copy here:
Hope this link stays on for a while...

Monday, February 14, 2011

Nokia CEO Stephen Elop rallies troops in brutally honest 'burning platform' memo

I found this online and thought it was interesting reading. Personally, I feel Nokia needs to resolve Quality and reliability issues urgently before even thinking of moving into the innovation space.

Below is a memo that Stephen Elop sent to his employees urging them to notice the "burning platform" and take the dive towards change:

Hello there,

There is a pertinent story about a man who was working on an oil platform in the North Sea. He woke up one night from a loud explosion, which suddenly set his entire oil platform on fire. In mere moments, he was surrounded by flames. Through the smoke and heat, he barely made his way out of the chaos to the platform's edge. When he looked down over the edge, all he could see were the dark, cold, foreboding Atlantic waters.

As the fire approached him, the man had mere seconds to react. He could stand on the platform, and inevitably be consumed by the burning flames. Or, he could plunge 30 meters in to the freezing waters. The man was standing upon a "burning platform," and he needed to make a choice.

He decided to jump. It was unexpected. In ordinary circumstances, the man would never consider plunging into icy waters. But these were not ordinary times - his platform was on fire. The man survived the fall and the waters. After he was rescued, he noted that a "burning platform" caused a radical change in his behaviour.

We too, are standing on a "burning platform," and we must decide how we are going to change our behaviour.

Over the past few months, I've shared with you what I've heard from our shareholders, operators, developers, suppliers and from you. Today, I'm going to share what I've learned and what I have come to believe.

I have learned that we are standing on a burning platform.

And, we have more than one explosion - we have multiple points of scorching heat that are fuelling a blazing fire around us.

For example, there is intense heat coming from our competitors, more rapidly than we ever expected. Apple disrupted the market by redefining the smartphone and attracting developers to a closed, but very powerful ecosystem.

In 2008, Apple's market share in the $300+ price range was 25 percent; by 2010 it escalated to 61 percent. They are enjoying a tremendous growth trajectory with a 78 percent earnings growth year over year in Q4 2010. Apple demonstrated that if designed well, consumers would buy a high-priced phone with a great experience and developers would build applications. They changed the game, and today, Apple owns the high-end range.

And then, there is Android. In about two years, Android created a platform that attracts application developers, service providers and hardware manufacturers. Android came in at the high-end, they are now winning the mid-range, and quickly they are going downstream to phones under €100. Google has become a gravitational force, drawing much of the industry's innovation to its core.

Let's not forget about the low-end price range. In 2008, MediaTek supplied complete reference designs for phone chipsets, which enabled manufacturers in the Shenzhen region of China to produce phones at an unbelievable pace. By some accounts, this ecosystem now produces more than one third of the phones sold globally - taking share from us in emerging markets.

While competitors poured flames on our market share, what happened at Nokia? We fell behind, we missed big trends, and we lost time. At that time, we thought we were making the right decisions; but, with the benefit of hindsight, we now find ourselves years behind.

The first iPhone shipped in 2007, and we still don't have a product that is close to their experience. Android came on the scene just over 2 years ago, and this week they took our leadership position in smartphone volumes. Unbelievable.

We have some brilliant sources of innovation inside Nokia, but we are not bringing it to market fast enough. We thought MeeGo would be a platform for winning high-end smartphones. However, at this rate, by the end of 2011, we might have only one MeeGo product in the market.

At the midrange, we have Symbian. It has proven to be non-competitive in leading markets like North America. Additionally, Symbian is proving to be an increasingly difficult environment in which to develop to meet the continuously expanding consumer requirements, leading to slowness in product development and also creating a disadvantage when we seek to take advantage of new hardware platforms. As a result, if we continue like before, we will get further and

further behind, while our competitors advance further and further ahead.

At the lower-end price range, Chinese OEMs are cranking out a device much faster than, as one Nokia employee said only partially in jest, "the time that it takes us to polish a PowerPoint presentation." They are fast, they are cheap, and they are challenging us.

