What a simple question. What a great question, especially if you’re a job seeker. I was recently asked the question and I was caught off guard. I didn’t have an answer! How can that be?
Do You have a fast answer?
Last updated: 4/25/2016
You can find all my Job-Search related articles here. Please remember, a job search is normally an ordered set of steps. If you try to skip steps, it usually doesn’t work out well.
This will really show my age. And my history!
It’s been a long time since I remember reading a book or article by Edsger Dijkstra, and unfortunately I can’t remember the reference and I can’t find the exact quote. But this is close.
“In hiring, I ask the prospect if he knows FORTRAN? If he says ‘yes’ then I don’t hire him!”
— Edsger Dijkstra
(Perhaps the reference was to BASIC, or COBOL, instead of FORTRAN, but same idea)
Sadly, despite my own history, I have to think Dijkstra was right. But, fortunately, he has another quote that I was able to find that makes me feel a little better.
“Perfecting oneself is as much unlearning as it is learning.”
— Edsger Dijkstra
The Power and Simplicity of Checklists
Are you a list person? Simple checklists, and maybe scorecards, can do wonders for an organization. A checklist might even save your life! This is a slightly long article, but you’ll get the idea in the first few paragraphs. Do More of What Already Works.
“Three months after it began, the procedure had cut the infection rate of I.C.U. patients by sixty-six percent. Within 18 months, this one method had saved 75 million dollars in healthcare expenses. Best of all, this single intervention saved the lives of more than 1,500 people in just a year and a half. The strategy was immediately published in a blockbuster paper for the New England Journal of Medicine.”
Millions of dollars! 1,500 lives! Wow! But for the same reason a checklist works, it can also fail. The key is to have somebody else check your checklist. Maintaining a scorecard, that someone else views, can make this work. Simple accountability. Really, it can be that simple. A shared Google spreadsheet can be a key accountability document between two people. It’s worth a try.
As a related item, I was recently with a friend at a wound care clinic. I noticed an item on their bulletin board that surprised me a little. So similar to the article above, the simple idea of hand washing:
Two things shock me here. First, the goal is only 90%. Really, if doctors wash their hands 90% of the time before treating a patient, then that’s success. Hmmm, sure hope if I’m ever there I’m in that 90%. But what about the other 10%? This seems like a no-brainer to achieve 90%. but wait, they are falling short of the goal. Oh my!
Maybe they need some assistance with accountability. Hmmm, who do I know who does accountability coaching?
Just curious, do you:
1. Open an app, then find the document?
2. Find the document, then let it open
What is good training? That’s almost a trick question. Which of these are true?
- Good training is when somebody actually learns something
- Good training is when somebody learns something new
- Good training means learning how to do something faster
- Good training is when the student can pass a test or certification
- Good training provides the student with experience
Those are all probably “true” statements, but are they right? How about this instead:
“Good training is something that makes an employee more productive to the organization”
We might even need to add in that the new productivity has a higher value than the cost of the training. If a training program costs $10,000 and the net result is that one employee saves 5 minutes a day on one task, was that a gain?
Miscellaneous thoughts on training:
- “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.”
- Typical training: If you push this button, X will happen. Better training: if you’re trying to accomplish X, here’s what you need to do
- The best training is self training (at least for most people)
- Two typical attitudes about training:
1. I don’t know how to do that, I need training
2. I bet there’s a way to do that, let me figure it out
When a person transitions from #1 to #2, think of the possibilities! (HT to Jim LaBarr)
- Lengthy (all day, all week) training appears to have great results, but they usually don’t last. Short, even repetitive, topic-focused training has much longer results. Consider TED talks and their 18 minute rule
- A lot of short, single-topic, “do it yourself” training bits may work better than typical classroom
- Classroom is still good for the dialog, and to force training to happen for those who wouldn’t otherwise have the discipline
- Lunch-n-Learn is almost always a good thing. Most people like food
- Good training is specific to the organization’s culture. And processes. It may focus on those processes!
- Spend more time on the every day stuff than the once-a-year stuff. [but define the once-a-year stuff in an easy to reference KB]
- If doing classroom training set the expectation that each person will be called on. After the question is asked, not before!
- Good training focuses more on why than on how
Where does training end and support start? Or vice versa? Or are they deeply intertwined? What would happen if design, development, implementation, configuration, training, and support where all tightly connected with each other. Would the end-users have a better experience?
Better training reduces friction. Or …
“Better training helps things go right which in turn creates better user experiences.”
Is that the same as improved productivity? Probably
Yet another concept I picked up from Liberty Church, although I’m pretty sure it wasn’t original with them. A teaching principle that some pastors have learned, and lots of motivational speakers live by: Stop talking before your audience wants you to. Leave them hungry for more. Yes, a great concept, and I need to apply that more often when I do a presentation. (I’m working on it — really!)
But this same idea can be applied to almost anything. Quit while you still want more. This is a bit like “bite-sized learning” techniques. It can be applied to memorization. Reading. Conversations. And of course, it could even be applied to eating. Quit today, so I’ll be more ready tomorrow.
This has become my theme for reading books. Especially when I’m co-reading. My expectation, which I don’t know how to prove: if I’m learning something slowly, intentionally, starting each day wanting more, then I’m likely to learn better. Ask me in a few years how this has worked out.
Last Updated: 1/12/2015
If you find these Beginnings posts of interest, you can find a full list here.
The Change Pyramid
I’m a big fan of the Arbinger Institute books Leadership and Self-Deception and The Anatomy of Peace
One of the concepts from Anatomy of Peace is called the Change Pyramid. Real simply, the idea is to build systems and processes (or training) that help people do the right things, rather than complaining when they do the wrong things.
90% Make it easy to do the right things (Easy, Enjoyable, Effective)
10% correcting wrong things
“Correction rarely works with people.” (paraphrase) But it’s so natural to try! This may be my big aha from this book. And a blinding flash of the obvious! The problem of dealing with autonomous people. “Helping things to go right.”
I’m liking this concept of helping people to have things go right. I’m have this “Yes, right, that’s the answer” feeling deep inside. Exciting. And I also don’t think I know how to do that, which is frustrating, but I also think I’ve experienced it, which is exciting again. Wow, that’s a lot of challenge and contradiction! OK, I’m looking forward to seeing where this goes…
It’s different, but I sure think it’s related to Making things Natural. Easy? Probably not. Worth it? Absolutely! Isn’t this a core concept of both User Interface and Training?
From the Jobs movie.
“I think you believe that the computer, or the Walkman, or whatever it may be, should be a natural extension of the individual, and it’s that mission, that devotion to quality”
— Jony Ive (the movie characters, perhaps not the real one)
This quote, whether it’s really from Jony Ive or not, still gets to me every time I read it. Isn’t this a calling for all product designers, including software designers and especially user interface designers?
The terms User Advocate and User Advocacy have been on my mind these last few weeks. On a whim, I just did a LinkedIn search and came up with over 1000 people who have that as a key phrase in their profiles. There are real people who are identifying themselves as User Advocates! Companies are using these phrases. Companies have job openings with that title!
How often are IT people just the opposite of User Advocates? How often have I been the “Network Nazi” and done just the opposite of helping users? (“Lots” would be a good answer) “Sins of the past.” Can you forgive me?