Friday, March 27, 2009

Learning your own process, overview

"Do you follow me?" the teacher asks after having explained one of the more difficult aspects of his class. Ironically, this rings true also for classes about leadership, where the correct answer to this question is not completely in the affirmative, but leans more towards "only with my attention".

Indeed, learning is more about paying attention and then applying new information to your current thinking, before individually deciding what makes sense. Hence true education is about students leading their own quest for knowledge, extracting required information from various sources (including the teacher) and finally evaluate.

This goes straight against the classic "the teacher leads the class" thinking. And while I'm not a teacher by profession, I have to think pedagogically many times every day. And I believe it is this pedagogic thinking that is the sole reason I don't walk around strangling the stupid. :)

Teaching occures in many different situations. I started out running the department with a monday morning class every week. For the longest time, it didn't work very well. Not until we put a lock on the door. During these monday sessions, we go through a book about leadership, chapter by chapter. Because obviously, even though I am the assigned leader of the department, my "subordinates" must also become leaders of their own work.

It is through individual leadership of their assigned tasks that we, as a team, can lead the organization's use of IT. And it is through this leadership that we can get things done, completing the task at hand instead of allowing ourselves to be interrupted every ten minutes to start on a new "urgent" task.

Seeing the low resources we have to work with, I wanted to rationalize our work process, enabling us to work efficiently on every task. This meant that working without interruption was one of my main priorities, and indeed that was a priority even before I started. The other main priority was to set up a ticketing system to keep track of all of our tasks, so that we wouldn't get any mad phone calls about how his or her task hadn't been touched for two years.

From these two priorities, a system evolved within a space where there was no earlier system. What I had not anticipated was that the rest of the organization did not buy into our processes! We calculated that we spend 20% of our time letting people tell us about their problem and talking about how important it is to them, and another 20% to listen to people complain about how their task has not been completed yet and how important it is. Which means that 40% of our time is spent listening to people, and we could have gotten twice as much done if they only had reported their problems directly into our support system.

Our "internal experiment" has had great success, and I firmly believe we have collectively managed to pull the department out of chaos and into something that works more and more efficient as we go along. While we have yet to grow this beyond our original sphere of influence, it is important to understand that our system has grown into process organization through self education and experimentation instead of completely buying a finished framework. Nothing has been imposed on us, but rather we worked together to constantly find out how we work and discuss how we can work better.

We can only hope that others will follow. Not by copying our work process, but paying attention to what we have done and find their own ways of leading their own departments into organizations that don't cause premature death by stress.

Monday, December 22, 2008

In the woods

This fall has been quite overwhelming. Being responsible for 33 location, 600 computers, listening to 700 employees and having only 1.3 people to help me out is quite a challenge. So part of the strategy is to be able to think of something else. And so will also this blog - which I will attempt to update a little more frequently. And I'll share this strategy with you.

It's about a cabin - or a "Hunting Castle" as my wife likes to call it.

What does this have to do with leadership strategies and computers? Well - if someone is to judge whether it is possible to have a socially independent, ecological home, who better than a techie?

Spending ever penny in the bank, we bought this without getting into debt. At all. This, by itself, was a first step that has long in the planning, and for which we have worked very hard. It was done this way for several reasons. First, it increases our independence and self reliance, hence enforces personal leadership. Second, it means we had to buy "bare bones", which in turn means we have greater freedom for our personal enhancements to the place. And third, it trained our patience.

It also has certain consequences. As I mentioned, being one of the cheaper houses we could buy means we have more work to do to get to the standard we want. This means further self training and self education. However, not being in debt also means that we can spend much more of our income to get to our goal faster. And indeed, there really aren't many excuses not to get things done anymore.

It will be an exciting new year!

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Monday, September 29, 2008

How To Make Microsoft Cool Again

'The new commercial, titled "I'm a PC," goes straight at Apple's "Mac vs. PC" ads with a bunch of people (including Pharrell) claiming that they're PCs, implying that they're not actually lames like Apple says they are. While these new ads are better than the first bunch, we're still kinda confused.'

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

SecureClient messed me up

So I've been spending every spare moment the last couple of weeks trying to configure this new router, an SG580. When trying out the configuration, which should have been straight forward, strange things started to happen.

First, let me describe the layout. I have one leg on the administrative network, one leg on what will be the "IT Department network", and one leg on what will be a secure and clamped down zone. I have a managed switch on the IT segment to test with and a laptop on the secure zone. ICMP turned on everywhere.

From the secure zone, I could ping the switch and every interface on the router except ADM. Moving the laptop to the IT segment, I get the exact same results. However, placing it on ADM, I can easily access the switch in the IT segment and ping every interface on the SG.

The clue came when I wanted a thorough test and picked up another laptop, so that I could ping between all segments simultaneously. The other laptop was able to ping everything. Everyone were able to ping the other laptop - except mine. Mine would do it only when I was within the same subnet.

But my firewall was off - or wasn't it?

It then turned out that the culprit was Check Point's VPN-1 SecureClient. I don't know the internals of it, but it seems to have understood that I was no longer in my ordinary subnet and thereby assumed that the addresses I was trying to reach could only be done through VPN. It had tried to tell me so by offering to connect, but I had dismissed it and told me not to bother me again about it.

As soon as I removed the binding to SecureClient on the network interface, everything went swimmingly.

...and to think, the piece of software that sabotaged me was the one piece of software that was installed on my laptop on the day I started my new job...

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Clutter Free installs

There was a known problem with an undocumented solution. After reading the solution of a different, unrelated issue, I tried to use part of this to solve my first problem. It worked.

I'm not going to get into too many details, but the solution included a two step installation of an ODBC-driver before generating an ODBC source with the newly installed driver. The two steps of the installation was the loading a registry file and adding a directory to the global path.

I documented the installation in a MindMap file. And not just any MindMap file. I added it in a Clutter Free Enterprise configuration mind map, using three functions that did not yet exist: Registry, Path and ODBC.

Modifying large portions of the registry can look disgusting unless it's kept in a tree structure, so I added a branch in the MindMap for registry entries. Hence, the command "Registry ODBC Driver" will simply pick the "ODBC Driver" branch from the "Registry" tree, instead of having to list every single key/value pair as separate commands.

The "Path" function adds to the global Path environment variable in the registry and sends a message to all windows applications to reload the environment. This makes the change instant.

And finally, "ODBC" adds system DSNs by format "ODBC driver name;param=value;param=value" etc.

In combination with switches to automatically load this specific configuration file and run the specific solution before automatically quitting, allowed me to set up a shortcut for self help whenever someone new is lacking the driver and ODBC-source.