And the truly perplexing aspect is that we're not even fighting with the right weapons. We are still too often trying to approach each price range on a device-to-device basis.

The battle of devices has now become a war of ecosystems, where ecosystems include not only the hardware and software of the device, but developers, applications, ecommerce, advertising, search, social applications, location-based services, unified communications and many other things. Our competitors aren't taking our market share with devices; they are taking our market share with an entire ecosystem. This means we're going to have to decide how we either build, catalyse or join an ecosystem.

This is one of the decisions we need to make. In the meantime, we've lost market share, we've lost mind share and we've lost time.

On Tuesday, Standard & Poor's informed that they will put our A long term and A-1 short term ratings on negative credit watch. This is a similar rating action to the one that Moody's took last week. Basically it means that during the next few weeks they will make an analysis of Nokia, and decide on a possible credit rating downgrade. Why are these credit agencies contemplating these changes? Because they are concerned about our competitiveness.

Consumer preference for Nokia declined worldwide. In the UK, our brand preference has slipped to 20 percent, which is 8 percent lower than last year. That means only 1 out of 5 people in the UK prefer Nokia to other brands. It's also down in the other markets, which are traditionally our strongholds: Russia, Germany, Indonesia, UAE, and on and on and on.

How did we get to this point? Why did we fall behind when the world around us evolved?

This is what I have been trying to understand. I believe at least some of it has been due to our attitude inside Nokia. We poured gasoline on our own burning platform. I believe we have lacked accountability and leadership to align and direct the company through these disruptive times. We had a series of misses. We haven't been delivering innovation fast enough. We're not collaborating internally.

Nokia, our platform is burning.

We are working on a path forward -- a path to rebuild our market leadership. When we share the new strategy on February 11, it will be a huge effort to transform our company. But, I believe that together, we can face the challenges ahead of us. Together, we can choose to define our future.

The burning platform, upon which the man found himself, caused the man to shift his behaviour, and take a bold and brave step into an uncertain future. He was able to tell his story. Now, we have a great opportunity to do the same.



Thursday, December 9, 2010

Too many Projects?

So how many projects is too many projects?

I found a very interesting link that talks about this topic:

Too Many Projects? Prioritize Them!

Another interesting blog that I'm beginning to like is the Zenhabits site. Check out the Haiku Productivity approach to Project Management.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

PMI Examination Methodology.

I'm posting excerpts from an interesting thread in PMZilla (for the complete version visit PMZilla). The thread was originally posted by dbissonn and his question was: 
"How are PMP exam questions weighted?

After passing numerous prep exams, including Rita's, I failed my first real PMP exam.  I called PMI, and while they would not use the term, apparently some questions wieighted, are given more credit than others.  It used to be a straight 61%, but no more.  Here is a quote from an email they sent me:

"Scaled Scoring is not a percentage-based scoring system, that is, the assessment passing point is assigned to a point of difficulty instead of a number or percent of correct responses."

The problem is no one will say anything about what is more or less weighted.  I suspect that, for example, not being able to do EV, or Crit Path, or float, will cost you more than not knowing what a fixed fee contract implies.

 Does anyone know how PMI actually determines how one has passed or failed?

He continues...
"The PMP exam report does not give % at all.  There are three ratings for each of 5 process groups plus professional and social resp.  Results are not broken down for KNOWLEDGE AREA).  Proficient is highest, Moderately Proficient, and Below Perficient.  I got the lowest in three. I have no way of knowing what I missed or their weighted value, in fact I am sure PMI does not want that made public.  It is possible, and this is a rough guess, to score 74% right for the whole test, but miss several high weighted questions, or score below 61% in one area, and still fail.

 On the last 10 or so practice exams I was never below 70%, and consistently above 75.  I think the real issue here is not how PMI does things, they are trying to judge if someone is truly knowledgeable, and they are using sophisticated testing methods to do so.  I have no problem with that.  But I think we need realize that preparation exams like Rita Mulcahy's FASTrack (US$299!!!) use a much less sophisticated method...they only consider a straight percentage, which is NOT the way the real exam works.

