Archive for the ‘management’ Category

I’m inspired by this video from Saras Sarasvathy, very clear description of risk vs uncertainty. Quoting Frank Knight, risk could be managed with probability and statistics, while a great deal of situations have so much uncertainty that are not possible to characterize. Professor Sarasvathy suggests an approach that makes it possible to thrive on these types of situations:




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Simon Sinek shows us a simple idea that illustrates what makes a great leader.


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Amy Cutty shows us how the physical body actions could change how we think and feel and especially how we could us that to change ourselves.


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I just completed the training for SCRUM Product Owner with Agile Learning Labs. Chris Sims was a very good instructor. He explained the what, the how, and the why of a Product Owner (PO), as well as the PO’s responsibilities to the stakeholders and to the development team. Successful PO needs to regularly prioritize user stories relative to the potentially changing requirements and valuation of the stories from the stakeholders. At the same time, the PO needs to fit an appropriate number of stories, by story points, relative to the capacity of each sprint. Asides from various exercises, the training included a half-day simulation that ran thru 4 sprints. That helped me understand what really is needed and expected from the product owner in the SCRUM process.

Chris also showed a video from Henrik Kniberg that illustrates the process of SCRUM from the perspective of a product owner. I found this video succinctly explains the process of SCRUM as well:



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Managing Humans

managinghumansI just finished reading this book Managing Humans by Michael “Rands” Lopp.  Great book for software managers, managers, and individual contributors.  I find Rands provide realistic and practical advice on dealing with people who run your company, the person you work for, and people you manage.  Rands also provide interesting insights on people and classify them in his terms:   NADD, incrementalists, completionists, organics, mechanics, inwards, outwards, holistics, free electrons, joe.

Like usual, I borrowed this book from the library so I’d read it, as I tend not to read books I buy.  With this book, I purchased a copy via AllBookstores.com after I’ve read it.  It’s worth the purchase, if only for future reference.

Rands published other articles and blogs, including “What To Do When You’re Screwed“.

Copyright (c) 2009 by Waiming Mok

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Black Swan, Remaining Parts

Just finished reading NNT‘s Black Swan.

In parts 2, 3, 4, Taleb went into further details on actions and decision making in face of the unknown unknown.  He contrasts the lopsidedness of how things work and how Black Swans changes things.  Winners tend to win more often.  The winners might have gotten there by luck, not skills.  So life is not fair.  At the same time, due to Black Swans, those on top could be toppled quickly, unexpectedly.  In that sense, the world offers opportunities for the little guys. 

Central to his theme is that we tend to look at the world by creating or believing in theories to fit the world to the theories, rather than looking at what’s happening.  This could apply to math, science, religion, history, and especially more so with economics and social sciences.  And, when economists apply flawed theories to real world finance and governance, dire consequences could happen. 

As we do not know the level of risk and extent of uncertainty of the future, Taleb suggests the following approach to deal with that uncertainty, to avoid the negative Black Swans, and to increase the likelihood of catching positive Black Swans:

  • Be prepared for all relevant eventualities
  • Barbell strategy:
    • Be extremely conservative (very, very safe) with 85-90% of your assets, in your approach
    • Be extremely, wildly aggressive with 10-15% of your assets
  • Modest tricks:
    • Make a distinction between positive contingencies and negative ones
    • Don’t look for the precise and the local.  Don’t be narrow minded, be open to possibilities.
    • Seize any opportunity, or anything that looks like opportunity.
    • Beware of precise plans by governments.
    • Don’t waste time trying to fight forecasters, …

Taleb also writes an entire chapter on his mentor, Benoit Mandelbrot, who introduced fractals to the world.  Fractals have scale-invariance, which is an interesting property that Taleb says is prevalent in how we compare things.  Further, Taleb says looking at the world in terms fractals could make Black Swans gray.

Taleb speaks like an outlier, not part of the mainstream.  That’s what’s appealing about the book.  He forwards arguments that make the mainstream and those in power, as mostly the result of randomness.  After reading the book, I feel less afraid of those in power.  In the end, they are not that different from you and I. 

Taleb practices an open minded approach to view, think, and act about the world.  You have to read the book to get that approach.  He drills these notions into your head.  The last advice (don’t run after trains) in the book is especially uplifting.  Read the book.

Copyright (c) 2008 by Waiming Mok

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Long Tail and Fat Tail

The Long tail is the concept that there are large number of customers who’s unique needs (in small quantities) are not addressed 400px-longtailby the high-volume products.  It is often represented as a the power law distribution curve.  The idea goes further with internet technologies and other happenings, which lower costs for product development and/or distribution.  Over time, the demand curve could shift away from the high-volume product, making the tail longer and fatter.

fat-tailThe Fat tail is a different concept where the probability of events away from the mean might be significant.   Traumatic events (e.g. oil shock, political turmoil) could disrupt the well-behaved mathematical models of financial investments, incurring considerable more risks than estimated.    The variance might not be finite.  In some situations, achieving six-sigma might not provide the comfort of high quality or the feeling of being safe.

Both concepts are part of the evolving maturation of our outstanding of uncertainty and risk.  The world may not be simply be modeled by the bell curve and/or the Central Limit Theorem.

Copyright (c) 2008 by Waiming Mok

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