 I suggest no one call himself prepared with less than 80% right on practice exams.

Here's a consolidation of my responses:
"We all would like to hear how the exams are evaluated, wouldn't we? But I guess from the way the exam and the grading is setup, PMI is trying to ensure that there is no way to dis-assemble or reverse-engineer the exam process. Why?

First a look at what we know: 

The exam would result in a "pass" or "fail" and does not annouce the percentage or grade scored. We know that of the 200 questions 175 are actually used for evaluating the candidate and one must have answered atleast 106 out of 175 correctly in order to pass. (A combination of "Modified Angoff Technique" and psychometric method adopted by PMI since Sept 2005.) That's 61% of the questions.

Now the exam transcript, after you finish the exam, actually breaks the exam into Process Groups and your profeciency in it. And according to PMI the spread of questions is thus:

Initiating - 23 Questions

Planning - 46

Executing - 53

M&C - 42

Closing - 18

Professional & Social Responsibility - 18

The transcript does not merely say, "Pass/Fail" for each of the knowledge areas. It rates it as "Proficient", "Moderately proficient" and "Below Proficient". And you need to have Moderately Proficient and above in 4 of the 6 knowledge areas to pass. (correct me here, if i'm wrong) (moderately proficient in 4 of 6 KAs will result in a MAX score of 100, which is 6 less than the requisite 106. Which means the scores have to be a either Moderately Profient in all the areas or a combination of Moderately proficient and Proficient in 4 of 6 Knowledge Areas.) 

One could try to reverse engineer this and say that a 61% pass on each of the knowledge area (14 in Initiating, 28 in Planning, 32 in Executing, 26 in M&C, 11 in Closing, 11 in Professional Conduct. Moderately Proficient on all, sums up to 122) could fetch us passing results, but it needs to be confirmed if it is just that or more. In reverse-engineering, we need to ensure that the number of correct answers sums up to 106 or more and then we could look at the areas that the correct answers come from and rate it on proficiency.

 Add to this the fact that the questions are rated using the Modified Angoff method, where volunteers for PMI adjudge the difficulty level of the questions. The tougher a question, lower are the points gained from getting the answer right, and easier the question, higher the points.One would therefore notice that the way the exam goes, we'll see a whole bunch of easy questions appearing together followed by a series of really tough ones.

There is no sure fire way of determining how the results would appear. But to be on the safer side, ensure that you are proficient on all the individual Knowledge Areas while taking mock exams. And by Proficient I'm presuming 80% and above. Then go for the complete exams.

There is another point to the way the exam is structured and evaluated. Well, like all the big kahunas of PMP training and preperation have been saying, no one person can get all of the answers right in the exam. That's because of the nature of the exam and each person's take on the subject. But end of the day, the reason some of us are PMPs is because of a common understanding of the practices of Project Management.

On a side note, I really don't understand how RMC's products got so much of a hype. They are good, but really not that great! Especially when you consider what they charge for it. There are free products out there that should be making a killing for the kind of quality they deliver (case in point Oliver Lehmann's 75 and 125 questions).

So... Your thoughts or comments?...

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Sample PMP application spreadsheet - v3


Here's the 3rd cut of the PMP application spreadsheet. Thanks to everybody who took a moment to share feedback.

Sample PMP Application Version 3

***For people having difficulty downloading from Rapidshare, I have hidden the .xls file in the following image file (cause blogger does not support uploading of any other file types).

Download this image file and open it with WinRar (download an evaluation version of winrar from here:***

Updates and fixes:
More columns for people who have a lot of project experience to fill in. ;)
Computes project experience just like the online PMI form: unique, non-overlapping months only.
Has similar interface but with a little more validation, etc.
Inserted the excel sheet into both the image files. The excel spreadsheet can now be extracted from images above. Just download to your system and open with winrar.

I do appreciate any comments or feedback. This spreadsheet is free to use and distribute, but please do provide credits where due. I'd like to thank the gurus Colin Legg and Barry Houdini for helping me with some tricky formulas.

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